At the AGM in November there were a few changes on the committee including our newly elected President Keith Lakin. Keith and his wife Jean are always on hand to help at all the numerous events throughout the year. Keith performed his first duty as President at the very enjoyable Slide Show and Photographic Competition. The delightful slide show was presented by Ian Hill and featured some beautiful scenery and churches. This year the competition did not attract many entrants in either the photographs or slides, but was a very entertaining evening never-the-less.
This has been another successful year for the county with numerous and very different events throughout although the weather has been rather fickle with lots of rain, rain and more rain. In 2008 there is another full calendar, let's hope that the weather is more agreeable.
Thank you for sending in your reports, runs list and articles, without them there would be no "Cycle Chat". I would also like to thank Penny Clay for another beautiful painting for the front cover for the magazine, and of course to Ray Clay for all his help since I took over at the desk.
I look forward to seeing you all at the Carol Service on December 9th at Barrow-on-Soar and would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year.
I don't believe it! One of our sections went for a coffee stop recently expecting the usual warm welcome and were told that they wouldn't be welcome in future. Apparently cyclists smell and don't spend much money. It appears we lower the tone of the establishment. I find this difficult to believe and thought it was a wind up at first.
We've had a good range of activities this year despite the poor summer (what
summer!). Personally, I haven't done as much cycling as I would have liked with
having a number of other commitments e.g a new grandson. But, hopefully, I can rectify this in the new year.
We now have a programme of events for 2008. The skittles and prize presentation
evening at The Wheatsheaf, Thurcaston seemed to be well received last April and the event is being repeated in March.
I'm looking forward to the Birthday Rides next August to be held at Moreton in the Marsh. There has been a problem in getting this event off the ground. Not surprising really. It involves an awful lot of work on the shoulders of DAs, particularly when it seems National Office will be taking more of a back seat in future. But I think the
general view is it would be a great shame if the Birthday Rides came to an end.
Some of us in the DA became involved with the Shepshed Twinning Association when a group of French Cyclists came over for a weekend in June from Domont. It was a highly successful time and the visitors seemed to enjoy the experience. The Twinning Association seems very keen for us to pay a return visit. Timing could be a problem with trying to find a suitable space between our DA events. It looks like, if we can arrange a tour to Domont (located near Paris), it may well have to be in the
We have suffered a great loss in losing Dick Thompson earlier this year. Dick was a great stalwart of the Charnwood Section for many years. He led countless rides here and abroad. Being a relative newcomer to cycling, I unfortunately didn't get to know Dick terribly well. But, by all accounts, he was a character with some odd traits and is greatly missed.
Not a DA event, but I did enjoy the Historic Churches cycle ride recently. It's an event I've participated in for many years. This year, Penny and I used the tandem to take in the churches in and around Loughborough. Seventeen in all. Sadly, only two churches in Loughborough opened this year. My local church, St Mary in Nanpantan didn't have one visitor this year. Is this because it's situated up a hill?!
Again, I must thank all members of the DA who have supported me this year,
especially Keith and Jean Lakin who always seem to be on hand. And Jean Deacon who quietly and modestly sorts out the minutes.
It may seem a long way in the future, but, Sunday the 2nd of March 2008 will see the first of the DA Challenge Rides for the New Year!
It is the 20th of the 'David Sulley' Memorial Rides based on 'Morrisons'
Superstore in Lutterworth. (GR SP 846563) Always a tester as the weather can be fickle.
The choice of 100 Km, 70 Km or 50 Km route with 9. 30 am to 10. am start go south easterly in loops with a refreshment stop for the longer ride at 'Sweethedges'. Fees are £2 for next year, and these events are counters for the CTC National DATC competition.
For the younger, older, less fit, fragile or hopeful, we will also have a 20 miles
circular ride through pleasant lanes with a stop for a 'cuppa' at Ullesthorpe
Doesn't seem twenty years since David Sulley, one of the strong stalwarts from the local CTC section died homeward bound from a DA ride . We remember him as a quiet, gentle man, a willing worker for the then strong Lutterworth
Section, and our CTC.
WANTED - Someone to do the administration regarding Cycle Chat.
Please don't stop reading yet! This is not such a big job, anyone who can read, write and walk to the bank can do it. Of course you can ride your bike to the bank if you prefer. Another requirement is putting magazines into
envelopes and putting a stamp in one corner. Then the envelopes go to the post office. Batches of Cycle Chat are delivered to some shops who sell them on our behalf and of course to the Sections (Oops - Member Groups I mean). Finally - or do I mean initially, a quick phone call to the editor to let her know how many magazines to have printed.
There is a training period for anyone who feels this would be helpful and it is only four times a year after all.
You may well be thinking if it is so easy why does she want to give it up? Well, I have been doing it for over fifteen years and it has been necessary to enlist the help of other people on the occasions when my holidays and the publication dates have clashed, but that may no doubt be true for whoever agrees to take on the job. (The help from others, not the fifteen years!) I just think that it will be best if I give twelve months notice of my intention to resign at the 2008 AGM. Yes, I will be doing it throughout 2007/08.
You could get together with others from your 'member group' (or section in old money) if no one wants to do the whole thing. One to receive the subscriptions and cheques and to inform the editor how many are required. It would be sensible if this person also did the bank run and dealt with any expenses, i.e printing, postage etc. One to fill the envelopes and take them to the post office and one to have a ride around to deliver the batches to the various venues. But I stress this is not necessary as it is not a big deal for one person to do it.
The total numbers being printed each issue is 260 at the moment which gives you some idea that it is not too time consuming. The editor has a far more time consuming job. The number required does vary from issue to
issue but not by more than 10. Arrangements could be made to collect them from the Loughborough printers and delivered to the distributor.
So have a think about it. Discuss it on your rides, debate it in committee, whatever - but the September 2008 issue will be the last one I am responsible for so don't leave it until then. Your name needs to be on the subscription renewal notice which goes out in March, June, September and December of each year so go on - HAVE A GO - it really is very easy.
Just give me a ring on 01530 - 230476 and say you wouldn't mind having a look at what it involved.
Big Dave and Snakeman Willans by Alan Staniforth Part One
The Australian accent on the other end of the line was that of a stranger but slightly familiar - "Dave Arnold here, how are you Al? I got your number off Friends Reunited and thought I'd give you a call".
Dave and I had been at school together in the late 1960's. We both joined the National Clarion Fenland section (now the Fenland Clarion) about the same time. His family had moved to Australia in 1968. I had seen Dave on one occasion since then back in the late 1970's when on one of his return trips to the UK he had stayed at my brother's house in Peterborough.
Having overcome the initial surprise of the call we shared a few common recollections, exchanging contact details and vowed to keep in touch.
That initial contact eventually led to me joining Dave on two parts of his End to End (E2E) ride earlier in 2007. Just a few years ago he and his son, Big Ben, who is based in London, walked the Pennine Way together, so he was no stranger to a challenge.
I actually completed the E2E in three sections. The first was a hilarious and life changing experience riding with Dave from Lands End up to Cheddar YH. I then rode home to Loughborough the following day. The second stage was an equally hilarious ride from Fort William to John O' Groats. Both rides with Dave had a rather sombre undertone. One of his close friends in Australia, Chris Ramsey, had been planning to join Dave on the ride up from Lands End to Wellington in Somerset where he had relatives. A few weeks before the ride was to commence, Chris was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of skin cancer. His progress was regularly monitored by Dave throughout his E2E ride. Unfortunately, Chris died in early August from his illness.
