Barca 2 Preview
Cycling, England, Training June 29, 2022
The team did a last training ride around East Kent last Sunday. If they are not ready now they never will be. Fortunately they are.
As you would expect the idea was for the whole team to meet for final discussions and plans, with a little ride first. Sadly as is often the case the refreshments got the better of everyone and in any case no last minute arrangements needed to be made.
Dave will be thankful that other team members picked up his Helmet and Garmin which he left behind in the pub. Fortunately his head is screwed on so at least that wasn’t lost.
As is now traditional the team compete to see who can prepare the best cakes:
Barca 2 Prologue
Aylesham to Montreuil-Sur-Mer
Well here we go again again again, bring it on.
Woke up to a cloudy damp morning, birds singing and chirping. I was feeling a bit concerned, just hoping all the room bookings work out. It’s always tricky with a big group. I’m sure it will be fine, just me being a bit nervous. Naturally ‘Nothing can go wrong’.
First meeting for the the Aylesham contingent was at the Market Square. What a fabulous send off. Many thanks to Stacy, Kobi and all their caring family for taking the time to see us off, very much appreciated. Typical Aylesham send off – a big thanks.
Then we off through the lanes to Dover to pick up the rest of the lads adjacent to the White Horse pub by the church ruins, another team picture then down to the docks. Still the archaic procedures going through the numerous check points – finally on to the ferry.
The Real Start from Calais
Finally off the ferry on to Calais Town Hall, starting are little warm up ride a gentle 45 mile ride to Citadel de Elle de Montareuil- Sur-Mer.
We made a small refreshment stop in the quaint market town of Samer at the cafe de agricultural. We had to as it was raining a little! Lovely ride through the small rolling lanes, very little went wrong though a little puncture about half way. Later I took little tumble on the wet cobbles up to the citadel, nothing serious.
It’s a stunning place to stay and we have booked the whole place, so plenty of beds.
Eric was superb, very much appreciated mate, we could not do this without the support.
Barca 2 Stage 01
Montreuil-Sur-Mer to Puiseux-Pontoise
Up and Ready
What a great night and meal in the town we was in last night. The hospitality they showed and the love of our tour was something to be proud of.
Woke in the morning to the lads pulling together to make the best breakfast feast they could; porridge, cereal, toast and lashing of sweet coffee. Keith is trying to restrict my coffee but as usual I am rebelling a bit.
Hitting the Road
So we are off just before 8am. Unfortunately 4 guys missed the team photo. They waited at the main gate, but this was not the Captain’s choice.
The same as always it’s difficult to find our way out of the eerily pretty town. But once we did we were onto the rolling roads past the arable fields and through some forest roads. It was superb riding and we ate up the miles until our first stop at just over 40 miles.
Pitstop at Huppy
We all reconvened at the Cafe La Marmite in Huppy. You either love it or hate it – we loved it. All there except Eric who apparently had little accident in the supermarket. Let’s keep it at that for the time being.
Then it was back on the brilliant roads eating up the miles. All the lads working as a team and all coming together. The young lads Rylan, Linney and Cathal were up front riding like the wind and leading us out.
Lunch at Gournay-en-Bray
We pushed on to the pin drop that Eric had done – fortunately he is back in the game. He’d prepared an excellent picnic, Rylan and I had a few ice cold beers. All good.
Pin drops are markers on an online map that you use to indicate where you are so others can see and a rendezvous can be agreed – it usually works.Editor
On the Road
Then we are all back on the road for the final 40 or so miles. No dramas, just hard strong riding.
Everyone was looking for a pub in the last 10 miles, but nothing could be found. Dave Austin and I even rode all the way around a church at the top of small hill, there is always a pub by a church, but not but this time though.
Finally we found a bar 100m from the hotel, so normal service was resumed.
We didn’t have the lush settings of the previous hotel in this place but it is a pound cheaper!
Had a meal in the Chinese restaurant next to the hotel which was eat as much as you like. Naturally the lads were happy.
