Saturday’s ride saw a good turnout from old and new Curistas looking forward to a tough test of the legs with only two months before Le Grand Départ in September. With customary precision planning by our course directeur, it covered 102.8 km and 1,620 vertical metres including the Beast of Beddlestead, Ide Hill and the rather daunting Ditchling Beacon.
Our petit Départ was at the glamorous East Croydon railway station at 8am. There was an impressive display of Cure de France ‘14 kit, and only a hint of Friday night’s excesses from the usual suspects. You know who you are, Tony and Paddy.
Our roll out made a stuttering start with Michael picking up a rear wheel puncture after about 200m. Unfazed and used to the smooth service provided by the mechanics on Le Cure, he took on a managerial role whilst others, with true Esprit de Cure, rallied round.
The sun came out and the headwind was gentle en route to our first target of the day – the café at Ide Hill. This was made in good time for coffee, cake and a water-bottle refill. Spirits were high, even if Tony (third from left) was doing his best to hide it:
Rolling on towards lunch, Michael picked up another rear wheel puncture; the sun continued to shine; and the headwind began to make its presence felt. Kilometres were eaten up, but the memories of Ide Hill’s cake began to fade as the wind continued unabated and stomachs started to rumble. The hills kept rolling and soon lunch was definitely on everyone’s agenda. Fortunately, a quarter of the way down Danehill, our lunch spot hove into view – at least for most of us. Henny and Tony shot past it, no doubt looking to build in some extra climbing when they eventually realised their bacon sandwiches were a kilometre back up from where they came.
Lunch was at the picturesque pub the Coach and Horses in Danehill. For anyone thinking about cycling from London to Brighton, this is definitely recommended.
With the sunshine and good food, there was a palpable disinterest in getting back to pedalling, but eventually we all clambered back on the bikes and set our minds to Ditchling and onwards to Brighton. Before reaching either, however, there was some more rolling countryside to negotiate, and, of course, the inevitable rear-wheel puncture from Michael.
With about 90km in the legs (and more for those who had cycled to Croydon) Ditchling Beacon was a challenge. Everyone took it on with fortitude and surprising zip with Dave taking the King of the Mountains points in impressive fashion. Hard on his coat-tails were Akhil and David demonstrating to the younger bucks how it should be done. Though this came at a price for David…. Chapeau!
Once Ditchling was conquered it was direct to Brighton with that sodding headwind for company. Still, not even that could dampen spirits and all were rightly chuffed about getting there. Michael’s threatened fourth puncture didn’t materialise and celebratory beers and sausage rolls on the train on the way home undid all our hard work. Perfect.
Yellow cap: Dave Warren – for his efforts on Ditchling and, well, all of the hills.
Pédaleur de charme: Henny Cumming – for taking on the ride “à la Mary Pert” (without clip-in pedals).
Notable mentions: Akhil, Ray, Michael and Jamie for travelling significant distances to join the ride. Kudos for the solidarity. Lisa and Beth for spinning up the hills with almost inappropriate amounts of enthusiasm and bonhomie.