Posts Tagged ‘Ligueil’

Congratulations to Pete McQuade the founder of the Paris to Hayling Cycle Challenge,

Last Friday evening Meridian News ran an article on the Hayling Island Cycle Ride reaching its 30th Birthday in July this year having raised nearly 1.5 million pounds for a wide variety of worthy causes. This is an event I feel privileged and honoured to have been part of the event since the 90s until 2005 as both a participant and also as Secretary and assisting in Support & Logistics and was even especially in Route Planning under the auspices of Mad Fred.

What started my involvement? Well, I needed to give up smoking, badly. Will power alone wasn’t going to do it: I needed a challenge. Then I saw a news article on the Paris to Hayling Cycle Ride with a picture of 3 rather fetching young ladies with their bikes. ‘That’ll do it for me’ I thought and entered there and then. That first ride was one to remember, and most of it I can but I regret to say that having reached Paris I was rather thirsty and joined other riders at the Hotel Bar in Le Defence. The following events I regret to say are a blur but the next day was my first experience in Riding in France and with so many cyclists (100+) my heavy head was soon forgotten.

Having completed the event plus two or three further events I felt it was time to ‘give something back’ and became a member of the organising committee. Among many things, this did allow, me along with my new fellow cycling buddies Mad Fred, Reg the Hedge, Hobbitt, and Marko: I for my part was named Podge the Puffer on account of age (derivative of Codge), size and hill climbing abilities (almost, a famous five but commonly known as The Reccecrew). And just like the famous five, we had many, many adventures most of which entailed us either getting Lost in France or sampling French Hospitality in bars or café. We tried to document our adventures under the title of Lost in France. An extract of such an adventure is below where we to undertake a ‘recce’ of the proposed route for the coming years Paris to Hayling ride. Naturally, this was all done by bike and naturally, we had to find refreshment stops. But, it wasn’t all easy.


Normandy in France

Recce’s – they’re a doddle, pootle over to France, eat nice food, laze in bed, drink lots of wine, write a few notes.

Well that might be the Chairman’s view but he, and you, should have been with Mad Fred, Podge, Reg the Hedge, Hobbitt, and Marko, when they went to France in March to establish the route for the 5-Day Ride.

The trip to Cherbourg was uneventful. However the weather when we emerged into the darkness in Cherbourg was definitely English ! Windy but mild, and fortunately for us a tail-wind to boot ! Recce’s sometimes mean that we have to retrace our steps and Hobbitt soon found we had to do this within 2 kilometers of the ferry port – straight back into a headwind. While the rest of us munched apple turnovers and pain au chocolate he blasted back to check what turns out to be a very well surfaced and convenient cycle track leading out of the ferry port.

The job done we tackled the first climb ‘Hobbitt’s Early Riser’ – scant reward for his efforts so far. From the top of the hill to Quettenhou the quiet roads follow a plateau and river valleys, OK and one hill, but pretty soon we reached the east coast of the Contin Peninsular and while Mad Fred ploughed on ahead the rest of us piled into a great Bike Shop (well worth stopping at in July).

By the time we reassembled in a bar on the D-Day Beaches the wind was blowing into us at 90 degrees which was pretty hairy but fortunately the roads were totally deserted.  We batted on southwards until the estuary turned us inland and into the headwind for a very painfully slow crawl to Carentan. In the summer this will be a very pretty route but in March it was hell ! Over lunch in Carentan we were all falling asleep.

Moving on after a good feed however, the wind was behind us and with the sun out it was very pleasant as we bowled along towards Bayeaux for the night. We witnessed the strange sight of a large dog bounding trafficwards in the fast lane of the route national, whether the mutt survived was never known but it caused a fair degree of chaos.

We’d picked out a river valley to lead us the last 20 kilometres into Bayeaux but nothing had forewarned us of the flooding we were about to encounter. The valley floor was a giant lake, extending as far as the eye could see with little islands dotted here and there, we pushed on through it and up onto higher ground, getting wet and taking a few photos just to prove the point ! Approaching Bayeaux Hobbitt and Marko went ahead while Mad Fred and Podge planned a route around the ring road being built around this historic town. An early night was spent in Bayeaux as we had a 7am start the next day and we were spent!

