A Return to Normandy – A View from the Slow Lane

29th April to 1st May 2011

 

Cycling Team

Butch Cassidy (John)

The Sundance Kid (Frank)

K2

K1

Dave

            Mike

 

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

 

The Reay Brothers Gang (John and Frank)

 

Pre-Tour Team Training

It’s the return of the legendary 2000 Normandy cycling team plus ‘The Kid’, invited along as the team is looking rather long in the tooth and needs an injection of youthful vigour (apparently ‘The Kid’ is almost 50!).

K2: strong traditional training with hundreds of Wheeler miles and recent Belgian jaunt – looks good for sprints and time trials.

Dave: as above, but less so – sure to compete in all sprints, no matter how insignificant.

Mike: training regime unknown, but looks ‘strong’.

John: South American training camp – not much cycling, but plenty of rounding up cattle on the pampas, eating them and washing them down with Chilean Red.  Beginner’s beer gut apparent, but unlikely to affect form.

Frank: training regime unknown, but looks slim and honed – certain to feature strongly in major climbs, of which, fortunately, there are none.

K1: intensive solar training regime – don full Wheelers kit, gently cycle to the park and sit on park bench enjoying the sun’s rays.  Unlikely to feature strongly in any category at all.  

‘Royal’ Day 1 – Ouistreham to Clecy

Demonstrating that sleep is possible in the ferry’s reclining seats, but that John’s ‘Michael Jackson option’ in the children’s play area is better; eating and regretting rather poor full English, one is lobbed off the boat at some unearthly hour, and hence a tour of various local dual carriageways is an essential warm-up before locating the canal.  One tries to avoid stopping at Cafe Gondree again, but it’s just not possible.  Following our complaints in 2000 it’s good to see the Frogs have improved the cycle path for our return.  The only ‘mechanical’ of the trip was a surprise puncture for Dave in Caen.  

Weather better than forecast and excellent cycling conditions means an early arrival in Thury-Harcourt (Thierry Harcourt, the famous French tennis player!); the problem with the early start is that without long stops for fuel and hydration one cycles too far – hence a long stop was organised for breakfast cider which morphed quite easily into a workingman’s lunch – the same place as 2000 and excellent value.  The post-lunch ride to Clecy was tip-top. 50 odd miles in total.

Hotel was also good, except we had been evicted for the second night, no doubt to accommodate some French.  Bit of a one horse town is Clecy (the action’s by the river!) – Butch and The Kid are snapped running the locals out of town with their horse.  Good choice (just the one) of restaurant for the evening meal, but the Bar de Vincennes is just the sort of place we like to see, although I’m not convinced the owner was so pleased to see us – maybe she was worried we would report the illicit smoking.  An unprecedented English win at Babyfoot, courtesy of a local thirsty man, who chipped in with a few own goals.  This was followed by some excellent darts on these funny automatic boards where you are supposed to pay; fortunately the locals had just bust it.

 

Day 2 - Clecy to Clecy Golf

A rather super day in the Suisse Normande and the discovery of a top lunch stop (10 Euros for four courses) where food was enjoyed outside in the sunny garden.

This was the location of the iconic photo of ‘The Three Tummers’. Some climbs, some descents, some sprints that I did not witness, all in sun and warmth.  The day ended (we thought!) by the river in Clecy where beers and ice creams were enjoyed.  The worst hill of the weekend to the Golf Hotel was an unpleasant post-beer surprise.  It certainly removed any thoughts of a trip back into Clecy for evening entertainment.  50 odd miles in total.  

  After a good dinner in the hotel, a pool table was located in the attic.  This table was of a strange design and featured bats without a tip (chalk not required).  This didn’t worry John one bit, who, continuing the Paul Newman theme, changed into Fast Eddie and hustled a 7 ball clear-up.  It was down to the Kid to take the evening but, due to excess barracking and total blocking of light, managed to find some top-spin with a tip-less bat and followed the black ball down.  The only downside was a reminder of the awfulness bog-standard lager (Heineken I recall).

 

 

Fast Eddie Reay – ‘The Hustler’

 

Day 3 - Clecy Golf to Ouistreham

It comes round too soon; the cycle ‘home’ where something always goes wrong to instil some mild panic; mechanicals and extreme hangovers have been recorded on past trips, but nothing happened this time  A very pleasant ride back to Ouistreham in the sun on largely vehicle-free roads.  I am assuming that there were some exciting breakaways and hard-fought sprints, but if you wish to read about them, you need to employ a reporter who can keep up!   This ‘tired’ reported rode a lot of solo miles as the lantern rouge. Expecting to find a lunchtime stop in France on a Sunday is very optimistic, and hence it was no surprise that we ended up in the centre of Caen – however, this was an excellent restaurant.  Just at the last we were hit by the only rainstorm in Western Europe that afternoon and we were rather wet when we stopped in Cafe Gondree (again!) – this place cannot be avoided.  A final roll into the port where, happily, were guided directly on to the ferry (Portsmouth, please note).  50 odd miles in total.

...and finally..

Many thanks for dragging this old git out of retirement.  Very much enjoyed.  Not too much pain and maybe not too slow, so it’s lightweight carbon frames and high mountain passes next year..not!

   

FIN

 

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