Author - Dr Charlie Holden
I woke at 0530 and bundled myself and the big blue Surly onto the train from Hove to London. A couple of hours later we were by the fountains at Buckingham Palace cold and hungry waiting for Mike to arrive. A meal deal could only solve half of this.
Mike came into view with his partner Jolie. As with lots of big moments in your life, it doesn’t always feel so good at the time. With a bittersweet atmosphere in the air we took a few photos (mainly Will for tourists) and Mike’s dad handed him a small wedge of dollars. We said goodbyes, rang a few bells and cycled down the Mall.
Having struggled for a while the night before it became clear there was no chance my overshoes were going to go over my cycling shoes, so I cut the backs off them. Zips were now hanging in the breeze where they ought not to be. Each time the cranks went round those pesky zips were stroking the chain stays and making an annoying tinkling noise.
Besides cold feet we made good progress towards Brighton, much better once we’d escaped the M25 (the first of many personal milestones for Mike). I’d packed a small overnight kit but Mike was carrying full round-the-world gear and moving really well.
As we passed Gatwick, thoughts turned to the Brightonian everest - Ditching Beacon. This 1km 10% climb was the first real test of Mike and his fully laden bike. (See Vid)
After dinner in Hove we cycled through the black rain to the Newhaven-Dieppe Ferry. We disembarked and The Avenue Verte slipped by in the 4am drizzle. A squished frog and 50km covered before 8am we stopped to have our fill in Forges-les-Eaux. Having raided a boulangerie in our wet gear we then immediately piled into a cafe for coffee and omelettes. After breakfast we put away our bike lights and set out to see off the other 60ish km south-west towards Paris. 250km covered in just over 24 hours we climbed up to the picture perfect hilltop village of Omerville, our rest-stop for the night.
Four were soon to become one and the same bittersweet atmosphere fell over us as we ate a beautiful dinner and apologised to our hosts for Brexit. The following day Mike would continue towards Istanbul whilst Geev, Will and me headed back to Brighton.
In the morning, Mike was quiet. It was still 5 degrees and the unenviable task of a 110 mile day loomed, significantly further than he’d ever ridden before and virtually impossible to complete before nightfall. He packed his kit and grumbled about a rubbing rear brake. Setting off later than planned, with that day the first of many long days alone, he passed round a corner and out of sight.