Team Apogee 2012 – LIVE BLOG Part 2

Wednesday September 19

Part Two – Heading to France:
Paris… Bloody Hell.

The few days between Saturday’s boat race and Tuesdays meeting to cycle to Paris went before any of us had time to truly recover. We assembled at the Queens Hotel in Crystal Palace just five minutes from the Wednesday start point…Big mistake.

None of us have ever been to prison but this place was Midnight Express revisited. Three to a room (made up on two single beds and a bunk bed) it is the sort of place that you would send your mother-in- law to.

Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb had settled into their cell by the time the rest of us arrived) waiting for us in reception. The Tweedles, Femi and Campbell, warned us of what awaited us. It was worst. In no time the three bears Evol, Jason and Barry – complaining that not only had Goldilocks or whoever else was in their room earlier not made the beds after using it but also there was no window in the room.

Too late to change our plans we agreed to go out and come back exhausted to ease the pain of our surroundings. Come 12.30 we were back in and the plan seemed to work. My cell mates Painter and Richard were asleep by time I got into bed and then all hell broke loose. The Apogee Version of Bohemian Rhapsody broke out with John on Base, and Richard on percussion. Given a decent pillow I could have considered stifling them both but no amount of pressure with that feeble flat bit of sponge in a pillowcase would have done the job. Anyway my life got considerably worst as coach loads of Spanish students arrived at about 2am and, 4 to a room, started their sentence at HMP Queens with more relish than we had. Barry called us at 2.30 to find out if they had woken us up too…

At the crack of dawn we are up and out of that ‘Hammer House’ in a flash and before long we are cycling to Dover. The London traffic is navigated with little comfort. The 4 X 4 mums on the school runs being the worst behaved of all truly believing that they own the road. One Myra Hindley look alike threatening to cut our lives, never mind our trip, short.

We are confronted by hill after bloody hill after impossible hill as we go beyond the M25. It is a painful first 30 miles and the discomfort of the ride is made worst by the fact that the other five have bot thick jackets on as the London Indian Summer kicks in. Our discomfort is exacerbated by the fact that Richard and Ev (the ‘support’ team) are on the missing list and about as useful as a wonder bra is to Jordan or Dolly Parton. The natives are restless.

The next 25 miles lulls us into a false sense of security as the English Country side blesses us with relatively flat roads; the support team turn up having enjoyed a full English, the jackets are off and Team Apogee is riding as a functional unit. Our progress almost become tranquil as I set a 15 mph pace from the front of the group and such is my comfort that my mind drifts to all the nice things in life. I am taken by the simplicity of English Country Life. The road names make sense have real meaning: Church Road, School Street, Farm Lane, Ashford Road, Village way, The Ponds, Black Boy, Lane??? Well most of them. Apart from the occasional smell of manure that made you want to heave, it is indeed a green and pleasant land.

At that moment, If my life was a movie, “Easy like Sunday Morning” by the Commodores would be playing in the background. The tranquillity is broken as Campbell drags the needle across the record and he moves to the front. Campbell either did not get the 15mph memo or has the bigger problem as pleaded by many a man to the magistrate; he cannot tell the difference between 15 and 18!!!!

We are ‘blowing’ at this sudden increase in pace and lunchtime comes as a relief. We meet some remarkable people over lunch raising money for all sorts of things from a gentleman and the man who saved his life by donating his liver to him riding together to raise money for the cause to a tiny Cypriot lady (who we would later adopt) cycling all on her own to raise money for sick children. There are lots and lots of stories like that which make us feel humble which is just as well as lunch has as much taste as men who wear socks with their sandals. We eat it because we must and we head on towards France. The 40 miles to Dover are brutal as we all cycle further than any of us ever has before in one day.

Worst of all the pain from Saturday’s boat race resurfaces to get each of us complaining as the British landscape constantly invites us to “Take a look at my little friend” with yet another hill opening up in front of us. It hurts and we are distracted; John’s hip plays him up – my backside feels like it is being kicked – Barry swallows a fly and considers sending a spider in to get it – Jason worries that the shingles on the roads are going to cause an accident – Femi loses it as more hills appear and only Campbell seems above it all seemly cycling effortlessly and enjoying his own company in his little world of happiness.

We get to Dover in bits, board the deluxe ferry and for 90 minutes we are lifted from the enormity of our task as we eat, remove our shoes and in the words of one Lady “Look like you are all in your front room at home”. Femi sleeps, I stroke my blisters, John looks for the Chelsea score, Jason talks to strangers, Barry lifts the mood in jovial fashion and Campbell? Well Campbell continues in his happy world while Ev and Richard continue to enjoy their jolly.

We arrive in Calais and there is a sting in the tail. We have got to get our weary selves back onto that bike and cycle to the hotel. I now hate my bike more than I hate Corrie, Manchester City, Croydon traffic wardens and fat people who eat Big Macs while dragging their feet wearing flip flops on the high street.

We make the dreaded journey – become cycling centurions (having completed over 100 miles in one day) – and reach our oasis. Never has a Holiday Inn looked so wonderful and the rooms are delightful, the sheets are inviting like fresh snow, it is bliss and we are all smiling. We are exhausted but happy. Tired but determined to get going again tomorrow. As I write John is snoring and whistling but it almost seems cute. Just for the next few hours we are all in Campbell’s world.