We travelled down in the early afternoon. It was hot and sunny and our trip started with all the forethought and seriousness of a proper expedition; our bags were stuffed with enough Lycra to equip a Tour de France team and our bikes were firmly anchored to the roof bars. The journey was relatively easy, no stressful traffic hold-ups and almost before we knew it we were circumnavigating the M25 looking for Croydon.
Croydon is a pleasant residential suburb for commuters into London - it was the location of London's main airport until the second world war and there has been much regeneration since. But we were more interested in the roads - in particular the gradients. We noticed it was hilly. We drove up a long twisting rise that silenced us as we contemplated what the possibility would be of riding up such a gradient on a bike. None according to Gary.
|Selsdon Park Hotel|
We adjourned to the bar - the air conditioning was working at full tilt in there and we felt comfortable. It was 4.00pm, we'd already had two pints - this might not go to plan.
As we looked out over the car park we watched more and more cyclists arriving - the anticipation was becoming more noticeable - the palms sweatier. Two more pints and we are watching highlights from the days stage of The Tour on the big screen TV - we are joined by Stephen who introduces himself and asks if we are riding - we enjoy some chit-chat about bikes and training before he wanders off to join the group dining experience in the adjoining restaurant - we didn't bother booking in for that.
At about 7.00pm we are joined by Dave who is riding with us - he got held up at work and then had to get across London in the rush hour - we go down to register and pick up our luggage labels and route maps - and that's it we're about done. We retire to bed early - its and early start tomorrow morning.
Wednesday 17th July 2013
After that we check out and take our bags down to the awaiting trucks, then get our bikes and join the masses at the front of the hotel. As you might expect there are delays, late arrivals etc and it is 7.20am before we start rolling out of the car park on route for Dover. It's baking hot again, even at this early hour, I suspect it will be tough by midday.
A dead badger creates quite a hazard to a group descending a hill at maybe 30mph.
Just another twenty or so miles to Dover - a few more hills and we're there - the last part of the ride is flat or downhill as we roll into the port and find a space on the grassy patch opposite the ferry terminal - now it's a question of waiting. Our ferry leaves at 5.30 - we have an hour wait. There are people arriving all the time - and a few in our bunch who are missing - as time presses on I hear the organiser say he will have to go out in the van to scoop them up - just then they arrive in, the last few cyclists, visibly drained and looking tired. This was a tough first stage - and we've still got a few miles to ride in France to get to our hotel.
Riding onto the ferry was an experience - a bunch of 150 or so riders holding up the traffic and making its way over various roundabouts, ramps and obstacles before coming to a halt just on the edge of England - The white cliffs were right beside us as we awaited to be checked in/on. The last few yards had to be negotiated on foot, and we were given a complete bay to ourselves for our bikes. By now its about 5.30 - the sun is still strong and the sea calm as we set off across the Channel. We get to the restaurant but there's not much of a selection and I'm still feeling full from lunch - I opt for just a sandwich whilst the others get chicken and chips. Add on the hour time difference and it's near enough 7.30pm by the time we get off the boat in Calais. Then its a ride of about 5 miles to our hotel - This one has air-conditioned rooms (hooray!) - We queue for our room passes, get our bikes sorted, find our bags, get showered and its bed time - no time or energy for a drink at the bar - just need sleep!
Max speed: 30.1 mph
Height gained: 4859ft
Max temperature - 104f
Calories used: 7582