Monday, 31 August 2015

Blog delay. Food punctuation and 265 miles.

I couldn't advertise that I was about to go on holiday, so I'm now home and hope to get on and finish writing this up.

I had known that there was bad weather coming our way and we had been fortunate enough to miss it for the start of the race. The evening was cool but not cold and having gotten lost in the middle of town during my first couple of miles, I eventually made it out onto the open road and settled into some kind of a rhythm.

Riding hard and long at night is a state of mind. You can't see much beyond making sure that you don't hit any potholes and there's not much that could be done to avoid the bat that smacked me in the chest. His radar was obviously switched off, like my own early navigation sense. I hoped that he would learn faster than I did.

The rain started at about 4ish, falling steadily in that drizzly way that somehow gets you wet in a way that other types of rain seem not to. It made no difference. After last years lessons, I was cycling come what may. This was no diminishing trans-Atlantic hurricane and the terrain was flat.

By 7 a.m I had registered 92 miles on the GPS and stopped in a bus shelter for a rest. Given the level of dust and grime, the hard wooden seat hadn't seen a butt, let alone a vagrant like me for months if not years. I gave up trying to wipe any of it away, laid my head on my arm and fell asleep.

Ten minutes later I woke, shivering and refreshed...or at least that's what I convinced myself. I took off the extra layers that I had donned prior to dropping off, ate a couple of mouthfuls of something and downed some water and headed out...into the rain again. The corner of the bus shelter seat was clean, my back was filthy. My thirst sated and my brain suitably numbed, I determined to reach the next patisserie before I would stop again. I had a pretty good idea that I wouldn't have to wait long.

I have yet to perfect the art of recording events, whilst also riding. As a consequence my recall is dulled. The days become punctuated by food stops and water and spatterings of my teenage French and sign language as I endeavour to make myself understood and my stomach filled. The longed for food stop duly appeared and its recollection merges into those of that day and days to come. A few stand out. There are pictures to prove it.

Some time after mid-day, I recall that the rain had stopped. It was the last I was to see over the next 9 days.

My target for day one had been Chaumont. Strangely also the stopping point after day one proper last year, but this time, 60 miles further along the route. Some time short of it though, I met with a fellow competitor, his jacket torn, his hand bandaged and his back wheel bent. Overtaken on a roundabout in the rain, he had come off his bike turning sharply to avoid the car, that in turn ran over is back wheel and then drove off without stopping! It is a huge credit to his determination that he continued under any circumstances, but with a bump at every wheel turn! It would have driven me to distraction. I guess that he might have ridden in the vain hope of meeting the driver again, but it's probably a good thing that he did not.

We met again a couple of hours later after the cruel and stiff climb up into Chaumont, where we shared the pavement outside a grocery store, still open at 11 at night.

From here, I worked my way through town until I found a Chinese restaurant. I again filled the tank and then 265 miles into my first day, I rode another 100m and fell asleep next to a hedge. Hidden only by the dark and 30m of grass next to the road, I didn't care too much, I was done in!

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