Thursday, 28 July 2011

FNRttC - Newhaven - Dieppe

Previously I wrote:

"In Newhaven, we have the most fantastic breakfast cafe.  That cafe is like a negative control in an experiment.  It has no style (a cabin), no decor (white walls), no scenery (underneath a flyover).  The question in the experiment is 'how do you rate your breakfast'.  The idea being that you are not influenced by external factors.  Unfortunately this experiment will always fail when the 'subjects' are the Fridays.  When having breakfast with the Fridays after a night ride, it doesn't matter where you are or what the breakfast is like. It is always a memorable experience."

The experiment came to a conclusion.  The Pitstop Cafe closed down.

We went to the Captain's Table Cafe instead.  It is located by the sea, has decor (see picture below) and the service was excellent, even though we arrived en masse unannounced.

What's so funny?
I feel like I've been on a three week holiday.  There was a bit of a buzz about the FNRttC.  It was a recipe for adventure.  Going on a Thursday night, as opposed to Friday.  A smaller group, which means going faster.  Not knowing whether we'd be allowed into Gatwick Airport.  It wasn't looking good as we were stopped by police.  The group was like a lava lamp, with everyone slowing, silently, but the inner core moving on ahead .  The inner core did the talking and off we went for a Costa coffee.  I didn't want to be disappointed by the customer service possibly having improved on last year, so went to M&S, who now offer coffee also.  It was busy at Gatwick.  There wasn't the usual middle of the night ghostliness about it. Building work is going on, I guess in preparation for the Olympics.

Then there was the Left Legg Bandage Plot.  That was a bit like a lava lamp phenomenon also.  Gradually, you would recognise something similar about a gathering of cyclists at the Lindfield regroup.  It was a birthday treat for Mr Legg, whose trademark is a bandage around the left knee.

The 'Plotters'?
After breakfast, it was time for the next adventure, which was getting onto the ferry.  Some bikes posed as bikes, some as motor bikes and some as plain luggage.  We all got on.  I had a good snooze.

We disembarked and the group dispersed.  I went off to Evreux, which was the start of my last long ride before PBP.  The Saturday ride was planned to cover the miles and not get distracted.  That plan worked in that I took very few pictures.  I had 'adventures' though, when I found myself off road, or backtracking miles because my lovely laney route was cut off by highway fencing with no way through.  I came across a Gatwick like checkpoint also but didn't get stopped.  Les gendarmes had reason to question me though, as I was not wearing a reflective vest.  Instead, they didn't move an inch and smiled nodding as I sailed past them.

I asked for directions a couple of times.  Towards the end of the evening, I couldn't help myself anymore and asked 'Le Tour, qui a gagné?'.  I chose the right person to ask, because the guy was smoking a cigar and kept shouting at his German Shepherd dog to keep away from me.  Whilst doing both of those, he uttered something like 'Hhkariy Afhawe'.  I was ready to say 'merci', when he explained: 'L' Australien!'.

Here is the profile of the ride:

In Amiens, on the Somme, you go below sea level.  After reaching the Béthune region the profile is flat and I was flying!  Top gear all the way!  I went through Armentières, Comines, Wervik, Geluwe, Dadizele and home.  I liked that route very much. It has a special feel around Comines-Wervik.  Next year, when I don't have the need for miles (famous last words!), I might work out a fast route to the border, then meander around there early evening.   Could work as a trip from Dunkerque also.

I was pleased to have arrived home at a civilised time.  My parents were up waiting for me. We chatted, and we chatted and laughed some more the next day.  I was spoilt with the best dish of chicon au gratin and a perfect meringuetaart as desert.  We watched the final stage of  le tour and enjoyed Cav and HTC's amazing success.

I travelled back to the UK on the Eurostar, wheel in hand.  The female security officer asked: 'Où est le reste?'.  How funny, when, if I had brought the complete bike, it would have been trouble.  I laughed of course: 'Je l'ai perdu!'

What a weekend!  Three weeks worth of cycling, adventure, countries, culture, food and entertainment.

Photos are on the slideshow till the next ride, or here: Clicky

Other thoughts:

  • two falls
  • two thunderstorms
  • two punctures
  • after fields, fields, fields, coming into Rouen must have been quite dramatic way back
  • going through many villages with old castles and churches, reminded me of 'La Chasse aux Trésors', with Philippe de Dieuleveult
  • none of the cafes I went into showing le tour, horse racing instead
  • redundant question: 'so would we do it again next year?'

Monday, 18 July 2011

FNRttC - Brighton

On top of the Beacon, Simon had encouraged people to keep going down to Brighton, rather than wait for everybody and get cold.  This had created a sense of urgency in me.  From trying not to raise my heart rate on this Genteel ride, I turned into a racer chasing down the break away.  The Pyrenees Stage 11 it was.  I could hear Chris Boardman's voice: "It is all down to how much risk you are prepared to take".   Visibility improved by looking over my glasses.  In the far distance was a blurred shimmer of red light.  That was my target.

We arrived at the Madeira soaking wet.  A proper FNRttC that was.  Loved it.

Conquering the Beacon
Photo by Martin Brice

It starts at Hyde Park Corner with magic.  We bunch up at the traffic lights, ready to hit the road en masse.  We wait for the next green light.  Simon surges on and puts his hand up to stop the oncoming traffic.  And it's like magic!  On a roundabout notorious for 'having to go with the flow'.  Going against the grain is an absolute no no. Any hesitation and you'll hear the cab drivers cursing you.  But Simon gets in the middle of the road, puts his hand up, and all traffic slows and stops as if mesmerised.  I would imagine it is mesmerising.  From the other end, you'd see this guy cycling towards you.  Behind him a group of cyclists with dazzling lights, like you've never seen before.  It's midnight, what is going on?

I couldn't get into the the ride until I had sorted out my back light.  I was on my way to the station when I realised I had left my pump at home. When you change bike and gear, you are out of routine and things like this happen.   I turned back home to pick it up.  My partner rolled her eyes.  I set off again, and noticed how my back light was quite weak. 'Oh no, I don't have spare batteries!  I turned back home to pick some up.  My partner rolled her eyes and sighed.   It was a good thing I had spare batteries, because once at Hyde Park Corner, the light wasn't good enough anymore, in my opinion.  I changed the batteries feeling smug. Only, the batteries were flat!  Oh no!  How irresponsible of me!  One should always check the state of one's spare batteries, I could hear a 'with hindsight type of devil' whisper in my ear.  Fortunately there are plenty of opportunities to buy batteries and I could relax again.

Wonderful reception at the Scouts Group
'It's the wrong turn' sounds like a line from Wallace and Grommit.   The comedy moment for me was Adrian (I think it was) pointing out the single white light amongst a sea of red.  'He's realised', Adrian said, 'You wait, gradually, the red will turn into more and more white until no red is left'.  More magic!  Simon is getting a bit of stick on the forum for this.  But if I led a group towards the coast, it would always be the 'scenic' way.

The worlds of FNRttC and audax are really mixing now.  With the three guys I happened to be seated with at the Madeira, we talked Bryan Chapman, PBP and Hummers.  Pete stated his ambition of doing a 300 for the first time this year.  It might sound like an odd question coming from me, but I asked what drives him to do a 300.  'To do an SR (Super Randonneur) series next year', he said. 'Ah, that is completely understandable then!'.

A most enjoyable moment was saying thank you and goodbye to Simon and the gang:  'See you next week'!

Photos are on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Clicky