All in all a good day in the saddle
Barca 2 Stage 02
Puiseux-Pontoise to Châteaudun
After eating all we could last night I was surprised to see the full complement at the breakfast bar in morning. Fair play to the lads they are a team – all pulling together.
Little side note, nothing much was doing on the breakfast table this morning. Sunday in France is great! “We will sort it as Stubby” says “there is always a McDonalds”! “Not on my watch” I reply.
We left just after 8am through the urban outskirts of Paris. The team did well keeping to the traffic management, all that is, except Carl who likes to go the wrong way around roundabouts. Living dangerously and keeping us all entertained – absolutely brilliant.
Finally got out of the city and the lads are putting in some miles but at the same time holding back for us old ones. We were eating up the miles.
Eric pulling us towards the 35 mile refreshment break, and received some ice creams. Naturall the more riders had a beer – not keen on ice cream!
With two beers in my legs off we went. May be it’s not great for a team but once again, they pulled us through. Steve Richards is riding like a diamond. Cathal is marshalling the younger contingent to keep the pace.
We keep the pace up as we got into the arable farm land south west of Paris. Not much around – just the odd farm hamlet. Eric tried to find a refreshment stop to no avail but the young scout’s up their game and found the only cafe in the area. Pity they only had two pint glasses, obviously Bingo and I took control of them.
After getting suitable refreshed we rolled on to Châteaudun around 10 miles away.
We all re-convened in the vibrant town square where some kind of medieval fete was going on.
After finally being allowed to check-in – the hotel had beren closed all afternoon – we sorted ourselves out and came out for the evening. Fortunately there was plenty of choice from food-stalls are aroiund the square and we were soon tucking in. Naturally a few more beers were required. It’s been a hot day.
it has been a privilege to ride with such a great, strong bunch of blokes all pulling together and riding as a great team.
Barca 2 Stage 03
Châteaudun to Châteauroux
It was a heavy night last night for the Captain. I even got a telling off from Bingo: severely reprimanded. It’s not for the first time but when I get older I’m definitely going to calm down.
It’s Sunday in France so no breakfast! This team is brilliant as they dived straight into the van and raided our supplies. Great help from East Kent Foods and Billy & Tina. Thanks for all your support, the lads love it, you have been brilliant supporting our little adventures.
We leave just after 8 with clear blue skies and a slight breeze. What could go wrong.
Soon we were out of the town, then onto the first road of the day. We only had two! Not sure what’s in the flap-jack Billy or the home-made one from Cathal’s Mum Caroline but it made the lads crank the speed up, 25mph, then 28mph rising to 31mph on the flat straight roads.
Young Ronnie (showing his class [Young Ronnie = Rylan: Ed]) and training from his cousin.
To be honest it wrecked me. I spent a couple of hours on the back, thinking what am I doing, getting in at 3am in the morning and then riding with these young fit guys. They are great company and it’s brilliant riding.
I have to apologise to Glen after a little swear word when he offered me his wheel. I’m just not feeling it at that moment. Obviously it’s nothing to do with the fact he is from Canterbury!
When the the Moses clan offered me their wheel I took it with an open heart, even putting up with Carl’s insane banter was a blessing. Mark and Carl towed me back to Glen and Marc Tonks and I made my apologies with a wry smile.
I was back in the the chain gang and then guess what? We have a stop. I feel so much better after a little beer!
We met Eric for a little stop whilst a professional cycle race was going on. They were a bit surprised as we rolled by.
Then I got on the wheel of our own professionals Glen and Dave. They pulled Bingo and I through a stunning 30 odd mile run in. Typically Bingo took the lead as we entered Châteauroux then led me in for the stage win. The four oldest guys first home. It may be a bit different tomorrow.
Now we are sitting in the pub garden waxing lyrical about the ride. A truly great team.
