Thursday, 7 August 2014

Going Back Home!

Alright then, you know by now that the mission was accomplished over two weeks ago, so why this post? Well, I wanted to give any of you poor sods who are still interested an update to how the fundraising has gone...after all, that was the main driver behind this malarkey.

Do yourselves a favour and play the song above...just a tremendous number, and as much as I love France it's nice to get back to the U.K.!

As you might imagine after the long day we did pretty much slob around and basically drink and eat like eejits. Unbelievably, what took (or seemed to, at any rate) up most time was sorting through photos and trying to get the blog written up. And that tardiness wasn't solely down to a superbly temperamental wi-fi (Gallic pronunciation 'wiffy') connection or a few local cold brews...actually, it pretty much was.

See, an iffy wiffy connection. Told ya'...

The following day was again a tad on the lazy side but we did manage almost an 18 mile round-trip to a restaurant and then a winery that Andy had visited on his previous assault on Ventolux in 2011. Amazed they let him back to be honest...

No desire to ever see Ventoux again but this scenery is always welcome.

This'll have to do pour luncheon. Tres bon!

Amouse bouche...appetisers...and local Rose. Les frites must be on the way...cheers!

Perhaps slightly charged by 'local produce' I gave it my best to cane it back to Malaucene and give my fortnight a decent sign-off. HR felt like 190 bpm by the end of those what, three miles? Wow.

Then it was a case of chucking the bikes in the back of Andy's much better-half's motor (thank you Tish!) and retiring for another steak and perhaps an ale or two prior to an early doors drop-off at Avignon TGV staion. Thanks for that mate!

1664? Mais oui. Le Chunnel not far away...
My transit was fine until I encountered Eurostar at Gare du was chaos due a computer outage and not really what anyone was looking forward to. Just as well I wasn't trying to cart a bike as well!
Strictly a First World Problem and by 3.30pm I was sat in The Coal Hole on the Strand with a very cold cider, waiting for my mate Rog and then a show at the Royal Festival Hall by Mr Burt Bacharach. Howzat for random?

How many songs has Burt had a hand in? More than a few!

One other daft occurence worth noting: when Le Tracteur kicked me out at Avignon I ran through a checklist while I waited for the on-time keys...whoa! That sudden cold shot when you realise that you've dropped the ball: I left my keys in my saddle bag that Andy was taking back to the UK (along with my bike and panniers). D'oh!

No drama as there is always a plan b, right? My long-suffering neighbours always have a spare set so I'll text Alison and give her a heads-up. In the unlikely event of that failing then there is a spare in a jam-jar buried in the back garden, so no drama.

Anyway after a while I get a text saying that a) my neighbours are in Scotland on a mini-break and b) for some reason they didn't think that they had a spare set anyway this time.
Ok, so it'll either be the buried spare or a brick through the back the event it was a call to my home insurers who confirmed that I was covered for just such moronic behaviour. Two hours and one drilled lock later and I was sat watching the finale of the TdF with my first decent cup of tea in a fortnight, hah-hah!

So to the serious end of things: did we raise a decent amount for the two great causes? Yes, I think we did do that as the photos below show: £2100 for the Royal British Legion and £2500 for Cancer Research UK.

I know that you've heard it all before but thank you.

Brilliant! Good on you people.

The Just Giving sites are still open if you haven't been able to donate and still would like to do just are the links:

I will give £10 for every £50 that you do. Aside from that, there is one other thing that would help, if you can do it...please share this blog and/or the JG links with your pals/acquaintances/enemies.

Before I wrap this adventure up, I am chuffed to announce that our efforts were recognised by the loons at the 'Club Des Cingles Du Mont Ventoux': myself and Andy are the 92nd and 93rd people to have completed La Bicinglette. Get in!
Also worth noting that he really doesn't mind that I have the lower number despite the fact that he bested/beasted me all day, hah-hah-hah! Never mind, no.93, hah-hah-hah!

The turn-around time for these certificates was almost quicker than my time up the mountain!

One final time...thank you for all your support and sponsorship. I owe you all a beer...eventually. Cheers!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Tomorrow Is A Long Time...La Bicinglette!

Just one of the finest covers by anyone...Dylan multiplied by Elv. I know that I've used it before but class is permanent!

Just in case you have come to this blog a bit late and saved yourself a ton of wasted time, here is a rundown of the challenge that we had a crack at yesterday:

Garmin recording gadget died just after the fifth ascent. Means I'm missing 40 miles and 5000'. Never mind.

It was to ride up and down Mont Ventoux 6 times within 24 hours, and you have to ride each of the three roads up to the summit, twice. This guarantees a long day out as the distance cycled will be 170 miles and the total amount of climbing just under 30,000 feet. If you complete the challenge then you are eligible to become a member of La Bicinglette: to date only 90 people have done this, although I'm not sure that I'd want to be a member of any club that'd have me as a member. Cheers Groucho!

