The Rockingham Forest Birthday Rides
2009 Challenge Rides
The "Doctor Note"
Whitwick Wheels to Wainwright's Walks
A Summer in France (part 8)
I hope that you all had some good weather for your holidays whether cycling or not. I went to Scotland with the family and had some beautiful sunshine. While travelling in the Glencoe valley John did a good turn for a group of cyclists who were riding Lands End to John o' Groats. One of their party had a cycle problem and John managed to catch up with their support vehicle to get help back to them. While talking to the group he met a cyclist who had joined the CTC in 1957!
Ray will not be able to organise the photographic competition this year but Keith Lakin has kindly volunteered to take over. Many thanks Keith. You will find a separate sheet for the Slide Show/Photographic Competition inserted into the magazine.
My sympathy goes to Penny and Ray Clay and family on the sudden death of Penny's mother in Scotland, Rose and Joe Holman following the death of Dave (Leicester Easy Riders), and also to the family of Jean Lamb (Charnwood Section).
I look forward to meeting many of you at the Slide Show in November, it promises to be a very enjoyable evening. Don't forget to order your tickets as soon as possible as this will be a very popular event.Ivy Allen Contents
A Letter from your President
My sympathies on hehalf of you all are with our County Secretary, Ray Clay and his wife Penny over the sad loss of Penny's mother following a traffic accident near the Kyle of Lochalsh in Scotland.
We have also lost Dave Holman of Leicester, the husband of Rose, who is the Secretary of Leicester Easy Riders, and also Jean Lamb of Burton-on-Trent, the partner of Bob Gadsby who rode with the Charnwood Group for many years. Unfortunately I was unable to attend their funerals which were both on the same day as I was transporting a former long serving member of Charnwood to a lengthy hospital apointment.
In June my wife and I were at Walton village hall, nr Lutterworth, all day for the Audax Rides, which were well supported and superbly organised by Tony Davis and his wife Jayne.
Towards the end of June I and my family enjoyed a weeks holiday at Bognor Regis, an ideal base for touring the South Downs and Chichester. A visit to Bosham, pronounced "Bozzum", is a must, so is the Salterns Way, a 12 mile cycle route which follows roads and cycle paths throught the countryside. Starting at Chichester and then on to Apuldram - Dell Quay - Chichester Marina, where there is a shop and cafe, on to Birdham - Itchenor - West Wittering to finish at East Head.
Helping the London - Edinburgh - London cycle ride at Thurlby, Lincs. was an experience never to be forgotten, excellent work by Peter Witting on the computer, approximately fifteen helpers did a variety of jobs under the leadership of Gerry Boswell, a Chris Tarrant expression comes to mind - Well Done Everybody.
The start of the Birthday Rides is upon us, I was at Oundle Public School welcoming the visitors, whilst Jean wa at the rugby club working at the camp site doing something similar, plenty of support was being given by the East Midlands Region a well as Max Scott's Northamptonshire colleagues. Tomorrow morning being Monday, we shall both be on our way to Whitwell, near Rutland Water, helping on the 200K Audax, looking forward to the Birthday Tea at Deane Park on Wednesday.Keith Lakin
The Rockingham Forest Birthday RidesJohn Allen
This years' CTC 'Birthday Rides', a week of cycle rides and social events to suit varying tastes, celebrating the founding of the CTC back in August 1878 was held in neighbouring Northamptonshire, based in Oundle amidst magnificent countryside.
Our old friend Max Scott, Northants and North Bucks CTC secretary and President of the Northants Cycling Association, was the co-ordinator of the event, ably assisted by members from throughout the CTC East Midlands Region including almost the entire regional committee!
Logo for the rides included Fotheringhay Castle and the Harringworth Viaduct - the former just up the road where Richard III was born in 1452 (slain at the Battle of Bosworth, Leicestershire in 1485) and also where Mary, Queen of Scots was held captive from 1586 until her execution in the Great Hall on 8th February 1587.
The whole area is steeped in history. On the Wednesday, the Birthday Tea was held in the magnificent grounds of Deene Park, the ancestral home of the Brudenell family, one of whose number was Lord Cardigan of the "Charge of the Light Brigade" fame. There was no "Charge of the Cycling Brigade" for a piece of the Birthday cakes made by our President's wife Jean - everything was very orderly. One of the cakes had the Birthday Rides logo on it whilst another had the East Midlands Region logo on the top. This was showing all six counties with a different colour for each.
A big change in the organisation of the event these days is that it comes under the auspices of the "CTC Holidays and Tours". However, much of the work and help as always was still undertaken by willing volunteers including:- CTC East Midlands Region committee - Ray Clay, Jean and Keith Lakin, John Allen (Leics), Max Scott, John Cutler, Richard Daniells (Northants) Jeff Burton, Terry Scott, Reg Tuckwood (Notts), Ian Hill, Ian Alexander (Derbys) and Tim Newberry (Lincs). Many others, of course, played a vital role including Leicestershire's Betty Naylor (Birthday Tea) and Peter Witting who did the route planning for all the Friday rides which came into Leicestershire and Rutland.
Without Max Scott's desire to see the Birthday Rides continue, there may not have been one this year. Max was also ably assisted throughout the week by his sister, brother-in-law and cousin - all from Suffolk CTC! Main accommodation was at the Oundle School and the campsite was at the nearby Rugby Club.
Thanks to you allContents
THE OUTERNETCompiled by Peter Witting
The Manchester International Festival included an amazing event. Pioneers of Techno music, Kraftwerk, were appearing at the Velodrome. Their famous "Tour de France" was being performed live against a background of evocative post-war cycle racing film. Suddenly, to the amazement of the audience, the British Olympic team appeared in full kit riding their track machines as Kraftwerk continued to play. They received an ovation as they were introduced to the unsuspecting audience. To get a flavour of this event, just Google "Velodrome" plus "Kraftwerk" and select the "Youtube" link.
£80,000 for a Moped
Did you see the national TV news reporting the wonderful new "green" 2-wheeler "invented" by an Austrian? The inventor sat on it and controlled its speed by his rate of pedalling. And it had an electric motor so it had "zero emissions". No questions then about where the electricity came from. Clearly the media folk are too young to remember that thing we called a Moped. And they were equally ignorant of the Derny currently used to pace cyclists in Keirin races on the track, where the speed is controlled by the rate of pedalling. The Japanese even used an electric derny some years back. I reckon the media are capable of any sort of Greenwash con, so maybe we can sell them the concept of The Bicycle?
£5 discount for cyclists
Among the green initiatives to encourage cycling, the Germans have an interesting approach. The Guardian reports that some customers in Berlin who reduce pollution and congestion by cycling or using public transport can claim a £5 discount on the usual £70 price. The particular establishment happens to offer personal services to gentlemen; if copied elsewhere it would surely lead to increased use of the bicycle?
