Thursday, 28 May 2015

The Fridays' Tour de Normandie 2015 -- Prologue

Posts about other days on this tour: 

The tour officially started 9am on Saturday in Brix, Normandy -- about 15km from the Cherbourg ferry. However, as almost all of the 31 people in the group were booked onto the same ferry and 21 of those into the same hotel (about 8km from the ferry) on the Friday night, Simon (the organiser) and Susie (his wife and co-conspirator) met us off the ferry and led us through Cherbourg all the way to our hotel. Simon & Susie had come over a day or two beforehand and were staying elsewhere (probably for the peace and quiet!)

Our day started at 10am when we set off to catch the train from Luton to Portsmouth, via East Croydon. 

Arriving in Portsmouth, we realised Olaf & Katarina, Charlie and Lee were all on the same train, in the rear "bicycle" carriage. We cycled through Fratton to the ferry terminal together, there to be met by the others making the same crossing. 

The crossing was misty but smooth and uneventful, with everyone finding a way to pass the time.

Simon and Susie were there to meet us as soon as we had passed through passport control in Cherbourg.

Simon (in white) conducts The Briefing, alongside Susie,
elegant as always with that effervescent smile.

And then... well, it seems no one has any photos of the hill -- no, mountain! -- we climbed to get out of Cherbourg. Simon had given advance warning on just about every elevation gain of note to be encountered during the entire three days of cycling, but he had 'neglected' to mention the pig of a hill to be conquered on the evening before the tour officially started. One minute I was fiddling with my gears on a slight incline, the next I stopped at a pinch point to let a vehicle pass by, then the next I found I could not re-start, could not clip in because the road somehow had gone vertical. A few meters later, I rounded a bend to see the road become a wall, with everyone off their bikes and walking. 

The climb went on and on... negotiating several cross roads and a one-way system, with curves and bends and mist that made it impossible to gauge when the summit might come into view, giving hope that this misery might soon end. 

Okay, to be fair... most of us managed to gird our loins and get back on our bikes after the initial shock. A few of us though -- myself and Helen included -- found that, in the street clothes in which we had travelled all day by train and ferry, we over-heated far too quickly. I couldn't maintain any kind of momentum. I reckon I dismounted, walked a bit, remounted, rode a bit then dismounted and went through it all again about three times, maybe four. Each time I remounted, I found the bike in too low a gear to push off without the pedal twiddling so fast I couldn't clip in. On the second round of this dismount/walk/remount 'cycle', Adam (who really was not finding this at all difficult, half super-human, half alien that he is) got off his own bike and gave me a running push up the hill, giving me that precious extra few seconds needed to clip in and start spinning. We did this at least twice. Finally... finally... we reached the top and met the rest of the group waiting. 

Oh and the other complication was my spectacles steaming up! I simply couldn't see anything in front of me. 

I reckon Simon was thinking 'uh oh, we haven't even started and already Rebecca is in over her head" but I chose to nip that thought in the bud by rolling up to the group with a smile and a thumbs up. Simon asked if I was all right and I answered "absolutely fine, just couldn't clip in and my glasses steamed up"... which, I must stress, was The Truth. (I think.)

A gently rolling and very pleasant few kilometers later and we arrived at the Ibis La Glacerie hotel. I know this was atop a hill but there were no views due to the fog and low cloud. 

The hotel staff were just brilliant -- all of our bikes went indoors. 

An hour later, showered and changed, it was time for pre-Tour drinks and chat in the bar. 

the first ciders in the Land of Cider

To bed by 11pm. Our room was small and basic but clean with everything we needed. I would not normally mention that the bed was too hard and the pillow too soft but as this turned out to be the case in every single hotel and B&B in which we stayed, in hindsight it does bear mentioning, especially as the sleep deficit that accumulated over the following days was the trigger for a migraine in the wee hours of the last day.


  1. I have always wondered about the very firm beds. I have found this to be the case in many places if stayed over. I have to wonder if it is due to the owner believing that the mattress will last longer?

    I'm sorry to hear that you were unable to get proper rest though as I'm sure that couldn't have helped anything... and that hill to start! That just seems cruel. I'm glad you were able to make it up though. I've been in similar situations, even though I don't clip in. It's difficult to get going on such a steep hill once I'm stopped... it's why I try with all my might to not stop moving. Most of the time I just kill myself trying to get to the top, but occasionally I end up having to walk the rest of the way because I just can't get back to pedaling.

    Looks like a fun group you're riding with. I can't recall if you've mentioned this, but is it a group you usually ride with, or were these more unknowns prior to the ride?

  2. Glad I'm not the only one with the problem re-starting on hills! Apparently the "my glasses steamed up" was the more believable of the two, reasons I gave.

    Yep, all friends -- die hard regulars from the Friday Night Ride to the Coast rides. A few were little more than names & faces before this trip but that's been remedied. :)

    1. You are definitely not alone! I always thought it was my weak/injured back, but I think it's just the reality of being on a very steep hill at a dead stop.

      I don't like it when my glasses steam up either. It's usually fine as long as I'm moving, but in a situation like this one, where I'd be moving very, very slowly, it does happen.

      That is really cool to have a bunch of friends along for the ride - and even better that you know them all better now. :O)


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