Right, now you have a vague idea of what yesterday was all about, here goes with my version of it all...

Deliberately blurred to convey the sense of how we felt at the start. 0042 hours...roll!
The plan was to start at 0030 hours so we did try and get some shut-eye after a condemned man's pasta-heavy dinner. Sod's Law dictated that there would be a bit of a knees-up going on in the restaurant until the early hours which didn't help our cause, hah-hah! When the alarm sounded it was a case of sheer disbelief: we're going to go and try to do this, aren't we?

I honestly cannot say that I enjoyed any aspect of cycling up or down the mountain in the dark. It all seemed a tad surreal, as in "what on earth are we doing?". I heard a few animal noises but reckon our unique sounds and smells frightened them right off!

We took a punt that this would be a safe place to stash our water & food supplies. If you like to gamble...

Still for all that we did complete the first climb and thankfully the couple of supply bags that we had stashed behind a wall at the summit were still intact. We have water and food...get in!

First of six cliched poses.
There then followed a thoroughly unpleasant descent to Bedoin which involved one sketchy moment but we both remained upright and intact. Not much fun, and I found the climb a flamin' nightmare, only made bearable by the sun beginning to rise. Wow, what a difference!

Sunrise on the 2nd ascent (1st time from Bedoin and a horrible climb.). Big lump in the distance.

Seems close but the last few miles aren't easy.

We were so lucky with the weather...beautiful sunrise!
The last few miles from Bedoin are difficult as you can see your destination loud and proud but it doesn't seem to get as close as you'd like quick enough!

Second of six cliched photos...
From there it was a repeat: straight back down to Bedoin (at least we had an idea what was ahead this time) and a quick slice of cold pizza from a Boulangerie and then straight back up again. Still a loathsome climb as far as I'm concerned but nailing the the third ascent was a big boost as we had completed 3 out of the 4 hardest ascents by 0930.

It is a pretty unique and brutal landscape. I don't need to ever see it again!

You wanna see the prices that these snappers charge...

Third of six cheesy photos. Feeling a tad warm by 0930...

If we had the time to dawdle then this was ours.

Love this aspect of the whole caper.

We sped back down to Malaucene for a le petit dejuner break at our hotel. Those 90 minutes off the bike sped by and all too soon we were off and into the climb from Malaucene for the second time: temperatures would reach 33c on the way up. Despite that, it went ok with Andy dropping me yet again, hah-hah!

Truth be told, I was never able to have a go on any of the climbs and it was a case of "I'll see you at the top..." which was only right. In previous tours it has been roles reversed at times but whether I had expended more than I thought on the journey down to Carpentras or was just plain useless, who can say?

Fourth ascent (second from Malaucene) in 33c, and it looks like you have a wall ahead of you. And you do, hah-hah!

Cheapskate on the fourth climb...

This nonsense earned me a push from the snapper, hah-hah!

We were at the top for the fourth time around  2pm and it was now teeming with cycling wildlife. Loads of different nationalites, shapes and sizes. We even saw one kid being towed in a trailer by his dad. Magnifique!

Fourth cheesy pose...
On the the final bends of the climb there are local commercial photographers who will snap away regardless and then hand you their business card which allows you to view their capture of your distress on their website. As per, I tried to show-boat and this bloke loved the effort and had a laugh and then pushed me for about 10 yards. Think this may mean that my whole effort is illegal and null and void! It's the little things...

From there it was a fast run down to Sault to begin our first climb from there, and fifth overall. As a wise Bicinglette man said to me, "...fifth is nowhere, sixth is La Bicinglette!". Mozza is a tad mental though, to be fair.

On the run down to Sault. Lavender fields: do not be fooled for they contain stingy, bitey things!

The scenery changed again with patches of lavender fields which looked beautiful. Beauty fades especially when the various insects that the fields attract decide not to avoid you and either bite or sting. Andy got attacked first so I had a good laugh. I got done on the way back out from Sault so we both had direct hits from the little bast**ds.
Wasn't all bad though as it provided a temporary distraction from the rest of the pain. Genuinely, there wasn't a bit of me that didn't hurt. Ridiculous behaviour.

Freshest, coldest eau ever...beautiful!
Those final miles on the fifth climb really had a word...would this bloody mountain ever quit?

Fifth of six cliched poses- oh, you know the script!

At the summit we both wanted to head straight back into the final climb and get this over with asap, so it was another fast 18 mile descent back to Sault (with no insect misbehaviour this time) and then a ride back up to the summit together.

