London to Paris by Andy Bebington
For those who thought English hills were only to be found in Cumbria, the North York Moors or on the Cornish coast, meeting Sanderstead Hill two miles into the ride to Paris came as a nasty surprise. The comment heard at the top was "Who put that there?", a comment repeated many times over in the following days.
Action Medical Research used the services of Discover Adventure(DA), who specialize in route-marking, providing (excellent) refreshment breaks, booking hotels. ferries and Eurostar tickets, whilst providing on-the-road medical and mechanical support. DA have a different measure for mileage than the rest of us - having been told in the AMR brochure that the mileage on our four days would comprise 87,71,75 and 54 (287 in total), the detail provided at the start by DA said 80+77+77+62 = 296 and the reality as measured by my, and many others, cycle computer was 93+80+92+67 = 332.
The whole object of AMR’s exercise was to beat their previous best fund-raising total and they succeeded. The last figure they showed us was that they hoped to achieve £878,000, with 560 riders contributing an average of £1,600 each. From my perspective, from a profit on one fund-raising event of up up to personal donations of £100 (thank you, Terri and Richardl) and colorate sponsorship at £250 from a nephew's employer (thank you, Straight PLC) through to a fund-raising quiz which pulled in well over £300 (thank you. Bev, Jill, Martin & PC.!!), my total exceeded £3,000 so I'm very pleased and hugely grateful to all who supported me - thank you to everyone.
Day 1 was one of hills - Cobbs Hill, near Stowting in Kent, being one which produced the usual rude comment and which was agreed as being the day's "beast" among many others climbed in the Kentish Weald and the North Downs. We crossed Dover-Calais and stayed overnight just outside the town centre.
If Day 1 was a day of hills, Day 2 was a day of flats - ie punctures - and although I had one before leaving Calais, I wasn't the first. I'd already passed one group with a bike upside-down and a wheel off (those three riders were to suffer five between them that day, one rider claiming three). It was reckoned that there were perhaps fifty between us that day. That day was also a day when the laughing and high jinks were cut out by the sight of the of four war cemeteries we rode past or stopped at. High Wood Cemetery, for example has about 3,500 young men in it, most of them barely out of their teens. Young men who would never go to another football match, would never again take their girlfriend to a dance on a Saturday night, would never again clock in at the mill. the mine or the factory. As someone said, justifiably breaking the hush, "what a b****y waste!"
Day 3 was a day of wind, no, not baked beans for breakfast, it was a day on an undulating plateau with little protection from a strong head-wind. It was a day for "heads down" and get to the hotel quickly. It was a day for not seeing the scenery. Navigation was easy, wonderfully marked with orange arrows by DA, except where the wind or the local idiots had removed them - a rare occurrence - and the morning and afternoon refreshment breaks had supplies of the ineffable bananas, biscuits, water, jelly babies (yes, setiously!). The buffet lunch would include a series of pasta and salad dishes, tea/coffee, more bananas (I rode with Frank, who swore never to eat another banana until 2010) and cake. Well done, DA!
The last day. of course, was into Paris, and was anamazing experience. We assembled at a park a mile north of the centre, gathering over perhaps forty minutes until the stragglers had arrived, then rode all together up to the Arc de Triomphe, round the "most dangerous roundabout in the world" (the motorists did generally stop for us, they were outnumbered), down the Champs Elysees and round to the Effel Tower, where some families had assembled to meet us and where the group photographs were taken. It was a terrific half-hour, with a huge melee as all 560 riders gathered and with more photos being taken. We had arrived on the Saturday and the Tour de France arrived on the Sunday for its final stage. Alas, the timing of our Eurostar back to London precluded any of us witnessing "live" the final triumph of Mark Cavendish on the Champs Elysees.
To say that, when I eventually got homeat 10:30 that night. I was tired would be to understate the case significantly - I was so short of sleep that it took me two days to catch up. A wonderful time for me, a great result for the charity and a memory to cherish. Thank you to all who helped in any way.
Dieppe Raid by Andy Bebington
Cycling shoes with "Look" plastic cleats don't have much grip on uneven, wet stones - which was why I slipped into the river off the stepping-stones bridge, near St. Aubin-le-Cauf on the Monday of the Dieppe weekend. It was the third navigational error of the weekend, as we found that the western end of the bridge was blocked off anyway, so we had to go back to take the longer, busier road we'd been avoiding. The first navigational hiccup was spotted when we reached the main road south-east of St. Martin-en-Campagne when we should have been heading north-east towards Penly. I don't recall ever navigating that early stretch of the (clockwise) route correctly - we always seem to reach the main road far, far too early.
You just can't get the staff.....
The weekend started late when Peter, Pat and I gathered chez Ashby on Friday, a little behind schedule owing to Pat and I enjoying bacon butties before leaving Shirley. We then found out that the B&B in Newhaven was above a pub and that "Friday Night is Music Night" (I'm surprised you couldn't hear it in Croydon) and that breakfast wasn't available. Apart from the lack of locks on one toilet door, the creaking doors they must have used in horror films and the noise below, all was well - and we did find breakfast round the comer on the Saturday morning.
For the first time in Dieppe (how many times have I been?) the swing bridge was swung. The other bridge was under repair, so most boat traffic exiting the port had to use the swing bridge route. We still got in a short ride to the auberge where we've had lunch in years past - we wanted to check that it was open on Monday - and then it was off to search for a bar. Not for nothing were we called the three must-get-beers.
Apart from a little wet weather in the early hours of the ride,and an early puncture, we enjoyed the company of Dave and Anne Dodds, who wore the colours of Suffolk CTC, as we rode the 100km route. The second navigational error arose as I swept down the hill to St Aubin-le-Cauf and missed the sign directing us to the new lunch stop. How, I don't know - it was on the side of the road, on saturated green card the size of a wide-screen TV. We agreed that the new lunch stop was an improvement on the chateau grounds we'd used for years. The afternoon was pleasant as the weather had brightened up, and we rolled into the Hall for the presentations with plenty of time.
There were far more local riders than we usually have, as the day's rides were to count towards a season-long competition between French cycling clubs. Previously we have seen French cyclists determinedly riding the other way from us as if to say ''we're not taking part in your randonee. We discovered a new restaurant for our evening meal and were joined by Jock’n’Dave before heading back to the hotel de la Plage (what a nice hotel) and then off up the Green Road on Monday and the third navigational error mentioned above.
The fourth one came afterwe'd left the Auchun supermarket and tried to get back to the A154 via a narrow lane. Well, there was no right turn (as the map had suggested) off the narrow lane so we carried on via this one-in-six, gravel-strewn, hairpin-ridden lane back towards Dieppe. Oh well, it all adds to the mileage....
The return on Tuesday was a worry to me as I had to be in Croydon Town Hall in time to chair a potentially troublesome meeting by 6pm. I'd anticipated leaving Newhaven at perhaps 9am after breakfast and having to hammer home, but Peter and Pat were up and about shortly after six and we hit the road, finding a cafe in Lewes for breakfast (great value, with funny but non-politically correct cartoons on the walls) and home via Forest Row and chez Ashby.
A good weekend, and congratulations to Jean Stevens, who picked up Croydon's only trophy as the least young lady participant. As Arnie said - we'll be back!
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