How lucky to be invited to join the Redhill CC trip to Le Mans. We three, two Andys and Alan joined to comprise a 20+ group of men and one woman heading out on a fully supported excursion from Box Hill to the historic 24 Hour race circuit at Le Mans. Military precise arrangements allowed time for group photos and a comfortable pace to Portsmouth, and with the exception of Bexley Hill which kicks up to 18% we arrived fit and ready for Zizzi specials on the fashionable waterfront. Joining up with our friendly and adaptable support vehicle for food stops and a change of clothes set a pattern of superb survival and support system which included cooked meals by the road side, inventively constructed sandwiches, cycle maintenance and encouraging smiles.
Leaving the ferry at Caen we rode in 2 groups into a strong headwind, mitigating its effects by good rotations of riders. Unfortunately the Le Mans track didn't offer access onto the circuit but we celebrated our arrival with Beers in its museum and freshened up in single rooms in the excellent Ibis hotel. Dinner was a hilarious affair in an authentic Mexican restaurant where we were encouraged to drink strong beer, construct enchiladas and play games of swapping sombreros! Que divertido!
The next day dawned cloudy and cool and by lunchtime it was raining hard. Spirits were lifted by cooked roadside meals and some pretty scenery but I think we all suffered somewhat. Relieved to arrive at Caen we boarded our ferry ready for sleep and the ride home the next day. During the trip we three were warmly welcomed and made to feel appreciated by all. We are particularly thankful to everybody but especially to the support team and organisers that made it such a well run event. No doubt we'll see you all on Surrey roads – many many thanks.
Alan M (Addiscombe CC)
What a great weekend away with the Redhill CC on this year’s trip to Le Mans. The whole trip was extremely well organised with superb support from Ade and John and despite being ‘outsiders’ we were made to feel very welcome and part of the group from the outset.
On the Friday, we all met up at Destination Bike for a 1:30 departure heading out on familiar roads to Dunsfold and then on less familiar roads towards Portsmouth via the dreaded Bexley Hill! After an enjoyable meal in Portsmouth it was on to the boat for a quick couple of drinks in the bar before an early start (5am UK time) the next day.
Saturday was the 117 mile ride from Caen to Le Mans into a headwind but the group worked well together and in no time we were at our first stop 30 miles out, for very welcome bacon and sausage rolls. Onward to Alençon for more fantastic food from Ade and John before the final drag into Le Mans over the seemingly interminable ups and downs of a dead straight départmental. Re-grouping in Le Mans we headed for the race circuit for photos and a few beers. Great evening in a Mexican restaurant which included Ade organising party games involving sombreros, followed by a few beers in the square.
Sunday, respectable 9am start and out on to lovely country roads for the journey back to Caen. Unfortunately, weather was not so kind, cooler and with plenty of rain. Being a little slower than the others, Rich and I paired up and followed the route on the Garmin setting our own pace and meeting up with others at the regular feed stops. Arriving in Caen we were welcomed by beer and wine and a final superb meal from the support guys before heading for the boat.
Monday, cafe stop for breakfast in Portsmouth and then homeward. Final feed stop in Midhurst and then choice of Bexley Hill or going around – no contest – went around! Arrived home in the afternoon with very tired legs and 380 miles on the clock.
All in all, it really was an excellent four days away, with the good humour and friendliness of everyone from the Redhill CC making it outstanding. Special thanks of course, to Ade and John for the support along the route, nothing was too much trouble for them. Thanks also to Pete and Andy for organising the trip and for inviting us along and lastly thanks to all those who kept me company at times when I was slightly off the pace of the main group!!
Andy K (Addiscombe CC)
Several months ago when Peter Tootill mailed a few of us in the OHG asking if anyone was interested in joining a Redhill CC ride to Le Mans, I jumped at the chance along with a few others. As the weekend drew ever closer, Peter provided a very comprehensive rider pack with all the information that anyone could need. A little hiccup over the routes was soon sorted out and with bike prepared and bags packed I arrived at the start point of Destination Bike. Having met up with a few familiar faces and plenty of new ones, bags loaded on the van, we were soon on our way in two groups. Initial routing was on well known routes down to Midhurst for coffee before continuing on over a few sharpish hills down into Portsmouth where John and Ade were waiting with the van to let us get changed for our booked meal in Zizzi’s. After a fair bit of banter, beer and food, it was time to ride to the ferry for another chinwag and more beer. The early morning arrival revealed a pretty overcast sky but thankfully no rain. Once again split into two groups, we maintained a good pace to our first stop where John and Ade provided a welcome breakfast before we moved on a few more miles for a coffee stop. By this time, the clouds had started to break up but we held on to a nagging headwind for the rest of the day.
