Showing posts with label tour de france. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tour de france. Show all posts

Thursday 3 September 2015

Hooray - I rode the Cray!

Thursday 3 September 2015

We both slept well after our huge meal last night.  It was a bit chilly in the van (the wind had increased overnight and it was fresher outside), so I put the heating on and snoozed for a bit longer.  I made a brew and also my breakfast - toast and peanut butter, yum! - while Cathy stayed in bed with her tea.  It had been dry overnight but started to spit with rain, but I really wanted to get out on my bike today.  So I changed into my kit, unlocked the bike from the rack and filled my jacket pocket with all the usual cycling stuff - pump, phone, cash, inhaler, banana! 

I turned left out of the campsite and then left again after crossing the river.  This took me on a quiet backroad out of the village and towards Kilsney.  It was fairly quiet with only the odd car, postvan driven by Stirling Moss (they all drive like that!) and one horse, but no other cyclists.  I had intended to cycle over to Kilsney then back along the main road, but realised this minor one would take me all the way to Grassington, so carried on for a few more miles.  I recognised the middle of Grassington from last year and rode out to the main road, back towards Kilsney.  This took me past the Wharfedale Caravan Club site and I was soon approaching Kilsney, with the marquees from this week's show still up in the Velofest fields where Ray and I camped last year.  Opposite is the Kilsney Park Estate, which includes trout fishing where you can catch own.  I stopped to watch some fly fishermen and witnessed one land a lovely trout of about 3 pounds.  Carrying on, I passed the spot Ray and I stood for four hours waiting for the Tour riders and was soon back in Kettlewell.  I carried on, riding up the road through Starbotton and Buckden, where we had a fine sausage buttie and cup of tea in the church hall on our bike ride last year.  From here the road starts to wind up the hillside, getting gradually steeper and windier closer to the summit.  I was starting to feel the effects of the climb, breathing hard and trying to stay in a nice cycling rhythm.  I reached the last big twist and climb, a real kick needed to get over onto the top of Col de Cray again!  I took a photo, sent Ray a quick text then spent a while catching my breath, eating the banana and drinking water.  By now it was getting a bit chilly in the wind, so I turned around for the steep descent.  Unlike Ray, I'm a descent chicken so took my time, particularly those sections of the road that were both wet and covered in cow shit!  But past this I enjoyed the fast, winding descent and was soon back at the campsite, having really enjoyed my 25 miles riding.

Bike and kit put away, I used the campsite shower then sat in the van (out of the rain) with a pot of coffee.  Cathy had done her usual clean and tidy up so all was in good order.  I set up the iBoost to piggy-back on the BT Fon wifi signal and we had an hour catching up, particularly with our friends who are on a long trip in Spain and were watching some of the Vuelta stages - looked lovely and warm there! I also had an email from Steve at Britstops.  He'd checked with the landlady of the pub we tried and failed to stay at.  It appears they're still involved but perhaps the man I spoke to knew nothing about it.  Lesson learned - always ask for the named contact at any Britstop when enquiring about staying over.

Although it was spitting with rain on and off, we went for a stroll around the village, mainly to stretch Cathy's aching legs!  We wondered around, down narrow streets and lanes, looking at the lovely stone -clad cottages to find a small one with parking for Nido!  We stopped off at the village shop for some milk, marmalade and some Yorkshire curd tart for Cathy; they also had some funny birthday cards that will suit some unsuspecting friends! Back at the van, with it still raining, we had a brew (and Cathy her tart), then I started on this post while Cathy spread out on the cab seats to read.  A little later a small Murvi campervan turned up, doubling the van numbers against the tuggers on the site.  

Dinner tonight is cassoulet, including some Phil's sausages, smoked sausage, chickpeas, puy lentils, passata, onions and garlic.  As we're on EHU it'll be cooked in 'Oska'. We also have the red wine I bought yesterday.  With all those beans, we could be in for a windy night!  We move on tomorrow.  The plan is to try and stay at the campsite at Gordale Scar, but I was unable to book; I phoned and left a message but the owner never got back to me.  So if that doesn't work out I'll do some research later on to come up with a Plan B - maybe a Britstop close by - there is one near there which is a farm shop where they make 'Yorkshire Chorizo'.

Thursday 9 July 2015

Time to Party!

