Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Londres-Paris - fin

Well.  That's that, then.  520km in three days, over some of the biggest hills in Southern England and Northern France, through torrential thunderstorms and 30-degree heat and finally an emotion-charged ride into Paris and the Eiffel Tower, roads closed, gendarmes blowing whistles and holding back traffic, motorbikes with their horns and lights blazing. A long, frequently painful, always challenging and occasionally ecstatic experience.  Three days later, random memories are probably all I can manage. 

  • The sheer, grinding slog of dragging bike and body up the long final hill into Dover on Day 1  - after 170k in the saddle on a blisteringly hot day, it seemed like the final straw.  Until logistical issues delayed us getting to our French hotel until hours after our due arrival
  • The remarkable restorative powers of one glass of red wine,  one hot shower and two dinners
  • British motorists shouting abuse at the outrageous affront of cyclists getting in the way and delaying their progress on THEIR roads -- French motorists smiling and cheering, French people coming out of their houses to cheer the peloton on.
  • The sheer exhilarating joy of flying through French towns at 40+kph in something approaching a racing peloton, with the brilliant motorbike outriders brushing your elbows as you take the bends.
  • The camaraderie that shared suffering on the road quickly generates, among a group of widely differing backgrounds, skills, experience and nationalities
  • The tears at the Eiffel Tower from some of our team, strong, tough blokes riding in memory of a friend lost to leukaemia
  • The torrential, relentless rain that appeared seemingly from nowhere on Day 2, coating everything with a fine mixture of what the early US pros called Flemish Toothpaste - rainwater, agrochemicals and cowdung.  The wrong day to wear white shorts
  • Learning a whole new language -- Australian pro.  Examples:   "Rolling" - bloody hilly.  "A bit lumpy" - really bloody hilly.  "A sporting challenge" - absolutely f****ing vertical.
  • The enduring mystery of why triathletes can't hold a bloody wheel.  Don't they want to make things easier for themselves?
  • The number of people who could tell you their exact wattage, power output and heart-rate but had never heard of picking  flints from their tyres after rainstorms.  So many punctures which could have been avoided. 
  • 520k and not a single puncture or mechanical issue, apart from one set of knackered brake blocks.  Thank you, messrs Casati, Mavic, Campagnolo and Schwalbe.
  • With ten kilometres to go, our team dropped to the back of the 300-strong peloton and tightened into a high-speed rolling pack of green jerseys. There is nothing, repeat nothing, in  cycling to match riding in tight formation with your team-mates through the traffic-free streets of Paris and seeing the Eiffel Tower loom unexectedly into view.
  • As I swung my foot over my bike at the end of the third day, I made a solemn promise never to do anything so stupidly demanding on a bike again.  Now, I can't wait to sign up for 2010.

1 comment:

Jason said...

Well done great effort!