From Bayeaux to Caen is quite a nice spin and with a sunny morning it was very pleasant – even with having to contend with ‘Podge’s Puffer’ which is a nice little climb. But there’s always a ‘but’ and in this case it was a slight confusion over where we were going. Marko and Hobbitt were under the impression that they were to meet up with Mad Fred and Podge in……..(‘Lost in France bit’)…..but the latter didn’t share the same view and after an hour of ‘being lost’ we met up, funnily, in a bar (turned out we were never more than a kilometer away from each other). Ploughing on towards Caen we encountered the floods once again, only this time the water was at least a metre deep and right across the road we used to exit Caen last year on the ride to Gorron, and which this year we wanted to use to enter Caen. Podge and Hobbitt vainly attempted to cycle through it, once to see how deep it was, and after proving to themselves that you cannot do a U turn on a cycle loaded with your luggage and up to the axle in water,  once again to pose for the camera. Time to retire to the bar and plot a way around it !

Mission completed we moved on, narrowly avoiding a very serious involvement with the local cycling club who were turning out in force for an afternoon road race. Pukka bikes and riders who understandably ignored the pannier-laden Recce Crew. The skies grew darker and Mad Fred’s unfair admonishment of the French for having moved road numbers and planted a farm in the way of us only served to contribute towards the impending gloom, it was going to rain, and there was going to be lots of it !

We became wetter and colder and more and more miserable so an executive decision was made in the bar – head for Troarn, find a hotel and dry out !

Success with this raised our spirits, helped by a few bottles of red wine, glasses of calvados, and a hot supper. By midnight we felt in reasonable shape to get up at 6am and battle on towards Le Havre, but it was still raining…..!

Sunday morning at 6am and it was still dark, this was the morning after the clocks were altered and to be quite honest we weren’t sure what time it really was. We snuck out of the hotel (having paid the previous night) only to encounter half a dozen Frenchmen having an early coffee and brandy in the hotel bar.

The road from Troarn to Pont l’Eveque is as boring as hell – long, straight, slow hills, and more flooding – anywhere flat seemed to be under masses of water. Mad Fred was some way behind us when we got to Pont l’Eveque and stopped at the first bar – rule number one is if you get separated stop in the first bar and wait, leave your bikes on prominent display so they can’t be missed by the estranged recce crew member. Rule number two is that Mad Fred doesn’t know about rule number one, so we lost him, again.

Reunited we plodded on towards Honfleur where we needed to recce the route off the Pont d’Normandie (BIG bridge to you and Podge who moaned and groaned his way to the top), and onto it for the 4-Day Ride. At the top of the bridge a helpful instrument told us the wind was 40kph, and the temperature was wavering between 4c and 5c. It felt, and was, cold !

Things brightened up once we were over the bridge and pedalling along the nice quiet roads on the industrial approach to Le Havre and with an hour to spare before the ferry left we found an extremely nice restaurant for lunch. Well 2/3 of our lunch, we didn’t have time for the dessert so we’ll go back for that in July. We did have time for 2 courses, and a litre of wine each – hell we’d deserved it, over 200 miles though some pretty miserable weather, now it was time to relax !

Onboard the ship we bumped into Syme and Michelle, two former riders who’d just enjoyed a romantic weekend and now had to face reality in the shape of a hammering in the bar. We failed miserably in the onboard quiz, drank loads of Guinness, a couple of bottles of wine, and a few brandy’s, and wobbled off the ship into the Ship and Castle by the Ferryport. None of us remember much after that !


And, if you want to enjoy such adventures though with less wind and rain, and if the ride continues beyond 2015, I can’t recommend it highly enough..

Clearly, the World Cup isn’t over. They haven’t even finished the first round, but England is already out of the tournament with one more [seemingly pointless] game to play. As I understand it, this is the first time England has been knocked out of the World Cup this early since 1958 (ish). As always, the media big up (to excess) the chances of our national team getting through to the semi-final or even the final and maybe, just maybe, winning the tournament. Once again, the media, having placed all the players at the top of the highest pillar they can find will no doubt be looking to knock them off. So, why are we, England, out of the World Cup so early? Is because the team were rubbish? is it because individual players were rubbish? No: quite simply, it’s because the other players, on the occasion were better. That’s the way it is and we should deal with it.