Thursday 9 July 2015

We're parked on a grass area at the junction on the D926 and D26 at a place called La Tête au Loups.  It's at a great spot for tomorrow's Tour stage from Livarot to Fougères.  It's at the top of a hill and at a junction so we'll have a great view of the caravan, cars and riders.  When we arrived there were about 3 motorhomes, now there are about 15 - all nationalities, mostly French, some Belgian, one German (who keeps eyeing up the Battle Ensign flying from my flagpole!) and a couple of Brits. It's 2030, there's still loads of bright sunshine and we're well fed and watered.  I've been for a ride along the tour route, the Tour will pass within 6 feet of me tomorrow and it'll be my birthday - perfect.  The only thing missing is my wingman Ray - he'd love this.

We slept well last night on our quiet rural aire and woke to blue skies, so we enjoyed breakfast in the sun.  Packed up, I drove over to the service point.  It said in the book I needed a token, but all the water was on so we were able to empty and fill up for free.  So we've learnt now to check them on arrival - if it's free we can wash clothes and have a long shower.  On the route up we stopped at an Intermarché for food and drink.  Cathy was very impressed with the outside laundry - two machines and a large dryer.  The plan was to navigate to a point on the tour route and then follow it up until we found a place to stop - which we did and it's perfect.  On the way we past the many fields of sunflowers - beautiful.

On arrival we had a spot of lunch then I prepared my bike and kit to cycle part of the Stage 7 route.  I left the pitch and cycled up the route (in reverse).  The first few hundred metres were downhill then there was a long, 2 mile climb up to the village of Exmes.  The bunting was up and they were clearly looking forward to tomorrow.  After that it was a series of hills, along narrow roads and through woods - could make for an interesting stage tomorrow.  I turned left onto the D26 and continued through Omméel and into Chambois.  I stopped here to look at a memorial; it's one of ten of what's known as the Circuit of August 1944, key points in the battle to retake France.  Another 6km on - and all uphill! - was the Mémorial de Montmerel.  This key point is where the Polish and American forces met, having closed the circle on the retreating Germans.  During the ensuing battle over the next month 50,000 Germans escaped, 10,000 were killed and 40,000 injured.  I took some time to reflect then started the route back, this time following the yellow arrows of the route.  

Back at the van I topped up with water, had a brew then showered before we had dinner.  Cathy prepared the salad and I fried some onions and cooked the sausages for our hot dogs.  We sat in bright sunshine at 1930 eating a good dinner with a glass of rosé, watching other vans arrive.  Clearly some of them are Tour Groupies, as they already had a collection of the yellow direction arrows on their dashboard and windows - I need to get me one of them!  We're enjoying the evening now, finishing our wine, chatting to our French neighbours and also the one British couple here. Cathy said she can't believe she's enjoying sitting by the side of a busy road so much and wants to follow the tour when we retire - result!  Tomorrow is going to be a good day - the forecast is hot sunshine and we have the excitement of the Tour to look forward to.  It doesn't get much better than this!

I SO wanted to knick one of those signs!

Memorial Montmorey

Hey - that's my Birthday!

Battle Ensign flying right next to the Tour route

Our neighbours

Wet weather seating - thankfully not needed

Friday 11 July 2014

Tour de France en Yorkshire!

My cycling buddy - Ray - and I have been planning for some time to follow the Tour when it came to Yorkshire.  The original plan was to take our campervan up for the 4 nights, however with it delayed again (long story) the contingency plan came into effect - camping out in a tent. Luckily Ray had access to one so it didn't cost us any more.  Way back in October last year I booked us a pitch at the Velofest, based in Kilnsey.  Included in the price was our pitch, toilets, hot showers and access to the main arena for food, drink and live music in the evening.  So over the coming months we planned our trip and I was packed and ready a full week before. Here's our story.....

Thursday 3 July 2014
I left work at midday and Ray arrived just after 2pm.  After a cuppa and a catch up, we loaded up his car with all our stuff, strapped the bike rack to the back of the car and tied our bikes on. Then we were off!  The journey was mainly up the M6 before branching off and heading towards the Dales.  We arrived at the campsite at about 4.30pm parked up and grabbed the tent to find a decent pitch.  A lot of people had arrived already, so it took a while to find a spot, but once done we soon put the tent up. Once this was done, we went off to get our Velofest wristbands. The next hour or so was spent fetching kit and bikes from the car, putting up the windbreak, blowing up air beds and getting our little camp set up. The bikes were stored safely in the tent porch and I got the kettle on and the seats out for a cup of tea - time to chill!