Leicester Easy Riderswith Rose Holman
As many of the pubs and cafes are closing we have found two which are open on Sundays. The Coffee Bean in Blaby is open from 11 am to 2 pm and Pillings Lock Marina at Barrow-on-Soar which is open all day but a little expensive.
I apologise for not completing a write up for the past three months. As many of you have heard, Dave passed away on the 18th June with Mesothelioma Cancer at the Loros Hospice on Groby Road, Leicester.
Joe, my son, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their cards, flowers, telephone messages and also for visiting Dave whilst in the Hospice, also for all the support I received during this time.
I would especially like to thank our Easy Riders Section for the flowers I received from them, it came as a lovely surprise. Thanks all. Finally, I would like to thank everyone so much for giving Dave a good send off and for the donations to Loros. To see you all there was truly heart warming.
I would like to remind everyone and our members of the Carol Service on the 13th December, and also to ask if we could have donations of cakes please, and of course raffle prizes.
A meeting to organise the Carol Service will be held on Sunday 8th November after the Remembrance Service at the John Storer House.
If you are attending our Christmas Lunch which is being held this year at The Red Lion, Huncote at 12 noon on 6th December, could you let me know by the 29th November please. Our New Years meal is on 17th January at Stoney Cove at 12 noon, bookings to me by the 3rd January. There will be no Sunday roasts served at Stoney Cove but other food is available. The Prize Giving Lunch will be on the 15th March at 12 noon, venue to be announced. Raffle prizes will be required for all of these events please.Contents
GENERAL KNOWLEDGEwith Lyn Dolphin
During the last quarter, in order to give ourselves different lanes to explore, we decided to include monthly car assisted rides into our calendar. This of course means that local knowledge of routes does not apply and new routes must be planned.
Until recently this meant retrieving the relevant OS maps, admiring the little yellow roads, interpreting the contours and deciding to go through a particular village just because the name is intriguing. Then on route consulting the maps to confirm the correct route was being followed which gave rise to short stops. However, no more! Out come the little gps systems, conversations abound regarding which software mapping system is the best to download, and eyes constantly dart to the handlebars to check where the next turn is. As the only rider within our section not categorized by the CTC as a VET you would expect me to be leading the way with this new technology, but no, it is the likes of Roland, Joe, Martin and Keith who are the converted. I have come to the conclusion it is a memory thing, once you reach the magic age of 50 the desire to have a GPS system becomes overwhelming - so early next year, check my handlebars!
The car assisted runs, with whatever navigation choice, have been wonderful though. We started with a ride led by Joe to the Stratford area, taking tea at Hatton locks. With it being the bank holiday weekend and the weather being lovely we decided to err on the side of caution, gave Stratford itself a wide berth and had lunch at Claverdon. The lanes in the area were quiet and the small climb to lunch gave some beautiful views. The second went towards Ironbridge from a start on Cannock Chase, again lovely weather accompanied the ride and even the Red Arrows and the Battle of Britain planes gave a display as the route passed by Cosford airfield. Richard was leader for the day after swapping with Roland, and due to holiday commitments within the rest of the group, only he and Keith enjoyed the free air show as they rode by.
The most recent of the rides was led by Roland, starting from Ashbourne, up every hill possible to find to get to the Cat and Fiddle, and then he found even more hills on the return. Again we had nice weather, some stunning views, though on Morridge Edge the wind was a little punishing. I think by the time we had finished Richard was wishing he hadn't been quite so quick to agree to swap leads! John, who is in training for the LEL and needs major miles, rode to Ashbourne from Ravenstone, joined us on the ride, and then rode back.
Not all the Sundays have been nice though. One of the worst this quarter was the first Sunday in June. I don't know how (maybe I should have that gps already) I thought the start was at Bagworth, so after cadging a lift and waiting until over 10 minutes passed by the designated start time I texted Martin (the leader for the day) and told him I was off home, only to pass Martin and Rich- ard sheltering under the new bus shelter in Heather waiting at the true start for me! I decided not to soldier on with them and left them to brave the thunder, lightening and torrential rain on their own, and they did too, though deciding after they had stopped for tea at Thurlaston they would make their way back to the Gate Hangs Well at Carlton for a well deserved pint.
Hopefully the weather, which has not been so good during July, will now pick up as promised by the weathermen, and we will continue to enjoy the rest of the summer.Contents
Charnwood Chatterwith Betty Naylor
It was thought to start the summer in style, so seven members decided to spend a week camping at Beccles in Suffolk, in early May - four of us staying at the boatyard alongside the river Waveney - ith Brenda, Dave and Pearl on a farm site a few miles away. The boatyard site was lovely, with rabbits appearing both morning and evening, but no kingfishers!
On a glorious Sunday morning, five of us decided to look for Pearl's ancesters which were known to be buried near Burgh Apton and Seething. We set off northwards following a cycle route through the villages of Ellingham and Mundham, breaking for coffee at Loddon Bridge. We continued through Chedgrave and Brooke to Burgh Apton church where, after having found the graves, we enjoyed a picnic lunch on a seat in the churchyard. It was very hot so we visited the Old White Lion for our liquid refreshment. Afterwards it was off to Seething to visit the church and finding more graves! On the whole it was a very pleasant day, but rather windy on our return journey.
Next day it was really windy so the day was spent sightseeing in Beccles, a most interesting and historic little town. However, the very strong winds continued, so Dave and Brenda took their tent down and found more solid accommodation in North Norfolk.
Pearl, Howard and myself had a very enjoyable ride through the lanes via Halesworth to Walberswick for lunch, continuing alongside the river on a sandy towpath and crossing on a footbridge to the outskirts of Southold. However, we did not linger to look around as the very strong winds made it imperative that we return to camp.
On Wednesday, Mary took us in her van to Southwold, where we were nearly blown away, but we enjoyed a tour of the town - especially the water clock on the pier - which was a Heath Robinson contraption worked by water pressure. Mary was most amused when one of the male figures dropped his shorts and had a "tiddle" before the pressure restored them! We then enjoyed lunch at "Tillys" before returning to camp, visiting two ancient thatched churches en route.
The weather really deteriorated from Thursday onwards, so we joined Mary and Alex on their coach tours to Lowestoft and Norwich.
The following Sunday, Howard and I went to Meriden which was a "washout" too, but it was good to meet up with various old friends.
After the fiasco in Beccles, Brenda and Dave invested in a very smart campervan. So for the Cannock Chase ride it was decided to christen the new van by having a camping weekend at Hamstall Ridware on the edge of the Chase. We travelled on the Friday evening so on a lovely Saturday morning, five of us set off for a tour around Blithfield Reservoir, following the road through Hamstall to Blithfield, Calton and Admaston, crossing the Causeway, then on uphill to Abbots Bromley where, after admiring the lovely old church, we made use of the churchyard to eat our lunch before visiting the Crown Inn for coffee.
