Peloton for Patrick 2010: The Blog19/09/2010
The Peloton team have now begun their journey to Paris, and then on to Nice for a select few... Not wanting to miss out on the action, the rest of us can follow their progress here!
Encouraging physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle is one of the Patrick Evans Foundation's key goals. For details on how to support the cyclists in their fundraising see here.
Applying Vaseline and nappy rash cream for the last time; plates of croissants and bread rolls consumed, the coffee pot drained. Vesnas distributes energy drinks, Andrew finalises the route. I write a list of towns, road numbers and other prompts on a thin piece of paper and tape tape it to my cross bar. Hoops, yahoos and slaps and we are off for the final stage!
Today is only 60 miles, the shortest leg. A wrong turn and we do 3.5km in the wrong direction. French road signs! A hilly start, my early morning legs are struggling to get going. Over 30C and the sweat stings in my eyes. Bottle after bottle of water and energy drinks are consumed. Plenty of refills. The road twists around the mountains, curling around and down into a valley; and then relentlessly up the other side before a descent into the next. More of the same, on and on. We see from the bikes for the first time. Some relief from the dappled shade of the pine trees. Through a busy commercial area. Lunch in Grasse, sandwiches prepared by Andrew and Vesna and potato salad. Off again. More traffic sign confusion. Support team advise well. Andrew says it’s all down hill from now on. I laugh to myself. Long, gradually descending roads. Quite busy but still fun. Leaning into the bends, finding the right lines. We are at Cagnes sur Mer. The final 5 or 10 k along the beach front is not pleasant, dodging in and out of the bustling traffic, stopping at lights. From Nice Airport we take to the bicycle path for safety and mix it with roller bladders, recreational cyclists, joggers in lykra and pedestrians. Moving along with this colourful river of humanity, fields of sunbathers laying on the beach to our right and rivers of cars roaring past on our left.
The Hotel Negresco is in view and we had arrived! Vesna and Andrew are there to meet us. We hug each other and take pictures. Bemused passers bye give us funny looks. We are here, we’d done it; we’ve ridden from London to Nice. Some cold beers and we call out the Peloton Toast; “Patrick”!! Is it really over?
PLEASE make this hard work worthwhile by sponsoring us – so others can have a more comfortable life!!
Day 10: 15th September Cadnet - Le Muy
Another hot day. Disciplined intake of fluids supplied by the support team. The drinks contain salts to replace those lost in sweat, carbohydrates to provide energy and protein to repair the damage being done by the cycling. On top of that we have a continental breakfast each morning, sandwiches (thanks to the support team) by the roadside at lunch time and a three course meal each evening. There are also countless energy bars, Snickers, Marathons, dried fruit, wine gums; you name it.
Tom is having trouble today; two punctures early on. Try to reassure him. Could be any one. His head is down. His knees hurt. He’s a strong rider and attacks hills in big gears. This is resulting in a build up of lactic acid which is also hurting him. He’s still got a cold and eats less than he should. All in all a tough day so far for Tom. Milos smells the finish. Dancing along at the front. Looks like a boy out on a bicycle ride.
We usually ride close together to benefit from streamlining which reduces a cyclist workload by around 30%. However, riding very close can lead to accidents and we are getting close to Nice, so we decide to ride further apart, which obviously makes it harder for everyone.
Turn into a small town for lunch. Vesna and Andrew wait at the other side of town. Large cobbled hills loom. Riders mutiny; not prepared to ride unnecessary hills. Nice lunch in woods by the road side. Turns out they were in a different town anyway. Quiet roads, changing to busy ones. Final 5k into Le Muy worst road yet: loads of cars and lorries.
We reach Le Muy. I pull over to check the final directions. Suddenly a driver of a parked car opens his door in front of me. I manage to swerve a little; my wheel misses the door; my front right hand, my handlebar and shoulder all slam into it. The bike spins down to the left, pitching me over the front of the bars, landing on my left shoulder. The driver jumps out, apologising profusely, genuinely concerned that I may be injured. I pick myself up, tentatively check myself over. Then the bike. Luckily except for a few bits of superficial damage it is all OK. The driver speeds off. “Why am I doing this?” I think. “To raise money, in memory of my nephew Patrick, to help people afflicted and less fortunate than me.' I’m keen to move before I cease up or go into shock. Off we go again. If you would like to sponsor us please follow the links below:-
Day 9: 14th September Petite Village - Cadnet
Another stiflingly hot day. Tom’s knees still saw from previous day and tendons on the top of his feet are aching. Milos leads the pace line to help me save some energy and protect Tom. The wind is warmer and hotter; the Mistral. We ride together until lunch time. Milos and Tom head for the finish at Cadanet. I detour to Mount Ventoux .
