The Day with EverythingSeptember 25, 2019 in France ⋅ ☁️ 17 °C
Four years ago, on this very day, we suffered a dreadful catastrophe. After a challenging day in the saddle, Carol Yates slipped and fell in the shower, breaking her ankle. That resulted in a trip by French ambulance to the Angers Hospital, followed by surgery. Of course that also meant that the cycling was prematurely terminated for Carol and her husband David. It was indeed a dark day for the Ghostriders.
I did not want a repeat performance in 2019, so warned all the team that the day was going to be "long and tough", and therefore they must all take extreme vigilence. The degree of difficulty was increased even further when the weather forecast predicted "steady rain and raging head winds". Oh well, such conditions can either make us or break us. Only time would tell.
We made our way out of Saumur in steady rain. Once again, some of the team had donned their finest umpa lumpa outfits, so we did not make for a great sight as we started our ride along the riverbank. With 60 km to ride and, with unfavourable conditions ahead, I advised that we needed to just keep moving along.
We initially made steady progress, but so did the rain in penetrating every weakness in our cycling gear. I had already left off my gloves, as I hate riding with wet hands. The next things to go were my riding glasses. It was impossible to see through the wet lenses and they were only making it more difficult to find the way. Since the rain can have strange effects on my GPS, I had already wrapped it in plastic. That meant that it was even harder to read the screen.
Our progress was made even harder when we encountered the first of several hills. Riders went in search of the proverbial "granny gears". Ebike riders went in search of their Turbo buttons. Since I was still worried about the state of my left knee, I got off and walked. In situations like that, walking is often no slower than riding (and a lot less tiring on the body).
About 11 am we discovered a likely looking TABAC, hidden right in the middle of some major roadworks. We were relieved to get out of the rain for a while and get a welcome coffee boost. I looked behind the counter and saw that it would be possible to select from about a hundred different brands of cigarette, all of them complete with horrific health warnings. All I wanted was a biscuit to enjoy with my coffee. Surely a place as big as this would have a packet of biscuits ????
Just when I thought my search for biscuits was futile, Maggie spied a packet sitting on a shelf near the door. I went over and brought them back to our table. The picture on the outside looked exciting - the actual contents were anything but. All the biscuits had fused themselves together into a single cylindrical mass. I suspect that the use by date would have been about the same time as the French Revolution, but I figured that they were probably doing marginally less damage to my health than one of the hundreds of packets of cigarettes. They tasted like a mix of jaffas and toejam.
When we resumed the ride, the sky had lightened a little and we were tempted to believe (hope) that the rain had passed by. The sun even came out for a while, and we started to dry out. Unfortunately the respite did not last. The rain returned with a vengeance, leaving our team huddled together under a large bridge. This reminded me of that infamous day when Karlo led us along the Mullum Mullum Creek when it was in full flood. At least I wasn't quite that wet yet.
When the rain abated we crossed the bridge and stopped for lunch in the quaint town of Saint Mathurin Sur Loire. It was here that Carol Yates had done her best to leave her purse on the town hall steps. On that occasion it had been found by a helpful local who tried to tell Carol that it was safe in the town hall. Carol's incomplete knowledge of the French language meant that she did not quite grasp what the lady was trying to say. Carol explained to the rest of the 2015 team that the French lady was looking for her lost dog. It was little wonder that the lady looked confused, especially when Carol starting mimicking the barking that the non existent dog might have been making. It was a funny moment.
On this occasion no such dog went missing. We arrived just in time to buy our lunches before the entire village shut down for siesta time, and then we sat on the town hall steps to enjoy the sunshine that had finally made an appearance.
Although it was good news that the rain had stopped, it was not so good that it had been replaced with a soul destroying head wind. Since I was at the front of the peloton, I was working harder than anyone else. Unkind people might have commented that, since I was an established expert at breaking wind, I was the best person for the job.
The next 15 km were along an exposed plateau and the wind was so severe that at times I felt like I was trying to cycle through a wall. The speed dropped to below 10 kph as I wobbled along, knowing that we would be riding in that direction all the way to Angers.
Eventually Maggie noticed that I was about to expire and brought some of the ebike warriors to my rescue. It really made a huge difference to have some protection from the wind, and I could feel my energy slowly returning.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the ride was when we arrived at a river crossing and discovered that we had to propel ourselves across the river in a small bac (ferry boat). I had known that it was coming up, but wanted to keep it a surprise from the others. What followed was a wonderful time of laughter as small groups of Ghostriders and their bikes were transported across to the far side of the river. It is driven purely by human power, by pulling on a chain connected to both sides. It was an experience they will treasure for a long time.
Soon after the river crossing we entered the outskirts of Angers and rode through a series of old slate mines. We might have thought that, by this time, we had escaped the rain, but we hadn't. Within a few km of the hotel, the skies blackened again, the temperature dropped, the wind freshened and the rain came down in torrents. The tree we were huddled under did little to keep us dry, but we were actually having huge fun. It is surprising how times like this really make you treasure how good it is to be alive and to share these experiences with your friends.
The final few km into the centre of the city were a little hectic, but we all managed to safely arrive at the stately Hotel de France, right opposite the large Angers Railway Station. It was a relief to have completed what may well be the hardest day of the ride. It was even better to know that we all had a rest day waiting for us tomorrow.
Our evening meal was at the restaurant that was attached to the hotel. Although the food was excellent, the staff seemed to be making a point of serving us at the slowest speed possible for a human being. Eventually some of the group gave up and went off to bed instead. The rest were finally able to finish their desserts some time after 10 pm. It had been a long and memorable day, but at least no one had broken a leg.Read more