By now there weren't too many other vehicles or cyclists around...time was getting on but we still managed identical times for the fifth and six climbs (2 hours and 4 mins). Despite having recharged my Garmin at breakfast it died on me about 5 miles from the end so I'm missing some miles and height and then the last descent: you have my word that I didn't just climb-off, hah-hah!

The final corner. 12%. Bring it!

Cheers mate- don't think that I could've done it without you!
We reached the summit for the final time just before 9pm. There was the spectacular sight of an electrical storm off to the north-east and below us! Venotux was perhaps displeased with the liberties that this pair of Herberts had clearly taken, hah-hah!

Thankfully one German chap just coasted in a few moments after us and he was pretty pleased with his effort. We asked him how many ascents he had done (meaning today), and he said four which was good going. He reciprocated and was appalled when we said six. Turns out he meant he had done four ascents over the week, hah-hah! Bloke was good enough to perform necessary camera duties before we all layered-up and descended from the summit for (hopefully) my last time.

I say "hopefully" because I have no wish or cause to ever lay eyes on Ventoux ever again: Le Tracteur concurs. Been there, seen know the drill.

The most important bit of card that I have, hah-hah!

While we're here, and I know that I say this quite a bit, but a massive thank you to you generous types who have donated to these causes. Good on you. You know that I'm busting my balls out there at times, so it's really appreciated.

I will give £10 for every £50 that you do. Aside from that, there is one other thing that would help, if you can do it...please share this blog and/or the JG links with your pals/acquaintances/enemies.

I'm sure that it always sounds trite but I cannot thank everyone enough for your support both in terms of sponsorship and makes this nonsense do-able. To date we have raised almost £2000 for Cancer Research UK and almost £1700 for the Royal British Legion: good on you!

I do wonder where our money that we give does go and what good does it do, so it was gratifying to read this e-mail from Ms Madeleine Blower who is my contact at the RBL:
" very many thanks for your efforts here. Your £1673.91 is enough to provide defence accommodation (level access showers, stairlifts etc.) for beneficiaries recovering from serious injury or new disability, so we are extremely grateful for your sponsorship raised...".

Le cheers et merci!
See you next time. Maybe!

A momento of the misery, hah-hah-hah! Courtesy Le Tracteur...bonnet de douche!

Monday, 21 July 2014

It's A Long Way To The Top...

So I get my first day-off on Saturday in Carpentras and do precisely sod-all, which just what was needed. Well, whilst watching the final hour of that day's stage in the TdF I almost got into a row with a couple of Americans and an Australian who didn't share my anti-doping sentiments. In the end we had to agree to disagree and say no more. Extraordinary position to take. Eejits.

The highlight of the day was being able to enjoy some relaxed and delicious food in the sunshine...some things you just don't tire of!

Nevertheless, Sunday saw me set off on the 15 mile spin to the base for the next six days, Malaucene, which is right at the start of one of the three roads up to the Giant Of Provence. The small town was actually buzzing with life with tons of cyclists milling around, posing and passing through and there was plenty of people watching to be done while having lunch.

Post-lunch came the decision: to wait until 2pm and check-in and get settled and watch that day's TdF stage live or try something ill-advised and a bit daft. No decision at all is it? I set off up the mountain still fully loaded with all my luggage attached. How bad could it be?

Gentle start. Bon!

Oh really? Shame.

Billy Big-Time shows no respect in the big chain-ring. Lasted for 100 yards max.

You should've seen how much gear these loons were struggling with. Think they're still on the way up.
The climb naturally was slow but was doable, made more so by the occasional word or shout of encouagement from car passengers and other climbers. Tres bon!
It wasn't until about 2 miles from the summit that the weather closed in and went pretty horrible...hail, wind, cloud and then heavy rain. Thankfully somebody had no end of clothing to choose from, hah-hah! I did feel for some other cyclists who had been caught out: that would not have been pleasant.

First sight of the weather station at around 5km to go. A welcome sight!

And that's when the conditions changed a tad abruptly...

In memory of Mr Keith Spong.
Glad that I did the climb and even happier to descend back to the hotel and get showered and warm again. We'll be waiting and watching the local weather forecast to give us the kindest possible day. Right now, Wednesday looks favourite...

No forecast about shot legs etc...

Asymetric alright.

Andy arrived as expected at around 8.30pm after an 800 mile drive...he was ready for a beer and I wasn't going to argue. Good to see you, pal!
Today was a drive back up to the summit via the climb that I did yesterday and then a recce of the descent to the village of Bedoin. There was a terrific number of cyclists in varying states of distress climbing up the mountain: great to see!

A familiar sight. In trail and struggling to keep up, hah-hah!

