Friday, 27 September 2013

The Caterer, the Butcher, the Chef and the Wine Merchant go for a bike ride (for charity)

If you can cast your mind back to last Thursday (19th), it was not the most delicious weather ever and 20 miles out of London the rain started. More to the point, the wind howled (think Roaring Forties, but in East Sussex..). Together they make for some moral sucking riding. There were three of us from the team of eight who were optimistic about the weather and had no rain jacket, needless to say we all got pretty wet, even those in wet weather gear. 

We had communication issues with our “support” vehicle and so remained unsupported until we got to the finish at Newhaven, a pub right on the Quayside. Added to this, our longest day of 60 odd miles turned into 81 miles after a slight detour. But we got there and after getting reacquainted with dry clothes, a cup of tea and some food, felt a little better.

The ferry then beckoned to take us over to the land of garlic / frogs’ legs / occasional champagne rugby / the Gallic shrug – AKA France. A bizarrely timed overnight (ish) trip landed us in Dieppe at 0430 UK time, after a maximum of three hours’ sleep, we started to roll again. Cold and dark with chilly legs that did not warm up until the sun climbed high in the sky, just before we reached our destination. This was the day of the punctures, repeated and for some reason, on the same bike. Very boring and slowed our team down no end. Once it became light and the bike-light disco ended and we could enjoy the rural scenery, whilst belting through it. We reached our evening stop by about 10am but could not check in for another 2 hours, so went and sat in a café and drank coffee in the town square, looking very athletic in lyrca. Luckily no photos of this exist, to my knowledge… At this point we had no slept much or washed at all, so took a table outside.

A shower & an afternoon snooze turned me back into a real person and we celebrated with a BBQ and a beer or two. We could afford to enjoy ourselves as we had a bed and a start time of 10am local time – luxury! Day three was actually enjoyable! We did some team exercises, riding along in an echelon of 8 riders, rolling round to take out turns at the front, all dressed in our matching kit, we looked the part and our average speed was pretty useful too. Then the punctures started, again – different person & bike taking valuable time, then we lost Dave the Butcher and everything threatened to fall apart. We made the decision for one team of two (myself included) to recce up ahead to try and find Dave, and the other chap, Chris, who had previously gone on to do the same thing, so when we all met up we would be a team of four and could clock in at the finish. Leaving the tyre popped boys on the roadside to fit yet another inner tube.

Dan and I did our best impression of a team pursuit race and quickly caught up with Chris (luckily he had stopped a few K further on..) and then there were three, on our way as fast as our legs could carry us. We vaguely realised we were entering the North of Paris and our sat-nav did us proud taking us in through La Defense. We then turned into urban cycle-courier-a-likes and twisted & turned through the Parisian traffic as legally as were could, bearing in mind it was a race. 

Champagne to celebrate
Then we saw it, an uphill cobbled street going up to the maddest roundabout in Europe, or maybe the world and the Arc de Triomphe. We were nearly there and could feel the turbo of adrenaline kick in. Bar one small incident with a Peugeot, a close call for Chris, we sped to the Pullman Hotel next to the Eiffel Tower which was our end point. Much to our amazement we were the first to arrive, cue ridiculous grins all round for the rest of the day. Then it was over and we could sit in the sun at a corner café and cheer the others in, sitting on a chair (not a saddle anymore) drinking a local beer (not a sickly energy drink or anything with electrolytes).

Physically I am not in too bad shape now but would maybe rather have played the first rugby game of the season, as I fear that would have been less damaging than three days on a bike. Our actual cycling time was just under 15 hours over the three days, but believe me it really felt much longer. I have attached a few photos just to prove that I was there and really did it.

Thanks again for your support and feel free to get in touch if you want the details to do it yourself next year. Thanks to Genuine Dining Company http://www.genuinedining.com/index.html and the Hospitality Industry focussed Springboard Charity http://www.springboard.uk.net/ for organising the event and raising money for a great cause. 

The aftermath...

Written by Rob Allen, London Trade Sales


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