For the first time on this tour I arrived at breakfast in ‘civies’ and not cycling kit…. all felt a bit weird (another example of how institutionalised we have all become without realising) 🤤not the best , but by far from the worst showing food wise ; I managed to employ my marmite sachets effectively much to the envy of many of the other TDF ers 😁
The tour stage begins where the first tour started ….we begin a little further away and do a very different route as we’re ‘only’ doing one full circuit of the the champs Elise (most are disappointed at this news but having done it before i know it’s a shit fest and one that most will find more than a little alarming!!!
We stop for our normal (not needed today) food stop and then ride to Versaiilles for the first chance for the friends and family to connect with the group. We are early but most are there including Andrew’s wife Penny with champagne and cannapes…fabulous:-)
Then we ride into Paris proper which is a lot quieter than usual as a result of it being the bank holiday weekend after Bastille day ,which is a blessing😏
more family and photos at the tour Eiffel and then up the champs Elise for pictures at the L’arc de triomphe ….a select few, me included….obviously ,
then went hell for leather on a single circuit with the traffic which made it a mental critirium ride smashing massive efforts then stopping for lights then smashing it again … brilliant and even over the cobbles the pin never missed a beat … it’s behaved perfectly throughout … the perfect companion …merci pinerello finally je t’aime 🙂
Having worked relatively well the WiFi or my ability to master it has vanished so I’m stuck in visual limbo with pictures I want to upload freezing the screen…. nothing else for it I’m afraid than to write more…. sorry folks😄
The final evening was spent aboard a bataux mouche which I’ve never done and as we drew up to the quay i felt an ominous sense of just why that was… however having semi boarded the wrong boat we did eventually embark on our rivet cruise with champagne and a warm evening which meant we were above deck drinking to our collective achievement.
Many of the family and friends that had appeared during the day were with us and the evident tenseness indelibly etched into our faces was easing along with our general demeanour which could only mean the journey was very nearly at an end.
Round tables… strangely a rarity on this trip (The second appearance I think) were the order of the evening and somehow despite feeling that I had managed to irritate many of the riders with my incessant need to win I was in the unique position of having places reserved on 2 separate tables…. not without its potential issues. I plumped for the non ‘Andrew and Penny’ table as I will see them next weekend for his 50 th birthday celebrations . the food and service were also better than expected with the added entertainment of pouring your own Leffe(strong Belgian beer that requires the glass to be cooled prior to pouring so that you don’t end up with a head and no beer)….we were given plastic glasses and no cooling mechanism….. it was frothy man!!!
Rick Wates gave a thank you speech which was very polished managing to touch all aspects of the tour despite only being present at the start and finish….a practised art me thinks😏.Alarmingly he chose to quote a lengthy passage from my blog mid speech which came out of the blue and to ram the sense of embarrassment home he even attributed it to me🤤🤤🤤😉
A series of mini thank you speeches followed ; all well received and then the fantastic ‘Travis’ stood(as best he could with his knackered achillies) and presented by far the most enigmatic speech of the evening , culminating in our collective presentation of cards and wine to the full time staff who have made this odessey possible . just as we thought he’d finished he, as only he could, he causally dropped in that he had arranged signed tour de france team shirts from AG2R (Romain Bardets’ team ; who is a podium contender) for each of them…a real money can’t buy gift…. the man just gets more awesome the longer you’re around him😊😊😊
After our ‘ lifers ‘ plaque presentation it was out on deck to take in the full beauty of Paris at night (clearly the captain is extremely adept at hovering in just the right place on the river long enough to enable us all to capture the essence of ‘le joie de vie’…. Parisian style🗼🗼🗼🗼
On deck I met a variety of wives and girlfriends, which was lovely and helped ’round the circle’ of some of the riders personalities I’d come to know so well over the previous month.
Back at the hotel it all got a bit crazy as we ‘locust like’ hoovered all the available alcohol in the bar …. I managed a sublimely timed exit only to hear and witness (at breakfast the following morning) in the faces of some of those who were left behind how festivities continued well after 04:00 with singing and dancing taking over from drinking as there really wasn’t any drink left to consume….. an apt way to complete the marathon that is by far and away the most demanding physical and mental episode I’ve ever voluntarily taken part in .
Uber was the next challenge , Zoe uses it all the time so I’ve never needed to sign up but now seemed as good a time as any….. first uber and it’s in Paris , in French what could possibly go wrong?
I picked a shared ride(when I say picked I mean I blundered into that option) so my trip to gare de nord went via the hospital to pick up a heavily pregnant black woman who it turned out wasn’t going any where near the station but we got there eventually via some back streets i never need to visit again😨
Last time I was at the gare de nord was after I’d ridden to Paris over night (london/paris24) and had mistakenly packed my passport away with my bike which the organisers shipped home in a truck… leaving me watching the wonderful Mark Cavendish winning on the champs Elise with the mayor but no clear idea of how I was going to get back to blighty….i did , thanks to a very statuesque black French girl at Eurostar first class who walked me through the whole process about 20 mins faster than my mate who had his documentation.
Spurred on by this experience I assumed the air of business traveller and went unchallenged through the first class section leap frogging (pun intended) the poor heaving mass of humanity all queuing and paying miserably for being English in France… oh did anyone mention brexit????
Final leg now … the terminably slow section of the train journey from Dover to St Pancras.