Cycling from Lloyd’s of London to the Rendez Vous Reinsurance Conference: Day 5 – a game of two halves in four quarters

    Today falls neatly into four. Part 1 and Part 4 were very alike. Parts 2 and 3 rather blurred into one.

    The cycling shop near our hotel in Moulins opened at 9am, and a hoard of cyclists descended on it in an instant. Most in demand were inner tubes, energy drinks and chamois cream. These were quickly found and paid for, so the main peloton was on the road by 9.15am. One cyclist had been using old fashioned “toe-strap” peddles, but the straps had broken, so he wanted clip-less peddles and shoes. And I was there looking for new gears. The staff were great. They found what we needed; fitted it…without charge…and with a smile. So the last four riders were on the road by 10am.

    For the first part of today’s ride, an elite level cyclist from Barclays Corporate Bank “towed” three other riders along at a fast enough speed for us to be able to reach the first feed stop (at mile 25) just as the slowest riders from the 9.15 group were leaving.  We had a short break, and got back on the road.

    The next 25 miles, and the third 25 miles, were brutal. We were riding in full sun, up hills that literally went on for miles, in temperatures of up to 35 degrees. Those of you who’ve met me will know that I’m not the shortest or slimmest cyclist you’re ever likely to meet (although I’m much slimmer now than I was a few days ago). So when we reached the hills, I quickly found myself slipping off the back of the group and falling further and further behind. This is not nearly as much fun as riding with other people, and it’s much (much) harder, because you can’t take it in turns to protect each other from the wind.  

    The last 19 miles were a lot like the first 25, but the group of riders was much bigger. Some of the road was down hill, and the rest was flat; and when we reached the flat, we worked together as a “chain gang”. (A chain gang of riders ride in a single line, and each person rides so that his front wheel is close to the rear wheel of the person immediately in front of him. The front rider leads the group for a mile or two, then “peels off” towards the centre of the road (when it’s safe!). The other riders gradually pass him, and he slots back in at the back of the line. Chain gangs are hard work – but very efficient. So the miles fly by.)

    By taking advantage of the tow at the beginning of the day and the chain gang at the end, and by reducing the time I spent at each feed stop, I somehow managed to be one of the first riders to reach the hotel this evening. Exhausted, but happy and sun burned (despite using plenty of lotion).

    I’ve since learned that Steve broke his collar bone in Sunday’s crash, but the bone ends were pinned together in a successful operation yesterday. Steve is already up and about, and in good spirits. He’s also likely to be discharged tomorrow, and on his way home the day after. A good result, although clearly not the best: Steve did so much to put our trip together that I owe him a great deal. It also feels rather odd to be cycling without him, and to have left him 250 miles up the road. Still, I understand he’s sharing a hospital room with a French cyclist who injured his neck in a similar accident on Sunday, that the two of them are getting on really well…and that Steve is improving his French no end.

    Today’s distance: 94.25 miles
    Total distance so far: 485.87 miles
    Today’s climbing: 1,292 meters
    Total climbing so far: 6,600 meters

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