After lunch we turned east to Hoard Cross and, after inspecting the rather gloomy church there, returned via Hadley End and Morrey to Hamstall. Here, there was a Garden Fete in full swing, so we paid the fee and joined in the fun. After tea, it was such a glorious evening, that the ladies walked down to the river bridge and were rewarded by the sight of both kingfisher and heron, even more exciting, a hot-air balloon was being launched from the campsite.
On Sunday, Pearl led us through the lanes via Calton to Rugeley for coffee before tackling the long climb up Penkridge Bank to visit the Commonwealth Cemetery. A pleasant half hour was spent enjoying the serenity there before continuing downhill towards Milford, stopping for a cuppa halfway down, then on to Brocton for a picnic lunch on the village green. It was so hot that we donned our sunhats! After lunch we rode on through Milford, turning immediately left to Shugborough where Pearl showed us the packhorse bridges where people and dogs were enjoying a paddle in the stream. Then it was time for another cuppa before returning along the lanes via Tixall, Little Hayward, Colwich and Blithbury back to the site. A most enjoyable weekend even though Howard was "under the weather".
The Section have taken part in all the DA organised rides. The Jones family having excelled by competing in all the events, even the Pace Judging at Meriden (which Heather won), the 107k Tour of the Cotswolds Audax and hopefully twelve more events before the end of the year. We must not forget our own two hard riders, Pearl and Brenda, who rode all the way to the Tissington Well Dressings and the "Hole in the Wall near Ashbourne.
Let's hope the good weather continues for the holidays!Contents
2009 Challenge Rideswith Peter Witting
The 28 riders in this year's Challenge Rides enjoyed a dry day - the first in 3 years! The early mist gave way to a muggy warmth, with only the South-Easterly breeze keeping riders from overheating.
Two riders completed the full 100 miles, Lee Jackson from Nottingham with Tony Davis using it as a warm up for the forthcoming London-Edinburgh-London Audax event. Tony was accompanied on his second 50 mile loop by Neil Dixon who had completed a time trial on the Sunday morning. For him the ride was more of a warm down!
There were 13 riders on both the 50 miles and on the 25 mile rides, as well as the 2 long distance riders. Despite starting at different times and following different routes for the 50 miles and 25 miles, two groups managed to arrive at the finish at the same time. Luckily Eileen Johnson was able to cope with the catering, in the absence of our President Keith Lakin and Jean who were away on holiday. I'm sure we all appreciated Eileen's catering on the day.Contents
Dave HolmanAlan Tyrell reflects
My memories of a Recycling Man.
It is with sadness that we report the passing of David Holman, a stalwart of the Easy Riders, a keen participant and helper in many DA Events. Why do I call him the "Recyling Man?" Well David and myself have ridden together for the past 25 years, and along the lanes he retrieved any object that may be useful. Postmans' rubber bands, punctured inner tubes, small change, tools, plastic bags, caps and dregs from oil bottles to lubricate his gears. He also liked charity shops.
B & B Memories
Hanging wet clothing on curtain rails, blocking out the light, putting all his clothing in drawers and wardrobe, then next morning taking over an hour to repack. A good hour would be spent in the shower and we would go out for our evening meal, David resplendent in smart clothes, tie and polished shoes. Part of his equipment he placed in his panniers was three pairs of shoes, many spare clothes, dictionary, shoe polish, sun cream, remedies for stings and ailments, a notebook to record his daily expenditure and a 16" Russian telescope. Cycle problems were no trouble to David, over 30 patches on one inner tube, bottom bracket held together with insulation tape, buckled wheels - he could fix them all. David will always be remembered for his willingness to help, his quiet nature and craftsmanship and a loyal friend and will be greatly missed by all his family and many friends
The "Doctor's Note"By Peter Witting
It was the day of our "Back to the Fuchsias" ride - and I wasn't riding. But I had a "doctor's note". I'd written it myself as I didn't want to trouble the doc. My knees had been complaining: "too many hills in too high a gear", trying to keep up with the fit old bu**ers of the Thursday Club on their racing machines on the rolling Northants terrain.
What I needed was a day riding at my own pace; somewhere without any hills, and with good weather and a good place for coffee and lunch to complete the experience. Just a pipe dream? Well, no. It actually happened!
I knew I would not be at my best on Sunday morning as I'd been at a "Chappo" gig at Wilbarston village hall 'til nearly midnight. At 7am I set off in the car, with some bacon butties to munch at the traffic lights. By 8.15 I was parking in the deserted car park in Newark. The rabbits which had been breakfasting in the flower beds provided by the council scampered away. The air was chill, but the sun was promising to warm things up as I readied the bike and enjoyed a coffee from the flask.
I used seat-of-the-pants navigation to find the unclassified road out of town towards Barnby in the Willows. The peak of my racing cap supplemented my sunglasses against the spring sunshine. The 29 year old map showed marks from a previous ride, but I could remember nothing of it as I crossed over the A1 and turned North to Coddington.
My route north-east was unbelievably flat. My knees could not have been happier! I was following the lanes joining the villages to the west of the River Witham - Stapleford, Norton Disney, Thurlby, Haddington and the Hykehams. The purpose of my ride lay ahead - in Lincoln.
The barriers and Police diversions were in place for the day of the Lincoln Grand Prix. This was my first visit to see the race. The flask on my bike provided a welcome coffee as I joined the spectators waiting in the sunshine for the 170 riders as they tackled the first narrow cobbled climb of Michaelgate.
With each pass of the city centre by the riders, I found a fresh viewing point on the cobbled climbs to the finish line and commentary box in Castle Square. The spectators included fellow cyclists, locals and bemused tourists; the organisers claimed some 16,000 in total around the complete circuit. One of the biggest cheers was for a father & son, with son pedalling his kiddy-trailer up the steepest cobbled section of the aptly named Steep Hill.
I took lunch in The Forum, named after the Roman meeting place. Inside the pub it explained that the Romans had named the town Lindum; but that name is thought to derive from the celtic word Llyn, meaning a pool, just as in Welsh. Yes, The Forum is a Wetherspoons, and I always find a visit to be an educational experience!
I returned via lanes to the east of the River Whitham, following the line of the River Brant to Brant Broughton. I passed a snowdrop wood marked on my map, that I had discovered during an Audax ride nearly 20 years ago when I had stopped for a natural break. I was glad my wrap-around sunglasses kept out the multitude of large black flies that the sun had brought out. I greeted a tandem couple with kiddy-seat along the narrow lane to Beckingham, before returning to Newark just as a few drops of rain ended my ride. A perfect day of therapy for my knees.Contents
John Catt was recently browsing through some archive gazettes and happened to pick up the January 1933 edition and found the following:
"Doings of the District Association. Leicester's "Official Organ". The new magazine of the Leicester D.A. will be published on January 15th, and copies will be available at 4d. each post free, or 4s. for the full year. They can be obtained from the runs secretaries, the committee members, or the editor, Mr. R. Timson, The Haven, Evington, Leicester."
