“The West Surrey Cyclist” - January - March 2004

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Contents:

Front cover - a new design for 2004 - see next issue
Inner front cover - West Surrey CTC District Association
Editorial front matter
Riding Around - with the Editor
West Surrey DA Annual Report for 2003
Points from the AGM
National Cycle Network - Route 22
For sale
800 Miles of Trails and Tales from the Channel to the Med. - by Edwina Roberts
The Felice Gimondi - by Mark Waters
Advertisement - ‘The Mikado’ - by Godalming Operatic Society
Around the Region with a Pump - by Anne Tanner
Randonnée des Trois Vallées, or The Dieppe Raid - by Edwina Roberts
Advertisement - Evans Cycles
Organisers - Please Take Note
Get the Magazine Delivered for £3 a Year
DA Personalities - One - Wally Happy - a clerihew
Outer back cover - advertisement - RVJ Design (Nick Jones - cycle engineering)

Selected items transcribed from the original printed copy:


WEST SURREY CTC DISTRICT ASSOCIATION

PRESIDENT Roy Banks 01344 842676
SECRETARY
TREASURER
RUNS SECRETARY
Richard Ellis
Tim Bar
Bob McLeod
01932 351546
01483 825691
01252 835321
COMMITTEE Keith Chesterton
Geoff Smith
Peter Clint
Edwina Roberts
Jeff Banks
Wally Happy
Anne Etherington
01483 563392
01483 769051
01932 340564
01483 823611
01483 772616
01252 621164
01483 834716
VICE-PRESIDENTS George Alesbury, Harold Coleman, Chris Jeggo,
Clive Richardson, Derek Tanner
MAGAZINE EDITOR Geoff Smith 01483 769051
ARCHIVIST Keith Chesterton
Fax
01483 563392
01483 827162
RIDE LEADERS
SUNDAY RIDERS Clive Richardson 01428 724390
INTERMEDIATES Trevor Strudwick 01483 730829
GUILDFORD AND GODALMING
WAYFARERS
Peter Fennemore 01483 730829
WOKING WAYFARERS David Nightingale 01483 725674
MIDWEEK WAYFARERS Rico Signore
John Ostrom
Sybil Preston
01483 822240
01483 726292
01483 837839
 

WHAT WE ARE

THE CTC (Cyclists’ Touring Club) IS THE NATIONAL ORGANISATION FOR ALL CYCLISTS IN THE UK AND IRELAND.  IT HAS 70,000 MEMBERS AND AFFILIATES AND IS THE OLDEST AND LARGEST CYCLING BODY IN THE UK.
IT HAS A NETWORK OF DISTRICT ASSOCIATIONS OF WHICH THE WEST SURREY DA IS ONE.
IT CAMPAIGNS FOR BOTH ROAD AND OFFROAD CYCLISTS AND MEMBERSHIP INCLUDES FREE THIRD-PARTY INSURANCE, LEGAL CLAIMS ADVICE, TRAVEL AND TECHNICAL GUIDANCE, ON- AND OFF-ROAD ROUTE INFORMATION, AND A BI-MONTHLY NATIONAL MAGAZINE.

CTC headquarters:  Cotterell House, 69 Meadrow, Godalming, Surrey, GU7 3HS.  Telephone 0870 873 0060

CTC website:  www.ctc.org.uk
West Surrey DA website:  www.westsurreyctcda.org.uk

DON’T JUST SIT THERE, WRITE SOMETHING

CONTRIBUTIONS - articles, letters, cycling tips - are welcomed by the Editor.  Please send your contributions to Geoff Smith, 2 Julian Close, Woking, Surrey, GU21 3HD.  Phone/fax 01483 769051.

Word-processed pieces should ideally be in A5 format ready for the printed page in 12 point Times type with headlines in caps in 14 point Times Bold.  If printing out in A4 please ensure type is large enough to be still readable when reduced to A5.

DEADLINE FOR NEXT ISSUE:  MARCH 1st


RIDING AROUND

With the Editor

WHEN deep joy follows disappointment it is sweet indeed.  The disappointment came when my duly submitted apology at having to miss the AGM was not conveyed to the meeting.  But joy immediately followed.

As I scanned through the minutes, the astounding news was revealed.  To my enormous surprise, I had been awarded in my absence nothing lessthan West Surrey DA’s Wooden Crank.

In a state of euphoria I emailed all and sundry among our officers and scholars to thank them for this accolade.  I do the same now to you, dear reader, if you supported this proposal made in the full glare of a public meeting by the otherwise sane Don Jones, supported by the usually wise Jeff Banks.