We went out for a quick spin this afternoon and it was indeed a tad rapid...a walk in the park for m'learned colleague but a slight sufferfest for myself. Back at the ranch we discovered that is was La Fete Nationale Belge today, so it was obligatory to try one of their mentally strong brews. Duvel. Diabolical, more like. But strangely compelling...

Replenishing lost fluid. And celebrating Les Belgiques, apparently...

So today is La Fete Nationale Belge? Of course we all knew that.

We're almost in danger of having a plan now: we'll kick-off at 0030 on Wednesday morning and hopefully be complete by 1900. Top boffins have been sweating over the small stuff, as you can see from the meisterplan below. M= Malaucene, B= Bedoin and S= Sault with approximate timings. Very approximate timings...

"Men, we'll parachute in here and surprise Jerry here...the bridge is marked here."
Further prep involved the world's least complicated shopping list and a trip to the supermarche across the road. This evening we'll stash a couple of bags containing supplies near the top of the climb, as there is nowt open before 0830 most likely...

Are you sure this is how Team Sky prepare?
Hmmm...this all looks a bit real now. Keep your fingers crossed!

While we're here, and I know that I say this quite a bit, but a massive thank you to you generous types who have donated to these causes. Good on you. You know that I'm busting my balls out there at times, so it's really appreciated.

I will give £10 for every £50 that you do. Aside from that, there is one other thing that would help, if you can do it...please share this blog and/or the JG links with your pals/acquaintances/enemies.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Born To Rhone...Stage 8: Vienne to Carpentras.

Awful pun redeemed by a barstorming tune! There were a few contendahs for today's theme but The Boss won out in the end...especially since I spent a fair chunk of time paralleling the great river heading south.

Right then, you'll know that yesterday's jaunt was a bit on the extreme side, so it was to be expected that I'd have a slightly later start which in turn guarantees a later finish. Didn't realise quite how late, hah-hah!

There was a McDonalds around the corner from my Formule 1 dump of a hotel, so this was my intended breakfast stop. Great idea until you realised that they didn't open until 0900. Best they could offer was an orange juice. In 23 minutes.

Hell yeah! Right into a 9%er...
No dramas as there was a handy gasoline/boulangerie stop after that *expletive deleted* climb. What wasn't quite so handy was the realisation that the wind was going to be against me. All day. Still, it was only reaching 28c so why the kvetching?

A.N.Other village.

Come rain or got the wine!
You always keep an eye on the clock, not last because this lets you know when you may expect to have a pint...although this has been the driest Le Tour by some margin. Ouch!

There maybe long climbs ahead, but while there's sweating and sunlight and cramps, let's face the headwind...

The mighty Rhone. Some pretty villages along it...wish I could've tarried a'while.

Not dissin' Moto or whatnot, but our services leave a little to be desired.

Only 70 miles done but the realisation that it really will be a long, hot day- I saw 38c, what do you do? Stick with another few miles to Montelimar (which is a reminder of a  great track on 'The White Album'), or...

Just. Too. Easy. But still worthwhile. Bell-end.

Montelimar loved this caper.

Told you. '32 Ford?

Modern Art. 'Nuff said.

...go for the long one?

I decided to gamble and go for Carpentras despite the fact that it was gone 6pm and that home was 40 miles away, still with the wind and heat. Stubborn/ tight/ stupid. Still not sure!

Montelimar would be a nice place for a night...

Oh come on, give it some Dolly! "Bollene, Bollene...Bo-llene!"

Mofo was against me almost all of the way.
When the 100 miles mark came up it was a cause for minor celebration: this was probably the hardest one that I've done. Some daft satisfaction in that, hah-hah!

Yes! There he is...the big guy in the distance. I did shout!

Gonna need lights soon....keep turning the pedals mate...

Was cooling rapidly to 30c. Second layer needed? Non.

We'll wing the last 10 miles...go, go, go!
I was so slow that that I had to complete the day in twilight, but I took cycle paths and pavements so stayed out of the way. After abbreviated admin I legged it out to find hot food and cold beer: got 50% right with a tapas bar that were happy to serve. Cheers!

Sort that posture out. Top, cold brew!

Let's head the other direction
Safe to say that that was the hardest century that I've done. A walk in the park however compared to what some people are going through. It also puts an end to part one of this challenge- and it has been exactly that, no minor trundle just to get donations going. To those that have donated, thank you!

While we're here, and I know that I say this quite a bit, but a massive thank you to you generous types who have donated to these causes. Good on you. You know that I'm busting my balls out there at times, so it's really appreciated.

I will give £10 for every £50 that you do. Aside from that, there is one other thing that would help, if you can do it...please share this blog and/or the JG links with your pals/acquaintances/enemies.

If you've read this far then you deserve a is Dion still loving that belting song!