TECHNICAL TOPICSby Peter Witting
When I needed to replace my old Endura touring shorts, I found the model discontinued; but their Singltrack seemed to have good reviews. Alas I found them like the French Cities of Toulon & Toulouse - too long and too loose. Length fine if you are 6 foot 2 inches, but not if you are 5 foot 8 inches - go figure! The legs are so loose they have a velcro tab to close up the baggy flapping excess material, yet the velcro is in the wrong place for anyone who is less than morbidly obese. These seem to be the product of the fashion police aiming for the "Gangsta" market. Not for me thanks!
I turned to the Altura models: Their Gravity has a built in liner, which is fine for day rides. Not so good on tour when they need daily washing. That left the Altura Ascent, which has a detachable padded liner. The Coolmax liner supplied works fine, but any sort of equivalent product can be used. The black lightweight shell material dries quickly after a downpour. It has conventional pockets, but I've yet to use the zipped cargo pockets! I did replace the fabric belt with an old leather one for preference. The design seems fine both on and off the bike; especially if making a lightweight tour with just one pair of shorts. Sizing might be a problem if you believe the label that shows Large as 41"-43". Actually it fits anyone over 32", so best to try on before buying. Mine cost around £35 at my LBS (local bike shop).
Exustar Stelvio Shoes
The SP705 2009 model shoes do the same job as SPD models from other manufacturers, which is a good recommendation to start with; and they impressed Chris Juden, the CTC Technical Officer. Mine were the same size as my Sidi shoes and fitted perfectly. After a couple of rides I tried them sockless and found them comfortable. Fitting the cleats was as easy as with my other Shimano shoes, which need the removal of the central part of the sole to access the cleat fitting holes.
The appearance was not unlike some types of trainer, but might pass for an office-type shoe if necessary. The key reason for my purchase was to be able to set off on tour with only a single pair of shoes so as to travel light and minimise weight and bulk. You could ride in these shoes all day, then wear them to the pub in the evening. The cleat was recessed well enough into the sole that this was no problem.
I found my pair size 41 to weigh 850 Gms with cleats fitted. That compares with 820 Gms for my top-of-range Sidi Dragon 2 Carbon SRS shoes. That's impressive.
But I had forgotten, after 15 years of riding modern clipless kit, what the disadvantages of old-style shoes were: Laces can get caught in the chainwheel if you are careless, adjustment means stopping to undo the laces and retie, and putting on and taking off is much quicker with velcro or high-tech fixings. If the leather gets wet in our English summer, or anytime, the shoe needs stuffing with newspaper to retain its shape; the next morning it's still damp and the shoe needs polishing!
Having said that, I can still recommend these shoes for the specific purpose of lightweight touring. They are comfortable, fit well and would still make a good choice if they were the only SPD shoe you bought; although you might get another brand of SPD shoe costing less than the £64 price of the Exustar from the CTC shop.
Weight Saving Rack
Tubus have introduced a new rear rack that is made of titanium. Their Airy rack weighs only 210 Grams, with a claimed capacity of 30 Kilograms. It won the Eurobike award for 2006, so has taken some time to reach full production. By comparison the tried-and-trusted Blackburn EX-1 aluminium rack weighs just over 700 grams. While the Blackburn costs around £35, the Tubus Airy is priced at £135 according to "Cycle" magazine. So it'll cost £100 to save half a kilo from the weight of your touring bike!
Whitwick Wheels to Wainwright's Walks - Part Oneby John Allen
In the December 2008 edition of 'Cycle Chat', brother Phil gave an account of a Charnwood CTC cycling holiday to the Lake District, one night of which we stayed at the remote Blacksail Youth Hostel and descending Scarth Gap (Wainwright's Walks).
This brought memories flooding back, the tour took place during the first two weeks in August 1956 - the old "August Fortnight". Phil was ten years older than me - and still is - and as always he had done meticulous planning - train tickets booked, all hostels and B & B booked, even some lunch stops booked and of course, the fantastic route planning with interesting places to visit.
This was my very first 'extended' cycling tour of two weeks although I had enjoyed some youth hostel weekends prior to this, plus a few three day Easter and Whitsun tours, also superbly organised by 'big brother'.
I was just 16, having joined the CTC two years earlier, and in my first year as an engineering apprentice at Pegson Ltd, Coalville, this was the companies annual shutdown.
My bike was a Phillips "Vox Populi" purchased on HP with the weekly proceeds of my paper round during 1953/54. This I obtained from Jones's cycle shop in Silver Street, Whitwick. I actually wanted a Phillips Kingfisher in startling Kingfisher blue but I would have to wait too long for it to be delivered, so I settled for my lustrous red "Vox Pop" which gave wonderful service. Phil's bike was a blue "Ernie Clements" purchased from cycle dealer Eric Ellam in Ellan in Ashby - the drop handlebars of which could only be compared to the horns on cattle at a rare breeds farm! But he did have five gears (or was it ten) to my three!
Derby Railway Station was our first objective that Saturday morning and we set off from the council estate in Whitwick to meet up with the rest of the party en-route, much easier (and cheaper) than cycling in the opposite direction to Leicester Station when heading North..
Arriving along side trolley buses at the old Derby Station (before it was re-built) in good time, Phil produced our reservations slips at the ticket office and was duly issued with our passenger tickets to Lancaster (via Manchester) plus tickets for everyone's dog!
After much consternation (bordering on panic), Phil dashed back to the booking office, not to worry they had run out of cycle tickets and "dogs" would do nicely - and so it proved, no problems with officialdom at all!
This being the old "August Fortnight", platforms were crowded and steam trains were arriving and departing every few minutes. With adrenalin now in full flow we shuffled to the edge of the platform - half the party in charge of voluminous duckcloths, saddlebags, pumps and water bottles, whilst the other half had a bike in each hand!
The tannoy crackled that it was the London - Manchester train arriving and on the correct platform - we were ready for the frey! In came the train hauled by a very grimy and clanking "Jubilee" class locomotive "Straits Settlements" - yes a "namer"! (I was also into trains and buses and still am.)
With a screech of brakes the train came to a halt, doors were flung open and in a matter of seconds bikes were stowed in the capacious brake/parcels van whilst the other half of the party were already waving at us from our compartment coach - how wonderfully efficient!
We now relaxed in the coach of the British Railways coaching stock livery of "blood and custard" - if a little grimy but who cared? we were on our way! Ambergate, Matlock, Bakewell, Monsall Head and Miller's Dale were passed - though limestone cuttings and tunnels adjacent to the River Wye - what a fantastic journey - now of course no more a railway route.