Chris' plight had prompted Dave to raise money for the West Australian Cancer Fund through his E2E ride. This in itself gave rise to some interesting moments as Dave negotiated refunds of Chris' pre-paid accommodation and extracted donations from complete strangers.
By now you will no doubt have spotted that there is a big part of the E2E not yet mentioned and it is this 410 mile from Loughborough (Derby actually, because I had ridden from Loughborough to Derby twice already in connection with the E2E) to Fort William that I intend to regale you with now. My rides with 'Big Dave', a sobriquet that will be explained later, will hopefully be the subject of an article to follow.
What follows here is my account of the ride from Derby to Fort William over the August Bank Holiday weekend.
My second ride with Dave from Fort William had prompted me to complete the whole E2E. I had mentioned this third stage during club rides with the Loughborough CTC.
Our newest born-again cyclist, Derek Willand volunteered to keep me company during what was going to be a bit of a challenge for me. Derek is infamous for many things but the knick-name 'snake man' arises from him acquiring a dead snake whilst on a club run and putting it into long term storage in his freezer!
For those that don't know Derek, this slightly built but fit figure surprised me on the ride by the relative ease with which he rode over Taddington, Cat and Fiddle, Shap, the Southern Uplands and finally Glencoe. His ability to stick to my ever swaying back wheel during the early evening dash for the digs may surprise many who know him. A steady 17 - 18 mph over the last 20 - 30 miles of our 100 + days could be relied upon to bring forth encouraging comments from Derek like "It's all down hill from here" as we turned the corner to find a little surprise awaiting us both.
It is not his cycling prowess for which Derek is renowned amongst his cycling peers but the contrast between his dapper appearance above the neck and the dishevelled appearance below! His bike can best be described as fragile, and its reliability has been the subject of much amusement, and sometimes deep frustration, on club rides. We shall return to this later.
Derek's hair is one of the most heavily coiffured ever seen in cycling circles. Not for him is the No.2 short back and sides favoured by Ant Taylor, Alf Engers and such like from the fast men of the 1970's. No, his hair is mid-length, where the follicles still produce anything, and has a remarkably strong colour for a man of his advancing years. No hair is ever out of place. Not even the gale-force north easterly sweeping over the Southern Uplands to the south-east of Glasgow could dislodge a hair.
The constant immaculate state of Derek's hair might give us a clue to why his bikes are more unreliable than most. Firstly, I suggest that a man that takes constant care of his head cannot have much time remaining to maintain his stable of bikes. Secondly, maintaining a pate of this immaculate quality must cost a fortune and therefore leave the owner with little funds for the essential maintenance of his bikes. Derek's purveyors of cycling paraphernalia are at the Aldi and Lidl end of the market rather than Julies, Mercian or Pedal Power.
If one was to take a head-only photo of Derek, those of us old enough to
remember could be forgiven for mistaking the image for one of the momentary 1960's celebrity hairdresser Teezy Weezy, a dapper, immaculately groomed gentleman seen smiling at us from our black and white TV screens.
I must say that it was with some apprehension that I made a non-committal nod of the head when Derek first suggested he join me on the ride from Derby to Fort William.
Memories of the worn-out condition of some components on his bike and the constant bitching of a minority CTC die-hards in the club about Derek initiated delays made me apprehensive.
Those that know Derek will remember that he has a tendency to expose parts of the body that most of us keep covered in public. This has got him into trouble on more than one occasion with his club mates trying to protect common decency and the good reputation of Leicestershire's cyclists.
In this vein, horror of horrors, Derek genuinely asked me if I thought the population of Carlisle milling around the outside of the courthouse in the city's shopping centre at four in the afternoon would mind at all if he dropped his shorts and applied some lotion to his saddle-sore nether regions?
From my four week job as a cellar man in one of the city centre hotels as a student in the mid 1970's my recollection of the morally robust and no-nonsense attitude of this hard drinking northern outpost would have resulted in the instant traumatic amputation of his block 'n' tackle and probably mine too as a perceived accomplice.
Despite having spent several hours with Derek in my garage over the Easter holiday replacing the most worn parts with new, and spare parts from my collection, I still had some concern about the standard of maintenance achieved since then.
Although, shortly after meeting Derek on Loughborough railway station on the first day my heart gladdened to the news that he had fitted a new front tyre and packed a spare folding tyre.
However, my heightened state of gladness plummeted when between East Kilbride and Paisley in the suburbs of Glasgow Derek insisted on turning his bike over to remove his rear wheel to fix his first puncture. I couldn't believe it! Interrupting the smooth continuous red surface of his 23 mm eight ounce racing tyre was a 5 x 1 cm stretch of fraying fabric probably within its last hour of life as a viable tyre.
But don't worry I can hear you all saying to yourselves. Derek had the fore-thought (or premonition) to pack a new spare tyre. I can only say in response that the master of fore-thought or premonition has little understanding of tyre and rim compatibility. The combination of a mid 1980's rim, a 20 mm x 77C racing tyre and a one-size-fits all new tube from Decathlon made for a challenge not best undertaken on the pavement of what appeared to be one of Glasgow's more socially deprived areas.
Alas, despite my grumbling we got the whole thing put together and with a caution to avoid pot holes on the notoriously maintained A726 we made haste towards the Irvine Bridge.
Anyway, I had tested Derek's resolve by not volunteering the precise details of my trip until he asked for them. Once supplied, he made his own arrangements which fitted nicely with those already made by myself. I explained to Derek that my trip was going to be a 400 + mile dash on main roads embracing a route that included the centre of Manchester and Glasgow. On the day, we skirted both city centres with some deft map reading aided by the torn-out pages of a motorist's road atlas.
I had to reinforce within myself my objective of catching the 12. 05 train back from Fort William to Derby on Bank Holiday Monday. Any weaker resolve would have left me victim to the many distractions and delays that occur in Derek's life, because indecision, personal organisation and his tendency to loose the 5 mm cable clip (complete with nail) that functioned as a fastening device on one of the bulging side pockets of his c1965 heavy duck saddle bag.
On several occasions, my sense of urgency to make progress caused Derek some discomfort for which I unreservedly apologise.
For a man who regularly states that he doesn't drink hot beverages he chose tea on almost all of our café stops. No sooner had Derek carefully adjusted the temperature of his drink to his liking by ladling in our joint milk supply, meticulously spreading his mini pot of jam across both halves of his tea cake and I was ready to go.
My haste to refuel and go came to a sticky and embarrassing end at the Happendon services on the B7082. On entering the café, my sensitive, if long and crooked nose, detected chocolate coated ring doughnuts. However, a micro moment of indecision caused the tongs provided to twitch between doughnut and Danish pastry. I dislodged a doughnut but deftly caught it between my knees. Using the tongs, I detached it from my right knee and put it on my plate before anyone but Derek noticed. I added a Danish for good measure.
It wasn't until I was demolishing the Danish that I noticed the chocolate fondant ring now on the inside of both legs of my longs. This chocolate had also made its way to the table top, map, track mitts etc. I only eventually sponged this stale residue from my clothing when a loose Springer Spaniel travelling with its owner on the 17.05 Edinburgh to Derby repeatedly returned to a position beneath my carriage table with its nose and jaws levelled at groin height, waiting for the moment that I nodded off so that he could enjoy what was left of the chocolate fondant!