Putting modesty aside, I reprint for the record that my receipt of West Surrey cycling’s highest honour was, as stated in the minutes, “for claiming to be ‘British’ when discovered by officials in Switzerland taking a skinny dip”.

I did, I am, and I did partake of the delights of the River Rhine in the manner so described.

To elucidate, it was a hot day - as were most in the summer of 2003 - and I was cycling along a leafy bankside when a small gap in the foliage opened up on to a perfect swimming spot.  There was even a little shelter in which to park the bike and shed the clothes.

Not a soul was about but an official did indeed appear when my defences were totally down.  He was checking the charts in a small weather station inside the said hut.

So I jabbed my thumb in my chest and proclaimed my nationality.  What else should I - or you - have done?

The suave Swiss was impressed with my single word explanation and I was emboldened to take the matter further.  I made flapping movements with my arms, pointing to the river and nodding my head assertively.

He got the message.  He joined in the assertive nodding to assure me it was fine to swim, so without more ado I tiptoed down to the water’s edge and plunged in.

For this, you, my fellow cyclists, awarded me the Wooden Crank “for doing the daftest thing in the DA this year”.  Maybe, but it was a great swim.

Grateful thanks to all who voted for me.  I gather I received a large majority over three other contenders.  For the life of me, I cannot quite understand why.


I HAVE heard rumblings to the effect that the arrangements for the Paragon Lunch Group might need some tweaking.  Be that as it may, I would like to say it is a Good Thing and should continue.

The idea is to list in the Runs List a pub venue for every Wednesday lunchtime.  The information given is succinct:  “Meet at a pub for lunch”.

How you get to the nominated pub is not mentioned, the point being that the weather and state of health and fitness of some intended participants affects that decision.

Obviously, if your mobility is impaired to any extent, it is good to know you can have a sociable interlude with cycling friends at a pub any Wednesday.

On the few occasions I have attended - one a Boxing Day and the others when it has been bucketing down throughout the morning when I would normally ride out with the Midweek Wayfarers - I have thoroughly enjoyed myself.

On the most recent occasion it had stopped raining at noon and I cycled directly to the pub in Windlesham with committee member Jeff Banks.  There present to our surprise were president Roy Banks, new secretary Richard Ellis, committee member Edwina Roberts, and Ken and Beryl Travis, a jovial crowd indeed.

As we cycled back, Jeff commented on what a pleasant interlude it had been.  Certainly - and long may the Paragon continue, with thanks to the compilers of the pubs list.


I NOTICED that the polythene wrapper of the CTC’s national magazine Cycle lists some advantages in being a member of our club, mentioning the colour mag itself, the £5m third-party insurance, legal assistance, route and tour planning services, and information on events.

A notable omission is the invitation to join CTC district associations such as ours.  Of course, no-one actually “joins” us but it would be good to remind our hundreds of West Surrey CTC members of our existence at every opportunity.


AS MANY will know, Surrey County Council has established cycle forums in all of its borough and district council areas.  Not universally appreciated is the fact that members of the CTC who are prepared to go along and give their views from the perspective of the local cycle tourist would be very much welcomed.  Contact your local council for details of the forthcoming cycle forum meetings in your area, turn up, and take part.


POINTS FROM THE AGM

IT was noted that the DA had not been able to reduce its financial assets during the year, despite the magazine continuing to be produced and distributed at a loss.  The mag’s deficit was lower than the previous year but it would increase next year if the present format and printing arrangements were continued.

New appointments were Richard Ellis, secretary;  Tim Bar, treasurer;  Bob McLeod, runs list compiler.  Derek Tanner was elected to the roster of vice-presidents.  Wally Happy became a new member of the committee.

Derek Tanner reported that members of the DA had been supporting their local councils with advice and assistance at the Surrey County Council cycle forums in their areas.  This raised discussion on cycle routes and the need for them to appeal not only to experienced cyclists but perhaps more importantly also to newcomers and children.

Rico Signore reminded members to try to attend the traditional New Year’s Day morning rides to the tea rooms at Seale Craft Centre.

Chris Jeggo congratulated the committee on the production of an excellent end-of-year data pack for the agm.

Peter Clint asked those attending to complete a sheet to commit to buying the proposed club shirt.  If sufficient numbers were received the order process would go ahead.

Forty-one members attended the meeting.


NATIONAL CYCLE NETWORK - Route 22

Keith Chesterton advises that the suggested route across West Surrey to Dorking, modified after a checking ride in the summer, goes from Runfold and Seale to Puttenham along the valley road, then to Watts Gallery, Compton, on the North Downs Way (hardened sand track).