So we arrived in Manchester Central Station (now the Gmex exhibition centre - as I recall it was much more relaxed getting the bikes off as this was a terminus platform. Duly saddlebagged up, we rode through the busy Manchester streets (with their vast numbers of locally built Crossley buses) to the Victoria Railway Station which had the longest railway platform in the country of some 700 yards - plenty of room for everyone - including many other cyclists we met.
A Carlisle based "Black Five" locomotive was at the head of our train - plenty of space for the bikes again and we set off. Our coach was next to the brake/parcels van. A good job as at the Preston stop empty wooden fish boxes were thrown in - no damage to our bikes however.
On arrival in Lancaster we headed out of its station and at the ticket barrier a jovial ticket collector advised us to keep those dogs on a lead!
It was good to be in the fresh air and on the bikes again as Phil led the party out of Lancaster and on to the coast route through Morecombe and on up to Arnside where we spent our first night at the Youth Hostel there after a long but thoroughly enjoyable day. I had already visited places I had only heard about. We were also in 'Ribble' country , that immaculate bus fleet entirely of Lancashire built Leylands in their smart maroon livery.
Barry Whitworth from Ellistown and I were up early next morning and enjoyed a walk along the shores of the tidal River Kent with its masses of feeding sea birds. On arrival back at the hostel, the warden had a word in our 'shell likes' about wandering about too early and disturbing others, most of whom were still asleep when we got back!
A much shorter train journey on Sunday morning took us from Arnside Station across the viaduct about the River Kent to Grange Over Sands on the other side. We were now in the Lake District proper heading for Coniston Far End Youth Hostel where Phil had booked us in for two nights.Click here to continue.
A SUMMER IN FRANCE- By Dave Binks Continuing the story.
The story so far:
Dave has taken a job in France, working as an assistant for a UK based holiday company (Susi Madron's "Cycling for Softies") in Angouleme, near Cognac. His duties are to act as local mechanic and representative to ensure the holidaymakers have a good time as they cycle between the top class hotels in the area. His story continues.
I got up a bit early just to see my customers off in their taxi and it was just as well I did as he had mislaid his glasses and couldn't find them. I suggested where we had been sitting in the lobby the previous evening, but he said he had already looked there twice. Nevertheless, I looked as well and there they were, lying on the floor. He was ready to just go without them and thus have to buy a new pair so was very relieved. We joked that the trouble with losing you glasses is you need your glasses to see to find them again!
After my breakfast I got changed and went out on my bike to write up a southbound route for the fitter riders. On a previous ride I had stumbled on Blanzac, a thriving little town with a selection of cafes and restaurants - a rarity around these villages, and thought this would be a good destination.
The weather was not settled, but it was warm and humid, so I set off just in shorts and top, but with a waterproof in the bag. Having to stop at every junction and note the distance, what was written on the sign post or some other confirmation feature, and anything of interest on the route takes a great deal of time and it was late morning when I had completed the 12 miles to Blanzac.
A café bar was open and I felt I deserved a coffee before continuing. I saw the Tourist Information Office and remembered I needed some leaflets for my collection in the hotel. Much to my surprise, it was shut, despite the sign saying it should be open. Then a passer-by pointed to another sign saying the assistant was at the "Chapelle des Templiers" which meant nothing at first, but more window gazing revealed it was an ancient Chapel normally closed at this time. So I quickly set off to find it whilst it was open. It was only a couple of miles outside town and I was soon there. It was well worth the effort, being a small basic chapel, but with wall paintings inside depicting scenes from the Crusades that were painted between 1150 and 1170 ad. The special opening was to allow a film crew to shoot, and I was able to sidle in without problems or payment.
On returning to Blanzac I started feeling peckish and was just looking for a shop that was open during the lunch hours when I saw a small restaurant that looked inviting. I didn't need or want a full meal, so sat down at a table outside, which in itself was unusual - there are not normally seats outside in this part of France, when the waiter came up and spoke to me in English with a Bradford accent! He was in fact the owner, ran it with a French chef as partner, had been there three years and loved it. I just ordered the Plat du Jour (that day's "Special"), sat back and enjoyed the atmosphere.
I was halfway through my meal when it started raining and I and the other diners, plates of food in hand, all made a rush for the inside tables, of which there were, fortunately, enough. Having had a little chat about the opening hours for my route sheet details, I set off for the return route, but hadn't gone half a mile before the waterproof had to go on. It soon stopped again and stayed that way for the rest of the day although the humidity remained high.
A detour through a
winery and a museum dedicated to a poet was added as an option before I made it back, with a grand total of 28 miles on the sheet - a long ride for most of my visitors in the hillier area south of the base. I typed up the instructions that evening whilst the ride was still fresh in my mind.
Once again a wet start to the day, but at least the heavy storms in the night had abated. These had been so bad in other parts of France that cars and roads had been washed away and much damage had been caused. I later heard that the UK got it a bit later, but I seem to have missed the worst of it. My two moaning ladies were due back later today and the details of the arrivals due in a week or two arrived in the post, so that, together with a bit of lethargy on my part meant it was about 2pm before I set out on another route description ride. I hadn't even got into the village before I saw the ladies riding towards me, so felt bound to return to the hotel and exchange pleasantries and lock their bikes away before carrying on.
A popular destination evidently, is a small chocolate making factory, actually little more than a workshop and a retail outlet, in one of the villages the other side of the Charente, so I thought this was a suitable candidate for a route sheet. I was getting on well when I approached a T junction and noticed some cyclists gathering in a lay-by opposite.
At first I assumed they were locals, but as I got closer I realised they were all laden with touring bags, so couldn't have been either local, or indeed, French. The latter is obvious because the French don't use bikes to carry luggage. It was a CTC (Cyclists' Touring Club - a UK organisation) party on a 3 weeks cycle tour! I stopped and chatted, and was recognised by Janet Cooper, who used to live in Leicester and had met me on a previous tour, and a couple who had attended a slide show I presented in Birmingham the previous autumn. I even knew the hotel they were off to that day and later wondered if I had time to ride over to see them in the evening, but eventually decided against it. It certainly brightened my day to have a chat to real cyclists in my own tongue. I finished my ride and typed out the notes the same night, thinking the two ladies may be interested in using them the next day, their last before going home.
Not knowing what time my two ladies were planning to go out today, if at all, I got up early and fetched their bikes out before breakfast, but needn't have worried as they were only finishing theirs well after I had finished mine. Asking them what they intended to do on this, their last day, I suggested they visit the chocolate factory for which I had typed out the route sheet the evening before. Needless to say, they weren't particularly interested but asked me to draw them a simple map of how to get to the "Auchan" hypermarket!
I left them to it and set off on another route sheet description, this time of how to get across the new N10 road which does not appear on the maps they will be given. This was necessary as some of the local roads have been closed off and it can get confusing. I needed a new watch strap and bumped into the ladies again as I was wondering around looking for a suitable vendor. They must have felt threatened by the building modifications going on in the store, because as they wandered through the shops they were still wearing their crash hats!