On with our journey. We rode through the centre of Derby to pick up the A6 towards Matlock and beyond.
Derek is a very sociable guy and likes to ride two-abreast wherever possible to enjoy a chat. This is not always a good idea on a trunk road during the morning rush-hour. A brief glimpse of a short queue of frustrated car-born commuters brought forth a polite "car behind" from me as encouragement for Derek to single out.
We took a break in Bakewell, fore-going the tart for the beans-on-toast. Then, continuing on the A6, which winds its way through some very attractive countryside to Buxton. Here we headed for Macclesfield over the Cat and Fiddle. The views over the moorland at the top of the first climb were spectacular. Derek had travelled this route by car many times whilst travelling to a former job in Anglesey. This road, just like the A6 was pleasantly quiet with only light traffic for us to contend with.
As we descended into Macclesfield the poor road surface caused us to brake hard to avoid damaging our bikes or being thrown off. From here we set off for Knutsford. It was on the outskirts of Macclesfield that Derek had difficulty getting his left cleat to connect with his new pedal. I want to emphasise the singular of pedals here. Derek had acquired a new pedal. His right hand pedal had been cannibalised. He had acquired some of Aldi's finest double-sided pedals some time ago. I can recall when they had them in stock. They were one of the slower moving items in the Aldi range of bike kit and I wanted to buy some at the time (probably 2004) but held back from doing so until they had fallen in price, below £5 a pair. They all went at £9. 99!
Derek had adapted his original pedals by hack sawing off all the metal not required for the SPD-type clip to work. The new pedal (I didn't know that you could buy one pedal) had been modified. The necessary adjustment was made and we set off again.
Knutsford is a very pretty old town with a narrow main street through which delivery vehicles squeeze past parked cars and pedestrians. We took lunch in a multi-storey café which looked as though it had been created from a one-up, one-down plus cellar. It was so small that it didn't have room for toilets. This latter point convinced Derek that the proprietors were in breach of the planning regulations.
We both had a polystyrene cup of leek and potato soup and a filled baguette. We were provided with bread to dip in our soup but remarkably Derek managed to dip the full diameter of his baguette into the soup. This became increasingly amusing as the level of soup dropped and the diameter of the cup narrowed.
Our route from Knutsford, avoiding the centre of Manchester, back onto the A6 at Westhoughton required 20 miles of careful navigation with the aid of a torn-out page from the road atlas. The route was quiet enough to ride two-abreast in places and took us over a toll bridge at Warburton followed very soon after by an iron bridge over the Manchester ship canal. Here we came across a young man pushing his mountain bike. He had a puncture. Our offer of help was declined as "the missus is picking me up" he said.
When we reached the A6 we could see the Reebok Stadium in the valley below at Bolton.
Now ready for our afternoon stop we chose Chorley as our destination. When we passed the cast-iron sign announcing that we had arrived in Chorley we were surprised to find no eating places. After about three miles, in desperation, we stopped at a garage for a snack. Two miles up the A6 the real Chorley announced its presence with another fine cast-iron sign. This time we
discovered a very hospitable cafe in the market area. We also found one of those automated pay-as-you-flow toilets by the bus station. Derek was first. He took an inordinate amount of time to loose some ballast. I can only assume his hair was getting some attention. As he left, I stood ready to put my 20p in the slot but the digital read-out informed me that the appliance was now to undergo a hygiene cycle. My level of desperation must have shown loudly on my face because two or three passing locals informed me of the other toilets that could be reached and returned from during the hygiene cycle.
We journeyed on to Preston where in 1975-76 I had completed an industrial placement with BNFL as part of my studies at Loughborough University. We arrived at evening rush hour but had no difficulty negotiating the heavy traffic. As we left the city centre Derek decided to mount the wide pavement to avoid riding down a narrow gap between cars and kerb. As he did so, he dislodged the Acme Dreadnought cable clip locking mechanism on the side pocket of his saddlebag. Some of the contents fell out causing both to stop. After gathering them up we had a speedy ride up to Garstang with me mentally reminiscing of racing on the Brock, with the Preston Wheelers and the fond farewell that the club gave me when I returned to Loughborough for my final year.
Derek and I were both staying at the Royal Oak pub on Friday night. We were shown to adjacent rooms. After showering and changing into my lightweight if unfashionable evening outfit, I knocked on Derek's door and he said he'd be down in a couple of minutes. I'd finished my first pint and scoured all the maps before Derek arrived immaculately dressed in a smart causal outfit. Where had he kept that in such good condition? We did a circuit of the town before settling in another pub where we had our meal and a couple more drinks.
If there is to be one in 2008 it will need someone to make an offer to organise it. I have run this event in North West Leicestershire for the last two years and feel that two years running in the same area is enough.
As Leicestershire and Rutland are so well blessed with bridleways and byways providing lots of variety, it is a shame if the event is not moved around the counties. As there are so many alternatives it makes it relatively easy to find a satisfactory route for the Challenge. One person or a team could make little work of it and there are often willing helpers if they are asked.
Areas not used in the last few years include Loughborough, Hinckley, Market Harborough and Oakham to name just a few, all of these have excellent potential. Anyone interested can let me know what dates they would like to use so that I can notify National Office and get it on the DATC calendar. Anyone nervous of going into it cold can enlist my help at any time.
It would be a pity to lose one of our longest surviving events from the
calendar especially at a time when off road riding and mountain biking are so popular. Please take up this challenge if you are all interested in off roading. We look forward to hearing from you soon.
a) Whitwick Road, Coalville to Snibston cycle way
Whitwick Road has now been completed, including widening of the road by the Victoria Hotel. It is a shared pavement with pedestrians to reach London Road, then by bridge at Phoenix Green to Bridge Road. The route from the bridge to Snibston is still being discussed with local council, Leics. CC and owners of the shopping precinct.
b) Smisby Road, Ashby
Proposed new cycle way from A511 bypass to Hood Park. First half A511 to Northfields should start by the end of the year, sponsored by a local builder. Second half depends on additions to a biscuit factory.
c) Kegworth to Nottingham (A453) (Highways Authority)
Originally proposed widening to dual carriageway. On June 6th there was a public exhibition at Kegworth and committee meeting on Friday June 8th at Carlton (attended by Keith Lakin on my behalf) proposed to alter to separate route for dual carriageways. Old A453 to be left as it is now due to so many complaints on the original route. Awaiting details.
d) Woodville Woodlands Development
Cycle way to be added north side of new link road on new estate on the Leics/Derbys border. Junctions at east and west side of new link road have started and cycle way should be complete by the end of the year. New road is south of Woodville.
e) Markfield A50/A511 Island at Mi Junction 22.
Proposals to fit visibility restriction barriers. Due to a number of accidents, mainly heavy goods vehicles shunting into other traffic. On the central verge for the A511, travelling from Coalville, the barrier will be positioned 15 metres from the road on the island and be approx. 16 metres long. The barrier will be made up of young willow trees joined together to form the fence and 2. 5 metres high. The barrier on the A50 to Leicester will be 45 metres long.
Personally, I can understand the barriers slowing down traffic on the approach to the island but would find it difficult approaching the north side of the central verge on cycle. You may have to slow down until you are certain the traffic on the left has stopped to let you go by.