The draft route, continuing west to east, then takes in a bend on Sandy Lane (via a deep sandy track) on to Ferry Lane, St Catherine’s Bridge, Shalford Park, Pilgrims Way, Echo Pit Road, and a very steep path to Pewley Hill.  An alternative here is along Shalford Park cycle-route to the bottom of High Street and Pewley Hill road.

From the top of Pewley Hill the track continues along the top to White Lane, bridleway to Newlands Corner, North Downs Way to Staple Lane, down the steep Combe Bottom road to cross the A25 and enter Shere.

Then it is bridleway to High Views, Gomshall, on past Southbrook Farm to the edge of Abinger Hammer, 200 metres on the A25, up Hackhurst Lane, bridleway to Abinger Roughs, cross Whitedown Lane, bridleway to Park House farm, then to Balchins Lane, Westcott Street, footpath to Miltoncourt Farm, Miltoncourt Lane, Westcott Road, West Street into Dorking, High Street, and London Road to the A24/A25 junction east of Dorking.

Keith comments:  “I am sure there will be objections from ramblers to parts of the route - worries about speeding cyclists - and possibly from local residents.  But I think we should look at it from the point of view of inexperienced cyclists and that as well as being a route for cyclists doing long-distance routes it should be useful for local riders on utility and leisure trips.

“The biggest problems are, I think, on the section between Compton and Shere.  I particularly do not like the idea of using Combe Bottom.

“Most cyclists going from Shere would have to push their bikes up it.  It is very steep, bendy, narrow, and has a surprisingly high volume of car traffic.”


EDITOR’S NOTE:  Thanks to Keith for forwarding the latest information on this proposed route.  I hope I have transcribed it satisfactorily.  Given the high profile of the National Cycling Routes in many parts of Britain it is important we get our bit right.

It took me a bit of effort, but I was able to follow the proposed route on my Surrey A-Z Street Atlas.  It is worth checking it out and advising Keith and the county of your views.  Signposting of NCNs is usually excellent and there will be accompanying maps available when ours is finally decided and opened.

But are parts of the route too severe and will the off-road terrain be firm enough and given regular maintenance to ensure constant suitability for regular touring bikes?  Do let Keith ChestertonK@guildford.gov.uk and this magazine have your written comments.  Your suggestions DO count. - Geoff Smith


800 MILES OF TRAILS AND TALES from the CHANNEL TO THE MED.

By Edwina Roberts

FIVE of us decided that a challenge in 2003 would be a good idea, coinciding with the 75th year of the DA and of our president Roy who was with us, although the main reason that we went was because we wanted to enjoy the French food, language, scenery, weather, excellent road surfaces and smooth gradients of the hills and mountains, not to mention the reputed pro-cycling attitude of the French people.

Richard, Cliff, Roy, Alan and myself met in January and after some discussion on the pros and cons of choosing our own route and finding accommodation on the way, we took the ‘easy’ way out and booked through Bike Adventures as an independent group.  This meant that we still carried our own luggage but our accommodation was booked for us, which was mainly in small Logis hotels with one or two luxurious ones and three interesting Chambres d’Hotes.  They also provided the route, with very detailed instructions for us to follow, which saved us time wondering if we were going the best way.  It turned out to be an excellent route (with only one or two blips), scenic and quiet but probably more mountainous than we might have chosen.

In the middle of May we made our way from Woking to Portsmouth by train and then by ferry to Ouistreham.  We set off early in the morning sunshine for Livarot and immediately got lost.  Blip no.1:  there was no mention of the Pegasus bridge on our instructions, and we would have been better off following Wally’s canal towpath route instead of wallowing in the traffic.  However, we arrived at the bridge for a view of the famous wartime scene - no time to see the museum, sadly - and went into the cafe for a coffee and postcard send-off.  (The loo there costs 1 euro - I kept a stiff upper lip and my money!)  From there we passed through the Pays d’Auge, the heart of the Norman cider and dairy producing areas, had a quiet picnic lunch by an old timbered farmhouse, got in some puffing hill practice and finally found our first hotel in Livarot.  Having quickly dumped our bikes and paraphernalia, we set off in search of Alan’s recommended thirst quencher, Leffe blond on draught - not always easy to find but the next best thing to good old British beer.  Alan sniffed it out within 50 yards of the hotel and the waiter brought out table and chairs and served up the Leffe in special Leffe glasses.  Excellent!  We walked back cheerily for a shower and rest before dinner.  It had been a lovely day and a promising start to our tour.