I decided to eat in the hotel that night, but made a point of telling the waitress, who of course I knew well, not to seat me near the two ladies as I couldn't stand one of them. She laughed and said, even though she herself couldn't speak English, she had taken a dislike to them herself. After my meal, whilst waiting to pay, I bumped into the moaner and asked her if her holiday had been good and she was quite pleasant, so perhaps that was why she came on holiday - to loosen up a bit! One thing she did say was that her mother had lived in a house near Cognac between the wars, and she had brought a photo with her to see if anyone recognised it. Much to her surprise and delight it had been recognised by one of the staff in the Hennessey Cognac shop who actually gave her some very old Hennessey leaflets, with a photo of that very house featured on it. She had not had time to actually see the house for herself, even though she was assured it was still there, but it had made her holiday and she couldn't wait to return and tell her aged mother.
Despite both having enormous suitcases so heavy I could barely lift them, neither "Minnie" nor her friend had brought an alarm clock, so despite my having programmed the telephone in their room to ring early enough for them to be ready for the airport taxi at 7.45, I got up a bit earlier than normal to make sure they were awake! As I was to go out again with the local cycling club, who leave at 8.00am, this wasn't as bad an inconvenience as it sounds. They left on time and I went out with the club.
The forecast was not good and it was actually spitting slightly as the 30 or so of us set off. A few more were starting to speak to me now, which was better as it showed I was starting to be accepted. When the split between the faster and slower groups happened, I decided to have a go with the fast ones, reckoning I now had sufficient sense of direction and rough knowledge of the surrounding small towns and villages to find my own way home should I lose them. It was a lot quicker than the previous few weeks (except for the "race" back home that developed last week after the abortive attempt to enter a local event) but very unorganised compared to UK cycling clubs.
In the UK, discipline in the group is quite high, with pairs of riders riding side by side and taking it in almost strict rotation to go to the front and set the pace for a while. With this lot, they sometimes rode 3 or 4 abreast, or on their own, with a constant shuffling around within the group. It seems that anyone who happens to feel good at that time goes to the front and hammers away until someone else wants to have a go. Often it would split up with a few hundred yards of road separating the first and last riders, before it came back together again when the front runners eased off a bit. I don't know if we did actually lose anyone, but one hill (a rarity on the ride) split the group up badly. I stopped for a quick toilet stop, reckoning I had time before the last riders arrived and assuming the leaders would ease off. When I set off again I think there was still one to come up the hill, but still had to chase hard to catch the others, so I don't know if we did leave anyone or not.
By now it was raining fairly heavily, but not being cold, nobody stopped to put a jacket on. By the time we got back, I had ridden 63 miles with the only stops being the meeting at the start and a very short "pee" stop. This is so different to the sort of club riding I am used to at home with a racing club, and today's ride was with a club that calls itself a "Cyclo-Tourist" club!
I had visitors today, all the way from England, by bike! Tony & Jayne Davis, cycling pals from Leicestershire were over on a cycle camping holiday and had said they would probably call in sometime. I didn't know when that would be except that it would be sometime in June and had in any case forgotten. Last evening my mobile phone had rung, but I was unable to make the connection, and the same had happened again in the morning, so I had just assumed it was a wrong number. In fact it was Tony trying to speak to me, but without success.
I had got up late and caught up with domestic chores and paperwork that needed to be sent back to the Head Office. My own bike was filthy following yesterday's ride in the rain on country roads without mudguards and I had also bought a new chain, so filled in the rest of the morning doing maintenance on my own bike for a change. Having then had some lunch, I set off to go into Angouleme, as much to kill time and get me out as much as anything else.
I had only just got out of the hotel gates when I saw two heavily laden cyclists riding up the road in my direction. I wondered if perhaps they were Dutch or something, but as we closed on each other, the leading rider started waving at me and within seconds I had twigged it was Jayne, followed closely by Tony. It was them who had made the unsuccessful phone calls, but had come anyway, thinking they would leave a message for me at reception if I wasn't there, before heading off to their campsite. I took them in and made drinks and we had a good chat before they set off, with me acting as guide, to their campsite some 4 miles away at Sireuil. We arranged to meet again at 7pm and we would go out for a meal to a local restaurant somewhere.
I knew that Mondays was sometimes a difficult day for shops etc as many didn't open, or closed early, so I came back via Chateauneuf where I knew there were cafes and restaurants, to check them out. It was as well I did, as only one was open, the others having stayed closed. By the time I got back to my base, all I had time for was to change my cycling top to a normal shirt and pick up some trousers should I need them in the restaurant.
It was a very warm day and I was sweating so wanted to leave my legs open to the air as long as possible. I returned to the campsite as arranged and off we went to Chateauneuf, following the longer but flatter River Charente valley road. At Chateauneuf to my horror I realised the café I had seen was open, but the restaurant side of it wasn't. When I complained about the large sign outside advertising the "Menu du Jour", the proprietor just muttered something and shrugged and went outside and brought it in!
Fortunately Tony & Jayne just shrugged it off and said "Let's have a beer anyway". On the outskirts of Roullet, my own village, there is a Pizza Restaurant that Tony had spotted earlier and we decided to head for that, but first of all via another restaurant we had seen signposted between the campsite and Chateauneuf. I was sceptical about this as I knew the village it was in was tiny. My scepticism was proved right - it too was shut, so the Pizza place it was. This was open and we had a good fill up, picking from a surprisingly wide menu for somewhere describing itself as a Pizza Restaurant. It was gone 10pm when we set off on our separate ways, Tony & Jayne with lights to their campsite, me with none to the hotel, but as there was still some light in the sky and I only saw one car, it mattered little.
Tony and Jayne had arranged that they would do some washing at the campsite using the machines there and then ride up to meet me at the hotel, which is what they did. We had a quick cuppa, I told them the weather forecast was good and we set off to visit the nearby large city of Angouleme via the post office as I had to send a package to the boss.
It was warm and sunny day again, and as we got closer to Angouleme we all got very hot, eventually arriving at the Town Centre in quite a sweat after the final mile long climb up into the centre. By the time we had found somewhere out of the way but still in the public gaze to lock the bikes, it was well gone noon. At mid-day in France, all but the largest shops close and the restaurants and cafes open for lunch, so the obvious thing to do was lunch.
We stopped at a street-side café and each had a cold soft drink before ordering the "Plat du Jour" (the "special dish" of the day). This turned out to be six fried chicken wings, a mild mustard sauce and some small deep fried potato balls - tasty and adequate and a reasonable price at £7.50 (about £5) each. It was getting quite warm and humid as we then set off on foot to explore first the Old Town, then the shops. On the way we called into the Cathedral as I had never been in it and needed to know what it was like should I be asked by a holidaymaker.