Also, I have been informed that very few cyclists use this island but use the old A50 by Markfield - Copt Oak to Coalville or Markfield to Leicester.
Phil Allen Co-ordinator for Right to Ride for N. W. Leics.
Charnwood Chatter with Betty Naylor
Thanks to Keith Lakin who co-ordinated the runs list, we have held the usual summer rides - except when members have been on holiday, then attendance was rather sparse.
However, several camping/caravanning trips were organised - the first being to Bitton near Bristol when five members participated. Brenda and Dave aired their new camping equipment and Pearl her new campervan. The weather was rather inclement on the first day so we made use of the public transport to ferry us to Bath where we enjoyed some sightseeing. The plan was to use the cycle ways to Bath and Bristol.
The next day was much brighter so we set off along the old railway track to Bristol and the city route was much improved since last we used it and we quickly found our way down to the wharf where the SS Great Brittain was in dry dock. It was a lovely day so we enjoyed a picnic lunch near the new café whilst having a good view of the river traffic. Other trips were to Bath again along the cycle route, the Chew Valley Lake, when I was accused of navigating by the sun! Also up the Golden Valley to the National Trust property at Dyrham Park, where cyclists were not really welcome, but there was an excellent café.
Pearl then continued on to Cornwall with her daughter, and we returned home. However the next two Sundays were very poorly attended because of the holidays, being the July fortnight.
Mary Margochis, despite her diminishing mobility, has organised three more caravanning trips. The first was in mid July to North Norfolk when we camped at South Creake, together with our grandson Paul who rides tandem with Howard, and Bob Gadsby and Jean from Burton Section.
We toured the lovely little lanes around Burnham Market, visiting the sea sides at Brancaster and Wells-next-the-Sea, also Walsingham with its shrine and the various Burnhams including Burnham Thorpe where Nelson was born.
The weather was very good apart from a really heavy storm on the Thursday, when we got rather wet!. Next day, Howard did some repairs to our awning whilst Paul and I sampled the entertainment on the site. Paul enjoyed panning for 'gold' when five pieces qualified for a prize and was most disappointed to receive only one medal when he found 50 pieces!
In August, Mary, Alex, Pearl and I again camped for a few days near Albrighton in Shropshire so that we could visit the Cosford Air Museum which was most enjoyable, especially as it was free and we qualified for a free cuppa by arriving on cycles.
Mid September five of us camped at Ratley on the edge of the Cotswolds, plus our stalwart Soo with tent. On Saturday the weather was kind so we climbed up to the church at Warmington where we admired the Harvest Festival decorations
and the marvellous tapestry sewn by the local people to celebrate the millennium, which depicted local scenes. Coffee was enjoyed at the National Herb Centre, then Mary and Alex went their own way and Soo led the rest of us along the Oxfordshire cycle way to Bambury. Here, after a quick look round, the local cakes and coffee were sampled before returning via a circular route through the villages back to camp.
On Sunday, we all visited the Burton Dassett Country Park to admire the views. Interestingly, a local cycle race was in progress together with some vintage cars being put through their paces on the nearby hillside. We then dropped down to Northend where Mary smiled nicely at the local publican, who opened up early to provide us with coffee. Then we carried on a short distance to Fenny Compton where we enjoyed an alfresco lunch in the pub garden until the rains caught up with us. Four of us carried on to Upton House where we went on a guided tour of the gardens and enjoyed a free cream tea thanks to Soo, whilst the older ones returned to Ratley. A thoroughly enjoyable weekend was had by all.
We have all missed Brenda's presence on the Sunday runs since her arm operation a few weeks ago and we would like to wish her a speedy recovery.
Ever got to the point where you've heard it all before? "Where Martin Fell Off On The Ice". "How Roland Realised He Had Become Fat". These tales, and (not) many more have sustained the three of us over the last few years, but now it's getting so we avoid certain areas or roads because we don't want to hear the same old story.
Imagine our delight, then, to welcome two new riders to our runs in the (disparate) shaped of Richard and Joe. They will be assaulted by our old anecdotes, and not even realise the age of the stories. We may even trick them by telling someone else's story, just for a laugh. Even better, they will have stories of their own to tell.
Back to our runs report. We have had an interesting few months, finding some new lunch stops, thanks to Keith's innovative runs list, but not neglecting old favourites like Ridge Lane etc.. Because of limited numbers earlier in the year there have been weeks when we've all been away, or otherwise occupied, and the Generals' run has not happened.
We apologise to any who turned up at the start only to find no-one there, at least you didn't have to hear my list of dietary no-nos and other stories. The more story tellers we can get the better, so if you have a tale to tell, it's probably best to phone Roland the day before just to check if the story book is opening. Just don't be put off by the report in the Coalville/Ashby Times (26.10.07) stating the we covered 600 miles.
Dave Binks has accepted a job in France acting as the local assistant for a holiday company providing easy cycling between luxury hotels in the Angouleme area of France, near Cognac. The below continues his diary from the point where he has cycled to a hotel near Le Mans and is about to be driven down to his area by Susi Madron, the boss of the company.
Sunday 6 May
The day started with it being positively cold at only 6°C, dull and overcast. A good "help yourself" breakfast with a good choice set me up nicely, and Susi turned up with the car at the exact moment I wheeled my bike and luggage out to the front of the hotel, so I was off to a good start. Rather than just plough straight down the Autoroutes, Susi chose to drive the old roads, stopping at various places en-route. This gave us a good chance to get to know each other a bit better. We stopped for a coffee at Saumur on the Loire, where the sun was just starting to break through and the temperature was rising. I took a photo of the Château that gives its name to the town (or is it the other way round?) as it overlooked the River and then we continued. As we travelled ever further south, so the day warmed up, and by the time we got to the lunch place, it had got up to an indicated 18°C. Lunch was in a hotel Susi uses as one of her chain and it had a good restaurant with a 4 course menu which we managed to eat our way through. I was glad she stayed to speak to the owner afterwards as it gave me a chance to look inside the
magnificent 12th Century church - a light and airy building that, despite being Catholic, displayed none of the gaudiness usually evident. I was particularly surprised and somewhat taken by the drop in height between the main entrance door and the nave which allowed a great view looking along to the altar effectively from an elevated height. The clear windows along the side allowed plenty of light in and a photo was very successful. The other feature was the multi-faceted entrance arch with its numerous gargoyles, all different, arranged around the upper heights. The day was so warm by now that the air conditioning had to be switched on. More quiet roads until we joined the main N10 past Angouleme brought us to what was to be my base for the next 5 months - La Vieille Etable Hotel at Roullet. Susi was surprised no-one appeared to have arrived before us but this turned out to be incorrect as John, who had driven down from Vaiges on his (1400cc) motorcycle had arrived some time before, but his bike was parked out of sight. As we pulled up, we were almost followed in by a taxi containing Andrew, arriving from the train station. This was to Susi's consternation as there should also have been Averil in the taxi. The taxi driver had been told to pick her and Andrew up at the same time, but Averil had just not been there, so they had to leave without her. We soon realised Averil's train had delayed over 40 minutes and she had to arrange her own taxi later. After a quick cup of orange tea, I changed and had a quick ride to stretch my legs which had started to stiffen through sitting down for so long in the car. During the evening we had a "get to know each other" session amongst the four new assistants; Andrew, Averil, Jon and yours truly, and our instructors Margaret and Peter. The latter were both assistants who had now moved their home permanently to the Tarn area of France. The evening meal was delightful, no-one was shy or pushy and I got a good feeling that I was going to enjoy myself.