The next couple of days took us via the Touques Valley, the road undulating through woods and fields, and through the Perche Regional Nature Park where there were a few hard climbs.  The birds were singing away, the cuckoos cuckooing, and a multitude of wild flowers was blooming in the fields and on the roadside. . We probably chose the best time of the year to enjoy the French countryside.  However, the weather, great for plants, was deteriorating for cyclists and became dull and showery, then thoroughly wet for much of the first week.

We arrived at Nogent-le-Rotrou dripping, and after drying out went in search of our customary refreshment.  We also needed a bike shop.  Cliff wanted a new mudguard after a small branch had tried to sabotage his back wheel in a country lane, I needed a new inner tube and Alan also had a chain problem to solve.  Although there were two bike shops in town, we found the service was poor.  However, Cliff did manage to buy the only mudguards available in town.  This was not typical of the people of Nogent, fortunately.  On the subject of bike shops throughout our journey, there was a good one in Livarot, but there were very few on our route, and Sod’s Law being what it is, when we needed one it was usually on a Sunday or Monday which were national closing days.

Next morning Richard surprised us by revealing that after a night suffering severe chest pains he had decided to return home.  He was well looked after by the hotel manageress who took him to the doctor and was then thoroughly checked over during a two-day stay in the local hospital before going home.  He kept in touch with us by telephone most evenings as we continued our journey so we knew that he was all right.

And then we were four.  We set off for Châteaudun, a picturesque town with 12th and 16th century buildings and an impressive chateau up a very steep hill.  It was the largest town on the route, but it was Sunday - everywhere closed - and raining, so with limited time we were unable to appreciate the attractions as fully as they deserved.

Next morning it was still raining, and graunching up a steep hill out of Châteaudun we were surprised to be overtaken by a matronly lady in a flapping maroon cape, pedalling slowly by in a relaxed manner.  She disappeared round a corner and we caught up with her as she stopped in a sheltered spot.  She was waiting for her husband who was toiling up behind us with their luggage.  They were a Dutch couple who were cycling the pilgrims’ route of St. James, to Santiago de Compostela.  I thought her electric bike a very good idea in general for non-cycling partners.

We continued through the flatter cereal-growing plains and into the Loire valley and eventually made it to our sumptuous hotel on the banks of the Loire.  We parked our bikes in the large old storeroom which also housed some sleepy bats and lively swallows.  We had a superb meal that evening in the hotel, and relaxed, looking forward to our first rest day.  It turned out fine, and we spent much of that day cycling through the Chambord estate, which is the largest enclosed forest park in Europe, and viewing its splendid chateau, believed to be the largest in France.  Chambord has numerous fantastic chimneys, turrets and dormer windows - the views stretch for miles.  It also has (although we didn’t count them) 440 rooms, 335 fireplaces and 13 main flights of stairs, including a magnificent double-return staircase which was designed by Leonardo da Vinci.  Well worth a visit.

From then on the weather improved, cool and cloudy still, but with enough sunshine to brighten the countryside as we cycled onwards through the Sologne region.  The roads were mainly long and straight and fairly flat and the wind was behind us for much of the way, so we whizzed along.  We stayed that night in Charost - a pleasant town unfortunately split by a busy main road (N151) and heavy traffic thundering through - and were glad to move on next day.

Blue, sunny and warm all day, we cycled over rolling hills and through Bruère-Allichamps, which claims to be at the geographical centre of France.  After an al fresco lunch in the midday heat where we watched great timber lorries rumbling by, we cycled on and entered the forested region of Tronçais, noting the great piles of timber with streams of water playing on them.  (Apparently, Tronçais oak is used for making barrels in which cognac and claret are matured.)  We arrived at the small village of St-Bonnet-Tronçais in the centre of the forest to enjoy a late afternoon beer in the sunshine after settling into our very picturesque hotel and later tucked in to a good meal in their lovely restaurant.

The next day it rained.  All day.  We were entering the Auvergne Region making for St-Priest-en-Murat, and the hills became tougher as we headed south.  There was more cattle farming in this area, and the scene was changing.  The Dutch couple who were our hosts that night produced the most welcome and delicious hot meal in front of a roaring fire.  They had bought the isolated farmhouse, having moved from busy Amsterdam to live the ‘Good Life’ and bring up their daughters to benefit from the natural advantages of the country.  They had a great variety of animals on the farm including goats, pigs, horses, peacocks and other fowl.  I left my pearl ear-rings behind which they kindly sent home, but unfortunately were subsequently lost in the post.