The one shining light of course, at least from my perspective, is the imminent arrival of the Tour De France, starting, once more, in England: The last time was London 2007. This time, it starts (The Grand Départe) from Leeds in Yorkshire and over three days will make its way to London via Harrogate, York, Sheffield and Cambridge. From there it will return to its Mother Country to follow a clockwise route around France before finishing in Paris.

Some say, and I am one such person, that Cycling, and in particular, the Grand Tours, has to be one of the, if not ‘The’, toughest sporting event out there. Day in, day out, each rider cycles 100+ kilometres for up to 3-weeks, including some of the toughest climbs in the Alps and the Pyrenees.

With Bradley Wiggins wining the Tour de France in 2012 and and Chris Froome winning the same in 2103, and not forgetting of course Mark Cavendish winning the Green Jersey in 2011, even winning the final stage, in Paris, over 4-consecutive year, we can proudly say that we are a force to reckon with in the world of cycling. And, at last, the media are now giving increasing air time / page space to the sport. This is great stuff for me.

For those that don’t know, I love cycling. I was even lucky enough to have been part of the Paris to Hayling Cycle ride that clashed with the Tour in Rouen and was even luckier to be in the same hotel as Team Mapei and Deutsche Telekom in 2002. I’ve had my own cycling epics such as two 1000 mile rides: Bilbao to home via Paris, and Montpellier to home, again, via Paris (the latter being just 5-months after coming off my bike and breaking my arm, dislocating my shoulder and splitting my knee down to the cap). I’ve cycle the Pyrenees, I’ve cycled the Ventoux. I’ve had more bikes than I should probably admit, I’ve wrecked many as well. So yes, I do love cycling but right now, I’m sad 😦

Sad #1

My health is preventing me from cycling (lungs 47% effective) and me fear is that it will stop me altogether and as I’m writing this, the sun is suing and there’s hardly a breath of wind and I have a Giant, A De Rosa and a Colnago desperate to be ridden but my lungs won’t allow me and I fear that soon they will prevent me altogether. So, to stave off  such a happening, I’ve set myself two personal challenges.

  1. to cycle from Ligueil (south of the Loire Valley) to home, in September, and for as many after as possible,  and;
  2. to do the London to Brighton bike ride in 2015, at least.

Sad #2

With the increasing level of interest being levelled at our cyclist, I’m concerned that they [the media] will start to do what they already do to footballers and tennis players, to our riders: that is to build them up, place them on a plinth only to knock knock down again, almost with glee, if they fail to meet the expectations of said press.

Britain has the most amazing cyclists at the moment and with every reason to believe that more are on their way. You only have to drive out in the evenings and at weekends to see the increasing number of young cyclist, male and female, that are out there and enjoying the freedom that cycling brings and hopefully, laying the foundations for a glittering cycling career.

So, my hope for the future is that the media support our athletes, even footballers, not just in our hopes for their success but also in those inevitable times when perhaps they aren’t quite as successful as we’d hoped.

I hope for success in the Tour. It would be great to win another jersey. I hope I continue to cycle. And I hope the media contain themselves. But most of all, I hope I prove I can still cycle so that I can get a Colnago C60, a fitting tribute to my 60th year. Equally, I hope on hope that somebody is able to offer me, to buy of course, a Colnago Spider PRAL Frame / bike, purleeeeeeease.

Go Podge, Go

1614 to go

I’m not going to say too much this week, mainly because I haven’t got much to write about. This is possibly a good reason to seek out another adventure, most likely on a cruise ship. There is however a couple of news worthy items (in Podge’s world they’re news worthy anyway) I will mention.

1) My breathing has improved, though there is a twist 😦

2) WheelsForRotary – Ride to Remember in July is Cancelled, though all is not lost.

