The breakfast room at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel is worth a visit even if you aren’t cycling 400 miles to St Pancrace in the Dordogne. The magnificent Victorian edifice with its imposing brickwork and high ceilings has been beautifully refurbished. It will see plenty of Olympic thrill seekers in just over a month.
There it was on 6th June, 2012 that we met our fellow adventurers – a greater contrast with Olympians as we stood clad in lycra you could not imagine. Will (Harris) the marketing guru, Des the awfully fit commando, Dan the Renaissance man, Ashley Bolser the Yorkshire man, and moi, the Deloitte RAB man. The task ahead, pedal 400 miles to the guru’s house in south west France in 4 days. Fascinating for me to explore back to back 100 milers ahead of Land’s End to John O’Groats in September but also a chance to see if cycling in France is as good as everyone tells you.
On hand were Dave and Maz, the Threshold support crew, armed with a woefully underpowered Chevrolet and a white van stuffed to the gills with sports nutrition, Garmin navigation devices and crisps (hope Greg Whyte is not reading this).
Initially Dan & Des were bewildered by the level of support we’d laid on- as Des was to comment later…. ” I didn’t realise I was dealing with the people that dragged John Bishop half way round Europe!” But in fact that’s the point of Threshold events however big or small we’re aiming to take all the organisation hassle out so people can just ride and enjoy. And that’s what we did. We rode ourselves in to friendships that (I hope) will last a lifetime.
Of course we made up a memorable acronym for the experience of riding in groups – I’ll let you do the grammar but here goes: Biking In Groups – Together i.e. we all started each day in a chatty speedy peloton. Individual – after pit stop one a degree of introversion descends and it’s a case of getting the miles done – this can be where little demons appear to tell you are bored/tired/stupid in equal measure. After pit stop two Together again as the anticipation builds towards completion of a ton – the last 20 miles is a sort of elated Sprint. Adolescent acronym or not, the point is that conquering Deloitte RAB in a group is a whole lot easier, more fun and safer even if you don’t stick rigidly together all day.
I must make out a shout out, as Chris Moyles would say, for Garmin – we followed the fautless Garmin routes all the way from the station to the front door – not one of us lost for 1 metre of it which is incredible. We couldn’t have done it without them or Maz and Dave.
Make no mistake France is a stunning place to cycle even in wind and rain of Okehampton proportions (in-joke for Deloitte RAB 2011 alumni). The drivers are respectful, the roads relatively empty and the road surface (God I never thought I’d write this sentence) to die for. It’s likely cycling on silk. But West Sussex has it’s moments too – I’m sure many of you have discovered this but 1 hour south of Richmond Park reveals some outstanding countryside.
Even in our groups we experienced different highs and lows according to our physiology. Even Des confessed to having challenging moments which made us all feel better . Credit to Ash in his late fifties who showed us all we have no excuse for declining fitness. His luggage strategy (60kg – 10kg of which was hair colouring) was much more questionable.
The learning for Deloitte RAB is that not every day will be Christmas. Train and ride with the latter days in mind and don’t burn out in days 1 to 3 when the pack is trying to establish itself. For God’s sake don’t replicate the Guru’s training plan – 2 parts gear acquisition, 8 kg of chat mixed with healthy dose of determination and stubbornness. To his credit, he maintained his sense of humour but the take out is put the miles in the fun bank beforehand.
I have rewarded the achievement by buying one of Dan’s magnificently restored 1970s Peugeot road racers -it’s a PX10 don’t you know. This will hang on my wall in memory of the life affirming 4 days I spent with wonderful people, supported by wonderful people taking in the sights and sounds – friendship and scenery are the real joys of this cycling revolution we live in.
And lastly a quote that sticks in my head from Dan, who we christened the Renaissance man because he’s amazing with his hands whether repairing or restoring bikes or building furniture. He confessed to Maz that he doesn’t feel happy each day unless he’s built something – it’s either a brilliant chat up line or a lovely objective to wake up with each morning.