Well we finally made it. The last stage was 145 km and we made the mistake of getting too excited to far from the end. The ‘last 20 miles’ took forever mainly because we made mistakes and actually cycled about 30 miles! It was also very much busier than we were used to.
The plan was to spend the evening at Nigel’s friend, Eric’s house. As we free wheeled down a hill towards the beach Kiefer made a classic Kiefer comment: “Is Eric’s house back up here?”. After eight days We just wanted to stop pedalling!
Eric came down to meet us on his scooter and Jane was on the beach when we arrived which was lovely.
We had a wonderful evening at Eric and Violaine’s home with friends and family. Eric is very keen on Rugby but has just stopped playing and is planning a trip to Rugby (my home town) to ceremonially burn his Rugby shirt! So I hope to be able to return the wonderful hospitality one day.
We are flying back this afternoon. Just time to have some breakfast pack the bike for the flight.
It’s been a great experience and people have been very generous with their support. Thanks to you all. Donations are still coming in. We expect to have raised more than £6,000. Zambia here we come!
Onwards and upwards.
Frankly, today has been a bit of a doddle – relatively speaking. OK I’ve spend 6hrs 56 mins in the saddle, pedalling (add 1 hour for Kiefer) but it has been fairly flat and a day of contrast. We left Niort in thick flog. It was daylight but we had our lights on and we did do a short, but hairy, stretch on a French motorway by mistake.
The first half of the day (after the motorway bit) was the usual beautiful French countryside which is basically shut with very few people about. And the sun shone. We had lunch in a very small town, more like a village. But it had a Bank, a Post Office, a cash point machine and several shops but everything, except two shops, were closed and there was no sign that they would open any time soon. There was virtually no one moving about. This has been typical of our experience. For example, we’ve had real difficulty finding places to buy water (we get through a lot).
We arrived in Royan at around 4:45 to the sight of the sea! A bit of a milestone. We crossed on the ferry and did the last 26 km of the day on cycle paths running through pine forest parallel to the sea.
Looking ahead we have long distances to travel (142 km tomorrow, 139 km on Saturday) but are expecting the going to be good and flat-ish.
Back at base Jane and Dennis have been very busy and have received very positive responses to our plan to visit Zambia in October to engage the key stakeholders in the design of a trial of the ColaLife concept there. Our contact in Coca-Cola is also helping to engage the Coca-Cola bottler in Zambia. It looks like all those of you who have supported us in this fundraising effort will be able to see a significant, direct and positive impact of your donations.
Below are a couple of pictures of the day. The ferry at Royan and Kiefer on the balcony of the hotel where I am typing this.
Today was a long and very eventful. It had rained on and off during the day but we also had bright, hot sunshine and everything in between. Our arrival into Noirt was, like Kiefer put it, something from a film. 15 minutes out (about 7:45pm) the heavens opened and we weaved through the streets of Noirt on the dark and in torrential rain. It really was torrential – lots of it and with the huge drops bouncing 4 inches off the streets. A great experience.
Another lovely bit of today’s trip was the stop off at the amazing Chateau Tennessus for tea and cakes with Pippa and Nick Freeland. They are the people in the photo below (Yes I know the picture could be better!).
We cycled passed chateaus, vines and sunflowers and some lovely views. See the photo below as just one example.
On the stretch from Airvault to Tennessus Nigel received pledges totalling £780 which was brilliant and when we arrived at Tennessus, Pippa pledged a free night at the Chateau and so this has become an additional prize in The World’s Best Hotels grand raffle. Entry in the raffle is free but you are encouraged to donate to the cause! Please see theworldsbesthotels.com for details. The rooms at the Chateau are incredible in their the luxury and authenticity. They, quite literally, have to be seen to be believed. Many photos were taken but none on this iPhone unfortunately so I’ve none to upload at this point (sorry).
Tomorrow will be another eventful day. All being well, we will reach the coast and cross water on ferry!
Well here we are at the half stage and we seemed to have turned a corner. I think we all now think we could actually do this. That’s just as well because that is the plan and there is no Plan B.
