It was difficult to calm down after the insane blast into Tinteniac, However, time constraints still existed and we needed to eat well, sleep well and organise ourselves well for the following day’s ride of 300 kms to Dreux.
Pistol donned his now customary piupiu, Alex tipped food into the black hole of his stomach and The Wattmeister reminisced to no particular audience over PBPs of years gone by.
After a healthy break of seven hours, the road hit us again. My word, forward motion was hard to come by, but salvation appeared in the form of two grizzled Frenchmen with whom we shared a cosy paceline of moderate speed, and it suited all and sundry until they peeled off for petit dejeuner at Sens de Bretagne.
They were immediately replaced by a super fast sextet who sucked the life out of Pistol and The Wattmeister but who towed Alex away to Fougeres like treasured booty. Pistol could live with the defeat, but The Wattmeister moped along in a huff with a bruised ego and tired legs. Pistol waited, but was chided by Garbo, “…go on without me, I vant to be alone..”
Eventually, another speeding crew of mixed nationalities cruised past. Pistol made the bridge while The Wattmeister’s systems happily shut down one by one as he watched them drift away into the distance.
But then something unexpected happened. Inspired by Pistol’s antics of the previous evening in the Storming of Becherel, The Wattmeister’s legs began to turn a little faster almost reluctantly, for his brain had not signed the agreement. He was propelled towards the escaping bunch which included an American tandem and some Austrian roadies. With the aid of a short delay at a ‘T’ junction they were back in his grasp. Pistol forced an antipodean chuckle when TW drew up alongside, which in turn coerced a wry smile from his riding partner. This was the “Inspired by Pistol” episode. To celebrate the reunion, we stopped for coffee and croissants just before the control.
Meanwhile, Alex’s fast group had put nearly 10 minutes into the older rouleurs. Nevertheless, we three turned around at the control in an orderly fashion and headed out towards Villaines-la-Juhel.
Now, the next episode of this remarkable ride was totally unexpected….especially in the light of the morning performance. We were passed by a big Dutchman riding a titanium bike with a belt/hub drive frame number C057. He was distinguished by a rather large backpack and a surfeit of watts….a very strong boy. There is a considerable climb out of Fougeres up to Mont Romain, with a succession of roller coaster hills all the way to Gorron, some 40 kms distant. The Dutch guy breezed past us, but he looked like a good wheel to follow, so The Wattmeister coaxed a bit of energy from somewhere and led the Muswell Hill trio up to his wheel.
A few others joined us, and we worked well for about 10 kilometres, whereupon a couple of tiny but powerful Italians commenced to boss the peloton. The road passed by quickly under our wheels, we were really attacking the draggy inclines and after a polite interlude, I decided to help out the Italians. This went OK. Pistol also contributed to the workload but it seemed to act as a catalyst for those riders who had been sitting in to endulge in a rare old tear-up.
Before you could say, “my other bike is a Cervelo”, we were hurtling along, cresting the hill at the village of Hercé at 50 kms ph to the wild applause of several excited villagers who were no doubt expecting to be offering encouragement to knackered randonneurs, not their crazed and delusional doppelgangers. This hyperactivity could not last, and market day in Gorron slowed us down… but we had experienced a sensational thrill after 950 kms of riding.
Now Alex had scheduled a UK job interview by telephone, so he needed to be in Villaines by a certain time in order to guarantee phone reception. Meanwhile, The Wattmeister sloped off the back of the peloton in Ambrieres-les-Vallees to refill water bottles while reflecting on what had just occurred. Pistol had the same idea, and on entering a boulangerie in Chantrigne, was tickled to find the big backpack carrying Dutchman lying prone on the floor of the shop…épuisé.
We re-grouped after Villaines. Alex in the midst of his interview, The Wattmeister having slept under a tree, and Pistol having excited the libido of a lady who owns a restaurant in the square. Leaving Alex to secure a job, Pistol and I attached ourselves to a leisurely team of gnarly but friendly French cyclotouristes with whom we pottered along for about 40 kms before the descent to Mamers split the group asunder. The local cycle club, CC Saosnois, traditionally provide free food and drink in the market place, and The Wattmeister had forged a tenuous friendship with one of their number in 2011.
The leisurely episode came to a quiet close, and Alex rejoined us with 24 rolling kms to Mortagne-au-Perche. We now had 80 more kms to cover before our proposed sleep stop at Dreux, or we could choose to ride to the finish without a stop. There seemed little point in a 2 a.m finish just to post a better time, so we resolved indeed to hole up at Dreux.
The landscape after Mortagne bucks and weaves as it crosses the Perche, before levelling out around Senonches, traversing vast cornfields with little cover in the event of wind or rain. But we were fortunate. It was a lovey warm evening. and our arrival in Dreux was hastened by a tidy little chaingang of around 10 riders, only spoiled by Pistol’s insistence in coming through before time and a puncture in the dark for The Wattmeister with about 12 kms of the stage left to go.
With 1165 kms completed, we had successfully rounded off Phase 6, The Clincher. Barring accidents, Phase 7, The Finale would be a breeze.