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2018 || 7

Get caught up in the Olympic slope style womens qualifying so the sun has breached the horizon before I hit the seafront. The cold air bites, instantly I regret cotton cap over merino. Across the scruffy grass beside the apartment block once glamourous but now overlooking the Asda carpark and concrete blocks of the marina. Past the golf course and along the eastern ridge of Sheepcote Valley. The city recedes. Over a gate frozen into puddle and into the hidden one. Favourite tracks towards the Tye, ice creaks under wheel and a low slung sun picks out the stripes and crosshatching across the fields. Down to the Ouse, across the river and the train tracks and the wooden bridge over the main road. The steep chalk climb followed by the long grassy drag to the Red Lion trig point. Catching the light the telephone cables form a silver ribbon draped across the telegraph poles towards the sea. A skylark symphony. Frozen ground is gently thawing as I ride east towards the sun rising higher. Firle, can I make it to Bo Peep? Not today but still a commute to make me smile.

All the way home in the light, the sun drops behind the horizon as I enter the edge of the city.

Wake up to the dawn chorus piercing the dark. Leave the house earlier than usual but light already in the sky. #longcommutefriday, it’s becoming something of a habit. There’s an idea of a route in my head which may be too far but there are bail out points (and train stations if things get desperate). Set off the usual way, sea on my right, the world rotating towards the sun. First hill, not frozen, this could be harder than anticipated. Never mind, crack on, let’s see how far I can get. Newmarket Hill, Castle Hill, Kingston Ridge, Swanborough Hill. Sticky then sloppy but not as bad as it could be. Into the valley to the Ouse riverbank. Lift bike over the gate, soggy and slippy, no grip, should have stuck to the South Downs Way. Shadow in the reeds. Youth hostel. Itford Hill, Beddingham Hill, chalk and grass, sheep and skylarks. Past the aerials, a glance right, never been down that bridleway, add it to the list of places to explore, Firle Beacon. A slog through waterlogged fields. Bo Peep. Check the time. Hmm, cutting it fine but turn right instead of left. Into the coombes, bail options now limited. If I can get to turnip field number 2 before ten past nine then I should get back up to the cattle grid under the aerials by half past. If it’s later I’ll drop to the ferry terminal and catch the train. Five past. Turn up the field. Slog. Flint. Grunt. Mud. Unclip, push for a few metres. mutter to myself, clip back in. Getting tight but back up Beddingham Hill and straight over the top. Splash through the flood, cyclepath rather than the nice lane today. The noise of traffic. Bloody hell these tyres drag on tarmac. Town. Office on time. Just. Legs ache under desk. That was ace.

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