London to Luxembourg 2017: dictation

London to Luxembourg 2017: dictation

Team Kendall edged the Send-Off. With bacon sarnies, not 1 but 2 support vans, a mechanic, masseur and team photo (starring a badly constipated Chard). Not forgetting the 25km less riding than Team Missile riding out from Missile Towers had to knock off before they could even begin to think about catching up with Kendall’s Cohort.

Fuelled by a few donuts leftover from the Missile’s pre-ride midnight feast and verbally abused by 1 of the Missile’s Roehampton neighbours as he drunkenly staggered out of the William Hill (the neighbour not the Missile) the mood was edgy in Team Missile as it battled the South Circular.

No surprise really when you consider Chairman Kendall (Junior’s) ominous designs for the Bicycle Moaning Collective’s Annual 300/3 Tour. Yes, there was the preferential treatment for the Chairman’s Cabal, but even they were not to be spared the ardours of a route that tested then broke, then broke some more even the most gnarled veterans of past BMC tours.

Not to mention the Bear’s newbies, heartlessly abandoned to fend for themselves by their host after the super-hot ride to Dover.

The London to Dover route, familiar and welcome in the unique way that it combines tranquil Kentish lanes with frenetic Kentish A-roads populated by angry Kents*, is nevertheless effective in getting the job of catching a ferry done. The only shadow cast by the scorching sun was that damn Danton Lane climb, never disappointing in its brutality or its picture-postcard view of the Eurotunnel terminal from the top.

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(Dover looked splendid too, that’s not a typo).

 

Don’t mistake this as a letter of complaint or an expression of dissatisfaction. To the contrary. This is the very ideology of a BMC Tour. And we’ve not even got to the Feared (in a good way) Day 2. Day 1 was still to be enjoyed, our BMC Life President had surpassed himself with a quality lakeside retreat (that wouldn’t disappoint an African Despot), to rest weary legs and unwind after the totally unnecessary and wholly predictable race to the finish line by BMC elders who should know better.

Only the most autocratic leader could devise Day 2. 200km gruelling, cooking miles across the Northern extremes of France. Yes, it was flat, yes there were peaceful canals but there were also grassy fields (to be crossed on foot) steep flights of stairs (for bikes to be carried down) crystal meth tunnels to be negotiated. The oppressive heat meant that the BMC was spread out across the length of the bonus cycle tracks, bottles ran dry, sweat poured out – creating a Thai-dye cycle kit of a fashion not seen since the late 1990s.


We’ll never know if those camels were real or a sun-induced mirage.

After avoiding a ‘trench-of-death’ and admiring the Missile’s solo chase to catch the riders he’d generously afforded an unconventional ‘half a kebab head start’ the post-Apocalyptic silhouette of Charleroi was a welcome vision. Towering, derelict industrial relics marked our finish line. More importantly it meant rehydration. Rarely have endurance athletes quenched their thirst so voluminously as Mechanic Glenn worked on the street, attracting a following amongst the interesting locals (that’s interesting not interested).

All that was left of a Day 2 that lived up to its billing, was for Dave-O to have his customary ‘Cycling-Induced Whitey’ and for the really dehydrated to head to Charleroi’s best Irish bar, surely just a coincidence that it was located next to the hotel.

Day 3 should be easy by comparison (if you could get out of the lifts). We even had a local guide. Not since Cologne had the Tour enjoyed indigenous participation. Erwin rode into town on what quite possibly (but was probably not) Cavendish’s spare Cervelo. With its gold chain hinting at superior performance, Erwin’s bike and fresh legs were the envy of the group.

The temperature had dropped but the total scheduled ascent had not. The route profile looked as inviting as a dragon’s back. Only the most heinous Martinet could impose a Day 3 that topped Day 2. 190km better. 3500m ascent much much worse. It was no wonder that the minions dropped their protected ride, it was every man (and minion) for themselves.

But as brutal as it was, Day 3’s route was cycling perfection. Where there was beauty it was swiftly followed by pain. Every mini-alpine-like descent, was cruelly followed by a punchy ascent. Big climbs. Long climbs, stretching for kilometres-climbs.

From ‘kilometre ridiculously early’ the notion of the traditional front, middle or rear group melted into irrelevance. The Ardennes was exacting its toll. Groups were strung out such that membership of any 1 group was a loose concept. This was before Ming the Merciless played his Ace: Montagne de la Croix (Dinant). Short, sharp and wall like. Not great on a bike, not great on foot (in cleats) either. Crampons would’ve been more suitable.