It starts along a slowly rising country lane. It’s very bright, a light breeze carrying refreshing smells of herbs and pine. Sweat trickles through my hair, down my back and drips onto my knees. A guy passes, all in Trek with a mirror attached to his helmet. Resist, don’t chase. He has calves the size of dinner plates. I change to my easiest gear and spin the peddles. He’s stopped for a drink, I pass him. Into the pine forest; the road is curving and much steeper, bend after bend. Try not to look ahead, don’t think about 22 km uphill. Concentrate on front wheel. No more gears, just me and will power. Stop to drink. Hands shake, eat an energy bar. Shall I stop? It’s too far, too hard. No one will mind. Two riders pass spinning tiny front cogs. I should have got a smaller front cog. Can’t turn the pedals any slower without falling off, but the big cog means I catch them quickly and leave them behind. Huh!
Dodgy knee is trying to crunch. Funny cartilage is trying to pop. Did Fulham win? 10k mark. Halfway soon. Do half, do it all. It’s only pain “an emotional response to a physical activity”. Ignore it. Car coming, I know it. It’s Vesna and Andrew. Refill bottles, encouragement. Cafe Renard is soon they say; its 2/3rds of the way. The two guys go by, then mirror man. Off again, grinding the peddles. Another marker, past half way. I will do it. Where’s the cafe? Thin bloody pine trees; no shade. Now start counting down. Forest beginning to thin, the top is coming. Fast past the Cafe. No, don’t stop; hundred of bikes. Bet mirror man is hiding in there. Up, up, up. Strong wind blowing me back, no trees , white dusty rocks, feel thirsty. The road up to the weather station is visible at last. The 5k marker. I’m going to do it. Round corner, head wind, arrrgh, push, turn. Tommy Simpson’s memorial. It’s Ok to stop here, No. Round corner, protection from wind, feel good, drop a gear, surge forward. Corner, huge wind, change back up; almost stopped. Put down my leg. Words of encouragement from a French rambler. Water, off again. 2.5k marker. I’m going to do it. Use all you’ve got now. The final turn, I’ve done it!
Sit down on a wall by summit sign. Incredible view. Think of Patrick and shed a few quiet tears.
If all that effort could be used to help even one person, less fortunate than ourselves, it would be great power for good. Please help by sponsoring one of these links:-
Day 8: 13th September Bourgoin-Jaillieu – Patite Village
Jarring and vibration has caused the little finger and ring finger on both my hands to go numb. Slightly better each morning, worse again after the ride. Try to reduce the impact by changing my grip regularly, but nothing seems to help much.
Another salubrious Hotel on a busy roundabout opposite Decathlon. Some kit replacements, new cleats for Milos’ cycling shoes, more energy drinks and a pair of HTC Columbia shorts (Mark Cavendish, no less!) with a broader pad to help my undercarriage.
An early start. The terrain is getting harder. Many more climbs, passing close to rows of massive wind turbines, graceful, powerful and spooky. Tom identifies the soaring alpine foothills to the south east. Milos leads on most hills today. His cancer treatment finished a year ago. No sign of weakness; inspirational. Patch would be proud.
We search the horizon to the south for Mount Ventoux, but can’t see it. Vesna and Andrew drive ahead because we have not booked a Hotel. They hit the jackpot, a beautiful little Hotel over a bar in a tiny little village. We pull up, the trees outside are full of flocks of singing birds; what a welcome. A cold beer. Lots of stretching, recovery drinks, showers, wash kit. Then food, outside at an honest small friendly, rustic pizzeria opposite the hotel. We notice a change in the wind.
A couple of anti-inflammatories before bed to keep my knee joints operating smoothly.
We’re getting tired. Aching muscles, niggling injuries, sweating; you name it. Please make it worthwhile by sponsoring us on one of these links:-
Day 7: 12th September Fleurville – Bourgoin-Jaillieu
Wake to sunshine and smelly room. Saniflow not working properly; feel like a real pro-cyclist.
Feels warmer, kit is dry for once. Feels like we’re in the south. Madam wants six euros to fill our flask with coffee.
