My elbows nudge into the hoods and my head hangs over my front wheel. I haven’t ridden in this kind of heat since southern Europe on last year’s Transcontinental. I’m empty and cramping, absolutely ruined. This is the second time Simon and I have had to ride straight to ferry check-in after what should have been a simple 200km DIY audax. Last time was due to weather too, but that time rain and a battering ram of a headwind all the way back from Amiens. In fact the only times I’ve ridden 200km over here and not made it back to Dieppe in time for a late lunch and beer/cidre/wine (delete as applicable) I’ve been with Simon. I’d blame him but it was categorically me that went piff a few hours back. Unfortunately there were no shortcuts available as I watched the kilometres tick down way out of proportion to the minutes ticking by.
It started well. The ferry was very quiet and passport control was quick, though asked for the first time where I was going. First couple of hours on silent empty roads, bats flitting across our path, and watching night turn to day. First pastry stop as a church bell struck 7am. A hare alert in the middle of a field. Tracking our shadows up hills as the temperature slowly rose. By mid-morning already in the high twenties. Espressos and Orangina with ice. Water towers and cornfields. Humidity and heat crippling (me) by the coast. More cold drinks as a bar closed around us. The up and down and up and down of the coast road back to Dieppe into a stiff headwind. Favourite hairpins and stripey shadows. Sci-fi looking nuclear power station perched on the cliffs. Sitting in the shade opposite a supermarket eating mussels out of a tin with a pen knife as I can’t locate my spork. Back into the heat and hills. Feeling sick every time I drink tepid water. One earphone in, need some tunes. Tell Simon to go ahead, I need to ride alone (and so he doesn’t see me get off and walk up that steep bit). Head down, not in time trial but “this just needs to be over” mode. At least the last few kilometres are downhill.
I owe Simon a cafe bimble and three course lunch next time we come over. Whenever that is allowed again without having to quarantine.