Oh my gosh I hear you all cry! What’s this? Is it really those two cyclist from months and months ago?!? Surely not, they must have died somewhere on route on that last day as we never heard from them again, right? Well really sorry to disappoint you all but Dan and Myself are both alive and well (Although I am missing a bit but will get to that!)
We both want to say the biggest apology going for never letting you all know how our last mammoth day of cycling went and boy was it an exciting day with so many stories to tell….
Ok so we don’t have a brilliant excuse for waiting 5 months before writing the final blog entry, I guess we both put it off because once we had wrote this final days entry that was it, it was really over, we really had cycled 650 miles all the way to France, and there was no more to tell you. I think despite the pain it caused, the tears that came along the way, the anger, the frustration, the sheer longing for it to be over (and that’s just my feelings on the matter) we both really did enjoy it and we got so much out of being able to do it and prove to people that we could set our minds to something and then complete it. The truth is for the 6 months of training and 9 hellish days of the actual challenge ‘R2R Challenge’ became our little baby that we were proud of, and writing this final chapter on it is like saying goodbye, plus once you say goodbye to one challenge you have to start planning the next, something I don’t think either of us are ready for!!!
But I think the time has come to write this last entry….
So were to start, safe to say we had the BEST nights sleep thanks to Keith and Jocelyn and where do I even start on that breakfast, definitely the food of champions and enough to get us on the bikes for that final push. Now I think another big factor in the making us smile department was that today was the first day we have been able to have a little bit of a lie in. Now don’t all go getting excited it wasn’t the longest lie in but we got to stay in bed til 8am!! Yeah so not overly exciting I grant you as this is the time most people get up for work anyway, but when the rest of the trip we had been up for about half 6 this extra hour and a half was so greatly needed. Now don’t worry we weren’t being careless and just over sleeping, the reason we were able to stay in bed that little bit longer was because today was due to be a nice easy half day ride. When in the planning stages we figured that today would only require being on the bikes for 4 hours max, but as anyone will know, plans change. Now as we mentioned on day 8 my knee and ankle were swelling badly and add to that the raging sun burn, seriously picture me less as delicate rose coloured and more Sebastian from The Little Mermaid (at this point I am hating Dan who wore less sun cream than me and yet never burnt!). So anyway back to out plans changing, we figured that as each day we had been getting that little bit slower and now that I was in lots of pain when I cycled we would have to add extra time on, and as we were on a strict deadline to be at Rimbard Manor for 3pm when the press would be there we knew we would have to get our skates on… or should I say our cleats! So rather than setting off 11am as planed we set off at 9am so hence the shorter lie in 😦
Now as you all know we were blessed with the best weather known to man during our trip, in fact much better than this so called British summer time, however the rain finally caught up with us today and we spent much of the morning cycling through on and off showers, yet even that didn’t diminish our exciting at reaching the finish line! My excitement just kept growing and growing every time I saw something I recognized and I knew I was nearly there!
First part of the day, easy peasy… straight roads, a few hills but nothing that even came close to the dreaded A34, all good basically! Partheney however a slightly different matter, we may possibly have got lost and gone the wrong way about 12 times in town, not that I am saying we did of course just that we might have done….
But soon Patheney was a thing of the past and we were on the finally road home! So much for us thinking we would need the extra time today, we were sailing along! I think it was the adrenaline from the thought that we had nearly completed the trip fueling us!
Pulling up at a cross road I suddenly heard my name shouted at me, which when you are in the middle of now where is a mildly surreal experience. Looking around me and there pulling up next to me with all its lights flashing is the Blot’s car, after seeing the family last night it gave me a real buzz for them to actually see me on the bike as well, and nothing is going to give you that extra push to keep going like a car full of screaming supporters, so cycle on we did!!!
Soon we were arriving on the outskirts of a town called Vasles, which is two villages over from Lavausseau and a sign for me that there really wasn’t far to go. Approaching the village Dan and I are speeding down a hill when a car in front stops at the crossing, now I admit that I am mildly grouching after 8 and a half days on a bike with very little sleep and so all the way down the hill I am cursing this French driver as I know they have seen us coming down the hill at speed and I just know they are going to pull out as soon as we get close, I just knew it. Yeah, so I was wrong… Instead as we get close Sue Parrington jumps out the car and starts waving the most amazing home made banner at us and jumping around yelling her support, (and you though we were the crazy ones!) Dan and I starting hooting our horns and making as much noise as we could as we cycled past… If Vasles didn’t know we were coming they certainly did now!! We both really felt like we were the celebrities on Tour du France!