Later we headed off to look around the main arena.  We wandered around to check out the food and drink stalls - Ray finally decided on fish & chips and I had a chicken balti.  We also grabbed a coffee.  The arena had two giant screens set up to allow everyone to watch each stage and that evening they were showing the Team Presentations, so we watched the end of that.  By this time it was getting late (for us!) so we headed back to the tent to read our cycling mags for a while, before crashing out for the night.  It was a bit grey and drizzly overnight and we both (being men of a certain age) had to get dressed and walk to the loos a couple of time in the night.  It's clear they had underestimated how many portaloos they needed and how soon they would fill up - it was pretty grim, enough said on that score!

Loading up ready to leave

Settling the bikes into their temporary home

Team Presentation on the big screens
Must be beer o'clock!

Chilling with a cuppa!

Friday 4 July 2014
We woke on Friday to sunny weather with a bit of a southerly breeze.  Neither of us slept that well, mainly due to the noise, floodlights and having to get up to the loo a couple of times in the night!  After a cuppa we walked over to get a bacon roll and coffee for breakfast. Our plan today was to get out on our bikes and explore some of Stage 1.   Bikes checked over, water bottles filled and changed, we headed out of the campsite and turned right opposite the Tennants Arms.

We were now on a section of Stage 1 - tomorrow the riders would be cycling on these roads. The route was fairly gentle - a few undulating climbs but nothing too strenuous to start with and the scenery was outstanding - green fields, dry-stone walls and sheep - lots and lots of sheep! There were loads of cyclists on the route of all ages, shapes and sizes.  After about 3 miles we dropped down into the village of Kettlewell, an extremely pretty spot with a small stone bridge over the River Wharfe and a lovely country pub.  The road is narrow and windy here so the the riders tomorrow could be quite bunched; no doubt it will be a popular and busy viewing point.  We continued onwards, soon passing the small hamlet of Buckden.  On our right a local church hall was offering bacon butties, sausages in baps and hot drinks, shouting from the gate to come on in - we said we would on the way back.

By this time we were seeing parking signs for the Cote de Cray - this is one of the first climbs on Stage 4 and is a Cat 4 climb.  This was quite a long climb that started gradually, but then got steeper nearer the top as the road twisted and turned.  It certainly got us both puffing and at the top it was windy and rainy.  After catching our breath, a drink we turned around and headed down, Ray burning rubber as his tyres gripped the road as he hurtled down, me burning rubber as I squeezed my brakes as hard as I could!  At the bottom we stopped as promised for a sausage bap and a cup of tea at the church hall before starting our return trip.  On the way we came across a field of sheep dyed yellow - lots of people in cars, on bikes and on foot were stopping to take photos.  

Back at the site we had a good hot shower and by this time it was threatening rain, so we sat in the tent reading as the rain started.  A break in the rain allowed us to walk out and get something to eat before heading back to the tent.  By this time it was raining heavily so it was an early night for us.

Top of Cote de Cray

Cooling off!
Baa Baa Yellow Sheep, have you any wool

The sun setting over Kilnsey Crag

End of a great day

Saturday 5 July 2014 - Stage 1: Leeds to Harrogate
It rained very heavily all night, stopping at about 6am.  Although our sleeping areas were dry, quite a lot of rain had entered the sitting area so some time was spend bailing out, mopping up and trying to get stuff dried, but at least the bikes were safe.  After breakfast we got ourselves ready and headed out to find a good spot to watch the Tour.

