it was friday afternoon and from all corners of the uk amosroadclubbers headed to dover. four and a half hour queues on the m25, massive tailbacks on the m11 – bank holiday traffic! desperate measures lead to experienced amosroadclubber chris navigating from cambridge to dover via the shard. finally we arrived and 18 of us found ourselves in an italian restaurant with a reservation for 11. they coped, we packed in the pasta and off to bed full of anticipation about the days ahead.
day 1 – route
saturday morning. we cycled to the ferry (follow the red line) at top speed only to be told there was a delay. half our party set off on the more punctual p&o while the rest of us waited eagerly. a smooth crossing, a frustrating wait for every car and lorry to exit before they would let us leave, and we were in france. the rendezvous with the van and the p&oers was perfect and the amosroadclub was ready for the grand depart, straining at the leash like donkeys on blackpool beach. the first group set off; the second group set off; mike stayed behind for those on the later ferry. the phone calls started within 5 minutes as our foolproof instructions proved to be not foolproof. eventually the first kilometre was successfully navigated and we were off on route to messines. apart from various disobedient teenagers cycling off at tour de france pace and leaving their ailing parents miles behind, the first 30km or so were flat, beautiful and uneventful. mike, dean and ben reeled in the peleton and we cycled as a group to watten where chris introduced us to the pleasure of cheese and grated carrot baguettes.
suitably refreshed we set off with renewed vigour. we knew that the one big climb of the day was still to come at cassel. soon enough the climb arrived and heads down we set off up the hill. it was a sharp climb but mercifully short and the obligatory nuts, raisins and jelly babies soon got us back in one piece at the top. amosroadclubbers lucas and nick arrived having left calais much later than everyone else and after a couple of laughable mishaps with clipless pedals later we trundled into town for coffee and mars bars. we had received word that the advance party had taken beer but we opted to play the long game.
onward to belgium but before the border debutant amosroadclubber ben had too close an encounter with a lamppost. as the only member of the party who had opted to ride without a helmet it was just as well that we had taken the precaution of including two doctors in our group. the group split since it was clear that first aid was likely to take some time. the first splinter group was led by mike who made the childish error of not taking any notice of who was in the group before setting off. unfortunately this resulted in another first-time amosroadclubber john falling off the back of the group and eventually being picked up by sarah the van driver.
the miles passed and so did the hours. the seven-thirty dinner at the hostel was looking increasingly unlikely but the prospect of that ‘ice cold in alex’ moment with a belgian ale at our journey’s end kept us going. finally we arrived in messines. sadly it took us a further 15 minutes to find the hostel but we got there in the end, found our room and then the bar (in that order amazingly!) suitable refreshment occurred and at about 9.30 we all assembled for dinner, our amazingly hospitable hosts at the peace village having delayed the food for a couple of hours (a theme appearing here?) the first awards of the year generally involved mocking all of us who had had clipless pedal mishaps, the fact that amosroadclubbers pete and iain had seemed surprised on the friday evening that the saturday morning ferry was full (and they hadn’t bought tickets) and others too numerous to mention.
everyone retired to the bar to plot day 2.
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