Monday, 29 July 2013

London to Paris - part 2 - Calais to Amiens

We slept much better, even with, or maybe due to, the background rumbling of the air-con. It was another early start for the longest day of the trip - 100 miles or so to ride. We wandered down to breakfast and filled ourselves with croissants, bread, ham and cheese - plus a couple of strong coffees and a glass of orange juice - once again our bags were collected and our bikes were out ready and waiting for us. Gary and I set off - Dave was having a lie-in.
The first three or four miles around Calais were easy enough, then as we entered open countryside the terrain took on a more ungenerous nature - it was much the same as yesterday - an unrelenting panoply of steep hill and fast descent - each seemingly worse that its predecessor. The sun was hotter still and by the first waterstop we were soaked in sweat. We guzzled the cool, fresh water with a zealous haste and sought relief from the sun in whatever shady corner we could find.

As the day went on the climbing continued, including some long stretches of steep, narrow paths, no better than gravel tracks with edges bare and unprotected. I took my eye off the road for a second to reach for my bottle and rolled off the edge of the road, just enough to cause me to lose balance and within a second i was off the bike - thankfully I wasn't travelling very fast - but I lost skin on my elbow and knee and suffered a nasty bruise to my thigh.

Onwards and upwards the pitiless roads stretched out with dawdling bends and steady upward gradients. Riders are flagging now, sweat-drenched, emptying water bottles over themselves in an attempt to allay the effects of the torrid heat, the July sun, blazing on full power. We hear of a rider who has collapsed - the rumour is sun-stroke. We hear that he's okay and is resting and hoping to rejoin later. This is serious, hard-core riding. I don't remember any mention of the effort required on any of the material that was sent out when we signed up? - But we're here now, doing it, no choice but to keep going.
damaged elbow

Our lunchbreak is another village hall - this one beautifully cool inside - we collapse to the floor along with 30 or so other cyclists - and gradually cool down our core. After a rest of maybe 30 minutes, we press on, the terrain remains the same - there is a cruel rise immediately after lunch, so that the effort makes regurgitation a distinct possibility.

Now we're passing along roads covered with a canopy of dense trees, the sun shines through creating dappled diamonds and oblongs on the road, but it's essentially dark and difficult to see the variations in the road surface. I spotted a couple of interesting wildlife examples - unfortunately both dead. A mole and a red squirrel.

damaged thigh!
As we approach our destination, Amiens, the road flattens slightly - we are treated to a few miles of consistent, smooth road - and then we can see the city below us, we ride the last mile or so along a track next to the river. There is a young man playing an acoustic guitar - 'Don't let me be misunderstood' is the tune. And then we are in the city proper, a few streets and we arrive at our hotel - a Holiday Inn, not as good as the hotel in Calais - but nevertheless a welcome sight. We don't even bother getting changed or having a shower - we are straight into the bar - our faces blank, frayed and drained masks whose physical resource has being pared down to the quick - remember the old film - 'Ice Cold in Alex' where the soldiers are crossing the dessert in a truck - dreaming of a cold beer at the end - it was like that - Gary renamed it - 'Ice Cold in Amiens' - and that first beer was very welcome.

We showered and changed and came down for a supper of spaghetti bolognese - we heard stories of people dropping out and being scooped up - we could understand it - the combination of heat and difficult terrain made the day most demanding. After supper it was immediately to bed again - the effort of all day out on the road takes it toll - sleep is what we need. Gary and I have had problems in the past trying to get home after a few beers, but tonight was different, no excess of beer just extremely tired and a problem remembering room numbers. I went up to the room, Gary was following in the next lift.  Gary arrived at 'the room' and tried the credit card room key to no avail.  Gary knocked on the room, still no response, after more knocking and a few choice words from Gary, I replied, we had a conversation, I opened the door and saw Gary's back to me talking to the room door on the opposite side of the corridor !!!

Max speed: 36.2
Height gained: 5925ft
Max temperature: 105.8f
Miles: 99.52
Calories used: 9286

Ice Cold in Amiens!

The Cathedral at Amiens

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