Dry but cloudy, the next morning began a day of spectacular scenery, long, steep, hand-aching descents and the first really tough long climb.  After outpacing an aggressive dog on the outskirts of Chouvigny (lovely castle, steep descent), we passed through the Gorges de Chouvigny and crossed into the Puy de Dome Department.  We graunched slowly up the final steep six miles to St-Gervais-d’Auvergne with the volcanic mountains surrounding the famous Puy de Dome, highest of all, in the distance.  In the town we met some English people for the first time during the tour.  They were looking at properties they hoped to buy, but seemed less than enthusiastic in the cold, dull weather.

Cliff had been having trouble with punctures and a split tyre.  Fortunately Roy had a folding tyre for emergencies, but it was narrow and not specifically for touring so there was some doubt that it would stand up to the weight Cliff’s bike was carrying for the rest of the tour (approx. 14kg + Cliff).  Unfortunately it was Monday, and the cycle shop was closed in Pontgibaud.  Eventually, the helpful girl in the tourist centre ’phoned a garage 15km away, so Cliff took a taxi and after a bit of language confusion between an inner tube and a tyre, managed to obtain what he wanted.  Alan showed signs of a cold that day which he could not shake off and which affected his breathing capacity and his appetite for the following week - the toughest part of the route.  This made the ascents particularly difficult for him but he struggled on manfully through the mountains.  Roy wasn’t exactly A1 either.  Sunshine and another rest day were needed.

In Ceyssat that night, while I luxuriated in a large room my friends had to share one of a rather smaller size, very cramped for them; I don’t know where Richard would have slept.  (That might have been Blip no. 2.)  But our host was a very interesting chap, a keen collector of vintage motorcycles and related paraphernalia which he kept in the garage where our bikes were stored.  He was also a very good cook and exceedingly generous with the accompanying aperitifs and wines he offered.

The following day, plenty of stiff climbing took us to the top of the Col de la Moreno (1065m), close to the Puy de Dome (1465m), and on to a high plateau of lovely meadows and lakes.  With cow-bells tinkling, a gentle ambience reminiscent of the ‘Sound of Music’ surrounded us.  After a long and hairy descent we arrived in the sunny spa of St-Nectaire-le-Bas, which has a very imposing church, and lunched on beer and local cheese crepes.  Continuing on to Murol we had a tough 15km climb up to Besse-en-Chandesse (a small ski and walking centre) where we stayed for our second rest day.  It was so cold that afternoon that the hotel manager took pity on us, put the heating on and gave us some hot soup to start off the evening meal.  I bought a fleece, which guaranteed a change in the weather.

The next day (our second rest day) dawned bright and sunny, so after hanging the washing out, we looked around the medieval town, and then shopped, unsuccessfully, for some sandals to replace the pair Alan thought he had left in Ceyssat, (although upon enquiry they were not located).  So we decided to visit Murol by taxi, not wishing to repeat yesterday’s climb.  (Roy stayed behind to put his feet up).  Murol is a pretty little town with a 13th-century castle.  We found no sandals, but enjoyed lunch at a cafe which provided steak and chips - our first English meal.  Upon our return Alan discovered that his sandals had mysteriously reappeared.  Hooray!  That evening, we experienced French haute cuisine at a very exclusive restaurant.  Artistically presented, our taste buds were tantalised.  If our language skills had been more finely honed, we might have understood the long description of each dish rattled out to us by the very correct, old-fashioned-looking young waiter.  The luxurious ladies’ loo was an experience too!  I sampled all the lotions and perfume that were arrayed near the warmed white terry towels, and wafted out.

The next day was hot and sunny and Blip no.2 occurred, where we mistook directions and scrambled with great difficulty down a narrow muddy path - and back, which we did not expect - with our heavily laden bikes, to see the Cascade de Vaucaux.  After recovering from this energy-depleting gaff we continued on our way, which involved climbing over the Col de la Chaumoune (1155m), descending to Condat, then a long climb to the summit of the Col d’Entremont (1220m) where there are stunning views across the Monts du Cantal.  (A group of walkers cheered and clapped as we sweated past them.)  We descended steeply into Murat, which is an attractive town with some narrow cobbled streets.  It had been a tough day, so we were pleased that the hoteliere offered to do our washing for us at no extra charge.

The following morning began with a six-mile graunch to the summit of the Col de Prat de Bouc (1392m), the highest point we reached.  There is a small ski station and restaurant bar where we refreshed ourselves with coffee.  A very scenic ride followed across the tops of hills to Pierrefort where, as we were enjoying a lunchtime beverage, there appeared a whole string of Morgan cars grumbling slowly past us.  When we arrived at Chaudes-Aigues we found a large car park filled with the same Morgans, and noted that they all had Belgian registrations.  Chaudes-Aigues is a thermal resort with the hottest springs in Europe (45-82 deg.C) and the water is tapped to provide hot running water to houses.  We had no time to visit the the Geothermia Museum, unfortunately.

