The final day, the final night!
Day three saw the (still) high spirited cyclists depart Caen for Rouen, yet another beautifully scenic 80+ mile route across open countryside, and though spectacular forests.
One or two riders felt strong and moved into faster groups with others feeling a touch delicate and moving into slower groups. It didn’t matter, as ultimately we were one big group, from all walks of life enjoying each other’s company and the freedom of the road.
The first ‘organised’ pit stop was after 27 miles of cycling, Beaumont en Auge, possibly the most beautiful village along the entire three day route, where a friendly cafe had been secured to host the cyclists. This was followed by several unscheduled pit stops by many of the groups, one occurring just 8 miles for the end of the challenge when a small bar became the venue for the unofficial ‘we’ve almost made it,’ final drink!
As each group arrived at the finish line, the support and noise of initially the support crew / volunteers was most welcome with several riders becoming a little emotional. Everyone then cheered and clapped as the remainder arrived, with the final group cycling into a wall of noise.
Off to the hotel, a quick shower and out for our final night meal where the stories of the day and highlights of the trip were shared amongst the party. After food and a few celebratory drinks the much feared court session commenced. All I’m at liberty to say is there were a total of 39 defendants facing ‘Judge’ John Hall and despite the sterling efforts of defence lawyer Simon Jones all 39 were found guilty!
The night became a bit of a blur to me, culminating in a crushing 5-1 table football defeat for my wife Jill and I at 3.00am – it was time to get some sleep.
Sunday morning saw most of us wander around the beautiful city of Rouen, taking in the stunning architecture and sampling various coffee shops before departing for the trip home.
The ferry ride back was a more somber affair than the raucous outward bound journey with many quietly reflecting on the achievement of the cycle ride and the overall enjoyment of the event.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have a career in sport, playing rugby for Bath & England and touring all over the world. I can honestly say I had as much if not more fun in the last few days than any other trip I’ve been on.
Bring on Italy next year. If you want to get involved and join the fun feel free to send an email to [email protected] and I’ll keep you up to date with the details.
Finally – I’d like to once again sincerely thank every cyclist, volunteer and support crew member who participated in this most memorable experience.