Surprised that I am able to sit on the saddle; bum feels no worse than the previous morning; progress. Set off in good spirits, make good time along nice flat roads. After an hour Tom’s rear tyre explodes. We replace the inner tube; only for the new one to explode. Realise it’s because of a hole in the tyre from 1st incident. Call in support car. Switch the rear wheel from Mike’s bike with Tom’s (happily stored in the roof box). Tom’s wheel is wider, manage to adjust breaks and set up with ‘seat of pants’ mechanics. Hey presto, we are off again! Vesna off to replenish the inner tube supply and buy Tom a new tyre. Milos jokes that Tom now has 40% of his own bike back. Tom smiles. Two huge winding climbs; very hard. On and on and on we go. Our ‘pace line’ getting pretty efficient. Constantly remind Milos and Tom: don’t stand up when you’re leading; point out pot holes and drains to rider behind; take your bloody turn! Around mid day Milos has a bad moment. Drops off way behind. We slow, he catches up. Milos says he hates cycling and will take any reasonable offer for his bike. Says he will retire from cycling when we reach Nice. As I plan how to deal with his bad turn, he sprints past like child; all forgotten.
Then the highlight of the day, Andrew rejoins us. Lovely dinner in town; best night out so far. Too many Km at an average speed of 26.7Km/h
My body hurts, my legs are jelly, I can hardly sit down, I have huge bags under my eyes; my hands have both got pins and needles; help!! Please make this all worthwhile by sponsoring us – and giving someone else some hope!!
Day 6: 11th September Semur en Auxois – Fleurville (Nr Pont de Vaux)
Awake again, stomach cramps; rush to the loo. Rain drumming on Velux window. Back to bed. Up again. Back to bed. Rain, rain rain.
All suffering with our undercarriages. My new cycling shorts too tight and rubbing in groin. I’m in an old pair of shorts today. Controlling friction burns with ‘nappy rash’ cream and Vasoline. Feel pain and bruising from miles upon miles of sitting on a saddle. Try to shift position on saddle regularly. Go commando in evenings.
Tom much happier, working harder. Team riding well. Milos strong. Stomach cramps come again.
Tom says his bike frame is broken, not the derailleur, so text Andrew and call him off. Tom is sad he will not get his own bike back. He swops saddle and is happier.
The roads are not too tuff. Two really difficult climbs. Mile after mile passing by. Trying not to think of how far to go. Tom asks all the time. I lie. Milos challenging me on the distances. I tell the truth. Expecting rain but still dry. Keeping moral up. Threatening rain; first spots. 14km to go. Stand on peddles and sprint away. Pretend I’m in a race. Really push. 14Km to go. Heaven opens on me. Stop and put on rain jacket. Can’t see them. Push and push. Pont de Vaux, pretty village. Swing right into home stretch. 5km. Awful new bumpy surface again. Hammering my crutch. Wheel s bounce along surface, fast. Splashed by passing cars. Over the bridge, another roundabout; the ‘Fleurville’ town sign. Raise arms in mock victory. Two minutes pass. Milos and Tom role in together. Old man feels indulged. High fives in car park, recovery drinks, stretch, wash and hang up kit. Shower, treat ailments, write blog. Commando for dinner. Owner wants to charge supplement for 5th piece of cheese from cheese board. Bed.
It was a long ride, 139km at an average speed of 26.4km/hr.
This hurts and it’s all for The Patrick Evans Foundation. Please make all this hard work worthwhile by sponsoring us!!
Day 5,6,7: 8th,9th and 10th September Villecien - Semur en Auxois
Milos finished 12 months of intensive chemo a year ago. He now has only three quad muscles in his left leg and his right femur is held together with a 15cm titanium rod to replace the piece which was cut out. Patrick went to see him regularly during the treatment, giving up his time to help Milos get through it all.
Start in good spirits, towards Chablis. Undulating hills and rolling country side. Our first grape vines, quiet roads. Meet Vesna at Chablis. Coffee as rain falls. Tom emails his Dad and Andrew (temporality back in London) to locate a derailleur for his bike. Good old Mike; where would Tom be without his bike? Riding into very heavy wind and rain now. Feel helpless, want to cry, hide, stop. Cold. Want to be happy and warm. Be positive. We sing as we ride, water trickles down my back and into my shorts. Heavy wet shoes. Road spray, dirty oil. Noyers for lunch. Pretty village, like a film set. Warm restaurant and hot food. Arsehole owner. Ignore his ignorant comments. Need the heat and food.
Through more empty villages. Where are the people? More huge winds, cold pouring rain, green, dripping, wet, rolling countryside with lots of hills. Tom suffering; cramp, exhaustion, the wall. Moral down, both working together to get him through it.
Counting down the km’s. Semur’s getting closer. At last and a long steep hill on slippery cobbles. Where’s Vesna? Waiting in the cold at the top of the hill. Stretching, drinks, think we’ve arrived. Frustrated by poor mobile phone signals; inadequate directions; inability to speak French properly; and our ignorance of the locality. A few more Km following Vesna. Finally we’ve made it to the Hotel du Lac. Secure bikes in owner’s garage.
PLEASE make this hard work worthwhile by sponsoring us – so others can have a more comfortable life!!