We continued through the Aubrac Mountains, the most southerly of the volcanic uplands of the Auvergne.  It reminded me of the Peak District with its rolling moorlands divided by dry-stone walls.  We stopped to enjoy the scene and a middle-aged tanned little Frenchwoman came cycling by and we gave her a wave.  She came over to us and we understood that she was part of a group of 55 cyclists staying in Espinchal for a week and riding out from there on various circular routes.  That day she was doing 150km.  Further on we saw other cyclists probably from her group.  Also some trail bikes and 4×4 vehicles where we stopped for refreshment.  We chatted to a Belgian group who had just purchased a Zebra painted 4×4 and were enthusiastic about off-road driving.  Later, on our travels through the Gorges du Tarn, lunching at Ste-Enimie, we saw the Zebra again:  they had turned it over, and it looked rather the worse for wear.  It was Sunday, and very hot.  There was a lot of traffic and noisy trail bikes milling around Ste-Enimie.  As we moved on towards Florac, thunderclouds gathered and the storm broke just as we arrived in the town.

We parked our bikes in the hotel garage next to some lean and lightweight Italian machines.  We saw their owners the next day as we headed into the Cevennes National Park and stopped at the top of the toughest climb yet, to recover and wait for Alan who was slowly battling his way upwards despite his respiratory problems.  The Italians, who were also lean and lightweight, had no luggage to impede their progress and zipped off after a chat and a look at the glorious view, towards their next challenge.  We saw them on their return as we ate our lunch in Le Pompidou and they waved us goodbye as we continued on our way to St-Jean-du-Gard and the strange but attractive architecture of the Hotel l’Orange.

The last two days took us into completely different scenery:  through rocky scrubland, vineyards and olive groves, but there were still a few hills to climb in the simmering heat.  We lunched late at Claret, and arrived at the lovely old Chambres d’Hote in Sommières in time for a swim in the pool.  Next morning, Cliff had three punctures to deal with (he borrowed Roy’s folding tyre again as there was a particularly elusive bike shop in the town) before we could set off on our final ride towards the Mediterranean town of Les Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer.  We entered the region of the Camargue where the terrain was flat, the roads long and straight with little bridges over the numerous canals.  We rode past huge orchards of apricot trees dripping with luscious fruit, and saw the beautiful white Camargue horses.  Finally we saw the glittering sea and before long were bathing in it.  What a trip!  It had all been well worth while.  It would have been lovely to have stayed another week to enjoy the sun and the sea, but the next day we rode to Nîmes and flew back to England.  We had cycled almost 800 miles, averaging about 40 miles a day, and it had been a fantastic tour.


THE FELICE GIMONDI

by Mark Waters

I won’t say I’m completely ignorant of ‘Gran Fondos’ but I never thought the day would come when I would do one!  The wonderful thing about the whole experience was that it was almost as straightforward as doing an Audax event in this country, although the ability to speak some Italian would have helped, but we survived without more than a couple of words between us.

It all began when Lou Lusardi, one of CTC’s ‘men in Wales’, called in to HQ to ask if I knew anybody who might be interested in going with him to do the Felice Gimondi Gran Fondo, in Bergamo.  I really couldn’t think of anyone, although I did ask around the office, and then I thought, well what about me?  Yeah, I was up for it!  What did it involve?

Not a lot really - buy a return ticket online with Ryanair from either Luton or Stansted to Bergamo.  The ride was on the Sunday, signing on was on the Saturday, so a flight out on Saturday morning and one back on Monday afternoon to allow some time for shopping seemed about right;  the princely sum was £33.69 return - it could have been less if I’d got an earlier flight.  Of course, there were a few other ‘hidden’ costs - BCF membership - bronze level - because the organisers didn’t recognise CTC’s third party insurance.  Neither did they realise that bronze-level membership of the BCF gave you the square root of nothing in the way of insurance!  But they liked it anyway.  That cost £11.50.  Then there was airport parking at Luton - £17.85.  The registration fee for the ride was £17.86 and Ryanair charged me for the bike on the way back - £15;  they didn’t charge me on the way out.  Finally, the Hotel Commercio in Bergamo cost £44.76 for two nights.  It wasn’t the greatest hotel, decor-wise, but it was perfectly adequate and they were very friendly.  It was also very well located in the centre of town and all of 15 minutes walk to the stadium where the ride started and where we went on Saturday afternoon to check in.