14 kms, 9 miles
Monday 7 May.
Today was a Bank Holiday in the UK, but not in France, which celebrates May Day on May 1st, so we started work.
Our first task was to chat to our immediate neighbour and then explain to the others who that person was - the idea being to break the ice and also to get us used to speaking to a group. This was no problem to anyone, and Susi found it useful knowledge that out of the 4 of us newcomers, 3 (including me) had been attracted by the advert in Cycling Weekly. Andrew, not being a regular cyclist had seen it in a magazine offering summer jobs abroad. Some introduction to the administration tasks involved in planning the clients' "Arrivals, Set offs, Returns and Departures dates" so that any errors could be spotted in time to carry out any corrective actions and also to be prepared, was carried out. Although confusing at first, a dummy run got us going before we were handed the first real bookings. This was the point at which we realised that this was real people, coming for a real holiday, and if we fouled up, we fouled up their holiday! Before our heads started swimming with too many codes and symbols we went down to where the bikes were stored to get our hands dirty.
I was fortunate as this was my base and also the place where everyone received their training, so the bikes they would be training and working on were "mine", thus effectively lightening my load. Susi had chosen my base as she knew something I didn't - the previous assistant had started carrying out his mechanic's duties in a rather strange way. For some reason best known to
himself, all the bikes had their wheels and pedals removed - even the brand new ones, and, it later transpired, many threads had been damaged by being incorrectly fitted - effectively rendering the items useless.
Peter, our mechanical instructor, gave us a demo on how to prepare the bikes for a client. I had to keep quiet during this as he effectively told me nothing I didn't know, but it was very useful to Averil and particularly Andrew. After a pleasant lunch in the restaurant we each set about building up a bike for ourselves to go for a short ride later. It was during this session the damaged threads started to show up, together with the fact that at least one of us had never taken a tyre off and changed an inner tube! The day had up to then been quite cold, and the fleece jackets, complete with Susi's logo, had their first wearing. Right on cue, as we completed the bikes, the sun came out and the temperature shot up. A gentle potter along the local lanes and tracks in the quite strong wind led to John's pedal coming off as the stripped thread on his left crank gave up. It had been noticed there were no spare inner cables in my workshop, which meant some bikes could not be used, and the little chain oil there was ran out, so we piled into two cars and drove off to the local "Decathlon" sports store some 5 miles away. This is a chain of sports stores which includes bike parts and we spent half an hour wandering around there buying a few bits and pieces. Susi would send more items out from the UK as it was cheaper, but this would keep us going. I took the opportunity to buy another pair of shorts and some handlebar tape to fit on my own bike later.
The evening meal was again taken in the restaurant and a lively discussionmade the time fly by before we all retired for the night.
Tuesday May 8
The training continued despite the drizzly start to the day, with more administrative type introductions to what was expected of us as regards meeting and greeting, complaints and emergencies. Then on to more maintenance, with Peter continuing his instruction to Averil and Andrew, whilst John and I continued to reassemble the bikes in the garage, checking them as we went. I found two inner tubes where the valve was about to pull out of the tube, a job impossible to repair on the road if at all. Susi's policy was not to send out a bike with a patched tube, and although this did not fall within that definition, I took the decision it was not acceptable and so they went straight in the bin. Another light lunch in the restaurant and a bit more workshop time brought us to 4.45 when Susi said we should all go out for a ride on the bikes, this time being led by two of our number. Averil and Peter drew the short straw and off we went in the by now dry but still quite windy day.
They had spotted on the map the site of a Dolmen (a prehistoric burial site comprising a large stone slabs erected to form a low shelter below which a revered person, such as a tribal leader, would be buried) and felt this would be a point of interest for the ride. However, we couldn't find it, but managed to loose Susi in the woods whilst trying. Averil's leg was pulled about how Susi would be writing out her letter to sack her, when she reappeared from the opposite direction to great amusement and some relief. I was surprised and also pleased to find out just how quiet and hilly these little lanes were. I had been concerned that the area might be a bit too flat and therefore boring for me when I went for a ride, but this did ease my doubts considerably.
Susi returned back to base leaving us to continue and we made our little ride last 2œ hrs altogether. Dinner was a nice affair again, after which I went to see my full time accommodation - I was currently a guest in the Hotel which I knew would not last longer than the training. The rooms were separate from the Hotel, but still within the grounds and backing on to the tennis courts. The rooms were fairly basic, but had the essentials except a washing machine, oven and TV. Susi had already said the Hotel would do my washing and she would buy a micro-wave, but I would have to raise the lack of TV. There were two single beds, so I would be able to accommodate a friend if needs be, but the worst thing was the noise from the frogs in the pond at the rear. I hoped this was just a mating ritual and would not last too long into the season or I might have restless nights!
Wednesday 9 May
Our training today was on a subject close to all our hearts - how to claim our expenses, so we listened intently and made copious notes. A short trip to the local Decathlon and Castorama (hardware store similar to B&Q) for some more items preceded lunch. More bike training for the others, plus more assembly brought us to 4.15pm when the sun, which was by now very bright and warm, persuaded us we should be out on the bikes, so we set off to follow a route planned by John and Andrew. The back lanes local to the Hotel are a maze, and after a good start, we were soon not on the road we had planned, but once it took us to a narrow bridge beside a cascading natural weir on a tributary of the Charente (river), we didn't particularly care. After a few photos and a little paddle in the river by me, we set off back to base. The scenery this side of the base hotel was quite different to yesterday's, with fewer hedges and trees, but many more vineyards preparing future bottles of Cognac. This route took us over the Charente itself on another narrow, but this time newer bridge, with another fine view of the village church sitting atop the hillock on which the village was built. We were soon back at the base hotel and just in time for a shower before the usual good meal.
Thursday 10 May
The usual start, except that today the sun was up from the word go and it was already warm. After breakfast the last bit of paperwork training then onto how we should demo a puncture repair to our holidaymakers and any other final queries which took a surprisingly long time. We were interrupted by the arrival of Ruth and Adrian, who were to be based in the Gascony area. Having already done last season they had no need to go through the training again, so were only now on their way down. Susi wanted us to meet them, and vice versa as she felt it important that we felt part of the team, and we all thought this was a good idea. They stayed with us for lunch before continuing their journey, ready to take up their duties next week.
Not long after lunch, John, my predecessor for the Cognac area, arrived. John actually lives in France and Susi had invited him over so that I and the others could meet him and she could thank him for all his previous efforts. It felt like no time at all before we were told to stop and put our cycling gear on. John was to take us out for a short ride in the local lanes to show us some of his local knowledge. Before we set off, I insisted on setting up my little tripod whilst we had a group photo on the steps up to the Hotel with some bikes in front. The sunshine really lifted the colours and our spirits as we stood there with big cheesy grins on our faces. Unfortunately we had gone only a mile or so before his rear tyre exploded with a very loud bang forcing us all to wait whilst he changed both the tyre and tube. On inspection, the tyre was showing the pattern of the canvas through the tread, so it was not surprising it had gone. Perhaps that's why he was carrying a spare tyre and not just a tube. The pace was very sedate and so I was able to go ahead a few times and take pictures as everyone rode by. Having a laptop computer with me meant we could all see them later when we dined. There was such interest I promised to send them all a CD of the pictures next week when I had settled into my accommodation. Tim from the Dordogne region also arrived for evening dinner and proved to have a large collection of anecdotes of experiences from previous seasons with Susi.
