Thursday, 1 September 2011

When routine bites hard, and ambitions are low...

These were my thoughts on Sunday when I got out of bed.  I could hardly be bothered to go to breakfast, let alone go bike riding.  MR wasn't on top form either.  But we were there, in the Pyrenees, the sun was shining, and we were going home the day after. It had to be done. So of course we went, just as I shall hop on the bike this Sunday morning too in Abbeville when, in all likelihood according to the forecast, it'll be raining and miserable. You do it because there's no alternative your conscience can live with. And it's nearly always worth it. Last Sunday the weather was glorious, the climbing serene and the descents exciting. This Sunday - with a bit of luck - even if we get a bit wet, the showers after will be that little bit more rewarding, the bonds forged on the road that little bit stronger. Deliberately seeking difficulty and discomfort is, in my opinion, a little perverse, but deciding to do something worthy or interesting or challenging, and then keeping going when it gets a bit tough - the payback nearly always outweighs the inconvenience.  It's sometimes tricky to remember that when you're frozen to the bone and something's hurting, but that doesn't make it any less true.

We stayed with a company called Pyractif, whose base (complete with workshop and cycling memorabilia on  every wall), location, catering, advice and general set-up were all superb. To anyone planning a cycling break in the Pyrenees, look no further.  Slightly bizarrely, we established that a) the owner (Chris) was once the trainer on a course attended by my sister in 1992 when both he and she worked for Lloyds Bank, and b) the young whippersnapper (a fellow guest) sitting opposite us at dinner the first night was, despite his initial diffidence, an MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament), a Conservative one no less (1 of only 15), and in the face of his denials, a putative leader of the Scottish Tories. He's 35, and is training to run a sub-3:30 marathon as well as doing mad cycling. I suspect he has more ambition in his little finger than many of us have in the rest of our personage. Going back to Pyractif, special mention for Pete, who not only gave us sound route advice, but also encouraged, cajoled and praised our efforts, and bore three nights of cycling chat round the table with good humour.

Thanks to Mendip Rouleur too, who did the vast bulk of the organisation of the trip, which all went like clockwork. We sometimes bicker away with each other, but I reckon that's the sign of true friendship. Riding with him is a pleasure too - we don't always go at the same speed, but his pace and riding are predictable. I like that.

Focus turns now to the London to Paris charity bike ride, which starts for me in just over 4 hours time when I shall board a train to London with a fully laden touring bike.  The ride-proper starts at 7 am tomorrow, when we shall leave the Novotel at Waterloo for a photocall in Gresham Street, prior to making our way down to Dover. We're spending Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights in the less-than-glamorous surroundings of Formule Une hotels (they make Travelodges look like the Ritz), in Coquelles, Abbeville and Chambly respectively, before riding the last 30 miles into Paris on Monday morning.  From there my fellow 3 riders come back to the UK, whilst I hop on a TGV to Rennes, then on Lamballe, and the 20 mile ride home (French home, never tire of writing that!) from there. So, there'll be a break of a couple of weeks now, with a full account of La Manche ride - the final one of the 4 events in the title of this blog - to come after that. The weather forecast - as hinted at above - doesn't look brilliant, but hey ho, what can we do but get on with it. We've collectively raised £2500 or so for Save The Children and Help For Heroes, and when we are wet and uncomfortable we'll be reminding ourselves that our discomfort is as nothing compared to the beneficiaries of those worthy charities. A bientot, mes amis!

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