Despite being the Cathedral, and Catholic, it was not as ornate as I expected, but to hot travellers, welcomingly cool inside! A bit more wandering and another cold drink and we were ready to go, The descent down from theTown Centre showed why we had been so hot on arrival - it's quite a pull up. We stopped briefly at the Velodrome for a quick look, during which time Tony found a hole in the wire fence allowing us to get actually trackside, and I was able to explain it was pretty similar to the old Saffron Lane track at Leicester before it fell into disrepair. Next stop Decathlon sports supermarket where Tony bought some top quality cycling shorts for his forthcoming Paris - Brest - Paris ride of 1200kms in 90 hours; truly an awesome feat and one he had successfully completed before.
Jayne was on the lookout for some ordinary shoes, but despite long looks in two stores was unable to find anything that was suitable. By now the wind had got up, the sky had blackened and the humidity was unpleasant, so it was obvious another storm was on the way. Foregoing the opportunity to visit the huge Auchan hypermarket, we thought we ought to get back before we got a soaking.
By the time we got to Roullet, large spots of rain were coming and we were very close to the storm. Unfortunately the washing that they had done in the morning was still hanging out to dry, so Tony rattled of to the campsite as quickly as he could, leaving Jayne to come to my accommodation and wait until he returned later when we would all go out for another meal.
The storm when it came was violent and heavy, but it passed over fairly quickly and Jayne and I set off to meet Tony at the same restaurant as last night. Whilst Jayne and I had just missed the rain, it had got Tony in the last 400yds, enough to wet him and some of the clothes which no-one had thought to bring in for them, but Tony is made of tough stuff and simply rode back in his damp clothes.
We were too early for the restaurant, so walked into nearby Roullet for an aperitif in the bar and then back again to kill some time. The meal was pretty good and it was 9.45pm before we said our goodbyes and headed our separate ways "home".
I got up early and rode down to the campsite where Tony & Jayne were staying so as to see them on their way and offer moral support on their journey - not that they needed the latter of course. I was also enjoying their company and wanted to maximise it. Tony had already ridden to the local village boulangerie (baker's) for the breakfast croissants and so had already christened his new cycling shorts which met with his approval.
I stayed with them for about 4 miles, sometimes going on ahead to take photos of them as they rode by with their fully laden bikes. Just before I left them, we passed the still working ancient village water pump at Hiersac, and I showed them how turning the capstan like wheel drew the water up from the well. They then carried on and I returned to my base via a slightly longer route than I had come out on.
There was to be a "Randonnéé", a sort of formal cycle ride around the local area, which started about 7kms from my base and I did think about going to it but; the start time of Noon with the attendant problem of when to eat, the knowledge there would be an entry fee and the knowledge they would probably make a fuss about (or perhaps not even let me ride without) a crash hat made me decide not to go.
Instead I had a light lunch and at 1.30pm went to where the local club met, not knowing if there would be anyone there because they had all gone on the Randonnéé. I need not have worried, nine were there ready and waiting and we headed south for a pleasant change. "Into the mountains" the leader said, pulling a grim face. Well, I knew having already ridden southwards that there was no such thing as a mountain or anything even as bad as we have back home in Leicestershire, so wasn't worried.
It was by now pleasantly warm without the extreme heat or humidity there had been and when we hit the first climb I was properly loosened up and just got out of the saddle and simply rode up it, maintaining my momentum and staying "on top" of the gear I was in. I quickly found myself on the front, with only two others behind me, both hanging on for grim death!
I eased at the top and one said how hard it had been, which I found reassuring as I didn't find it hard! It seemed a hill less than 100 yards or so long they could sprint up, but anything longer than that and the (painful) lactic acid in their legs would build up, and this pattern of me leading repeated itself on every hill, except that after that first hill they didn't even manage to stay with me, even though I really wasn't going more than about 85% - 90% effort. I would get to the top and sit up and look back and there would be 2 or 3 a fair way back and the others often out of sight if the road had a bend or curve. This was even happening to the younger guy who had been "half wheeling" me a week or two earlier on the flatter roads.
I must admit to a certain wicked delight in being able to do it to them! My only regret was I wasn't wearing my "Great Britain" top that I have worn before on their rides. It was a lovely route, all on very quiet roads, in full sunshine, in and out of little woods giving shade, up and down small (to me anyway) hills, twisting and descending, views to left and right, through sleepy little villages with just the barking dogs to tell you they weren't deserted, and the occasional farmer tending to his vines in the fields. It reminded me of being back home, and when they commented how hilly it was, I simply told them it was like this at home, but I didn't tell them some parts of Leicestershire were actually quite a bit harder!
When I got back, the hotel owners inviting me into the kitchen for dinner made my day!
I had a fright last evening whilst sitting alone in my accommodation. It was just getting dark and I thought I heard someone try to open the door. I listened and heard no more, assumed it was just the wind or my imagination and went back to reading my book. Then the door handle was definitely turned and the door pushed from outside. My accommodation is remote from the hotel and being alone in it I always lock the door from within when inside alone, so knew the door would not open without considerable force, but it was a bit frightening.
I shouted in French in as strong a voice as I could that this was a private area and to go away and within seconds the person stopped. I looked out of the window, but they face a different direction so saw nothing. It was some considerable time before I felt brave enough to look out of the door, but of course there was no-one there, thank heavens.
Being charitable it was perhaps just someone wandering around after dinner and being nosy, not realising it was someone's accommodation, but it reminded me that a week or so ago some youngsters had been wandering around up and down the little corridor that runs in front of my accommodation but that doesn't actually go anywhere. I looked up at one time and saw a hand poised to knock on the window and shouted at them. On that occasion I had to ask them to leave, which they did, but I was starting to get worried now. So this morning I mentioned this to Christine in the hotel and she said she would get a "Privé" (Private) sign fitted which would no doubt stop it.
Today was Midsummer's Day and I felt a bit tired after yesterday's exertions, so didn't intend to do too much. I spent a short while in the workshop fitting pedals and front bags and pumping tyres of the two cycles my two arrivals would require later, and then got changed and rode off to one of the other hotels for my (free) lunch.
Susi had made quite a thing about the dangers of a certain crossing of one of the main roads to get to this particular hotel and I wanted to try an alternative route avoiding the junction entirely, so stuffed a map in my pocket.
The day was fresher and cooler than of late and by the time I had eaten, what I thought was a very poor value for money meal, it was cool enough for me to pull an extra layer on as I set about trying the alternative route. The sky got very black and threatening and a few heavy spots made me stop in a bus shelter as I entered Hiersac. After only a few minutes the cloud passed without any rain falling and I continued.
It was a more interesting route and although actually climbing higher than the more obvious route, took much longer to do so, thus lessening the gradient, so I was happy to recommend it.