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Post the Wall, inevitably the first rumblings of discontent could be heard. The Regime was close to crumbling, with the battered Peloton reduced to eating 2-day old sausage rolls on the pavement, maybe the Generalissimo had gone too far this time. The grip of his iron fist showed signs of weakening as riders dared to disobey his authority and escape off the front of the subjugated peloton on the final awesome descent into Luxembourg.

But this being a BMC 300/3, when the beers started to flow in the centre of Luxembourg (after a few inevitable diversions), the Wall, the near starvation, the enforced captivity of a young masseur in the back of a van, the double ‘sting in the tail’ climb into Luxembourg was forgotten. Dear Leader that was the toughest 300/3 yet but it might just have been one of the best.

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Thanks to all the BMC Riders, Support Crew and of course Stevo for making London to Luxembourg 2017 some if the best fun you can have for 3 days (on a bike).

 

*Kents: residents of Kent, when positioned behind the wheel of a car, easily mistaken for….

greater than the sum of parts

greater than the sum of parts

Cycling is an arms race. Firstly with yourself. The amount you spend on your bike & kit only travels in 1 direction: upwards. Inversely correlated to the degree of self justification required to convince yourself that the rising price tag is worth it. Next it’s mileage. First it was a gentle 10 miles now it’s a 100 miles and at a 5mph faster average. So that’s how the annual thebicyclemoaningcollective.com 300 miles in 3 days became 400 miles in 4. No questions asked. Except by your wife: where the hell are you? You were supposed to be back Yesterday!

When at the Grand Depart you look around at the other bikes, or your fellow riders bulging calf muscles (some of them shaven – yikes!) this is where the arms race goes nuclear! But let me stop you there before things go too far. It’s a basic statement of fact: there will always be someone with a better bike than you, better kit and generally just better at riding than you. Unless your Bradley Wiggins of course. But then there’s Chris Froome. See what I mean?

The answer is turn the loosely assembled rabble of friends, some time colleague and someone who used to know someone into a high performing team. In a weekend. Impossible? Not at all. Teamwork is going to get you through those 400 miles and quite possibly turn them into 500 miles next year. Here’s how.

help someone

You’re feeling strong. You’ve trained hard for this weekend. The distance doesn’t scare you, no hill will defeat you. But unless you’re of a Time Trial mindset you’re not going to have much fun out front on your own. You’ll miss out on the banter, the funny stuff that happens when you get 30 people on a bike and you’ll feel out of touch at dinner that evening. So channel you’re athletic completeness into helping someone who’s not got their best legs with them. Take the wind, pull them along, give them encouragement. Not only will you feel good about it…tomorrow it might be you who’s legs say ‘non’.

 race someone

So you’re done with helping someone. You’ve got them through that dark patch and you’re still feeling good. Don’t worry, other’s feel the same. Search them out, coral them in to a crack unit and ramp the pace up, taking turns in the front, working as a team to maintain a blistering pace that would make you cry if you were doing it alone.  It’s great when the back of the day has been broken and you race to the finish line or even better look at a puncture as an opportunity to set up a chase back to the peloton, seeing if you can haul them in before the finish line.

talk to someone

I’ve hidden it deep in the screens I don’t want to look at on my Garmin, the dreaded: Distance to Destination. But sometimes you just need to know. Then you wish you didn’t. 100 miles! When the road stretches out in font of you like this it’s great to talk to someone. Just Don’t start with “**** we’ve still got 100 miles to go’. Maybe you’re riding next to someone (it is perfectly legal to ride 2 abreast) you don’t know, haven’t seen for a while or a mate you don’t get time to talk to much. The next thing you know it’s 90 miles to go. The great thing about riding in a peloton is that you can move up/down and find another ear to bend or story to listen to. Distance to destination: 80 miles.

share with someone

When we first started our 300 miles in 3 day trips/challenges/adventures I admit I saw it as me versus the miles. Then you experience a peloton. When done right it is poetry in motion, the riders in the front taking the wind, putting the hardworking in, then pulling aside and the next riders up taking their place and putting a  turn in. As you come off the front and drop back in line, you’ll notice your heart rate drop by 20-30%. The miles will fly by as you & the peloton cruise along at a faster speed than the single rider with a lot less effort. And arriving at your destination will be so much sweeter from working as a team.

 And at the end of your ride you’ll realise that however flash you bike or smooth your legs are, you’re greater than the sum of your parts when you ride together as a team.

 This year’s thebicyclemoaningcollective.com 300 in 3 was London, via Portsmouth (included the dreaded overnight ferry), along the Normandy coast, through Dieppe an inland  to Lille with a final leg onto Calais for those who just couldn’t get enough miles.

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