Dreux -> St Quentin-en-Yvelines. 65km (21.8km/h) __ HR98(122)
The controllers gave me a nice cheer as I walked in through the building. I saw Martin just leaving. Knowing I had plenty of time in hand I stopped for more coffees and a pastry and then headed back out into the night, just as Nick was rolling in. The route out of Dreux was very twisty and it was really difficult to work out what direction you were going in. I caught up with a little Italian guy here and we ended up riding the last stage together. It seemed to be difficult to settle into a rhythm on this stage – there were many twists and turns and although there were some nice straightish sections, you’d soon be back into another little village. The Italian had a GPS on his bike that’d beep when a turn was coming up so although we were tired, that kept you alert for each new sign.
The last bit was though a forest. I was just starting to struggle with hallucinations – some of the overhanging trees and branches were throwing strange shapes. There were also a couple of nasty climbs. At night, of course, you have no idea how long a climb might be, you just keep plugging away to the top. My gears were playing up a little through here too – I’d put loads of oil on the chain before the start (in anticipation of the wet weather) and it’d turned into goo and started to affect the speed of gear change (when I got the bike home I found the cranks wouldn’t freewheel half as freely as usual, but they were OK after I’d de-greased everything).
After what seemed an age of mazy twists and turns we started to see signposts for Elancourt and passed a “15km to go” sign, then 10km, and then we were into the outskirts of the town. Almost home. We joined the wide open roads for the finish and were caught by … Martin! – he’d missed a signpost in the forest and had to double back, losing all of the advantage he’d built up over me in the last 3 hours. We rolled into Guyancourt together. The little Italian was given a flag to carry by his supporters and Martin and I passed him and went to the gym. Our bikes were taken from us and we got our final stamp. Relief!
Martin shook my hand and I sat down on a nearby bench, exhausted. I started to nod off almost straight away, although I remember Nick rolling in half an hour later. Despite his injuries he’d managed a 59-hour finish. I was just flat out on the floor, my head under a bench to shelter from the glare of the gym lights. After an hour or so like that I started to get cold so I moved over to a space further away from the door and slept there for another hour or two.
In this photo by Alan Parkinson, who finished 4 hours after me, you can see me in my orange shirt, by the railings, curled up on the floor (lying on my right side – my left was still very sore from the first day’s accident):
Summary: Cycle 1234km/48:39 (25.4km/h), steady __ HR118(179)
Total time: 58:06 (21.2km/h).
Time stopped: 9:26, of which <30mins sleeping
Place: 269th of ~4130 finishers (and +5300 on the start sheet)
From this thread on YACF, maps of the various sections here:
Paris to Villaines – http://www.bikeroutetoaster.com/Course.aspx?course=278914
Villaines to Loudeac – http://www.bikeroutetoaster.com/Course.aspx?course=281715
Loudeac to Brest – http://www.bikeroutetoaster.com/Course.aspx?course=278925
Brest to Loudeac – http://www.bikeroutetoaster.com/Course.aspx?course=282278
Loudeac to Villaines – http://www.bikeroutetoaster.com/Course.aspx?course=278957
Villaines to Paris – http://www.bikeroutetoaster.com/Course.aspx?course=278967
Found a good GPS trace of the ride from “ZigZag” (Rimas Grigenas, no. 1885, who finished in 60h): http://ridewithgps.com/trips/372808
Eventually I came round a bit. There were a few more Brit finishers hanging around. We shared a few jokes, George Hanna took some pictures of my injuries. I gave away my free beer voucher as I was driving home in the afternoon. I toddled out to my bike and then rode it very slowly back to the multi-story car park where I’d left my car three days before. I had a bit of a faff getting my bike into the car and then took a change of clothes and some toiletries and walked back to the gym. I bought an ice cream from the petrol station nearby, yum. I showered (bliss!) and cleaned my teeth (bliss!) and then made my way upstairs to the dortoir. It was warm and quiet in there, compared to the gym downstairs were most riders was sleeping, and I made a bed on a gym mat. I slept for another 4 hours or more before getting up and wandering over to the post-ride food & drink marquee to catch up with the other Brit finishers. Paul Alderson was there, very happy with his 53-hour finish. I said my goodbyes and wandered back to the car, stopping to buy a bottle of coke for the journey.
The rest of the drive home was straightforward. I stopped on the way for an espresso and a sandwich and made it to Calais in time for an earlier ferry. Rolled home at 10pm, opened a couple of beers and had a chat with Jules and then we went to bed. I slept like the dead!