It’s raining so the first decision is whether to leave the bike and get the bus. I am shamed into unlocking the shed. If Tony Martin can get back on his bike with a broken collarbone to ensure his yellow jersey makes the finish line, as he did on the real Tour last week, then I can don my anorak and venture out onto Upper Street, Islington
It is a quick stage today - a 4.8 mile hike up to Muswell Hill and a 4.8 mile trudge back. The helicopter shots will show the difficulties, like negotiating the roadworks at the Coin de Highbury et Islington, as we now call it, and the cultural landmarks such as the Stade d”Emirates, The Curry Garden Indian take-away and its nearby rivals the Indigo and the Curry Island and, of course, the Hornsey Road Costcutter, which acts as a marker that the summit of the fabled Hornsey Rise is fast approaching. It is then all down hill through Crouch End to Priory Park and my destination, my friend Andy’s gym, Intelligent Exercise.
The official départ is delayed because the cat has to be let in, stroked and fed. And then the front door keys are missing, declared lost, and then found, in my pocket. Faff central. I bet Tour leader Chris Froome doesn't face pressure like this.
The first obstacle is to cross the road. Our street is a cycle route into town so lots of lycras speed silently along, head down, heading south, and I need to go north. Then we are off - not racing yet as I decide that the Skoda going down the road is that of the Tour director, Chris Prudhomme and that he has yet to wave his flag to declare us on our way.
It is only after being ushered onto Essex Road by a kindly bus waiting at the lights that Christian’s flag is fluttered figuratively and the Depart Officiel is declared. And now the battle begins, but not against my fellow cyclists for there are few going my way and those that are I allow to speed on, knowing they are not going for a podium place and that they will be reeled in somewhere along the road, which may not necessarily be mine.
No, the battle is against the road surface, often in need of repair, and the traffic, and the pedestrians at crossings or not, and the light rain and the people deciding to open car doors without looking. If this was the Tour there would a motorcyclist from the Presidential Guard standing every 20 metres with that familiar triangular flag held aloft between both hands, signalling Beware.
The first real problem is at the pedestrian crossing near Ottolenghi on Upper Street. The yummy mummies and their prams are damned if anything is going to get in the way of their getting to the front of the queue to wait for their builders tea with chips and brown sauce (only kidding). And so the endless dilemma for the cyclist - do you stop, and break your rhythm and watch the girls go by or do you push on while they and their offspring prambulate over the striped lines. I stop.
Pressing on, careful not to be in too hard a gear so that if I have to stop quickly it is tough to get going again, the Coin de Highbury et Islington is next. Never an easy junction, the much needed and welcome revamp of the tube station and its environs means that it is reduced to single file with a large concrete barrier on the inside. This means that even the idea of going on the inside of a Tesco delivery lorry turning left is madness so I tuck in behind.
Now here’s a thing. Bike lanes, where they exist, are always on the inside yet one is always taught to overtake on the outside which is where people expect to see you coming. I take advantage of the bus lane up the Holloway Road which is always rendered useless at some stage by some sort of parked vehicle which always gives the added danger that someone is going to get out of it, on the driver’s side. Darkened glass in cars doesn't help but my advice is to always watch their mirrors and for a mere twitch of an opening door. This must be what its like for the peloton, forever on the alert for an elbow or a competitors wheel.
Then its file right, looking over your shoulder for traffic behind, before the turn right past the landmark Libeskind building of the London Metropolitan University which lifts the drabness of its surrounds.
The Emirates is now ahead, the jaws of its shop not yet open to snap up the hordes of Scandinavian fans who will be along later to take selfies of themselves in front of the cannons. And there is Thierry Henry standing in a massive mural Saw him on telly yesterday in the crowd at Centre Court. My wife and I both agreed that he was a wonderful footballer and an intelligent man but a shame that he had cheated in the France v Republic of Ireland World Cup match a few years back. It took the gloss off.
But no time to dawdle as the race leader (me) heads up the Hornsey Road. In fact there would have been time to dawdle because I was soon stuck behind another obstacle that seldom bothers my real Tour brethren ( I feel we are linked) - the street cleaner. You know the one - it goes at about 2mph with a little brush on the left front and does a great job and is very annoying.
Cars in front, especially the Chelsea, or in this case, Islington tractors are difficult to get past when faced with The Cleaner. Everybody inches to the right to see if they can see past and then swerves back again when a socking great 41 bus if coming the other way or, even more daunting, a Travis Perkins delivery truck.
Best just to bide my time and eventually sweep majestically past The Cleaner at twice his speed with nary a glance.
Those of you who drive in cars north on Hornsey Road may not realise but from about the time you cross La Route des Sept Souers, the road starts to climb. Imperceptible to many I know, but to those of the fuller figure the wrong side of 60 any slight upward slope is immediately recognised.
And rather like my heroes on the Tour when they approach the Col du Tourmalet or the Col d’Aubisque, those mighty mountain passes where some of the greatest moments in sport are played out, I approach Hornsey Rise with some trepidation.
Granted it does not rise over 8,000 feet above sea level but I decide to give it HC status - this is Tour de France language for a climb that is so difficult it is Hors de Categorie, or Out of Category. (Wonderful what you can learn on a blog). The climb must be all of a couple of hundred metres long and the rise must be, well, feet.
There was no time to stop at Dubois Chez Labs Hair and Beauty, the mission was to avoid being stopped at the next pedestrian crossing and then work out what to do with the 41 bus ahead. Try to get past it and perhaps get stuck if he then decides to pull out, or stay behind and use it as a sort of peloton to pull me up into the clouds,
There were crowds now, of buggies, beside the crossing but as none had actually set foot on it I pressed on and then, as ordered by my race director (Me) I attacked the 41 bus. Not literally of course but in the way that a Tour cyclist attacks his competitor and tries to get past him, to break him and leave him shattered, unable to respond, The 41 had in fact stopped at the Hornsey Rise Stop M so I put my feet to the pedals, upped the wattage, and was past him in a flash. But the next hundred metres past the Margaret McMillan Nursery School and then the Shell Garage into the trees were tough as the 41 was now behind me and snapping at my heels. I held my nerve and my speed to cross over the top of the col in first place, thus winning the Polka Dot jersey as king of the mountains with the 41, if not broken, then certainly bowed.
Strangely, the children at Coleridge Primary School had not been given permission to bunk off class to watch me go by so I celebrated, quietly, on my own as I descended into Crouch End, veering left at the Clock Tower and then right into towards Priory Park and the solo sprint finish and Andy”s look of amazement. Well it was more of a dawdle finish but in my mind I know had the green sprints jersey and my eye on the greatest prize in all sport, the maillot jeune.
But I would not presume to think of wearing that jersey. It is reserved for the true greats of sport. Actually, hold on a minute, after 45 minutes with Andy I faced doing the whole thing again in reverse. Now that’s something they don't have to do on Le Tour.
Charlie Burgess covered the Tour de France in the 80s and loved it.