The road had been closed to vehicles since 6am so we know it would be fun cycling up the road.  We again turned right and cycled out along the route for about 3 miles, stopping at a metal gate set back from but right next to the route.  Then it was a waiting game; luckily the weather was good, if not a bit breezy so we were glad of our jackets.  During this time many thousands of spectators cycled past us, some in fancy dress.  The first of the British and French motorcycle cops came through, as well as tour cars and vans.  Another 'Fareham Wheeler' came along, recognised Ray's top and stopped for a chat.  About 1130 the caravan came through, travelling at speed - those sat on the top looked pretty chilly!  A couple of hours later we sensed the riders were getting closer as we could see helicopters coming up the valley. Finally the first riders came over the brow of the hill and down towards us, a breakaway of 3 riders, followed a few minutes later by the peleton, with all the usual motorbike outriders and team cars.  After clapping and cheering them through quiet returned, so we jumped on our bikes and headed back to the Velofest site.  A quick change and we headed off to grab some food and drink, while watching the Stage on the giant screens.  The hog road baguettes went down well with a pint of lager, closely followed by a pasty (I managed to persuade Ray to have one - more of that later).  We witnessed Cav crash in the closing sprint and joined in the collective groan.  It was hot and sunny and we had sunburned heads. We then went back, got changed and headed out on our bikes again to ride off the food and drink.  Turning right and heading up the route, we decided to climb Cote de Cray again.  By this time Ray was feeling the effects of his pasty and, as we approached the top of the climb, he decided the pasty and him should part company!  At the top it was sunnier than yesterday so we stayed a while longer, before turning around and heading down again. We passed the site and carried on down the road, turning off towards Grassington before reversing our route and heading back.

Back at the site, after a hot shower and a brew, we headed over the road to the Tennants Arms, for a couple of pints of welcome bitter, while watching the (very middle-aged) DJ throwing some shapes at the outside disco!  Even the adults and children waiting at the bus stop opposite were dancing and they eventually gave up waiting for the bus and crossed over to join the party. We returned to the site to get some food.  It was a clear and still night and by this time getting very chilly.  We sat at a table having our food then returned to the tent for a hot drink.  We actually managed to stay up until about 11.30pm tonight, but by then it felt really cold and it took a while for me to warm up in my sleeping bag.  But eventually quiet returned to the site, apart from the odd 'pub singer' in his tent, and peace returned.

Fareham Wheelers x 2

View from our spot

Where's the peloton?

Sat in the hot sun watching Stage 1

He'll regret that beer later!

Checking texts on his 'modern' phone!

Sunday 6 July 2014 - Stage 2: York to Sheffield
We had a bit of a lie in this morning (until 8am) as we had a bit more time to get down to a spot to watch Stage 2.  We'd decided earlier that we weren't going to stay overnight tonight but instead head back to Cheshire.  So we dismantled and packed what we could and took it to the car, but left the tent up so we could change. This time we turned left and rode down, turning off near Grassington then heading towards the village of Burnsall and then on to Bolton Abbey. This was only about 12 miles but was very hilly so we certainly felt every mile.  Arriving at Bolton Abbey it was already very busy so we locked up the bikes and found a spot by the A59, at the bottom of a hill and right next to a traffic island - could be interesting.  The caravan had already passed through so we only had to wait about an hour for the riders.  This time there was a breakaway of 7 riders who came through a few minutes ahead of the peloton. This time they were riding much faster and the noise from the crowd improved the atmosphere.  It took us a while to get away from here but eventually we were back in the hilly countryside.  We stopped off at a tea shop in Burnsall for a coffee and flapjack before heading back to the site.

We dismantled the tent and secured the bikes back onto the rack before heading off for a cool shower.  We walked to the arena to get some cold drinks for the journey home and stood to watch the remainder of Stage 2 on the big screens before jumping in the car and starting our journey home.

We had a great weekend watching the tour both in real life and on the giant screens, riding some of the route ourselves and relaxing.  It was good to have my cycling wing-man with me again - we ride well together and the banter and laughter carried on all weekend.  Hopefully next year we can go and see some of the Tour in France in our campervan.

Stopping at Burnsall

Coffee and flapjack time

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Tour de France 2014 - here we come!

Now that the 2014 Tour route has been officially announced, I'm glad I booked us onto a campsite which is right on the Stage 1 route.  Ray will be coming up from Gosport and we'll be taking the campervan to spend 3 nights at the Velo Fest in Kilnsey in the Yorkshire Dales.

The first two stages are in Yorkshire and we'll be cycling out to see both from this campsite.  For Stage 1 we'll watch them pass right next to the campsite and then cycle across the Dales to (if we're in time!) see them pass again as they approach the finish in Harrogate.  For Stage 2 we'll probably cycle out to the route to watch them pass then head off for a more relaxed spin in the dales.

It's going to be great!