Friday 11 May
My last day with my new friends, and not a particularly good one at that. I knew when I awoke that I had slept my last night in a luxury room with friends to chat to all day as this was the day when everyone left for their own destinations. Breakfast was taken as usual, but immediately afterwards, some had to leave, so there were many handshakes and French kissing the "mwa mwa" type, not the rude sort).
I only had to move to my accommodation across the lawn, so packing consisted of simply stuffing things into the panniers and carrying unfolded shirts etc. over my arm. Big John McArthur, of whom I had grown quite fond, came to say cheerio as I was just finishing and I took him over to see my "digs". He was polite, but as he had not actually seen his own, didn't know if was good or bad. Personally I was unimpressed with mine, and wished him better. Soon he roared off on his 1400cc motorbike - back to Vaiges, the same hotel where I had finished my own cycling nearly a week ago.
When I actually got down to loading my own gear into the rooms, I began to realise how poorly appointed they were. There were hardly any of the things needed to carry on life. The shower head fell apart when inspected, the cutlery was "clean", but the drawers themselves in which they sat were filthy, there were other items missing, such as scissors, egg cup, bread bin, the chopping board was an old wooden one - very unhealthy, there were absolutely no shelves anywhere, the cooking pots and crockery were an absolute miscellany of 1970's and older style. I could go on, but won't. I decided I had better get to the village and buy some food before the shops closed for their usual 2-3 hrs siesta, and despite the rain, pedalled off and got some vital stuff. Lunch just showed how basic were the facilities. I have never been a fan of electric cookers, and the two single hot plates took absolutely ages to boil water. That reminds me that there was no hot water, and the TV still had not appeared.... I later set off to ride into Angouleme with a shopping list of essential items to try to make life more comfortable, but got no further than the "out of town" shopping mall at La Couronne, just south of the City. Here I visited the hardware store and very large supermarket. I also bought a pair of powered loudspeakers for my laptop so that I could enjoy some music without having to wear earphones. By now the weather was as miserable as I was, and I returned with heavy heart, realising I had 5 months of this, but telling myself I had to get on with it and try to look on the bright side - it was better than being at work(?). A half bottle of wine and a hot meal helped and after writing my diary, I went to my new bed.
Saturday 12 May 2007
I hadn't been very warm in bed despite anticipating it by putting a thermal vest on, and was in no rush to get out in the morning. I could also feel the bedsprings through the thin padding that covered them, so was still not in a very good mood, but I had made my bed and I must lie in it, so to speak. The cold wash did my mood no good, but at least a good breakfast of muesli and banana, my favourite, together with a cup of proper tea, made the British way with properly boiling water as opposed to the French hot water version, picked me up. I decided I needed to do more cleaning and emptied what little there was out of all the drawers and washed everything that I could. Not having hot water on tap reminds me how my parents had to struggle without running hot water. Before anything could start, pots had to be filled, boiled and then carried to the task. How on earth we never scalded ourselves or each other I'll never know. It was well gone lunch time before I felt I had made any inroads and wanted to go out. I spent some time writing a "round robin" email to send if I managed to get internet access, and then set off for Angouleme on my bike. I was keen to see if there was a better way in than via the busy N10 Bordeaux to Poitier road, so had a good look at the map. I did find another way, but it was further and much harder. I had wanted to suggest a quieter way in for holiday makers, but would hesitate on this one. The Old Town part of Angouleme, which is where the City Centre is located, is on top of a hill, with walls still visible most of the way round.
The route getting to Angouleme wasn't flat, but the actual climb up the last quarter mile had me out of the saddle in bottom gear and working hard. My holiday makers would be walking that bit if I sent them this way. I found Angouleme of interest, but would not travel far out of my way to go and see it. A Coca Cola ("Un Coka" in waitress speak) in a café killed some time and replaced some of my lost sweat and allowed a look at the imposing Palais de Justice from my seat.
I visited the bus station to get the bus times should I or any holiday makers want them. From my village there are only 6 buses a day, and that falls to 5 in the summer when the children are off, but don't even think about a bus on Sundays!
I followed the N10 back to get a true "like for like" comparison, and was surprised to find it wasn't bad at all, but as it was gone 6pm on a Saturday, it may not have been a fair comparison, but it was much easier and quicker. As I made my way out of town, a sign for "Velodrome" caught my eye. I doubled back and went up a side street only a short distance and there it was - an outdoor steeply banked cycle track. There had just been an event as riders were packing up and heading for home. In response to my query an official told me it had been a local Championship and they would be back on 28 July. It wasn't until later that I realised that date was also one of the days the Tour de France (TdF) comes to Angouleme.
I wanted to find out the details of the local cycling clubs, but my French wasn't really up to it yet, and everyone was on their way so decided to leave it for another time. I was still in need of items to bring the accommodation up to a reasonable standard, so called into the local "Darty" store, which is a cross between our Dixon's and Argos, for a kettle. It was the cheapest in the shop at 10 euro (c£7) but still boiled the water for my cup of tea just as quickly as those costing eight times as much. I had already complained to the staff in the Hotel about the lack of hot water and took up their offer of a shower in the main building before settling down to my dinner.
I went to bed feeling a bit better than 24hrs earlier (despite the army of ants that had started running up the wall in the main room!) and telling myself if the weather was OK in the morning I would go for a proper ride out into the countryside. I had seen an organised ride that was due to follow the TdF individual time trial route on its way from Cognac to Angouleme when it comes in July, but at 12 euro (£9 or so) and taking all day to do just 50kms (30mls) decided I could do something better and cheaper on my own.
For one reason or another the rides this last quarter have been very disjointed. I have been riding in the Lancaster area due grandson school run duties whilst Mike had his leg in plaster. He is enjoying fell running whilst I am slowly exploring the great off road tracks available within a short distance of the city.
Sustrans Route 6 from the university to the west is along by the river Lune estuary via the railway track bed of the old Lancaster to Glasson Dock route. This goes down to the docks (where there is a good café) by way of the swing bridge and then along the canal into the main harbour. From here you can turn north along the estuary path until the Millennium bridge is reached. A decision here leads you either along the old railway track, which is a metal track, into Morecombe or back into Lancaster town to rejoin the canal towpath (Route 6) which leads directly on to Carnforth and the north. This leads over the
splendid Lune aquaduct after which you can take to the bridleway which leads to the coast and the splendid Marine Drive cycleway back into the centre of Morecombe. Alas there are no distinctive direction signs from the esplanade back to the path for your return. However, if you get to the Morrison superstore and take West End Road it will lead you directly to the start of the cycleway. From here it is back to the Millennium bridge and forward on the cycleway to pass under the canal. The path continues to the village of Caton passing the Crook o' Lune on the way. (A good tea stop here, high above the river gives good views of Ingleborough in the distance.) Continue on to Hatton where it is possible to leave the Lune path to cross the A683 on to a bridleway which is a bit of a climb leading eventually to Williamson Park in Lancaster. Other routes are rather more strenuous as they climb into the Forest of Bowland, cycle maps are available from Lancaster County Council.