Day 4: 7th September
Having allowed ourselves a lie in, we left Jouarre at 11.30 and went straight up a hill, this was to be of the few that day. We made good progress eventually reaching the D209 after Coulommiers and then a long slog south along a very straight road. A strong wind blew into us from the south-west and at times it felt like we were crossing the great plains. The recently renewed road surface was very rough and it vibrated us to our bones; for miles and miles and miles. We met the support car at the junction with the D4770 and lunched on pastries, fruit, dates and energy bars, at the road side. I kept forgetting to turn my bike computer off when we stopped and when we did, I forgot to turn it on! My statistics were in jeopardy! I did register a maximum speed on 60.7km/hour on a long hill (that's 40mph and it was into the wind!) After that the scenery became more interesting; the wide open landscape with occasional huge farm buildings and water towers, the architecture of agriculture on an industrial scale, gave way to more broken hilly countryside as we approached the river Yonne and Sens. Occasionally a small village, town or building would delight you with its beauty and none more so than when we cut through Cez and St Aubin-sur-yonne, with their tiny metal suspension bridge, locks and a 12th century church. We arrived at Villecien at 17.45. Our hotel, Domaine des Grandes Vignes, was a great improvement on the previous night, including a good, filling meal. Lights out 23.00.
Please make all this hard work worthwhile by sponsoring us!
Day 3: 6th September (Continued)
We were about two miles from Versaille, with no money or maps, as we watched the Peloton disappear around the corner. Milos, Tom and myself scratched our heads and pondered our situation: no money, a broken bike and a long, long way from our hotel. A lovely old French man gave Tom and his bike a lift to a shop in Versaille with us two chasing along behind. Unfortunately it was shut. So, using my bike computer as collateral, we set up a tab in a bar and waited.
The support car made it back by about 20.45, we loaded the bikes and took on the Paris road system. Signs for roads that don't exist and roads which have changed their names and signs that don't exist, all made our trip to Jouarre, some miles west of Paris, last over three hours. Crammed into the back of the Toyota Avensis, we ate Kebab and chips on the way and by the time we reached the hotel, after midnight, the three fit athletes were already at a low, needless to say, the hotel was reassuringly disappointing! Unpacking, loading and some route planning followed, before lights out at 2am.
Days 1-3: 4-6 September
From S.Wimbledon tube w e left to rendezvous at Patrick’s House in Redhill. After the Peloton had toasted Patrick we headed off along 60 miles of country lanes; up and down steep hills, through villages, passing country fairs and Sunday walkers to Nehwaven. The last hill, to cross the South Downs, was a cruel thank you for all the hard work! A pint of well earned beer and then off to the ferry queue for the 22.30 crossing. We arrived in Dieppe at 3.30 local time. There is not much to do at that time in Dieppe. We fixed our first puncture and waited in the terminal building for the sun to come up. After an hour even that shut. We rode a few miles into town and settled down in shop doorways for something to open. An odd bunch we looked, slumped against the shop doors, lycra clad, shivering, wrapped in blankets , pondering why Seagulls never sleep; until the sun rose allowing us to break out. After a coffee we were suddenly resurgent, the torment forgotten as we filled our water bottles with energy drink and headed south for Paris along the Avenue Verte. Our first pit stop was at Neufchatel-en-Bray for lunch, walking with bikes and awkward shoes up-hill though the cobble streets, past the huge Norman church. The town was busy with the throng and colour of a Sunday morning market. After lunch we continued on to Gournay- en- Bres; another short stop and then to Chateau Landel; a sumptuous building and environment, with swimming pool and spacious grounds. Even the Fawlty Towers waitresses could not suppress the Peoltons ‘Gala Dinner’.
The Peloton, riding high on Patricks memory, surged into the last leg, making good time, fighting struggling up windy mountain roads and feeling our eyes pushed back into their sockets on the fast curling descents. The Vaseline and energy drinks kept us going until we met the SOS advance party for lunch at Marine. They gave veiled warnings of things to come before we headed off in the rain for the last thirty miles into Paris and the Tour Eiffel. Steep hill followed steep hill as we battled against strong head winds. But nothing prepared the Peloton for the chaos that is the Parisian road network. Even the forest are chaos. One group became several groups. A crash in the Pelootn , a broken derailleur, a second puncture and all of a sudden the realisation that the Eurostar check in time was becoming unachievable!!!
A mad scramble, a loan of a bile to ensure the Nice group could continue; quick photos under the Eiffel Tower and a made ride across Paris to Gare du Nord; just in time! Meanwhile, the Nice group waited with broken bike, enjoying a pint of Guinness at Versailles and waiting for the support car to rescue them.