2018-05 May Normandy ride

Findon Gentlemen’s Cycling Club annual long ride – the D Day landings ride 2018

3rd to 8th May D Day Landings ride
Day 1.
RT, PT, TK, JR assembled at Nepcroft loading the last bike and setting off by the intended time. Radio contact established with the other car, (RK, ZA, MA) at Chichester to discover that they were a short distance ahead. All going to plan and on the right direction – what could possibly go wrong.
Fortuitously the Findon car pulled up right behind the other car at the check-in kiosk. Fortuitously because it turned out that we were mostly in the wrong cars, with ZA & MA having to swap with PT & JR,  much to the entertainment of the young lady at the check-in.
A brek on board and a morning siesta (aka bowl of soup for RT) followed by a route planning session and a walk on top deck, arriving in Caen without further mishap to be joined by Mr Budd from Italy.

FGCC on board the Normandie ferry close to Caen

At check-in we fell victim to some French humour when the receptionist offered special storage for the bikes at 100 euros per night.
Bikes off the cars and a short ride down the canal to Pegasus bridge but a short section through a traveller camp was most likely to be the reason for our Team Vicar to suffer two blasteets in quick succession but which were quickly repaired due to the assistance and helpful commentary from his colleagues. “Crocodile Kruger” braved the canal waters to see if he could find the hole of one of the tubes.
Team Vicar suffers a blasteet

Team vicar suffers a second blasteet

followed by a search for a bar only to fall victim to some more French humour when gasping for a pression we were told that the bar was closed – believable because all other bars passed were closed.
Ride to Pegasus Bridge 3rd May 2018

Fully refreshed we returned via country roads and tracks with another blasteet this time for TK and then to the hotel for a passable dinner there and the full range of Barry White tracks several times over to John”s enjoyment.
Total 16.7 miles 500ft climbed (well it is flat all around here).

Day 2
Route up to Luc sur Mer on the coast , through fields to be brought to a halt by what sounded like the firing of a bird scarer only to find that the cause was JR’s rear end, the inner tube having exploded.

JR’s exploded tube

Quickly repaired again with the combined support and helpful commentary of his colleagues we continued, stopping on the way at the WW2 cemetery at Cambes en Plein to reflect.

Then along the coast west. Tea coffee stop at Courseilles sur mer.
Inspection of several memorials/tanks along the way reminding us of the incredible tasks and difficulties of the invasion. Discussion at one tank on how to get spares from it to transport to the Downs (or alternatively the whole tank).

FGCC tank inspection

Tim fallen on the dunes.
Long haul to Arromanche to see the wonder of the Mulberry harbour and take a baguette lunch followed by ice creams.
Then a fairly direct route back to Caen with CB setting the pace for the foundation members.
A beer on return to the hotel  and comment from JR “My arse knows it’s been for a ride”
Ride to Arromanche 4th May 2018

Total 46.67 miles 1,557 ft climbed
Arrival of the shirts and their distribution.
Le Bistrot 102 restaurant booked in Caen and a 40 minute walk to it proved worthwhile though non-arrival of taxis meant walking back.

Day 3.
A later start with a route planning meeting deciding upon an easterly route for the day with a reasonable amount of off-road. This was soon realised when we were presented with an escarpment to descend. In true FGCC fashion some started a human chain down which to pass the bikes:

Bikes being passed down the escarpment

Meanwhile JR sought an alternative route and found some steps, demonstrating that this morning he didn’t have a hangover.
Continued alongside the east bank of the river and coastal route to Franceville Plage with a tea stop and purchase of baguette-style sandwiches for a picnic.
Meandering route south stopping in countryside for lunch. Several occasions when RK demonstrated problems of orientation finally demonstrated by his recording on Strava that this was a ride on the west bank.
Then continued into woods and then west back to Caen for a visit to the cathedral and a couple of beers  (too many?) with a decision to eat at Buffalo steak house to Mr Budd’s resigned acceptance ( it did not have the sufficient BTA (Budd tripadvisor ) rating.
Total 37 miles 1,190 ft climbed
East Bank of Orne ride 5th May 2018

Day 4.
Route up river with the peloton splitting almost immediately as we descended into Caen. Regrouped by the Hippodrome having an opportunity to admire some old French classics (cars). Followed old railway track – vert during suisse normand  – with a number of viaducts giving TK the opportunity to lecture on their age and structure.
There being an absence of potential lunch stop locations (as well as being a Sunday ) we sought a boulangerie from which to acquire filled baguettes. After a climb up into Arnaye sur Orne an unsuspecting young shopkeeper at the Panier Sympa was subjected to the FGCC request to make up filled baguettes from ingredients purchased from his delicatessen counter. This he did without complaint whilst the queue built up with those in the queue showing great patience (“Sympa”?) and reminding us that it was a Sunday after all and not for rushing.
Back onto the track for a while before heading into the foret de Grimbosq.

Orne river alongside the Foret de Grimbosq

Bridge over river Orne

An unintended diversion took us up a long steep muddy path which we had to walk. At the top wie managed to go past one field three times before finding our route again and more importantly a pleasant aire for a lunch stop.
Refreshed we continued a circuitous route through the woods before a nice two mile drop back to the disused railway track.
Returned to Caen by the same route with a tea stop by the canal in the town.
Ride up River Orne 6th May 2018

Total 39.08 miles 1,547 ft climbed
A suitable (4.5 BTA rating) restaurant had been found by Mr Budd so after returning to the hotel for a quick change we marched back to town centre look for a bar finding with difficulty one that had an interesting option for serving beer – a “Giraffe” and to which Mr Roche was called to serve the first beers:
Mr Roche demonstrates how to serve from a Giraffe

Giraffe emptied and glasses filled with a toast to absent friends

Then on to Le Bistronome restaurant for an excellent dinner.
Some who had been protesting at the idea of a long walk back up hill had researched bus options and this was successfully put to the test.