One of our rides back home was cancelled and I unfortunately missed Andy's ride to South Leics bridleways due to a rotten cold. Before you read this Chris and Jan's November ride will have taken place. They have prepared an excellent route sheet which starts in Barrow-on-Soar. A 24 mile route, 12 of which are in the morning with 6 of them off road. The remainder in the
afternoon have 5 miles off road after a lunch stop in Seagrave at the White Horse and a tea stop at Quorn Woodhouse GCR station. The route sheet can be obtained from Jan for those who were unable to ride in November.
The programme of rides to the end of January 2008 will be the last published rides of the group. Rides are to be arranged at times when they do not clash with the other activities of all of our members. However, this does not mean that we shall not be riding. All it will take is a phone call to one of us to establish when and where that months ride is to be. We intend to continue with the
weekend away during the Spring although nothing has yet been planned. If you have any bright ideas for a different area we can look into the possibilities.
We hope that you all have a happy Christmas and New Year with good riding over the next twelve months.
South Leicestershire Section (and Tony's PBP report)
I find jotting the notes for this column each quarter a real marker of the passing seasons. I finished off last time with a wish that everyone had happy touring in the summer. In the last week or two I have been thoroughly enjoying riding to work while the low sun casts its warm light on the multicoloured foliage at the roadside.
Over the summer the numbers out on club runs have varied enormously. The usual reasons of family holidays, touring and Audax rides but we also lost Gill Lord due to a (another) broken wrist and Peter Witting to post op recovery. Happily both are now back in the saddle.
Every summer Jayne organises a few evening cycle rides for her work colleagues. Unfortunately this year there was only one person interested but the enthusiasm must have rubbed of a little because Jayne, Shane and two colleagues from work did tackle the Coast to Coast ride from Workington to Sunderland. They completed the ride in three days. One night was spent in a pub/b&b and the second at a friend's house in Stanley. Doing the ride from west to east there is very little flat but once the climb from Stanhope is completed near the end of the second day it is pretty much downhill all the way.
Early in August I had a poor night's sleep one Saturday and didn't feel up to riding to the 9.15 meet at Broughton so I had a lie in and rode straight to the lunch stop at the Neville Arms in Medbourne. Our group had managed to monopolise the corner of the bar near the fireplace. The crowd there included Gill Stocks, Ivan Waddington, Shane, Jayne, Peter Witting and Neil Dixon. Most of these people I was expecting because I had recognised the bikes parked outside. The bike I didn't know belonged to Roy Daymon. The bike he usually rides on club runs had been written off following an accident the previous Sunday. Roy was also a bit battered but nothing that time wouldn't heal. This was Peter's first outing after the operation on his hand.
At the end of September we had an excellent turnout for a trip for lunch at the Crown Inn, Harbury. This was our first visit since a new landlord had taken over. The beer was a bit suspect but the host was eager to please and happy to change our beer. We managed to fit in two stops at the garden centre at Church Lawford, one for morning coffee and one for afternoon tea. This was Gill Lord's first time back on a bike after having her plaster removed. She was uncomfortable but happy to be back in the saddle. We were also joined by John Harwood for the first time in a long while. He was riding a new lightweight bike which had been bought with the insurance payout after his touring bike was stolen. In the end he was lucky that the police managed to recover his touring bike.
On the first Sunday in October we tried out a new coffee stop. The post office at Guilsborough now has a coffee shop which opens on a Sunday. There were ten of us for coffee and we were joined by Gill Stocks on her very pretty new Chas Roberts bike for lunch at Welford. After a rather damp summer the autumn has remained unseasonably warm so far and may it continue that way for a while yet.
I can't finish without mentioning one of the reasons I've missed so many Sunday runs this summer. I have been out qualifying for the Paris-Brest-Paris Audax and once qualified getting in the miles to maintain fitness. Many Audax riders consider Paris-Brest-Paris as the ultimate Audax ride. There are other 1200km rides and there are even some longer rides such as London-Edinburgh-London but Paris-Brest-Paris dwarves the others in shear number of entrants and atmosphere. The ride is 1225km and riders have a choice of maximum time limits from 80 hours up to 90 hours. I travelled to Paris with Neil Dixon on the Graham Baxter Sporting Tours coach. We had tried to ride together in 2003 but due to a mixture of mechanical problems and differing sleep patterns we didn't finish together. We were hoping for better luck this time. As far as I'm aware there were five Leicestershire riders entered. Also riding were Rob Gray, Steve Ralphs and Roy Cook. I didn't see any of these three but that is not surprising when you consider that there were about 5000 entries for this event.
This time Neil and I got split up in the approach to the start in the sports stadium. I didn't see Neil again until I got back to the hotel after the finish. I had chosen the 90 hour start along with the majority of other riders, which was set off starting at 9pm Tuesday in bunches of about 500 at approximately 15 min intervals. It started to rain as we waited to start and that set the tone for the next couple of days. The weather was the worst for a PBP for many years and this resulted in a higher than usual DNF rate. I had a much less eventful ride than in 2003.
My plan was to sleep at Carhaix-Plouger after 524km and Tintineac at 858km. This was so that I spent time asleep between about 12.30am and 5am to avoid most of the dark hours and to keep to almost normal sleep patterns after the first night with no sleep at all. In order to make this work I needed a reasonably brisk ride out to through the first few controls to get ahead of the crowds so that I didn't waste time in queues. The plan worked well, I only stopped to fill water bottles and eat a muesli bar at Mortagne at about 150km. I had my only problem apart from the weather on the next section - a p******, which of course happened in the rain, in the middle of the night, out in the country with no street lighting. I got through Villaines la Juhel quickly with hardly any queuing. I arrived at Fougeres, 310km at about noon with 14 hrs 10mins elapsed and stopped for a three course lunch. I also checked in with the Baxter's coach here which I had forgotten to do in 2003 causing them to think I had abandoned.
I sailed through Loudeac which I knew would be a severe bottle-neck later in the evening and pressed on to Carhaix. I arrived here just after midnight, picked up dry kit from Baxter's coach, had a quick snack and went to bed. In the morning I eat again then dropped off wet kit at Baxter's coach. When I retrieved my wet kit after the finish and inspected my shoes, I found that the card insole had disintegrated, mould was growing on them and the smell was indescribable. Needless to say they weren't packed in my bag to bring home.
I spent most of the first 24 hours riding on my own, never far from other riders, but I hadn't come across anyone going at just the right pace for us to work together. The weather brightened up a bit on Thursday morning for the approach to Brest. Just as I was turning out of the side road from Huelgoat onto the main road to Brest a bunch of around 100 riders swept past me I snapped out of my daydreams and latched on the back. The high speed rollercoaster ride continued until the club towing the train stopped at a café and the group disintegrated. I arrived at Brest in time for a second breakfast.
On the outskirts of Brest I realised that there was another rider travelling at a very similar pace to me. His name was Jean and he was deputy mayor of a small town in Bretagne. We chatted in a mixture of French and English and before long we were back in Carhaix.