Today was a big day with a great finish. We covered 155.8km (97.4miles) and have ended up at Saumur on the banks of the amazing Loire River. The picture below was taken at St Martin about 10km from Saumur.
The prize for the most improved 17 year old in the team goes to Kiefer who has found the first 3 days a bit of a challenge but today his pace has picked up. I’m worried that tomorrow I might not be able to keep up!
Nigel and the team back at The World’s Best Hotels have been fundraising as we cycle along. Please visit their web site to enter a raffle for free nights in London and Paris Hotels and make a donation.
The only downer on the day is that one on my gear changers has broken which means that I’ll be down from 30 to 10 gears and they are not the right 10! Still we’ve only got 2 days before we hit the coast where it should be fairly flat.
A real highlight for me to look forward to tomorrow is tea at Chateau Tennessus which is owned by the Nick and Pippa Freeland. I worked for Nick nearly 20 years ago when they bought the very run down chateau. It is now amazing. I haven’t seen Nick and Pippa for many years.
Thanks for all the messages of support. They are very much appreciated.
Onwards and upwards.
Given that this is a challenge, we are doing pretty well. The day was summed up with a comment from Kiefer. “This is a lot harder than I thought it would be”.
Kiefer went very quiet at one point today but one of my energy bars helped bring him back to life. Nigel got very excited at the sight of an open shop that he rushed in. Unfortunately both of his feet were still attached to his pedals and the pedal cleats only released at the point when he was laid horizontal, with bike, at the entrance to the shop. A bruised hip and cut knee were the result but nothing ‘ride threatening’.
Kiefer complained that his legs ‘ached all over’. This was interpreted by me as ‘growing pains’, muscle growing pains. He has no joint problems which is good.
Me? Well, the interface between my bum and my saddle has become rather blurred and the whole lots aches right down to where the pedals are!
The last 20km of today’s ride was in the rain. I’ve a nasty feeling that this is the way the ride will start tomorrow. We will see. This time tomorrow, if all goes to plan, we will reach the half way stage.
Onwards and upwards.
Euphoric is the word to describe our feelings after Day 1. We’d made it in some style arriving at our accommodation before 5pm with no significant problems of any kind. Today was a different story. We arrived at around 7 and the day had been very challenging. Lots of significant hills and one of our team members needed some significant morale boosting to get up one of them. This is not a walk in the park.
BUT the scenery was amazing. Lots of rolling chalk downs with beautiful churches built in the ‘Darthvader’ style – slate-faced towers which must be of timber construction.
The other thing you notice is the respect and enthusiasm the French have for cyclists. You’re given a wide berth – the sort only given to horses in England – and the sounding of the horn is accompanied by shouts of encouragement. At least that’s been our experience.
Despite the challenging day (and there’s another tomorrow) we have just been served the best meal ever by Karen and Steve at Le Cour De Lion in Brionne where we are staying courtesy of The World’s Best Hotels. It was one of the best meals I have ever had and I’m not just saying that.
So, now all is well. All the excruciating pains have gone and after a good night’s sleep we will be ready to the off again tomorrow.
To celebrate the successful completion of the first day (of eight!) of the ColaLife Participation Ride, The World’s Best Hotels has launched a Grand Raffle with big prizes! All proceeds go to support fieldwork in Africa.
Full details of the Grand Raffle are here. Good luck.
The MD of The World’s Best Hotels, Nigel Bolding, is riding with me and Kiefer Scott from Boulogne to Biarritz for ColaLife. You can follow our progress here. The live map of the ride is updated every 15 minutes or so while we are pedalling!
I’ve put the maps for the ride together as a set of sheets – one per stage – and as a booklet. If you want the maps in order of stage, download this file: Map Sheets.pdf. If you want to create the booklet (pictured) then download this file: Map Booklet.pdf. In this file the pages are ordered so that you can print them out, double-sided, on a non-duplex printer. Just follow the instructions at the bottom of the first page.