Getting up at 4:15am is never the easiest of things, but it was made easier for my knowing that the stuff to make myself two bacon and egg rolls was all laid out and easy to hand in kitchen. And made even easier knowing a friend was coming to pick me up at five so I didn’t have to think about cycling to catch an early train.
The drive down to Hyde Park was lovely, and so little traffic on the road that we were surprised to find ourselves among the first to arrive. Before the support crew, even. Soon enough though, the little car park was beginning to fill up with cyclists of all shapes and sizes 29 of us in all. (Four had needed to withdraw because of injury.)
Getting such a large group out of Central London took quite some time as of course we’d be split into two or even three groups at every set of traffic lights – and there are many. After the first ten miles my Garmin was showing an average speed of less than 6mph. (The same of course would be true for all the cars grinding their way through all this lights.)
But the route out to that first cafe in Kent seemed easier than it had a fortnight ago. For one thing, we had sunshine. We hadn’t officially split onto ‘groups’ but at one point I found myself leading a small party with the others nowhere to be seen. Not quite sure what happened, but I think we’d overshot a turning and my Garmin had re-routed itself. Slightly worrying at first, but the net result was that we reached the cafe first. Changing the settings on everyone’s Garmins should mean that doesn’t happen again. A third bacon and egg roll of the day and I was ready for more.
Unfortunately the next section involved something I’d really hopes we’d avoid: rain. And it was a really cold rain. Freezing. Didn’t last too long, but was not pleasant at all. And in the rain we managed to loose a small group, too. (Don’t worry, we did find them eventually.)
And of course there were hills to contend with. Lots of hills. I really, really, chuffed to report that this year I made it up every one of the hills. Some really nasty ones, too. Those of you who have done London to Brighton will remember Ditchling Beacon at the end. Worse than that. Just saying.
Lunch break was a picnic lunch from the back of the support van in a pub car park, thankfully in the sunshine, and we were off again.
Keeping such a big group together hasn’t proved easy, and the ride leader was keen for us to push on to Dover. You may recall we were aiming to get there for half past four. Ahem. Seven o’clock. Three or four punctures, a couple more incidents of loosing people. That sort of thing.
Being so late, most of us ate on the ferry. With the crossing time, and changing the clocks for France, we weren’t getting to the hotel until 10:30. But the hotel had arranged for the kitchen at a nearby restaurant to stay open especially for us, so we all ate again.
And that pretty much summarised day one. We’ve lost three riders along the way; one who was only joining us for day one by design, and one couple who despite their training just couldn’t cope with the hills and bailed out before we reached Dover.
Next stop Abbeville!
(Note: The lack of working wifi in Le Bel Azur in Calais means that although I could write this it won’t get published until later. I’d recommend avoiding this hotel, by the way; also no tea and coffee stuff in the rooms!)