Meeting Lou at Bergamo airport was no problem - he’d flown in by BMIbaby from Cardiff.  You couldn’t miss him - I have never seen such a huge bike box in my life - it was about as big as he was!  Nevertheless, the driver of the local bus into town (about 15 minutes) didn’t bat an eyelid when he hauled it aboard.  Me, well I had my bike bagged up small and wrapped in polythene; it measured about 4ft x 4ft 6in - one reason I was not very happy with Ryanair when they charged me on the way back.  Airlines are so weird.

The walk from the bus stop in town to the hotel didn’t take long and we were soon settled into our hotel.  The next job was to go and sign on, so directions were sought and we had an enjoyable walk to the local stadium which was the hub of much activity, including the inevitable well known names, like Shimano, Mavic and Isostar, exhibiting their latest gizmos, a food section doing a good trade in plates of the sponsoring pasta manufacturer, as well as the signing-on area and, most important, the stand renting out the thingys - transponders I think they’re called - which you fix to your ankle and which trigger off a box of tricks which takes a record of your time as you pass through the controls.  Of course, if you weren’t to know about these things, there was no way you’d have gone to the trouble of hiring one;  fortunately, Lou did know about these things.  Naturally every rider was given a goodie bag, including, yes, you’ve guessed it - a packet of spaghetti!

It had come on to rain so we ducked and dived from one bit of cover to another, ending up in a local park where there was a café.  A delicious cappucino helped while away the time until the downpour turned into drizzle, at which point we headed back to the hotel to put our bikes together and generally get ready for the next day.  The concierge offered some excellent advice on local restaurants and we ended up in a lovely simple little local pizza place, where we enjoyed a good meal for a ridiculously low price.  We tried to stop ourselves drinking too much wine, but failed miserably.

Next morning the weather had taken a turn for the better.  Lou and I snatched a quick breakfast, along with quite a few other guests, who were also doing the ride, and it wasn’t long before we were on our bikes and heading for the start, which was on the roads surrounding the stadium.  Have you ever heard, never mind seen, 5,000 Italian cyclists all talking at once?  Believe me, it’s quite an earful of noise.  Fortunately the organisers don’t have quite the love of blaring PAs as the French.  We found our respective starting areas, depending on our race numbers, which meant that we weren’t to see each other again until the end.  They were a friendly crowd, although we didn’t converse;  well, I guess they knew I was a foreigner because my bike must have been about 30 years older than any of theirs;  at least I didn’t have a rack or mudguards so I didn’t look entirely out of place.  They really were the most colourful bunch imaginable;  some of their tops were amazing and their bikes - most would have graced any showroom.

After what seemed like an interminable delay we started moving forward until we hit the start line and off we set.  All went well for at least several hundred metres at which point I attempted to change into my big ring but somehow managed to overshoot, resulting in my chain getting trapped between the ring and the crank.  Well, I tell you, I thought that was the end of my ride.  I yanked and pulled and swore and got myself into a right lather trying to free it.  Meanwhile every other rider had passed me by and I was all alone;  fortunately there were no roadside spectators at this point.  I suppose the sheer panic at the situation in which I found myself gave me superhuman strength to free the chain and I was off again, feeling extremely embarrassed and not a little uptight.  The honour of Great Britain was at stake here, for goodness sake!

All went well mechanically from then on, except that my extremely ancient Campag bar-end shifter kept working loose, so I kept a screwdriver in my back pocket and tightened the bolt every so often whilst on the move.  Anyway, I was soon back in the fray and going quite well.

There were in fact three ‘fondos’ being run consecutively.  Fondo no 1 was 95.7kms and included two climbs, the highest, the Selvina, being 960m high;  the medio fondo was 134.5kms and had an additional lump, the Forcella di Buro at 884m, and then there was the gran fondo of 165.3kms with an additional two lumps to climb, the highest being the Costa Valle Imagna at 1014m.  The long one was tempting but I settled for the middle distance.  It was nice not to have to decide which one to go for until it was absolutely necessary, and, despite going well, I decided I didn’t want to kill myself.  Instead, I enjoyed a fabulous descent off the last col followed by a real burn up to the finish with a group of riders who seemed determined to drop me - but they failed dismally!

The ride itself was not particularly scenic, being reasonably close to Bergamo, but the hills were attractive and it was interesting to see the local towns and villages, including San Pellegrino, where the sparkling water comes from.  There were several free food stops along the way and the hardest climb was made easier by a friendly local who spoke English, chatting with me all the way up.  Yes, the lungs coped fine.