For me, the next section of the ride was the most enjoyable. We had a good group that rotated round well and kept a good pace up for the 35 miles to lunch where John and Ade had laid on a fantastic spread for lunch in Alencon. It may only have been a supermarket car park, but we had a grassy bank to sit on and watch the world go by. The remainder of the ride to Le Mans was predictably dead straight and undulating still into the steady head wind, so arrival at Le Mans and more refreshments and photo shoot was most welcome. A few more miles saw us arrive at the 24 hour circuit start with a beer and more photos before returning to our hotel for a quick shower and off to a Mexican for more beer, food and sombrero games (didn’t know they existed but obviously Ade is an expert!).
Breakfast was taken in the hotel before departing back to Caen. Unfortunately, the dire forecast of heavy rain eventually proved to be correct and the greater part of the journey was ridden staring at the ground or the wheel in front. This was a shame as the route back was a good one. Once again, John and Ade did a sterling job looking after us, and the hot meal they provided for lunch was most welcome (and needed). Most of us took the opportunity to change clothes to at least be dry for a short period. The last few miles to the ferry were hard going as the rain abated but the temperature dropped to single figures. John and Ade had set up camp in a car park and were busily cooking another meal for us as we retired to a local bar for some beer and warmth. It was a relief to get on the ferry and out of soaking wet kit before a quick shower. A few beers in the bar followed by bed for some of us while others made sure the bar staff were kept busy into the early hours. Arrival at Portsmouth was swiftly followed by a slap up breakfast before the ride home in decent weather (still a nagging head wind) another coffee stop in Midhurst before the last blast home.
It goes without saying that a trip like this requires a fair bit of organising so a massive well done to all those who got it to happen. The biggest thank you goes to John and Ade for there tireless efforts in setting up all the various stops and keeping us fuelled for the whole journey. Also a big thanks to those wheels I had to hide behind on the way back! A fantastic weekend’s ride thanks to everyone’s camaraderie. Well done RCC!
Andy H (Clarencourt CC)
Rendezvous atop Box Hill at one,
At Destination Bike, last preps done,
Wardrobe decisions, arm warmers/gilet? Off or on?
Sixteen and Charles, cleated, Destination Le Mans.
72 hours to complete the long quest,
Carbon cascade off Pebble, heading southwest,
Midhurst for tea, after the Bexley incline.
Chris Stone, de rigueur, the last in line.
Over the South Downs, heart rates climbing,
Punctures apart, up with the timing.
Spinnaker looming on the Pompey horizon
Support crew and Zizzi’s we had eyes on.
Sleep deprivation and recovery Guinness,
An early Caen start, the target within us.
Quiet French roads, Ade and John’s breakfast,
Still waiting for Chris to come flying past!
The miles receding, with temperature rising,
Too many clothes, Alencon lunch, so appetising.
Sarthe in sight, Le Mans in the pink,
Regrouped; to the circuit and drink.
Puncture Pete, the moniker had stuck,
Hotel located, and as hungry as …. (fill in the blank).
A menu of Mexican and sombrero games,
Eased the pain of stiff carbon frames.
Sunday saw wet weather gear,
As northwards we ploughed Chris at the rear,
Beaumont we passed, Fresnay too,
Parc Naturel beckoned after a climb or two.
Pasta was welcome after Superman changes,
Scenery and history on route to Putanges,
Sun gave way to a veritable deluge over the Orne,
Set off we must, at P .P. having sworn.
Headwind now to test our resolve,
But Caen was looming, as the miles dissolve.
Ouistreham in sight, and a century complete,
Dinner on the hoof, warm and replete.
Celebrations on board billets secured,
Gin and tonics imbibed, the cold inured.
Break of dawn and full English to fuel,
Northwards and home, South Downs to duel.
Roads that we recognised, rolled into view,
Stopping to regroup, a compact crew,
Onwards to the Milk Churn, sun all the way,
Garmin read 384 at the end of the day.
Here’s to the support and the band of men,
Who made it a blast again and again,
Here’s to the next trip in a full year,
Where and when? But definitely beer!
Steve T (Stratford-upon-Avon CC)