Sunday, 16 September 2012

Detour De France (Pt 2 next stop Macdonalds Paris)

Ready to rock
Day two dawns, it's cold but the sun is starting to rise. We've just had a good night in St Omer and now we have to get to Paris. There's just the small issue of the 160 miles of French roads that stand in our way.
We don't fuss about this morning, I'm actually distracted by the lovely old Rolls Royce in the hotel car park. So as soon as the bottles are in the cages we set off. Today we have Toby joining us, if I'm correct Toby has only ever ridden 65 miles max? so this is a bit heroic.
We leave St Omer bouncing over the pavé and head out into the countryside. It's just fantastic. The roads are great and quiet giving Craig and Joe plenty of time to race for towns. We can even afford to split up into small groups, I ride with Derrie at the back then chat with Jason as with glide through the Somme. And even with miles to go I play chase with Craig and Joe. Things couldn't possibly be better on a cycling road trip.
Even our part time guide is with us.
Because this is a big day we are breaking it down into 45 mile legs, it's a distance everyone seems happy with. At 90 miles we take a 'proper' food stop knowing we've gone past the half way point, and we think we have what amounts to a Sunday 100km ride left....we thought.
En route and still together
We set off with that 'it's all downhill from here' attitude. Then we hit a small not very well known French town. Our guide stops us and points out that our next stop is Breteuil and we are to look out for it. I'm suddenly overcome with a sense of worry, erm we are in Breteuil. But hey the guide knows best, this is what his getting paid for right? We're not so sure. Vince rides along side of me and points out that we have the sun on the wrong shoulder. Not only that, but we are heading for some horrible looking climbs. This isn't right. Jason tells me we are on the wrong road, or more to the point not where we should be. We hit the hills and Derrie starts to suffer. Toby is also suffering, this wasn't on the route plan. The hills come alive with the Tourettes version of the 'Sound of music'. Some of the riders are rightly cheezed off and we get a puncture as well. Like true Brits we carry on. I don't know where our guide has gone, but with a little help from the locals we reach our support team, waiting for us in a very pleasant French square. The support crew get it right again and fresh coffee is on hand to supplement the road food.
One of the last things our guide told us was that Paris was a mere 40'ish miles away. And although Derrie was feeling it, this news was music to his ears. It sounded about right, we'd done 120 miles after all. Toby at this point gracefully bailed out for the day with a whopping 120 miles under his belt, more that double he'd ever done before.
Then came the bad news. Poor Iain had to deliver it. It wasn't 40 to Paris it was nearer 70. Derrie was not a happy bunny, although he was riding on he needed to know what was going on, our guide had taken us on a hilly detour it wasn't what he needed.
We fitted our lights and left the square. It was all a bit heads down and press on, not really the way we wanted to enter Paris. We did all pull together making sure every man was in. Then as dusk drew in we stopped. We stopped under the pretense to check if we needed anything. In reality we'd stopped because our guide was lost. And as it was getting dark he couldn't read his map - game over.
Now I'm a well known luddite, but this guy had nothing. No sat-nav, no GPS and so it seems not even a torch. I didn't hear the 'discussion' going on, but that was my last sighting of the guide that day.
You know how they say 'If you want a job doing properly' well say hello to the LBRCC support crew. After a quick cabinet reshuffle we set off for Paris. This was it, we're going to get there, even if we were following the ex guides route. We reached the outskirts in total darkness and suddenly hit a bitch of a hill, not only was it a climb it was also poorly covered pavé. And sadly at this point after riding so far Derrie climbed into the support car. I felt so sorry for him to come this far and have to bail because of our guides cock up.
The rest of us press on silently after losing Derrie. Though we catch up with him again as we regroup to follow the lead car into the town itself. What follows is pure purgatory, we are stopping every 20 metres for the lights. It takes us 90 minutes to travel the final 7 miles. And more worrying is that my knee is killing me from all the clipping in and out, the downside of choosing my race bike to do this on. Finally we pull off the main streets and roll up to our hotel. We meet our guide here who greets us with food, when in reality it's the cold leftovers from the next group he is guiding - good luck with that. Tom our back up man arrives to find that no arrangements have been made for vehicle parking, and lets rip with both barrels and rightly so.
We mooch about before getting everything secured then head off for a well deserved shower. It's gone midnight now and the restaurant is shut, so we head of out to Macdonalds. We are in blindingly good spirits, and sit down in the streets to a sumptuous meal of burgers and chips. Still hungry and with Macdonalds now shut we head over to the nearest 24 hour garage and stock up with Haribos and fizzy pop and chomp our way back to the hotel for a well earned sleep. Ahh Paris by night.

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