The Tooting Inverse Duathlon is a strange creature. It starts with a five mile ride that takes you along Merton High Street to the joy that is Cycle Superhighway 7. You follow CS7 up to Tooting Bec Station before peeling right along Tooting Bec Road to Tooting Bec Common. As it isn’t a closed road event, this leg is a little stop/start with traffic lights, but as this leg takes place in one of the 36 hours in the week when the red route is actually operational, the cycle superhighway is largely unencumbered with parked cars and about as pleasant to ride along as it ever gets.
At Tooting Bec Common you rack your bike at one of the two cycle hoops by Tooting Bec Café (make sure you’re in the lead group, because the next nearest cycle hoops are back at Tooting Bec Station, giving you the option of trying to find suitable railings or walking the last section of the route). Once your bike is secured, you make your way back towards a large group of single sport athletes who are only interested in the second of the three legs – a 5km run (single sporters) or walk (multi sporters) around the common.
This second leg, three triangular laps on a mixture of tarmac and cinder paths, gets underway with a mass start. It is extremely well marshalled, though getting lapped less than halfway round the first lap can be a little demoralising, as can hearing “nearly there” being called out to all the people on lap 3 while you are still on your second lap. However, that aside, it’s an enjoyable enough experience. At the end of this leg, you scan in at the mandatory checkpoint before catching your breath and refuelling at the café aid station.
Once you’ve refuelled, you return to your bike and set off on the third and final leg. This follows the route of leg 1 as far as Merton Abbey Mills, giving you a great opportunity to experience CS7 outside the 36 hours of red route enforcement, when good weaving skills are essential as the bulk of the route has disappeared underneath parked cars. Once at Merton Abbey Mills you peel off onto the Wandle Trail for a few hundred yards before joining a prime example of the London Cycle Network, with its dual features of intermittent signage and frequent slalom barriers.
My overall time for the event was a less-than-impressive 4 hours and 59 minutes as I discovered, at the end of an extremely entertaining refreshment stop, that I had lost my bike key somewhere on the common, so I had to beg a lift home, pick up my spare key, take the bus to Morden, the tube to Tooting Bec and then walk back to the café before I could start my final leg.
Despite its oddities, this is an event which I would happily repeat, though probably only if I could persuade others to join me for leg two.