If there was a category for snoring on Strava, then Muswell Hill Peloton would feature near the top of the leaderboard. Pistol, a Kiwi, emerged from his tent wearing a piupiu.
Queues for the showers in the control obliged The Wattmeister to self-administer a bed bath with wet wipes. Alex ate the breakfast of three sumo wrestlers.
Suitably refreshed and looked after by Vicky and Tom, Alex’s girlfriend and father-in-law, we set off for Brest at dawn on the wrong route out of Carhaix. It soon became transparently obvious that we we off-course by the absence of ever present bike lights and reflective jackets. Retracing our pedal strokes, uphill naturally, we rejoined the ribbon of randonneurs.
On the first day, we had laid the foundations for a comfortable ride with good time management and strong riding. Faced with the second day and physical afflictions levied by riding 525 kms, we were looking at a ride of 340 kms which would take us back to Tinteniac by midnight.
A large posse freewheeled down to Poullaouen before the gentle 24 kms ascent of Roc’h Trevezel, the highest point of the ride, via ancient forests of the Monts d’Arrées. This was a meditative episode.
Several hundred cyclists composed an harmonious but subdued symphony, as tarmac glided under rubber with a delicate whooosh, punctuated occasionally by the percussion of a gear change or a muted cough.
At La Feuilee, we joined the main road and continued to climb. The mood changed slightly as the symphony began its second movement. Some of the ‘players’ began to up the tempo from adagio to allegro. There being no conductor for this particular orchestra, it was up to the individual to determine the beat.
We summited at a gallop. The score read attacca….straight on to the next movement….and we did, evolving into a full on capriccioso of the descent to the town of Sizun, 52 kms into the stage. All the time, riders were passing by on the opposite carriageway, making their way back from Brest.
After too long a break in Sizun, but nonetheless an enjoyable one, The Wattmeister badgered Pistol and Alex to continue the drive to consolidate our gains. Within 90 minutes we were crossing the Pont Albert Louppe on the outskirts of Brest, and tackling the infernal climb of Rue du Quimper which leads to the town centre.
Alex skipped away, and The Wattmeister, desperately trying to summon the form which won him King of the Mountains jersey in the 1982 Fenlands Classic, gave more chase than a middle-aged man should be capable of after 615 kms in the saddle.
Pistol, all resolve and efficiency, bounced Brest. Alex and I showered, faffed, chatted and oozed away the precious minutes. The air weighed hot and heavy as we departed the control in pursuit of Pistol. Despite our regular interludes, the time schedule was being met in reasonable fashion. Up and over Le Queff from Landerneau at a steady pace allowed us the reward of a quick top-up in Sizun and a happy reunion with Pistol, (who bought a box of 4 Magnums, and donated the extra one to a lady from Hackney).
There followed a blissful return back up and over the Roc’h. SavilleRow and The Wattmeister set a beautiful cadence for a squadron of international riders, click here, over 42 minutes and 14 kms.
Approaching the top of the climb, The Wattmeister attempted to wrest the KOM jersey from Alex with a spirited attack, but the younger man, who has never failed a drugs test, came by to claim a famous victory.
Controlling quickly at Carhaix, the trio split up on the road to Loudeac as Pistol battled the “demons in his derriere”, while The Wattmeister saved himself for the tough last 15 kms of the stage and Alex danced away on the pedals in the form of his life. We fell in and out of some strong riding groups on this stage as the relentless hills exacted a toll on our ruined legs and simultaneously whittled down the field into ones and twos.
Nevertheless, The Wattmeister knows this part of the ride very well, and he managed to extract a few extra watts hidden away in the depths of his being as good progress was made in the final 20 kms from Merleac to peg back Alex’s advantage on the road to nada at the control.
What a welcome we received at Loudeac, lifted and buoyed by the rampant energy and revitalised by soup, soup and more soup, we departed with happy but heavy hearts.
Pistol had something to prove to himself. He locked on to several pelotons and rode them down. As dusk enveloped us, we climbed up to Meneac, passed through Illifault, where, in the darkness it seemed that every villager was cheering us from outside the church, and marched on to St. Meen le Grand. Only 29 kms to go to Tinteniac and we would be there well before midnight.
Joined by Doctor Andrew of the Willsden CC, a sense of urgency was thrust upon us. This new episode shall be known as The Storming of Becherel, and Pistol’s reputation for coming back from the brink of the abyss will be proclaimed from the rooftops for ever after.
As we hit the lower slopes of the climb in the company of about 25 others, Alex and Doctor drew steadily clear. The Wattmeister sat tight and Pistol started to moan. The twin red tail lights became smaller with each revolution of the pedals, but TW began to draw clear of the remainder of bobbing white lights. At one point, there was only darkness all around, with only a faint reminder that Alex and Doctor were up the road, and it looked as if Pistol was out of bullets.
NEVER underestimate this Kiwi’s propensity to suffer. His white light slowly winched its way up to TW’s wheel. Red lights in the distance began to get larger as we closed them down. Pistol crested the top of the climb at a full-on sprint with The Wattmeister, bloated with admiration and disbelief, as they proceeded to pass tens of riders on the rapid descent through La Baussaine down the D20 towards Tinteniac. Exhilarating, bonkers….the Dutch have a word for it….knettergek!
Elated, high and dripping with endorphins, we had successfully consolidated the previous day’s gains..