The One Day Tour 2016
100 Miles Without a Garmin
How The Hell Did I Get Up Those Cobbles
There is a famous question in philosophy – “If a tree falls in a forest and no-one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” The 21st century cycling equivalent is “If you ride 100 miles but forgot your Garmin, did it actually happen?”
I thought I was so organised, I’d packed my day bag the night before. I’d cleaned and oiled my bike, loaded up the water bottles and pumped up the tyres. I’d got my clothes ready – with several layering options in case of last minute changes in the weather forecast. I’d put my Garmin on the bike . . . oh no, wait a minute . . . I’d thought about putting my Garmin on the bike, but apparently what I actually did was carry it downstairs, get distracted by one of my children and put it on the hall windowsill – where it stayed all of the next day.
In spite of there being no evidence on Strava, I did cycle my first 100 miles on 25th May and handily Bee Gregorie had laid on a photographer to provide plenty of evidence, which was very thoughtful of her. Thanks Bee!
When I arrived at Dover Priory Railway station at about 5.15am – let me repeat that – 5.15am, I was relieved to see several other KVG and KVB cars. Then it was a short ride to the ferry port, a minor panic that the ferry was delayed by an hour, relief that it turned out to be only 10 minutes, through passport control and round to the ferry loading lanes. I had to quell my childish excitement about cycling up the ramp to the ferry and then we all headed for breakfast. The ferry journey was a pleasant mix of food, discussion about how many layers were required and the dawning realisation on my part that I was probably the only 100 mile first timer, and was definitely one of the slowest riders on the tour. Thankfully I was able to very quickly establish myself as a member of the self-selected ‘slowest’ group.
Once off the ferry, we located the support vehicle, loaded up our day packs and set off. My group were first, but, there being hills in the way, we were quickly overtaken by all of the others. It has to be said – I’m not a natural hill climber. However, these hills were long and steady with fantastic views out to sea and lovely smooth descents. It was great to sit at the back and see blocks of pink and blue riders winding their way up between the green fields. We were also treated to the experience of Dave the photographer riding a precarious pillion on a motorbike and taking some fantastic action shots as if we were pros.
The first feed stop was in a layby at about 30 miles with just enough time for a hot drink, a choice from the cornucopia of snacks (although the last pain au chocolat was snaffled just as I got there) and a wee in the wheatfield before my group had to set off again on the ‘last-in-first-out’ principle. The first part of this section was lovely and flat, which was great for me because I don’t like hills.
(I have a very good reason for not liking hills. I am overweight by about 15kg, and we’re not talking 15kg of lovely pedal-pumping muscle. 15kg is the size of an average 3 year old and I think that if I stuck a 3 year old on the back of anyone else’s bike they would soon become a hill-hater too!)
Anyway, there weren’t any hills so we got up a good pace in spite of some strong headwinds. In fact we got up such a good pace that we ended up worrying about the other groups.
“No-one has overtaken us yet.”
“Don’t you think that they should have overtaken us by now?”
“They must have given us a really big head start.”
“Do you think something’s happened?”
“Perhaps someone had a puncture.”
“Maybe we’re just too fast for them and they can’t keep up . . .”
We were eventually overtaken – by everyone. The largest group handily provided a windbreak just when I was beginning to flag and around 50 miles, and just before what I can only describe as THE TORTURE.
THE TORTURE was the last couple of miles before the lunch break in a lovely little town called Cassel. It was up a hill. Not much of a hill, but a hill nonetheless and, as I may have mentioned already, I don’t like hills. Not only was this a hill, but it was a hill paved with beautifully laid out, very pretty and probably quite old cobbles. By this point I was very tired, had an aching back and worst of all I was very sore in the nether regions and looking forward to some time off the bike and a good stretch. So riding up a hill on cobbles (or ‘les pavés du diable’ as they should henceforth be known) just before lunch was not really what I had in mind as a great way to spend some leisure time. Every bump was agony and I was going so slowly that, had I remembered my Garmin, I think it would have auto-paused. Then the road played a nasty trick – there was tarmac and I thought ‘thank goodness no more cobbles’ then after about 10 metres, there were MORE COBBLES and they were WORSE than the ones before – different pattern, bigger gaps. OUCH. I rounded a bend and there was Dave taking pictures. I appear to be smiling in my picture. I’m not. I’m sure it’s a grimace of pain.
Thankfully the cobbles did eventually end and we arrived with lunch already set up by the marvellous support team and I cannot thank the organisers and support team enough for providing such well organised and delicious food stops.
Section 3 was lovely and flat and took us through some villages and round a canal where we were able to wave at the group on the other side. It was in this section that we ‘lost’ Paula Veysey-Smith. Paula had been setting a perfect pace for us when the ‘speedy girls’ went whizzing past and PVS vanished! She had been swept up into the other group and got so carried away doing speedy through-and-off that she forgot all about us and stayed with them for the rest of the section!
In the last 20 miles Paula had our group doing a rapid rotation through-and-off. I hadn’t done this before and I loved it. It kept my legs going and my brain busy and the miles got eaten up until before we knew it we passed 100 miles.
We caught an earlier ferry back, all 28 of us having comically clomped round and round the barriers at the UK border crossing in our cleats. Celebratory socks were given out and yet more snacks eaten. I just about managed the drive home, muttered monosyllabically to my other half on arrival and fell into bed. I have never slept so well.
A last note – back in January, after a year of on and off illness that had halted my beginner’s progress on the bike, cycling 100 miles would have been unthinkable. I decided to heed Bee’s advice and signed up to Turbo, the 50 mile programme, the sportive 60, a couple of long rides with PVS – all with the one day tour in mind. Thanks to all the people who ran those events and the constant encouragement from club members that I have ridden with in the last few months I made it to the 100.
Now, about those 15 extra kilos . . .