Another dry-ish interlude followed until after Loudeac. Between the not very secret "secret" control at Illifaut and Tintineac it started to rain in earnest. When I arrived at Tintineac at around midnight it was cold dark and very wet. I sat down to a three course roast dinner (probably the best food of the trip) before heading to the dormitory. My companion while eating was a member of the Davis Bike Club from California. Davis is in the desert and the comment was that this rider had seen more rain in the last three days than he had in the whole of his life to date.
The last days ride of 370km seemed to fly by. This was particularly helped by the fact that Justin Sykes (an Aussie living in the UK) and I teamed up with a French club riding through and off for the whole of the section from Mortagne au Perche to Dreux. This lifted me and I left Dreux for the last stage feeling ready to do the whole ride again. For the last thirty k or so I felt really strong and I sat on the front of an ever growing group as we swept towards the finish.
I finished in the early hours. I had a quick drink with the French rider I had shared the work with on the run in to the finish then got back on my bike to ride the few kilometres to our hotel. My excitement at finishing was tempered by finding Neil already in our shared room. I knew I had been ahead of Neil and this meant that he must have been unable to finish. It turned out that he had ridden the 900 from Paris to Brest and back to Fougeres but had been running very close to the time limit. It must have been a very hard decision to pack at that stage and was an achievement even to get so far. Out of the 5312 entrants there were 1430 DNFs and 122 finished out of time.
I was the slowest of the Leicestershire finishers at 76 hours 35 mins. Rob Gray finished in 61 hours and 21 minutes. I know he was hoping to do a fast ride and hope this met his expectations. Steve Ralphs finished in 68.32 and Roy Cook 72.35. I think a special mention should go to Roy's partner Lucy who supported him all the way round. My message to her is next time try riding I think it's easier.
Three of our members, Nancy and the two Daves enjoyed an eleven day tour in Northumberland. The other members enjoyed John's ride around the Langtons and Jim's to Hemplow Hills.
Five of our members met at St Margaret's for Richard Barbers ride to Lyddington with Dave S and Jim joining us at the White Horse, Scraptoft. It was then on to Billesdon with coffee at the Seldom Seen Farm. After coffee we carried on through Tilton to Lyddington and Alexton and on to Eyebrook Resevoir where the RAF practised low flying ready for their assault on the Ruhr Dams (The Dam Busters) using Barnes Wallace's bouncing bomb. Lunch was eaten on the village green at Lyddington before crossing the road for liquid refreshments at the Old White Hart. On the return journey we cycled through Caldecott, Drayton, Thorpe Langton to the tea stop at the church in Church Langton where Judy Smith and John Moon were awaiting our arrival. Richard,
Jim and Dave Smith split from the group in Tur Langton to return home with Jim collecting his car in Thurnby for his car assisted ride home.
Nine of our members left St Margaret's for the ride to Cosby. Unfortunately the bolt on Nancy's saddle broke off whilst we were negotiating the kissing gate going into The Osiers Nature Reserve off Narborough Road, so Nancy had to return home. Pete had a puncture on Beggars Lane, Enderby where Richard Billston left us due to other commitments. Dave Holman stayed to help Pete repair his tyre whilst the remaining members continued on to Cosby via Enderby, Narborough, and Littlethorpe for coffee where we were joined by Vic Baines and eventually Dave and Pete.
Vic accompanied us to Gilmorton where we ate our sandwiches in the garden at The Talbot Inn. Having passed through Bruntingthorpe and Shearsby, we arrived at Saddington church for afternoon tea where Andy left us. The rest of the group split up in Fleckney to go their separate ways. We had a warm sunny day, a little different from the weather conditions of the week before where we all received a good soaking.
Our ride to Shepshed Watermill on the 9th September took us along the Grand Union Canal where we joined Forest Way (the old disused railway line) and came out onto Groby Road. On through the cemetery and down to Anstey, we continued into Newtown Linford where we had coffee and cakes at Jades Tea Rooms. As we cycled by the Post Office we noticed that they were selling teas and coffees (might be worth investigating). We carried on to Whitwick via Charley Lane, Oak-in-Charnwood and Mount St Bernard's Abbey.
In Whitwick we stopped for liquid refreshments and our packed lunches at the Three Horseshoes where we noticed John Allen speeding down the hill. We then cycled on to Thringstone to meet up with the Charnwood group. After registration we moved off heading for Belton then on to Shepshed Watermill where there were vintage motor bikes, cars, tractors and a variety of agricultural equipment and tools all on display and even a shire horse. Unfortunately the mill wheel was under repair therefore was not in operation.
The refreshments at the mill were delicious with freshly made beef burgers, hot dogs, bacon butties, tea, coffee and home made cakes. We split up from Charnwood having looked around the mill etc and returned home through ShepshedMount st Bernard's Abbey, Coalville, Hugglescote, Ellistown, Bagworth, and Merry Lees where Dave Holman left Jim and I picking blackberries. Jim and I parted company soon afterwards to return home.
Jim and the two Dave's enjoyed their three day tour in Wiltshire in September.
New Section for Rutland - "The Rutland Cycling Group"
Some months ago I had a phone call from a lady at Oakham who had picked up a 2007 copy of the "Rural Rides" published by Charnwood Borough Council at the Oakham Library. She asked why there was no Rural Rides for Oakham? I explained that there was no section for Oakham and so no-one to organise one. Then she asked why no section for Oakham? To which I replied that approximately two years ago a local CTC member had tried to start a section but no luck.
I said that I would make some enquiries and phoned Ray Clay. He gave me a name and phone number of Rod Williams (Oakham) who was pleased to hear from me, and asked if he could receive a few details for starting a section of the CTC. I forwarded a letter on the formation of the Charnwood Section dated 1951 and included details for the press and first meeting, also the election of a committee, suggestions for runs programme and hostel programme etc.
With excellent details in the local paper and inviting local cyclists to a public meeting which thirty attended, Rod soon got the section up and running. Both Ray Clay and myself phoned and corresponded with Rod giving further details for a section and the Leicestershire and Rutland Cyclists' Touring Club.
In a recent e-mail to Ray, Rod received details from CTC with suggestions for affiliation with HQ - or form a local DA. If this was required. After a special meeting they eventually decided to be affiliated to HQ and instead of a local Oakham section would call the group "The Rutland Cycle Group" in view of the members joining from all over the county including Lincolnshire. With being affiliated the local group could make their own arrangements. Finding Leicester too far for committee meetings and DA events the group may consider forming a "Rutland CTC" later if numbers so wished.
Latest list of members and prospective members is 45+ which of course Rod is very pleased with and sent Ray an e-mail offering to send details of some of the group runs so that anybody who is interested would be very welcome.
On behalf of Ray and myself, congratulations Rod and your committee for an excellent start and we wish you all the very best for the future.
Vice President, Charnwood Section
VISIT TO DOMONT, NEAR PARIS
The Leicestershire and Rutland Cyclists' Touring Club, in association with the Shepshed Twinning Association, is looking into arranging a visit to Domont, near Paris in 2008, probably in the Autumn.
Some of us were involved when a group of cyclists from Domont came over in June for a weekend and we helped to arrange a cycle ride for them. The Twinning Association feels that a return trip would be a good idea.
So that numbers can be gauged, if you are interested, would you please complete the separate form and return to Ray Clay.
Freewheel Holidays is a Leicester based European Cycling Holidays travel company that provides ‘hosted’ tours. This means that when you arrive at your destination you have someone available to help you get the most out of your holiday. www.freewheelholidays.com