Team Apogee 2012 – LIVE BLOG Part 4

Part Four – 140 Miles to Paris:

Day 3 – Apogee meets the iconic 1.1 Mile Hill…


Painter has morphed back from Alfred Hitchcock and we are up before the alarm but there is minimal movement in my legs and my derriere.  OMG.  While I have generally been above many of the trials, tribulations and mood swings on this trip this morning I am ‘on’ and not 100%.  My mood has nothing to do with Hitchcock.  If Carlsberg made roommates, JP would be it.  He glides around the room, has a great sense of humour (even if his jokes are not the best), is chatty without the verbal diarrhoea, keeps the place clean and tidy and even goes into the Tweedlles bathroom to deliver his black babies arm (No. 2’s) each morning.  How considerate is that?


I know that I can be complex at the best of times and few can tolerate me when I am so I try to supress my off day.  Maybe I got out of bed on the wrong side and if so thank f**k we are checking out of the Ibis Hotel today because there is only one way in and out of this bed.  We all meet for breakfast and compare aches and pains. The support sisters stroll in having enjoyed life in a hotel 4-stars higher than our own last night.  There is no justice in this world.


The organisers handicap us by asking us (and other fast riding groups) to leave an hour and a half after the majority of the 90 cyclists.  Soon after 9am we are off, the last group to leave. Jason, Barry or Femi must have put something in Campbell’s tea because he is sedated and in general so is the team as we embark on our third day of cycling – Unchartered waters.  I will waste no more time telling you how tough it is.  It is riding where every silver lining has a cloud and we just know that the price we pay for going down hill is an uphill climb plus interest upwards of 8.96% APR!  It is brutal but we are beyond giving up (even if the thought privately occupies everyone of our minds at stages during the trip).  We get on with it quietly and I have some thinking time as we navigate the French countryside… Too much thinking time!


It comes to my attention that the French Cow’s are ‘Street’ with a from the ‘hood’ attitude.  Unlike the English ones who cower (pardon the pun) and avoid eye contact through fear of being the next to the abattoir, the French cows stare you down menacingly forcing you to look away despite the barb wire that divides us.  No French beef for me – It is probably too tough anyway.

I also ponder that the RSPCA should do something about the humiliation of sheep.  I mean, come on; how would we like it if the government and CSA put a unique coloured ink on the belly and around the private parts of men leaving women to walk around in public the next day with ink on her back so that everyone knew what they had been up to last night?  It’s humiliating especially for those ewe’s I see with two or three different colours on their backsides… Slappers!


…I snap out of it.  Gosh this must be what Campbell’s world is like.


We navigate the ‘impossible’ hill with much difficulty but it is an anti climax.  If I graded the difficulty of the hills we have climbed on the trip it would not make the top 20. This relegates it to the status of just another bastard French hill.  By the end of the day we would have climbed over 9,000 metres since leaving Crystal Palace (that is higher than Mount Everest). How is that for a stat?


I struggle all morning as my mood affects my performance, everything is an effort but I just about manage to keep up with the Apogee peloton and do not hinder it.  We spend the journey to the 20 mile water stop in relative silence until the sedatives start to wear off and a giggling Campbell stops the 14 mph Apogee peloton to show us that a country lane was named Horny Road???

… Great; thanks for that Cam.


As for the rest of the team, Babafemi (One school summer holiday his parents shortened his name so that he could spell it properly before starting Year 7) seems to be in better mood.  He must have resolved his blood circulation problem. Barry has rediscovered his mojo and is back to his dominant commanding self, cycling strongly.  Painter is also finding it tough going and is only marginally better than me in the performance stakes.  We are sharing a mid journey crisis.  Jason remains our most consistent performer to date never far from the front, always ready to take the lead if the team are flagging but doing it in his usual understated way.


We get to the water break and without much delay make our way to the 42-mile lunch point.  Our collective performance slowly but surely improves and so does that of the ‘sisters’ in the support vehicle who suddenly realise why they are here.  The problem is they have gone from being Lord Lucan to becoming omnipresent like a Primark store detective. One lady cyclists travelling on her own accuses the sisters of stalking her but looking at her, that is just wishful thinking.  Barry has one of his turns complaining that the sisters only take pictures of him at the top of the hill when his face is contorted.  I am not in a playful mood or I would have pointed out to him that his face is contorted 95% of the time.


At last lunch with taste.  I am not sure what it was but it had pasta in it, cuts of chicken, seasoning, nice gravy and was hot.  I enjoyed it despite the 18 stone cook (in her flip flops) who looked like she enjoyed her own cuisine too much and needed to sort her bottom lip out so not to spill so much of it onto her T shirt.


Despite our shabby showing in the morning (to play on the Mark Twain quotation) “the reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated” and without rhyme or reason, just when many are on their knees, we produce some of the best team cycling of our lives.  Our average speed reaches in excess of 16 mph and our 6- man unit is powering on the 23-mile trip to our next hotel with purpose and power.  We pass all before us pausing only to pay respect to ‘Super Gran’ (a remarkable 70 year old lady from up north) who accelerates to keep up with us for about 20 meters before remembering that she has not updated her will lately and waving us on our way


We are impressive even if I say so myself.  Such is our confidence that we choose to let Campbell out for good behaviour to take our peloton forward.  By now the drugs have warn off and it is a rare poor judgement call by Jason.  Our average speed soon reaches over 20 mph and momentum takes us forward so quickly even the ‘sisters’ are having trouble keeping up with us.  It is crazy but exhilarating and when we reach the water break, Campbell still buzzing is crestfallen to be chastised by a few of us for taking us from 17mph to 22mph in 5 seconds. Campbell is clearly hurt by his sortie into the real world and led by Painter whose quote “in a bunch of roses you must expect to get at least one prick” causes most hurt, a few of us go and give him Campbell a kiss and a hug to settle him down again… After a short water break we lead him carefully back down the peloton where he can return to the world of happiness without endangering the rest of us.


The day ends on a high.  The rest of the groups are left in our wake and we eat up every hill that has the temerity to bar our progress.  We arrive, shower and are at the bar before the best of the rest arrive and are in high spirits over a few beers. We go for a nap before meeting for dinner.  When I wake Alfred Hitchcock, he is completely disoriented and talks utter bo**ocks to me from a parallel universe for 20 seconds.  He jumps up starts to put his cycling shorts on again and I must admit that I start to sh*t myself while contemplating running out of the room for self preservation purposes and to get help.  He shakes out of it – Phew.


We eat out with the sisters and Mima (the lovely Anglo Cypriot lady who we have adopted as one of our own).  You know that she is accepted in the Apogee ‘family’ as she now has to suffer from our banter with her tiny size 6, 4’9’’ frame becoming an easy target for Campbell who asked her how many laps of her bath tub she swam before joining us.  Tomorrow is the final day of our challenge and we are confident, almost arrogantly talking in expectant terms.  Everything still hurts but who cares now.  In 60 miles time we will be in Paris.


We stroll back to the hotel and here I am.  It’s deja vu all over again…   I am writing this blog, Alfred is sleeping – let music commence.



Simply Red