On the hottest day since records began, the group left the hotel in Folkestone at 7.30am to cycle nine miles to Dover. The trip organisers, Sports Connection, wanted us at the ferry terminal extra early due to the French strike action at Calais; it was touch and go if we would be let on, but they were taking no chances.
Within ten minutes of starting out, and with the early morning sun already beating down, we faced a steep 1.5 mile hill running out of Folkestone. It was a hard slog, but thankfully the last hill of the trip. Once at the top, Peter Rook flew spectacularly off his bike, luckily landing on grass. Unharmed, he was immediately back in the saddle, in true Dunkirk spirit.
At 8.45am, the 43-strong peleton snaked its way past dozens of parked lorries to the Dover ferry terminal, where we then waited for two hours, before finally being allowed to board. Security procedures were haphazard to say the least; the first four members of the group had to empty their pockets of bananas, energy bars, and nipple cream – all to be scanned – before the stressed customs officer appeared to give up the will to live, letting the rest of us go through unchecked. This included Mark Kingston dressed as a Ninja Turtle.
We eventually set sail for a 2.5 hour crossing to Dunkirk. Everyone got some much needed food and rest while on board.
Cycling en masse off the ferry, we hit a wall of searing heat rising off the tarmac – by now it was 40 degrees. Up ahead, the road was completely blocked by lorries, causing another 45 minute wait on the verge, with no shade. Eventually, in true Tour de France style, a pair of French police motorbikes escorted the peloton and support vehicles past the blockade and out to open countryside. Sadly our new route involved an extra and very unwelcome three mile detour, but at least we were finally on our way.
Although the roads were completely flat, we now had a cross wind and continuous heat to deal with. The group split in two and began the 70 mile ride across French and Belgium countryside to Bruges. It was time to dig deep. At 5.30pm, the temperature was still at 39 degrees. Stephen Gould’s pack of jelly babies had turned to liquid. Participants in both the fast and slow pelotons were wilting fast, having maintained cruising speeds of 16 and 14 miles per hour respectively. With some riders feeling sick and Mark Teunissen experiencing heat stroke symptoms, the Sports Connection director was forced to consult with the team doctor as to whether to abort the ride and head straight to the hotel. Luckily, they decided we should continue with extreme caution and frequent rests, and a few riders hitched lifts in the support van.
Eventually, the first peloton came into the hotel car park at 9pm, with the second one arriving 45 minutes later – 13 hours after we’d left Folkestone. But as Anthony Temple remarked at the team briefing after dinner: “It was a hard day, but at least we are all here, in one piece, and not still stuck in Dover.”
Second Day Awards:
Best ‘Wheel’: (cycling term for most safe and steady person to ride behind within a peloton)
First Peloton: John Archibald
Second Peloton: Liesbeth Cruys
Incredible Determination Queen: Liesbeth Smulders
First Man Down / Flying Englishman: Peter Rook
Most Value from the ferry lunch voucher: Jane Parkinson
First on the Ferry: Patrick Levering
Best Peloton Communicator: Therese Burke
Wounded Hero: Warren Traeger
Today’s cycle challenge blog was bought to you in association with Kinnerton.