A Return to Normandy – A View from the Slow Lane
29th April to 1st May 2011
The Sundance Kid
Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Reay Brothers Gang (John and Frank)
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!).
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.
regime unknown, but looks ‘strong’.
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.
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
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.
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