Quote of the day; “The best rides are the ones where you bite off much more than you can chew, and live through it” – Doug Bradbury
A grand sounding title of locations but less impressive if I make it clear that Brighton to Newhaven is 10 miles and Newhaven to Dieppe is a ferry trip. None the less the most significant change in landmass happens as I move from England to France.
Brighton was a blast, full of tacky “kiss me quick” kitsch and urban cool as I count more hipsters than hippies on the main thoroughfare. As I mentioned our hotel for the evening worked in the basis of each room having a theme hence we could have been allocated; the safety pin laden punk room, the parkatastic Modrophenia suite or even one which was decorated to match their interpretation of a Rough Trade record store. That was an apt as we left the building early doors to stock up for breakfast the reception room blasting out “Hatful of Hollow” my daughter was inspired and her”Johnny flipping Marr” t shirt was rescued from the travel bag.
The ride to the ferry is nothing to write home about but I am aware such facts make a blog completely redundant. On the doorstop of the port I pull in to a road side food stop a la little chef/ Brewers fayre and my arrival coincides with the England football match. I consider leaving immediately for fear that the game will sour the positivity which has been the theme of my time in my neighbours country. I was overthinking it as despite being a goal down when I leave the discussion I overhear is rational and balanced as the table of lads disect team selection, tactical decisions and I hear not a single slight on the opposition. My positivity remains which pleases me greatly.
Ferry travel is pretty much new to me and this trip falls in to the too long to sit and read a book but too short to get a good sleep territory. The later option is ripped from our grasp by the next door cabin who take the travel time as a chance to work on their improv movement/dance and vocalisation skills. By that I mean they giggle, jump about and see more value in giving renditions of the Frozen soundtrack than sleeping. I’m not happy (there is a well developed theme here I know…) Our neighbours are young woman “nippy wee lassies” whose names sound like the towns I’ve cycled through in the posher ends of London (Theydon Bois, Saffron Waldon, Alexandra Palace, Bromley by Bow) you get the idea. Thankfully the man from the boat nails the nonsense and I have a whole 1 hour 45 power sleep to recharge me for the days cycle.
Arriving at the port we park up and take stock, it’s 5am and daylight is limited so we top up the ZZZzzzzz’s after watching an hours worth of the port security escorting a constant stream of would be castaways from the car park. I see more of this at the start of the ride when I pass the harbour which is similarly busy.
We have only 2 French language tracks on spotify so listen to both;
Again I use a grabbed Garmin file, this one based on another riders trip to watch stage 3 sprint finish at Amiens a few years earlier. The route of great, busy to start with similar to the Dundee A92 on a Sunday then swapping between country lanes and rural settings in seamless manner.
Cycling abroad comes natural, the change in the designation of road direction is almost natural. I’m lucky to have cycled abroad before and the flow of traffic seems to fit with a cyclists eye line. France has a cycling culture probably only matched by Italy so I expect to be given space and time and that is indeed true. However it’s hugely important to mark out that bar a couple of quite frightening experiences in England my journey has been marked by a massive amount of courtesy and respect from drivers. Of most significance for me has been the space and time allowed by heavy duty full on juggernauts who have patiently waited for clearance to overtake. I’m grateful and have developed a system of holding my hand up flat to ask the driver to hold still as I see oncoming traffic then waving them through furiously when a gap appears. A toot of the horn or a flash of the lights has signified a mutual understanding. Can’t we all just get along on the road? Sometimes with a wee bit of effort we clearly can.
Littered with long steady climbs it’s easy to transfer skills from punchy Scottish hills to my new environment. With much to see it’s something only a cyclist would understand which grabs my attention most. I see a guy riding in full pro-team kit (Cofidis) including retina burning red leg warmers. At first I think he must be paying back a bet then I think maybe he’s a local pro. However given I catch him with ease and pass him on the ascent rather than descent I’m guessing it was a big bet he lost. Maybe something like “If a country with a population of 300,000 reaches the last stages of the European championship I will cycle dressed like a colour blind Star Trek character”
I can’t feel any guilt if the guy stumbles across this blog and feels silly as I fully expect that he will be Google imaging pictures of horse riders sitting side saddle and proclaiming to his mates “that’s how they sit when they ride bikes in Scotland”. Yep, it was a testing shift in the saddle on various levels….
I arrange to meet my crew at Grandcourt for a chat and some lunch given that by then the midway point will have been well broken. With only a few miles left my Garmin crashes for the third time on the trip and 42 miles of data is lost(later recovered) I have the ride recorded in full in a Fly 6 rear facing camera I am trying out so proof of miles is easily available however I’m really angry. I try to unpick why this has such a harsh affect in my headspace and can only come up with the notion that with the end so close I am projecting a whole heap of other issues on to this glitch.
I start to reflect on the trip and the forthcoming days in Contalmaison. I’m asked from home if I’m proud of what I’ve achieved , I’m told it’s a great thing I am doing and that I have completed something significant. However as we are now on the precipice of a ceremony where we commemorate the loss of life given in order to protect and promote freedoms a cycle ride seems silly and even a bit self indulgent. I regroup and think of the funds raised and the positive outcome if even one person takes time to learn about the McCrae’s story by virtue of some web article or newspaper clipping.
Still the need to do more remains and I wonder had I done the ride in fewer days, in fancy dress, in a faster time, on a uni cycle while juggling and reciting poetry would I have been more restful of thought? Probably not as the toughest part of the event has actually been the necessity for me to be focus point on so many social/media platforms as it’s not possible to fundraise and retain anonymity. This has been a far greater pressure than any physical, environmental or mechanical hindrance. One for the team psychologist when I get home as meantime the show goes on…..
By way of adding perfect perspective the day ends with a text from my dad to tell me Rovers have lost our opening friendly 2-0 to Forfar. This is a definite wake up call to think less and soak up what’s going on around me.
Song of the day, since we were on a foreign language vibe;
74 miles towards total 0 dead miles
Total- 636 miles towards total and 82 dead miles – 718
I eventually managed to restore Garmin files so here is the proof of ride