French Foreplay

Photo: We can’t say we weren’t warned (Photo by Louise)

With one week to go before Paris-Brest-Paris the ICC Day Trip to France offered a little taster of French roads and food. Setting the alarm for 04:00 was also good practise.

We met at Dover knowing it would be a little windy, but dry at least. Exactly how windy we were to find out later.

Sean, the organiser (centre, red jacket) confirming we only had 2 minutes to get going

To get to the ferry we had to follow the red line for cyclists. Not our fault but it took us to the front of the queue for French passport control. The cars behind just loved being delayed by 18 riders getting their passports checked.

Once on board in the restaurant I was surrounded by porridge eaters. As we don’t have them in Italy I treated myself to a rare treat. A Full English.

The day was to be dominated by the wind. We crawled out of Calais aiming to get to Wimereux for lunchtime. The ferry had been delayed due to the weather so we were already behind time.

I have never ridden into such a headwind. The first climb was more of a rise than a big climb, but was transformed into a slog by the wind. I dropped back to try and provide some wind protection for one rider struggling up, and sideways, the hill.

When I say windy, I mean windy:

The sign at Sangatte warned of 80-100 km/h gusts. They weren’t joking. Video by Irwan

“No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy”

Field Marshal Helmuth Von Moltke (1800 -1891)

That was true for three riders who decided to return to Calais for the day. They had a great time sightseeing on their bikes. I’m glad they salvaged something from the day.

The same was true for the rest of us.

Just like the pros, the wind played havoc with the peleton. We were split into groups along the road to Wimereux. Tom (the oldest member of ICC) and I rode together with me trying to provide him with at least some protection from the opposite an unequal force we were facing. The problem with the wind is that we couldn’t chat. It was too noisy and we had to concentrate on staying upright.

By the time we got to Wimereux all that was on offer at the restaurant was a classic Gallic shrug with a side dish of “Nous sommes fermés”.

We searched for an open restaurant. Fate intervened when a small group of us hit the sea front. We turned right and found no restaurants. We later found out that if we had turned left there was a restaurant serving only 50 metres away. This is what we missed:

Photo by Emma

Tom, Vicenzo and I ended up in a perfectly nice boulangerie for quiche and eclair. The French staff were charming and very helpful. We were helped by the fact that Tom used to live in France, so his French is fluent. Hence his ICC handle – Tom le Velo.

Fate stepped in again on the return trip. Enjoying the strong tailwind, four of us emerged from the group as a breakaway. It turned out we could all maintain a good speed, in close formation, all the way back to Calais. I took this as my reward for trying to help riders out on the first leg. Cycling karma. I really enjoyed riding at speed with riders who had the skills to do so. Thank you Anthony, Emma and Nick.

Our reward was enough time for a beer in Calais before the ferry.

Spot the difference. Maybe we had time for another.

Despite not being able to chat very much on the bikes, it was a good day out, made better by a great bunch of people. ICC prides itself on being a friendly club and everyone on the ride fulfilled that promise. Thanks to Sean for a great job organising the whole thing, and to Mike for driving.

The acid test of a day like this is the question “Would you go again?”

“Absolument oui.”


Rides: 57

Distance: 8,004 km

Average distance per ride: 140 km

Elevation gain: 67,954m (7.68 Everests)


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