At the finishing line, amidst a mass of spectators, we rolled in to be adorned with a nice medal by a pretty young thing.  The stadium was busy and I enjoyed a free pasta meal while I looked out for Lou and awaited the results to be put up on the notice board.  I came 126th out of 166 in age category E, taking 5 hours, 44 minutes to get round at an average speed of 23.32 kph.  I was pleased but determined to do better next year!  Roll on May 9th.  Why not join us!


AROUND THE REGION WITH A PUMP

By Anne Tanner

To celebrate the 125th Birthday of the CTC, West Surrey DA proposed that a baton be relayed around the South East Region thus enabling adjacent DAs to meet and socialize.  The baton was chosen to be a bright yellow vintage cycle pump.

The pump’s journey commenced on Sunday 16th February 2003.  Groups of West Surrey cyclists left various meetings points across the DA to cycle to the Seale Tea Rooms at the Manor Farm Craft Centre where 66 teas/coffees and one orange squash were served to them.  At 11 o’clock Phil Liggett (HQ), president of the CTC, started the ride by presenting the baton to Chris Jeggo, Vice President of the West Surrey District Association.  The president encouraged members not to flag as they carry the yellow pump on its journey around the region in the next nine months.

The pump was then passed between DAs as follows:  West Surrey - Reading - South Bucks - North Hampshire - South Hampshire, at which point the pump was carried across to the Isle of Wight and took part in the IoW Randonnee.  From here it was returned to Portsmouth to continue its journey to West Sussex - West Kent - East Kent - West Kent - East Surrey to West Surrey and finally on 9th November 2003 the pump was returned to Phil Liggett.  East and West Surrey DAs members, having met Phil at the ‘Lucky Duck’, Shere, then rode together to ‘The Thurlow Arms’ at Baynards on the Downs Link where other members of the DA had assembled to hand the pump over.

During its travels the pump was involved in weekend rides, weekday rides, the IoW randonnee, and the Royal Mail when two DAs failed to meet and it was posted.  It also attended a downhill race.  During the closing presentation Phil Liggett commented that even though it could not speak for itself, he would remember the pump for being one thing responsible for getting him out on his bike in the rain in the last ten years.


RANDONNEE des TROIS VALLEES or THE DIEPPE RAID

ONE weekend at the end of June, I was one of a group of eight cyclists from the local DA of the CTC who took part in what has become known as the Dieppe Raid.  Although it was the first time I had taken part, it was in fact the 32nd annual Tour des Trois Vallees.  This is a series of rides organised by the Cyclo-Club Dieppois, based on roads and lanes in the countryside beyond Dieppe, offering distances of 40, 60, 100, 140 and 190km.

We met at Newhaven in fine weather at 0630 to check in with the English organiser, Paul Coan, along with many other cyclists from all over the country.  The Hoverspeed ferry cast off at 0730 and we arrived in Dieppe in good time to cycle to our pre-booked hotel, dump our panniers and take the west coast road out to Pourville for an excellent lunch.  Afterwards we took a round trip back, in time for the arranged reception at the Ministere des Affaires Sociales where we were welcomed by the President and members of the Dieppe CC.

Sunday dawned bright and sunny again, and after a good breakfast we cycled to the event HQ to check in and receive route cards for our chosen distance (100km).  This was not a race and the only requirements were for us to have our cards stamped at the refreshment stop and finish by 1700 in time for prize presentation at HQ.  We set off through Dieppe and were soon on the quiet east coast road, and on through the lovely undulating countryside.  The route was well marked, the roads well surfaced and, as usual in France, the hills were long but well graded.  We stopped for refreshment at lunch-time in the grounds of a chateau and finished in good time for the presentations.  One prize I was relieved not to win was for being the ‘least young female cyclist’ to take part!  Most groups received a prize for something. There were 238 cyclists, including 30 from the Midlands, 22 from Mid-Sussex, a small group from Tyneside, 2 tandems from Lincoln and many others from far and wide.

That evening it began to rain and it was still raining the following morning as we made our way back to the ferry and thence home.  We had had a great time.  A lot of effort had been put into the whole weekend by the Dieppe CC for our enjoyment, and it was much appreciated.  Our English organiser has done his part now for ten years and has decided to stand down, so let us hope that a successor is found for future enjoyable weekends in Dieppe

Edwina Roberts


And finally....

DA PERSONALITIES - ONE

Wally Happy
Is a jolly Chappy
But you must remember that
He don’t have much chat.
 

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