The existence of the Patisserie Cyclisme website just goes to prove the special relationship that exists between cyclists and their cake. A quick glance at the plates of my riding mates at any cafe stop and it’s clear that the sweet stuff dominates. Caramel shortbread, Victoria sponge and chocolate fudge rule the world. It is at this point that I stand up and make my confession. Whilst I enjoy a piece of coffee and walnut as much as the next man, I think I actually prefer something savoury.
I’ve ridden several sportives. Clocking up the miles, fuelled by the sickly sugariness of energy gels, I often find myself craving something that won’t rot my teeth. Arriving at feed stations is almost universally disappointing – cherry bakewells, flapjacks, more energy gels. I once did an event called “Pork Pies and Potholes”, hoping this would be the one that broke the mould. I rode up to the first stop, mouth watering, stomach rumbling... cherry bakewells, flapjacks, more energy gels. At least they had a barbecue at the end. I live in Leicester, with Melton Mowbray, the home of pork pies just up the road, surely things could be different here.
Pork pies were initially developed at the end of the 18th century as a handy and transportable lunch for agricultural workers. “Handy and transportable” – sounds an ideal combination for a cycling food. Melton Mowbray makes the Rolls Royces of the pork pie world, protected by an EU Geographical Indication – a bit like the appellation d'origine controlee applied to French wines. Eat a Melton Mowbray pork pie with its bowed sides, sliced (rather than minced) pork and its rich, delicious pastry and you’ll understand what all the fuss is about. Part of the local food heritage, their absence on the Leicestershire cycling scene seemed criminal.
Fortunately help was at hand thanks to the Leicester Forest CC inaugural Pork Pie run. Inspired by the long standing and very popular Mince Pie Run that sees members of several local clubs descend on Belton village for err... mince pies, this was a bike ride with a savoury heart. The not very grand premise was that Mat – a fellow LFCC member – had ordered a pork pie from a farm shop near Melton and we were to ride out to collect it. So it was on a cold dull day we gathered at a village just off the A46 to ride out. Being “inaugural” and midweek, the gathering comprised of just me and Mat (these traditions have to start somewhere). Making swift progress through the mostly flat countryside we arrived at the farm shop with its attendant and somewhat bizarrely, ski-chalet themed cafe, where we enjoyed a cuppa and a piece of ironic cake. In the shop, the 2lb pork pies looked impressively large and marvellous. Filled with cake, lacking panniers, and unconvinced by the pies’ handy and transportable credentials when applied to a jersey pocket, I had to make do with just looking at them. On the ride home, try as I might, I could not persuade Mat to break into his Christmas supplies to help us back. Another long bike ride, not fuelled by pork pie.
All is not lost though. A new sportive company has arrived on the block with a new approach to food. The Polocini website talks of beef goulash with pasta, Tuscan meatballs, bratwurst with spiced potatoes and the marvellous sounding “pig in a bun”. I’ve already signed up to ride the apparently appropriately named The B*stard. As I battle up Holmes Moss, it won’t be sweet thoughts that keep me going.