Part 2 - The Start and a long slog through France

Official PEdALED Transcontinental No.4 Video Shorts Presented by Lezyne
Produced and Edited by Antonin / Ahstudio

Quick summary of the stage:
Geraardbergen to Moulins
22:00 Belgium time 29th July – 00:45 31st July
Total Time: 26 hours 45 min
Distance covered: 552km
Average speed including stops 20.5km/h

 Route day 1

Route day 1

Before I knew it, a year had whizzed by, and I was climbing up the Muur again.  This is undoubtedly one of the best ways to begin a race and this years turn out was fantastic.  The neutral lap this year was genuinely neutral and it was great chance to soak in all of the atmosphere and chat to some of the other riders.  We finished the neutral lap and it was off to climb the Muur again.  I took it fairly easy once again and tried to dodge people who had stopped or crashed.  At the very top of the Muur my mum and aunt were there so I gave them one final good-bye said as cooly as possible 'see you in a couple of weeks' whilst internally shitting myself.

 Photo courtesy of PedalEd

Photo courtesy of PedalEd

P1140809 89 at the top of Geraardsbergen Muur.JPG
 Photos courtesy of my aunt: Me at the Top of the Muur.

Photos courtesy of my aunt: Me at the Top of the Muur.

The previous year I had sort of gone my own direction and had ended up on a cycle path next to a canal.  This year was completely different.  For the first hour or so there were hundreds of cyclists and red lights everywhere.  I cycled with Nelson for a bit but unfortunately my weak bladder came to the party and I had to make my first of a million pee stops.

 Red lights everywhere

Red lights everywhere

After an hour or so the red lights became fairly sparse and I eventually I was alone.  I came to one of Belgium's cobbled roads and started up it.  Fuck that I thought - I turned around after 30 metres and begun my first detour of the race.  Eventually I settled into a pace and got onto one of those longish and hilly French roads where you could see one red load on the horizon and if you looked behind you'd see a white one.  This was the entire first night.  Unfortunately, my actual cycling speed was fairly slow so the white lights behind me would great brighter whilst the red one ahead would get dimmer.  Fortunately though, as you can see from the top photo I had completely stocked up by bike in terms of fluids and I was carrying 2.7 litres of water, 2 cokes, 2 lucozade sports, some Mooncakes, a pile of energy gells and some biscuits so when it came to about 5am when the bakeries began to open I quickly began regaining places.

When the sun started to come up I began getting deja vu.  I was passing all of the battefield sites of the previous year except this year I was a lot further ahead, feeling good and the weather crap.  I even passed the derelict barn where I had curled up naked in a ball in an attempt to dry.  I got the town of Loan which was a big low point for me in the previous years race about 2 hours quicker than the previous year.  The deja vu continued as I began cycling through Champagne and I passed the pharmacy where I'd bought the 1 gram paracetomols that I'd have to continue taking for the entirity of TCR 2015.

As the day went on I began to go into new territory but it was all very similar.  There were still long rolling hills, still yellow fields and still giant wind turbines.  I didn't see any other rider for almost all of the entire day as luckily France is one of the few countries where there are literally thousands of potentiol, and pretty good, routes to take.  Later on in the journey there was a much greater tendancy to see someone.  

The day began to get very hot, peaking at 32 degrees.  At about 4pm I got to Auxerre which was the 400km mark which was about as far as I got in the first year except about 8 hours earlier.  So far I hadn't taken a proper break and I had only stopped off once in a shop out of boredom rather than neccesity.  I whipped out my phone which luckily this year had 3/4G and located my first McDonalds.  My opinions of the phone were mixed - it did mean I spent less time browsing my phone in cafes whilst stopped but it definitely had an impact on my cycling speed at times.  It was however extremely useful at locating hotels, food and alternative routes. I got the Auxerre McDonald's and for some reason I felt extremely ill - perhaps it was due to the contrast between the heat of the outside and the lovely air conditioned building that I had entered.  I felt so bad actually that I had to lie down first and almost threw up.  I think it was some kinda heat stroke.  After a while moping in the corner I gathered myself and ordered a nice healthy meal consisting of a Bic Mac, multiple cheeseburgers, nuggets and a coke. 

After that I continued and decided that I had best try and get a couple of hours sleep whilst it was so hot however I lay down next to a water reserve but was unable to sleep.  I wasn't particurarly tired and I felt guilty at this stage stopping.  For a couple of hours I was joined by Rudy Rollenberg #162 and Joshua Rea #64 where we had a pleasant evening cycling into the sunset with the cooling temperatures and low wind.  Eventually, I let them cycle on and I began cycling into my second night by myself.  My moral was good and I thought I was pretty isolated so I started singing along the road with no hands.  I wasn't alone unfortunately and soon Stephane Ouaja #12 (2015 fixed-gear rider) briskly cycled past me mid-chorus.  Aside from that I had a great evening and really enjoyed cycling through the French villages and towns during nightfall.

Nearing midnight I decided that I stared to look for accomodation of some sort.  Conveniently I passed a hotel but I think they took one look at me and told me to get back on my bike.  It was a blessing in disguise as I wasn't really ready to stop yet.  Whilst looking on my phone I saw that the race leaders had made it to CP1 but it was raining heavily.  The weather I had was perfect but decided that if I could find a hotel that would be a good place to hide out if the weather moved more north.  At about 1am I got to Moulins where I found an Ibis hotel where I was quickly shown a room and blissfully feel asleep still in my cycling kit having been awake now for nearly 40 hours.

Francis Cade's video capturing the start and the first day