Day 5
a) Omaha beach ride
Split peloton with ZA and RT electing to put bikes on the car and visit Omaha beach. Parked at the Omaha beach DDay landing museum, went round it and then cycled to Colville sur mer and to the beach passind the first allied airfield location. Then to the beach for a ride along most of it taking in the sheer scale of the beach and the enormity of the task on that fateful day.

6 mile ride on Omaha beach

Searching also for a lunch stop the hot dog stand was contemplated but rejected  in the style of Mr Budd with a firm “non”.
Next cafe seemed to be having problems and with our being completely ignored without any sign of awareness of our presence by the patrons we decided to move on and found another village shop that in a similar way to the previous day was happy to go the extra mile to assist us and we went away with delicious baguettes straight out of the oven along with ingredients at a fraction of the cost of the products from the hot dog stall.
Lunch taken by a field with a great view of the village  church spire and other buildings. We then found our way to another excellent museum to absorb more of what had happened there on 1944 before making our way back to the car and visiting the American Omaha beach cemetery,  a moving reminder in a beautiful setting.

American cemetery Omaha beach

Omaha beach ride 7th May 2018

b). The Moules or Gauche ride
Summary kindly provided by TK as follows:

“Having waved off RT and ZA on their trip to Omaha , PT, JR, CB, MA , RT and TK set off in search of ‘Moules’.
Leaving Hotel Carline past our favourite ‘Michelin starred’ steak restaurant, our passage was immediately interrupted as TKs bike developed a technical fault to a crank arm. The TM suggested a heavy blow before tightening , and MA and PT took advantage of a pile of broken concrete to hammer the errant crank on.

The route then took us past the university and back onto a farm track where JR had exploded into life days earlier. No such startling of pigeons this time. Taking the next of many a left turn we headed out over various farm tracks , avoiding too much Tarmac. Fairly soon we searched for a coffee / tea stop only to discover that it was a national holiday and ‘France a ferme’

Unrefreshed we continued towards the coast adopting farm tracks and off road routes turning left wherever possible , quite by chance at ‘Tholan’ we stumbled upon an abandoned 11th Century Norman church

Norman church at Thaon

this coincided with use of the same route by horse and carts , taking us all through a glade and crossing a stream via ford or small bridge. The track also contained an abandoned quarry with a number of cave entrances. Still unable to find a cafe we headed for the coastal town of Saint Aubin Sur Mer, where at last we found solace… A number of restaurants were open serving moules and drinks – we chose a drink and headed on along ‘Juno beach’ destined to rendezvous with a Moule frites lunch later on the trip to Ouistreham. Our Italian dining advisor worked trip advisor hard to find a restaurant that was open – many speculative efforts failed , until well into ‘sword beach’ we found a fish restaurant only to note ‘no moules frites’ .. Now all somewhat hungry we were relieved when PT spied several parasols on the prom, RK was dispatched to confirm this was to be the lunch destination ( although not on trip advisor) 6 portions of Moules frites were consumed accompanied by white wine , beer , and ultimately crepes.

Moules stop

Fully refreshed and somewhat squiffy we moved on cycling through madding crowds on the prom at Ouistreham, before joining the 593 KM cycle route to La Rochelle. Just after Pegasus bridge we completed an off road circular path north of Caen (in homage to the Lewes ride). Now close to the end of the tour RK and CB were keen to outrun each other – leading to near crashes (TK and CB) near head on collision (CB and RK) and a close inspection of l’arch D’or by RK who inexplicably turned left into McDonald’s. We all made it back to Hotel Carline having completed 37 miles proceeding immediately to take beverages and any food that could be mustered.”
Return to the hotel with RT and RK taking dinner in Mr Budd’s much-disliked Buffalo Grill, whilst the rest persuaded the receptionist to order take-away pizzas (Domino’s – another Budd favourite ),  due to practically all restaurants of any reasonable BTA standard being closed for VE day.

St Aubin & gauche ride 7th May 2018

Omaha total 12 miles and 492ft
Gauche ride 35.5 miles and 985ft

Day 6
Bikes on cars and farewell to Mr Budd who set off for Orly airport and Italy whilst the rest headed by car to Utah beach for the beach and museum.
Return to the ferry via a superstore for baguettes and gifts for home before boarding the ferry without incident. Tea, a snooze and dinner on board to be greeted by a beautiful sunset as we entered the Solent.

Sunset over the Solent

PT frequently cycling on the left. Also saying go left when meaning right.
CB driving us all on particularly on day 2 both with the cycling and fast walk into town.
CB insistence on avoiding any restaurant below 4 rating on TripAdvisor  (the BTA rating ) then consuming a sizeable proportion of much maligned Domino’s pizza. The restaurant stazi.
RT how not to eat an egg with a hangover.
JR infatuation with TK’s live “kacks” sorry seeking counselling after hus experience.
JR’s constant reference to the state of his backside especially when eating – standards?
French humour catching PT with charge of 100 euros a day for storing the bikes
RK getting confused between east and west as demonstrated by his Strava record for Day 3 – the compass award.