London to Paris – A Tale on Two Wheels – PM Day 1
Angels come in many guises, in this instance mine was a girl called T with a pierced face and armpits that would have seen her banned from Thorpe Park. She came bearing a rehydration sachet, something I thought maybe the medic I consulted would have had, but all he proffered was some Tiger Balm which I applied hopefully anyway. The rehydration sachet helped the cramp and nausea and, feeling shaky, I was able to set off with the group again after the-no-lunch-for-me stop. As far as I am concerned Haslemere is a pointless place. You have to go down hills to get into it and up very steep ones to climb out of it, unless you head straight down the high street back towards Guilford and kind of from whence you came.
We were warned by our group leader (aka crack Kiwi cyclist Graeme) that it was stiff climb straight out of town. He was not wrong. As Graeme said, he tells it like it is! By the time I had survived that in some shape or form I was feeling a bit better,but now worriting about the worst hill of the day still to come. I hadn’t realised, but Day 1 was the killer day. Not the furthest in miles, but the most climbing and the latest start in the morning which put us under pressure from the get go. Consequently the afternoon passed in a bit of a hungered light-headed daze. We passed through Rogate and Milland, places I have been before and then we went near Petersfield. The worst hill came around Petersfield, just before afternoon tea, the sweetener to get us up the bastard. It was at this point I discovered how little pride I had. Graeme had said to cycle to the bend to the right (about halfway up) and then get off and walk if we needed to. I didn’t even check if I needed to – I just hopped right off the minute I could and walked. The problem with walking is that your muscles are so tight from cycling that walking is uncomfortable and inefficient and brings little relief in the leg department. We didn’t walk all the way up, just a very steep section and then I think it was back on the bike, climbing still to tea.
I was still out of it and fortunately did not realise quite what a way we had left to go to Portsmouth. Maybe it wasn’t THAT far but the group’s pace really slowed down and although there was one nice spell (on the flat) through some scenic countryside the overriding memory of the afternoon was a long hot, drag into the stink pit that is the mouth of the port. We arrived about 6.30 p.m. relieved to have survived and never so glad to see some cheap transit hotel by the ferry terminal.
The only comfort to be taken was that the pushers of bikes up hills did not arrive until 8.30 that night. We were slow, I was knackered, my legs were ruined and I was worried about the next day but at least I had not spent as long on the road as Group 8 had!
This video by another group member is what I had to look forward to – but I didn’t know that yet. I went to bed worrying if I would even be able to cycle the next day and vowing to put my saddle up about an inch as I was sure that had contributed to the cramp making its inconvenient debut in my thighs