Note that the following photos may not be in the right place or refer to the right time of day. It’s often hard to see what’s what! No worries it’s not that important. I was given no information on why they were dancing in a fountain or whether they got arrested and Dale stole the Policeman’s helmet or indeed why they were arrested by a British Policeman. I guess some things stay on tour.Ed
On the Road
Barca 2 Stage 04
Châteauroux to Égletons
Would have been my Mum’s and Dad’s 69th wedding anniversary today, thinking of you today Mum, lots of love from us.Dale, Keith, Linford and Rylan
It was a really heavy night again last night, doing 8% lager with lashing of pizza. We had so much pizza that we had it for the morning stop and lunch stop as well! All good. I just got in before it was time to get up!
It’s a big ride today 120 miles with 8000 feet of climbing – what can possibly go wrong?
We left just after 8am, not much of a breakfast – bit of coffee and croissant but plenty of a stuff in the van, including the pizzas from last night.
Not much climbing in the first section just a few gentle ones, so we made good time to the first stop. Once again a great spread from Eric. It was getting really hot, but some really dark clouds were brewing and sure enough we had the first shower on tour. It did make for some tricky decents though.
Marc Tonks had a heavy fall on a very slippery rail crossing, but he’s one tough lad and he just dusted himself down and got on with it.
The climbs were coming thick and fast now, nothing really steep, just long. The longest just over 6 miles. We also had a few mechanicals – Steve Richards with a stretched chain had a lesson in cycle repairs from Sharky. But I don’t think he took much notice! Then Stubby lost his chain on a massive descent. It only took 10 minutes to fit a new connector link – then back on the road.
Managed to get food in a truck stop, before getting back to the digs which are holiday let chalets. It’s a pretty nice place.
Very tough day on the bike, all the lads dug deep and put a hard shift in. Credit to everyone – well done.
Early night for me.
On The Road
Little Crash on the Railway Crossing
Trouble in the Chain Gang
Barca 2 Stage 05
Égletons to Villefranche-de-Rouergue
Woke up to lovely morning, if not a bit chilly, and bit of a good omen as the giant slugs were not about. I’m sure the guys would have got them in the frying pad as we where scrambling around for food this morning.
Off just before 8am as usual – bit difficult getting out of the complex – but we were soon on the road. Winding through the stunning Dordogne countryside. The scenery is out of this world, winding down the steep descents, then pulling up the long climbs – absolutely brilliant. The team is riding as a complete team and all is well at the moment.
We pushed on till we hit the first break at a lovely spot on the edge of the Dordogne. A stunning spot for a second breakfast.
Then we carried on to the medieval town of Altillac but found it really convoluted getting over the river and through the cobbled streets. Only the Captain gets lost and after 3 laps of the town it felt like a criterion which is what the cafe owner said with a smile. I finally managed to find the rest of the team, so we are back on our way.
Climbing up the otherside of the Dordogne valley, nothing too serious just 5 to 6 mile long steady climbing, though it was nice, with a bit of shade from the forest. Mark Moses, the most considerate rider on tour, suffered a little puncture in his front wheel and being new to tubeless he needed to be sure the sealant had worked! Not good having a blowout at 40mph on long descents. Carl is such a caring son he topped the tyre up then let everyone know in his usual mad way. We would not have him any other way.
Eric had pinned dropped us a location in the town off Figeac, around 20 miles away and the not so young Cathal took responsibility and called a refreshment stop in a quaint village nestled in the forest – good call.
As we were taking on the fluids, the call went up, roughly 18 miles to the end with 2 climbs. Everyone seemed OK with that, even Stubby, who loves the climbs! The big man is riding very strong.
On we pushed for the final section of the day the first climb had no issues, just long, and with less than 3 miles to go the lads relaxed a bit thinking that the final climb can’t be very long. Fair play it was only a mile and half, but very steep and over 20% in some places. Not what you need with 100 miles in your legs!
We finally crawled upto the top, only to find that the hotel had been moved! After a bit of messing around with the Garmin and phones it worked out at around 5 miles extra. Hey ho you just have to get on with it.
The young lads had sorted some beers out for us and were looking for some local restaurants, good lads. Though we finally opted for the local Carrfour supermarket next to the hotel.