My two new guests arrived later than expected and it was obvious why. The man, who must have been 70yrs old but sprightly, had tripped and fallen over a kerbstone and had a nasty bloodshot eye and a plaster covering a cut on his eyebrow. It must have shaken him badly as it really did look nasty. He had been patched up by a German couple who had seen the incident. Both the hotel owners and I suggested he should see a doctor, but he refused as it had occurred some hours ago and he had not felt any adverse effects, and he was probably right. He and his wife had been on about six of Susi's holidays before, so they "knew the ropes" and were soon back in Reception for their aperitifs and their official "Welcome" chat from me.
My new guests had the intention of going out on their bikes today, but at the appointed hour of 9.30am it had already rained very heavily and the sky was a very angry black. Not surprisingly they decided not to bother, opting instead for a "fitting" session and a tyre change demonstration.
I had already got wet going into the village for some photocopying, and didn't want to repeat the performance, so decided today was the day to spend time in the workshop. My guests,who had driven to Portsmouth from the South West of England and caught the overnight ferry to Santander in Spain before motoring up through the Bordeaux area, decided they would simply go to the Hypermarket in the car and mooch around there for a while.
The man had broken his spectacles when he fell, so I suggested he take the broken ones with him as there was an optician there who may be able to fix them for him. When I saw them later, they admitted they had got a bit lost on the way back and ended up almost in Angouleme, which is the wrong direction, but the optician had managed to fix his glasses and would take no money for his time, so they still came back pleased.
One of Susi's ploys to get people to book early is to offer a free bottle of Champagne. I asked them if it had been placed in their room, which was what I had asked the hotel to do but it hadn't. Upon being reminded about it, they asked for the equivalent value of wine instead with their evening meals. This was of course, no problem, and I simply asked the hoteliers to substitute it for them. I left them looking at the wine list and ran back to my accommodation through yet another short but heavy shower.
More showers, sometimes quite heavy, quickly changed my provisional plans to go out after I had been to the bank to collect my expenses. Instead I dressed in my "civvies" (non cycling clothes) and got one of Susi's bikes out, put some panniers on it and went into the suburb of La Couronne for some food shopping as well as the bank.
Wandering around the street market and later the Champion supermarket I was very pleased to be approached, on three separate occasions, by members of the local cycling club who had all seen me and wanted to just say "Bonjour". It seems I am starting to get accepted as one of them.
On my way in, I noticed from the signs that there had been a cycle race around the streets of La Couronne the evening before and the signs were to warn the streets had been closed to traffic. I had not known about it or would have gone to watch, despite the showers. The cycling club members all said it had been good - damn! The showers continued and I got a bit wet on the way back, but not enough to force a change of clothes. My two guests had, not surprisingly, not gone out on their bikes, so I called at their room and told them of the Village Fete being held at nearby Sireuil that afternoon and evening and gave them a copy of the information sheet I had picked up locally.
Amongst other attractions there was to be a concert later with bands from Ireland and Brittany playing Celtic tunes and songs, with dancing for all. I made a mental note to go along myself. The fireworks display wasn't due to start until midnight which would probably be too late for me if I was to go out with the club in the morning, but I would fit lights on my bike just in case.
The showers eventually stopped and it became a pleasant evening, so after my evening meal I rode down
to Sireuil, but found I was too late for most of the attractions. All that was left was a very pleasant, but not particularly stirring, musical rendition by a choir seated in a Gabarre (an old flat bottomed boat originally used to transport goods down the Charente to the coast for onwards shipping on larger vessels). I consoled myself with a beer and a wander around before returning to find a wedding reception in full swing at the hotel.
The disco in the hotel went on until at least 4.30am as I could still hear the "boom-boom" of the bass when I looked at the clock wondering when it would end. Christine, the hotelier thought it had finished at nearly 6am, but I didn't hear it. It had certainly finished when I awoke at 6.50am to go out with the local club again.
Despite the early rise, I had to ride hard to get to the starting point but got there after they had all left - damn! However, all was not lost as one of the guys who had said "Bonjour" the day before had said they would be going south again, so I gambled they would take the same route out as before and that they would only go easy for the first 10-15 miles or so. I put my head down, got in as big a gear as I could manage and chased hard for about 4kms when I was able to see a fair way up the road, and yes, there they all were, steadily riding along. I lost sight of them for a while due to the contours and bends, but anticipated they would turn left towards Mouthiers and I was right, finally catching them after about 6kms (4 miles) of fast riding. I was nearly breathless when I got on the back and said "Bonjour".
It was some considerable time before my legs felt anywhere near normal and in fact I think that hard ride so soon after the start, before I had "ridden myself in" took more out of me than I realised as I never felt too good after that for the rest of the ride. The group stayed in one large bunch of about 35 until we got to Blanzac when the easy riders went right, and the faster ones went left.
The guy riding beside me at that point made it plain I was to go left! After last Wednesday's ride when I had been the strongest climber, I thought I would be OK today, but the standard had notched up a couple of pegs and these guys were younger and fitter! The route went due south and then east to Barbezieux and there was hardly a flat bit in it. The scenery was nice, as was the weather, but I was having to work so hard to stay with them most of the time, I didn't really have much time to appreciate it.
I was relieved that I was not the slowest, and we did have to slow down for a few riders now and again on the longer climbs, but I was not amongst the front runners today. There is one guy, who said I was to call him "Chico", even though his name is Jean Claude, who is a tough little rider. He must be in his early to mid 60's, not very big, but strong on the hills and also on the flat. When he goes to the front, all chatter stops as no-one has any spare breath left. Much to my relief we were soon heading back into nearby Chateauneuf which meant my suffering was soon to be at an end, when we passed the end of a small road with two elderly leisure cyclists waiting to pull out. It was my two guests from the hotel on their first ride out! The others in the group saw them and shouted encouragement, just out of friendliness, before I told them who the pair were.
I think the couple recogised me as I made a point of sitting up and looking at them, but in a fast moving group of brightly clad cyclists it can be difficult to pick out an individual rider. I knew I would find out later when I saw them in the evening.
Fortunately, of the two ways back from Chateauneuf, one hard, one easy, they chose the easy one, but that still had a climb hard enough to drop one man by a couple of hundred yards, so I wasn't the only one feeling it today. Checking the bike computer after I got home I realised we had averaged 18mph for the non stop 66miles in hilly country, so no wonder I felt tired.
The afternoon was spent lazing around as I was really quite tired, but as time went on so did the sun go in and the sky start to look threatening again with the feel of an approaching storm brewing. I thought I ought to move my wet washing under the shelter of the eaves of my hut, but reckoned I would be OK and went for a kitchen meal with the staff. Having to then run back on a full stomach after dinner to move the washing in out of the rain that came on immediately after dinner did not do good things for my digestion!
Views expressed in letters, articles or editorial are not necessarily those of the CTC or the Leicestershire & Rutland DA.
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