Health – Having reported to my Vet (more correctly referred to as a Doctor 🙂 ), ready to extoll the virtues of a dairy free diet I noticed his preoccupation with my pulse and readings from my recent ECG and blood tests. With respect to my blood test, he informed me that my glucose reading was 8.3 which could be a cause for concern but he wanted a 2nd test (with no food for 12-hours beforehand) before we got excited over it. My heart however was racing too high for his liking and the ECG suggested an erratic nature. This meant my heart was  not very efficient and so not oxygenating my blood properly. So, next stop for me 1) Blood Test (Again) and 2) Cardiology. Boo. But on the up side, my breathing is improving. Yay.

WheelsForRotary – Clearly, I was over ambitious. Following the success of last years inaugural ride and raising over £5K for charity, my goal this was to repeat the event but on a grander scale and tweak the route so that we could visit the D-Day Beaches in recognition of this year being the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings. And, as it was the 70th Anniversary, I really wanted 70 riders to ride 70 miles a day for 7 days (70 days would have pushing it a bit). Well, I got a lot of good / positive feedback and positive responses from likely riders but I’m afraid the ride wasn’t to be. Confirmed riders just didn’t materialise – and so with such few riders, the event simply wasn’t viable.

There is however, an upside.

The ride has been rescheduled such that all we do is to ride [over a long weekend] from the town of Ligueil in France to  its twin town of Hungerford in the UK but still making a stop at Pegasus Bridge to recognise the D-Day event. And Asthma, COPD, Arrhythmia, Diabetes, whatever I’ve got will not stop from doing this ride and we’ll still raise funds for Warchild and Bruce Trust Barges.

So, it ain’t so bad after all. Yay.

Still means I’ve got to cycle 260 miles though. Boo.

So, with all this going on, Mrs Me and I feel the need of another cruise. Fortunately, we have a short cruise at the end of May when we join the Azura sailing to Bruges and St Peter Port with Alfie Boe. Not literally with him of course but he’ll be on board singing. I have ideas for next year (The Amazon) and even for the following year buy I need to turn them into reality. So for this long Bank Holiday Weekend, I will be perusing the Cruise Brochures and websites to see where I [need] to go.

I might also be getting my bikes back out of the garage to see if the wheels still go round, which I’m sure they., or, should I seek out a new one: Do I really need another one.

Mind you, Colnago have brought out the shiny new Colnago C60 for my 60th Year. Slurp.

So, this is to be my first post of 2014. What I’d really like to be writing about is our special cruise coming up in February this year, in fact less than 6-weeks away but I’m afraid I’ll have to wait a couple more weeks before I can do that. Save to say, that the event fills me with excitement, even more so than my 60th Birthday cruise.  No; this post is about a ‘call to arms’. An unashamed attempt to attract fellow supporters / cyclists and even wannabe cyclists. What am I on about? I hear you think. Well:

I want to raise £35,000 for two causes that I genuinely believe are worthy of significant support: Bruce Trust Barges and War Child UK.

How? By taking a maximum of 70 riders to cycle for 7-days in France visiting  Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno & Sword D-Day Beaches while also dropping south to the Loire Valley then heading back north to Argentan, a town which itself which was severely impacted by the D-Day events; and finally, onto Pegasus Bridge and Café Gondrée to regroup, exchange stories and bask in our own satisfaction that we risen to the challenge given and succeeded.

But, be assured, this is not in any way a race. This is not an event where only cycling whippets can take part, though they are welcome. This ride is for anybody and everybody, male, female, old, young, or even ancient like His Podgeness here. You don’t have to be an athlete by any means, those that know me can attest to that. For last years event we took one gentleman who was the wrong side of 60 and only used to the occasional ride between 5 & 10 miles. Yet, our structured / social training rides prepared him such he completed the event with comparative ease. Even for myself, with less than 50% lung effectiveness, and now the wrong side of 59 🙂 such an event is possible, though I do acknowledge I may be a bit slower and recognise the true meaning of a ‘Push Bike’. So, if there is anybody out there who wants to join me on this amazing adventure and help me raise that money for two really worthy causes, then either contact me direct though this medium, or register your interest via the website: http://www.wheels-for-rotary.info.

In the meantime, I shall start to compose my writing on our next, very, very special cruise.