It had been another very tough day. They only get tougher from here, says Bingo with a big grin. Sure the new lads on tour loved that, us older ones know the score, but it’s so much better riding in the dry. The last time we were down here 2013 it was raining all the time and bitterly cold.
On the Road
Back on the Road
Last Leg of the Day
Barca 2 Stage 06
Villefranche-de-Rouergue to Villefranche-de-Lauragais
Set off from the best hotel in living memory according to Conor. Bless him he has led a sheltered life. Fair play it was one of the best and provided a cracking breakfast.
We are away just after 8am – would have been half hour early but for the humour of our own stand up comedian; you can guess his name – Carl – true Aylesham character.
We are off as a big strong team with the youngsters pulling a massive wheel. They are brilliant. Us older lads are putting in the same effort but are just slightly slower! We are all taking in the magnificent scenery.
It’s very pleasant riding through the vineyards and beautiful scenery. It’s a pleasure to ride. All the team are riding great but you can feel the tension as they know that the Pyrenees are coming. It’s just the calm before the storm.
All is going well as the lads stopped around the 35 mile for a welcome break. Eric is ever present with a great spread and it’s coupled with a bar next door. It’s rude not to have a beer and a few joined in. Met a lovely couple from NZ. It’s great when you meet terrific people on the road.
We were off again with no big climbs just rolling roads eating up the miles. We got concerned when Mark chased the wrong rider down who was going the wrong way! The bloke was so polite that he took the lead before letting us know that he needed to re-route, good lad.
We stopped in a little rugby town called Caraman, Haute-Garonne, and had some beers at the JSC Caraman Rugby Club. They were excellent hosts and very proud of their rugby heritage. Good guys. They were triple champions this season.
On we pushed for the last 20 miles with easy-peasy riding burning up the miles. Before we knew it the Garmin says the ride over – good! Then we drank the hotel out of beer and so we were forced onto the red wine. When in Rome do what the Romans do.
Unfortunately Linford got stung by a wasp and he made a big song and dance about it, while his cousin mentioned he had a little bite on the back the other day. Good fortune was with Linford, his bottom lip was only swollen a little bit so his rugged good looks were not spoiled. By a strange coincidence it was 3 years to the day since Dale got a wasp sting to his eyelid in the Ukraine. Linford laughed like a horse on that occaison so may be this was fate paying back.
The team enjoyed a fabulous meal in the evening.
On the Road
Done for the Day
Barca 2 Stage 07
Cycling, France, Spain July 8, 2022
Villefranche-de-Lauragais to Alp Catalonia
Happy Birthday to one of the all time greats. Have a great day Billy and once again thanks for your continued support.Captain Dale and all the Team
Very hard to believe that is was a week ago, that we had the tremendous send off from Aylesham. All the best Stacy, Kobi and family – stay strong. The team send their love.
We had a great meal last night in a typical South of France restaurant with a game of boules going on next to ourtable. Rylan, the all round sports-man, was itching for a game.
All the lads were eager to impress the Captain and were up early ready for a big big ride. Not sure how many boiled eggs where comsumed – treble figures without a doubt. Linney did most of them!
We hit the road spot on 8am, even with Carl’s input. It was steady climbing right from the start. Nothing serious, but still up hill, with the impressive Pyrenees always in the foreground. We stopped for more water in a quaint small town? [Probably Foix: Ed] Then pushed on to the start of the only big climb. This was a bit serious – 19 miles up and up.
The only way is up, just keep pedalling, though some weird and wonderful stuff goes through your head, mainly why am I doing this?
The support from the locals was superb, giving us loads of room and encouragement. On we pushed in the red hot heat, up an up with little or no respite, it seemed never ending, only the amazing scenery keeping us going. Unfortunately Steve had a puncture at the very start of the climb. Mark Moses as ever in support, not so good this time, blowing the tyre off the rim, international rescue in the name of Eric on the scene, via Andorra in no time.
