Sunday 29 July 2012

FNRttC to the Continent

Where were you on Sunday 22nd July 2012?  Let me rephrase. Where were you when Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France?

You could have been with the Fridays in Paris.

Photo by StuartG
Bradley was born in Belgium, did you know?  So whilst the Fridays went east to Paris, I went north to Belgium.  I could have gone to Ghent.  Did you know that Bradley was born in Ghent, Belgium?  But I didn't go to Ghent, where Bradley was born.  I went to Rumbeke.  It's where my parents live, and there is a gem of a tenuous link to be had also:

Bradley is the first Briton to win the tour, and that, 100 years after the first Belgian won the tour.  Bradley is from Belgium, sorry, Bradley was born in Belgium.  And the first Belgian to win the tour, Odiel Defraye, was born in Rumbeke, where I am from.  There we go, Bradley and I are connected.

It was a weekend with all the best ingredients: the Fridays, night riding, an audax, Le Tour, family, great weather, good food, many things to celebrate and the Olympics to look forward to.

Meeting point
Everyone was relaxed at the Hyde Park Corner meeting point.  It didn't have the school trip nervous giggles like the Friday's tour to John O' Groats had at the start.  A 'stranger' handed over a passport to Simon and that signalled the kick off of an adventure.  No talk of bollards, no roll call - we were on our way to Newhaven.

Thought it was going to be a long night, when, before we had even crossed the Thames, there was a tyre blow out.  Not a problem though.  Some Fridays live in central London, and popping home to pick up a spare tyre is done naturally.

Time to chat
I always love the surreal entrance into Gatwick airport.  With a suitcase and flight ticket in hand, you wouldn't dream of using that back staircase hidden by the bins.  But with helmet and bike in hand, up we go.  We park the bikes by the familiar Costa Coffee.  It's a new era, the days of Mr Exit are over.  Gatwick is London 2012 ready.  You don't even have to go upstairs any more for the toilets.  They now have the poshest public toilets I've ever used, on the ground floor.  You could wheel your bike into those cubicles, do a bit of fettling, change the bottom bracket or something, nobody would know.  Wash basin right there, inside the cubicle, as well as Dyson type blade hand dryers.  My derrière didn't seem to want be clad with lycra anymore, so I used the facilities to change into casual shorts.  Always a good look in combination with lycra knee warmers.  Mr Exit was missed, but the security people had a go at doing their job by asking which flights we were on.

The cafe in the Newhaven ferry terminal was good for another surreal moment.  One minute a guy was serving breakfast, next, the same guy was checking our tickets.  Ugh?  We all got on the ferry.  Together with several other groups of cyclists.  Wiggomaniacs, they are called apparently.

Base camp was at exactly the same location at last year, right hand side of the bar.  I lost bonus points for having a sleep during ferry drinking hours, but not as many as TallMart and DavyWalnuts would lose later in the day.

I had been warned: 'Good luck with that lot'.  Just getting off the ferry was a challenge as TallMart went Toutes Directions whilst Centre Ville is what we needed.  Fair play to Teef who called him back round, as my voice wouldn't carry the distance Mart had already cycled up the hill. 'Let's meet in la Troubadour' said Teef, after we checked into the hotel.  It was my turn to go in all directions, but could I find la Troubadour?  Fair play to Teef again who came out of Le Cafe des Tribunaux, asking what I was doing walking by just like that.  TallMart was still sitting and DavyWalnuts was still standing at that stage.  There wasn't anything Teef could do to keep that going, mind.  DavyWalnuts disappeared into the night, admitting he couldn't keep upright anymore.  And TallMart, nobody knows what happened to him, or what happened has stayed on tour, fair play to Teef again.

Ian, now better known as Laurent for wearing a Fignon jersey, and I had a seafood meal in one of the Dieppe seafront restaurants, before heading back to the hotel.  I had an early start the next morning.  Ian didn't have the restful night I had, as he was called up by TallMart, asking to be picked from hospital.

It took a while for the fog to lift and the sun to come through on Saturday.

St Laurent Chapel in the fog
Google map routes in France sometimes includes 'off road' tracks through fields.  Whilst exciting because you never know what you're going to get, it can mean losing time (being on a DIY audax). It happened several times, once I stopped to watch deer, once I ended up on top of a hill with excellent views, once I bumped into a horse and cart, once I nearly came to a show stopper as the route was interrupted with pipe laying works, once I did need to turn back as the route was blocked. I ended up needing to push it for the last 100km.

Under? Over? Ladder?
I had a lunch stop in Hesdin, even though I wasn't half way yet.  Quick service, rosbif, potjevleesch, chips, Jupiler, le Tour on screen and overhearing the proprietor praising Bradley Wiggins.  I wondered how the other Fridays were getting on with getting to Paris.

Pushing it towards the end was not a problem.  I was keen to get home to my parents, arriving around 18:30.  No punctures but one spoke pinged kaput.  I had an urge for oil again, like I did last year, this time being able to pick up a bottle in a Carrefour.  The rest of the ride happened in silence.

Once home, we celebrated my latest cycling achievement (ride report to follow!) with champagne and Belgian patisserie.

On Sunday we watched Mark and Brad make history in France.

Thanks to Simon for organising the Fridays French trip, and to all the riders for making it another memorable one.

Photos are here: Photo Link
Read this post for the Mr Exit story from two years ago (had to correct that thinking it was last year): Mr Exit


Unknown said...

Tres bon reportage...comme d'habitude, mon pote.

Anonymous said...

Een realistisch en humoristisch verslag!
What a treat dat je naar ' t Oveke reed ipv naar Parijs!
Enorm geappecieerd!
Many thanks en proficiat!
meim en peip xxx xxx

Anonymous said...

Els, what is about your report on VOL)?

Swarm_Catcher said...

I'm working on it. Thanks for waiting!

Anonymous said...

Mister Bradley did not too badley but you were the real hero on the velo! xxx Kris

George Swain said...

You are one crazy woman! Great to read about this recent adventure. Sounds like so much fun. You've inspired me to think about creating a similar tradition, although where I live there are not quite the international equivalents. Maybe I need to shoot down to NYC to begin. Hmmmm.....

Anyway, I am so glad to read a post from you. I was starting to worry that something nefarious had happened on the Russia ride. Glad you're back, safe and sound.


Kris said...

patience... Els is translating the report from Russia to English language.

Swarm_Catcher said...

Thanks George! Report for the Russian ride is now ready. I used to be able to add links to comments, but have failed. You'll find it though, posted 12th August and titled: Vologda - Onega - Ladoga 1200.

Thanks again for your support. I should have more time again to read your blog!

Swarm_Catcher said...

Tatiana, the VOL1200 report is ready! Published 12th August. Made a post on the Baltic Star forum also.