 

Angers was the town in which Matt was to join us. He had left dear old blighty a couple of days earlier as he had decided a 550 mile ride wasn’t taxing enough and opted to head for the Alps to take part in the ‘Etape de Tour’ before taking the train via Geneva and Paris to Angers to reach as us at 22:30, as planned. I wonder if such plans had worked out in the UK and our fantastic rail network. Somehow, I think pushing sand up a drainpipe would be more fruitful.

We had arranged to meet Christian Pinneau along with other cyclists from Ligueil at 12:30 so that we could all ride in ‘en masse’ to a celebratory reception arranged by the twinning committee and others from our twin town. For this reason, we knew we should leave Angers early not only to be sure we weren’t late but also to minimise our exposure to the heat.

As luck would have it, the first half of the route was to take is along the Loire Valley [a route I believe everybody should cycle], past some magnificent chateau’s and some especially nice Caves (wine cellars, where some luverly wines were traded: unfortunately, cycle shirts aren’t designed to carry bottles of wine so we had to pass on so many opportunities. Such a great shame, as just before Saumur, we passed the Ackerman Wine Cellar: if you get the chance, visit it. It is fab.

As we (by now, it was just Charles [65] and I [nearly 60 Sad smile]) made our way east, the creaking in Charles’ Colnago was getting louder and he was down to only four useable gears. A quick inspection revealed that the gear cables had shredded and subsequently shredded. We needed a bike shop, and we found a bike shop with a very, very pretty French Lady who could speak hardly any English. Somehow, us two old deluded Codgers had to charm the nice little French Lady into understanding our needs(!). Eventually after much pointing and gesticulating, she got out her tape measure (!) to measure how much cable we needed and snip, snip, we were done. Strictly speaking, we also needed some nipples to go over the end of the cables but we decided to give that one a miss: tempting though it may have been Smile

After a quick temporary fix and our spares safely in our back pockets, we set off again on to Saumur [missing Ackerman’s] for a quick coffee / beer stop. Using a combination of Garmin Sat Nav and iPhone Maps (which were rubbish) we eventually all met up at a cafe / bar by the river less than 100 yards from a bike shop. As my mechanical skills had been enough to give Charles his gears back though we decided to resist going there to get it fixed properly and just rest up and have a drink before setting off to meet the Ligueil Cycling contingent at the designated picnic stop at Monsoreau just east of Chinon. My estimation was that the average age of the 10 Ligueil cyclists was 50, at least. But, they were often highly proficient cyclists as they led us to the picnic zone at 20+ miles an hour. But wow, it was great with 16 cyclists tearing alongside the Loire with two escort cars and our support van, we must have been (and certainly felt) a magnificent site.

Having made our acquaintance’s and sated our hunger, and thirst, the time came for the last 42 mile ride to Ligueil.

The pace was high, the route was hilly, the wind was unfavourable and there was 42 miles of it. As the French Cyclists surrounding the English cyclists there was this feeling that the English were being tested: tested to the limits so it was good to note the two or three of the Frenchies dropped out the back but nevertheless, the English were surrounded: kidnapped maybe?

Mile after mile, the French surrounded and herded the English, neither sided really understanding each other but united by a common bond of our love for cycling, we all eventually reached the outskirts of Ligueil where we all entered the town, three abreast with the French flanking the English (still making sure we didn’t escape) until we reach Centre Ville and then the Community Hall for a big welcome to be followed by interviews and photographs for the local media.

After showering in the local campsite communal showers and throwing all our grimy cycle gear into the communal washing machines, we were each taken away by local families who had offered to put us up for the night [the hospitality in Ligueil was truly amazing]. Once settled in our adopted homes, we all taken back to the Community Hall for what can only be described as a FEAST. Salads of all types, wine, with a barbeque that seemed to be going all night, wine, followed by typical French deserts, wine, and cheese and wine. Everybody had a great evening and nobody had cottoned on to the fact that tomorrow was going to be the longest day. Anyway, wined and dined, welcome and thank-you speeches made, everybody went back to their hosts homes for a good solid nights sleep.

Oh, do you remember Charles’s bike, well the French fixed half the gears before we went to bed, and they finished the rest by 07:30 when we were regrouping ready for the departure (with heavy hearts and heavy heads) and onto Le Mans.

Go Podge, Go

Cycling For a Better Future