As we reached the summit, nothing really going on, so just pushed on, another easy 20 mile descent lovely just what we needed. Loving it that much, nearly missed a sharp right then followed the river? down to the Spanish border town, strongly call Alp, in the Pyrenees.
All re-convened in a courtyard bar, for some well deserved light refreshments, we all liked that much, booked a table for the evening meal and final night’s presentation. More to do on the presentation speech proudly sponsored by D & A Tree Surgeons in the next installment.
Absolutely knackered so over an out from your ever loving Captain.
Crossing another River: the Ariège
On the Road
Back on the Road
At the Top
Barca 2 Stage 08
Alp Catalonia to Barcelona
A quick run through of last night’s Tour presentation meal, from one of our main sponsors, prizes and names in no particular order.
- Mark Moses – Most considerate rider
- Glen Dobson – Loudest laugh
- Rylan House – Rider of the Tour, led from the front every day.
- Marc Tonks – Best newcomer had a great tour.
- Carl Moses – Kept everyone spirits up, in his own unique way.
- Dave Austen – Awesome rider with heart of gold
- Cathal – Not so young, but seriously quick witted.
- Mark Jordan – Very dependable, able to mix it up when required.
- Stubby – Great ride mate, so close to being rider of the Tour, pesky young guns just pipped him.
- Steve Richards – Another anchor man, pulling us older generation along with him
- Linford House – So happy to have relinquished the young tab, does loads of untold work under the radar.
- Conor Miller -Massive guy with untold talent, few rides with are development coach will bring him on a treat.
- Bingo – Awesome, always ready to share his vast experience in travelling or life.
Thanks to you all for a great tour it’s been a great experience for myself & one I will never forget. You all have made me so welcome & I really appreciate it.
Thanks again for Keith and Dale for all the hard work that goes into all the planning.Mark Jordan
You all have a safe journey home & looking forward to catching up with you all soon
We had a magnificent breakfast spread put on by the youngsters, Linney, Rylan and the ever younger Cathal, in their luxurious penthouse suite, always looking after the development squad.
Final setting off picture taken of this inspiring bunch of guys, very proud and slightly humbled to be the Captain and inspiration behind their fabulous achievement. Aylesham guys at their best.
Well that’s all the nice stuff out the of the way. Well what a start, bloke must be mad to book the accommodation here, 20% right from the start up a cobbled jitty then on to the unpaved road till we reached the proper climb. With thighs and knees screaming up we went till we reached the gentle descent into Barcelona.
Mate is was tough, even the the gentle tong of the cowbells seemed to be saying “get off your bike, get off your bike” but that’s never an option.
On we pushed, finally hit the summit 20 odd miles in, the ever present Eric there to meet and greet everyone of us, with are own individual requirements, Carl’s lashings of sarcasm mixed with huge ability to get the best out of all the team, brilliant company. Eric just reaches into the everlasting cool box with a lovely grin and says here you go might like a cold beer – dead right proper lad.
Well it’s down hill now to the cosmopolitan city of Barcelona, but on some pretty busy roads for around 30 miles. Fast riding but you need to be concentrating – not easy with me.
Our lead out man took a little tumble – Cathal the most gracious of riders hit a pot hole and went straight over the handle bars, bike OK, minus the snapped off saddle – no issues one strong bloke just rode the last 40 miles as if nothing had changed. Strong determined guy full respect.
The route went slightly pear shaped on the outskirts of Barcelona, over the dry storm out fall, across a flowing river which involved all of us passing are bikes over a river, then jumping across it, not easy, absolutely amazing that I did not fall in!
Nearly there now, through the farm tracks, then back on the busy roads to the Las Ramblas in Barcelona and are waiting for our reception party.
The younger guys full steam ahead, only just managed to pull the whole team off to discuss the ride-in strategy, well have a little beer.
We have only gone and done it,
Thanks to all – a great bunch of lads.
R&R Weekend in Barcelona
The contributions continue. Massive thanks from all the team. We’re all thinking of you Kobi!