However talk about a come down… cycling into Vasles, we were expecting a few crowds with the amount of people who my Mum and Dad had been telling, but no, alas the town was kinda dead. There in the center of the square was sweet Sue again still waving her banner at us, and looking a little lonely. (For those wondering, she over took us in her car and thereby beat us to the village).
Any disappointment we felt however was very quickly forgotten, Sue made us both feel so amazing. She said this was the most excitement she has had this year, ok so it was only April but still! She also brought us a bar of yummy chocolate from her shop, after all sugar is always good and she also bought us both a drink in the bar while we waited for my sister to drive over with our lunches. Wait is definitely what we did though, with all the setting up that was going on at Rimbard Manor, Kat ended up being 45 mins late getting to Vasles with our lunch (Or maybe we were 45 Mins early). Either way it gave us both a good chance to rest and stretch our legs and realise just how well we were doing for time. The truth is we expected to hit Vasles at about 2 o’clock giving us an hour to cycle the remaining 8.5 miles to Rimbard, but it was only 12 o’clock and we were here already, so the hour wait in Vasles wasn’t the worst thing to happen this trip.
Setting off again, Dan and I now had our second entourage of the trip in the form of my sister and my little brother in a little green Citroen. Half way between Vasles and Benassay we got supported again and I think for me it is one of my favourite memories of the whole trip. The support came in the form of a field full of cows… yes you did just read that right! Cycling along suddenly this entire field of cows started galloping (do cows gallop?) towards the fence and then as we cycled along the ran the entire length of the field side by side with us. It was the strangest sight to have 40 cows all running along side you, but we of course thank them for their support!
And Benassay was finally upon us, only one more village to go…
Finally we made it to Lavausseau, 9 hard days of cycling and we see the best sign we had seen the whole trip…
Rimbard only 2km… the end was in sight!!
One final push and were at the top of the lane leading to Rimbard Manor, however slight problem, we are over an hour early! At this stage Rimbard Manor hadn’t finished setting up for our arrival, the press hadn’t arrived yet nor had the guest. In short there is no way we could arrive yet. However we couldn’t sit at the top of the lane in broad sight of those arriving, there was nothing to do but go and hide and just relax for an hour. So that’s really how the story ends, 9 days of cycling and we spend the last hour hiding behind a bush 500m from the house, not quite the fairy tale ending!!
At 5 to 3 and we could wait no longer, back on our bikes we got and down the lane we started cycling, we made as much noise as we possibly could, we wooped, we whistled, we rang our bells, we had our flags round us like capes and the grand entrance we received was amazing!!!! There was banners everywhere, bunting hanging everywhere, people waving flags, marquees set up with cakes, and the best bit, Queen Bicycle Race playing on the sound system!! That was it, we had done it, we didn’t have to get on our bikes again……
Think again!! My sister and brother missed the whole thing! They had got on their own bikes and cycled up the lane to tell us everything was ready for us, but as we were hiding, they cycled right past us and had gone down to the village. So Dan and I got back on our bikes and went back to try and find them and take two on the grand entrance. The look on the French people faces was priceless though! They honest thought we had cycled all the way there and were now just turning round and cycling back to England!
This time though we really were able to set the bikes down and enjoy the party. A really big thank you to Rimbard Manor for the arrival party and thank you to everyone who came to celebrate our victory with us!
After a quick interview with the French newspaper and a few photo’s taken and we could finally say we had done it, we had cycled 650 miles all the way to France. We honest can not say thank you enough to everyone who helped make this possible. Thank you to everyone who donated their time, or their money, or their expertise. We couldn’t have done this without all of you and it means so much to us and I know it means a lot to the NSPCC as well, thank you for supporting us on this journey and for taking time to read out blog. Over the next few days we will do a few more blog entries telling you all about our stay at Rimbard Manor, what we have been up to since getting back as well as the exciting day when we gave a talk at a school, but for now we will just say thank you to everyone and no doubt see you all again in the near future when we come up with crazy challenge number 2!!