Touring! August 2015

What a month! Broke my wrist, rode my bike around the Pyrenees and French coast, snorkelled with cuttlefish, became friends with some wild boars, passed out and stood on the shores of Lake Geneva!

Prudential RideLondon Grand Prix

I departed to London early on Saturday 1st August, to enter what would be the largest race I would compete in so far. We arrived early, and so we had time to explore London, and it’s attractions. Nevertheless, I was excited but nervous about the event prior to leaving my home, and when I arrived at the circuit (A loop around St. James Park), this excitement just grew and grew. As you can see, the circuit approached Buckingham Palace, and the start/finish line was on the Mall – This was going to be some race 🙂

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I received a rider’s pass before entering the area where each region was stationed. From Wales to Scotland, riders from across the country were going to be competing against each other. I received my East Midlands Jersey, and had a small moment to reflect on the scale of the race – I planned to just enjoy the race, rather than winning it. The media’s attention on the race, along with thousands scattered around the circuit, was truly immense and memorable. I began to warm-up, with the rest of the riders from my region, and were all in a good mood with just a few minutes to go. Lining up, we set off for a 1 lap spin around the circuit before arriving at the start/finish line. We waited for what seemed quite a while, as an air ambulance helicopter arrived close to the circuit, to take away riders who crashed in the race prior. Below: A marshall steps out onto the track, open to any registered riders, prior to the event to allow pedestrians to cross.

Prudential RideLondon GP 1 2015

The race began. We had one neutral lap, so everyone could get up to speed without the increased risk of crashing, and then the race was under way. The pace on the neutral lap was high. And the pace just kept on creeping upwards. One of the corners was a 90-degree left-hand turn, that brought the speed down a little. However, the road here was much narrower than elsewhere, and so crashes were frequent; I could hear the sound of people crashing behind me, and so I continued to push on so I (hopefully) wouldn’t be involved in an incident. Approaching the final lap, the crowd cheered us on as we, at 30+ mph, surged across the finish line. Everyone began to increase the pace, as people began to organise themselves for the sprint. Entering the Mall, the sprint began. Sprinting, I was improving my position and was approximately in the top 15. Spot me!

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However, I would not finish the race.

The two riders in front of me locked their handlebars together in a sprint, and crashed; their bikes and themselves sprawled out across the road. With affectively no time to respond, I hit one of the bikes and somersaulted into the air, before landing back down on the Mall. Shocked, luckily no riders rode into me. I managed to grab my bike, pull it to one side, and worryingly cradle my left wrist. I went to A & E, back up north considering the injury wasn’t exactly life-threatening. Arriving there at 01:00, it took 6 HOURS to get one x-ray, and for someone to say that ‘yes, it is broken’. I joked to my dad that we would leave when the sun came up, but we did – we left at 07:10. I would have a cast covering my left arm, and with two weeks until my holiday, as you could imagine, I was not very happy.

Fortunately, I found Bloccs – A waterproof cover, that was watertight, soft and flexible, and reusable – It was truly a lifesaver. My hopes lifted, and I cheered up. It was holiday time 🙂

Europe Tour 2

Well, I certainly cheered up once this had started!

The trip began early – 00:45 to be precise. We arrived in Bordeaux some 17 hours later! OMG.

There wasn’t much to see in Bordeaux. After a good breakfast, we hit the roads again and stormed our way into the heart of the Pyrenees. Fairly early on, we spotted some Griffon vultures – A bird of prey I had looked up before, but doubted that I would spot it  – I ultimately saw well over 50! The weather began to clear up, and all was good 🙂

Bienvenidos a España!DSCN0662img_20150901_231417.jpgBelow: A Griffon vulture: 2.8m wingspan!DSCN0668DSCN0672Broto, Huesca, Spain – Had a waterfall view from my bedroom! 😀DSCN0699After a quick spin on the bike around the area (We headed to the massive rock face in the picture above), and with two MASSIVE pizzas in, we slept early for a morning of hiking – It seemed that my mum found the 14 mile hike easier than I did!DSCN0735DSCN0743DSCN0745Michael vs. Pyrenees DSCN0759DSCN0788DSCN0782Some parts were so steep they required breakdancing!DSCN0814.JPGDSCN0862One of the best bedroom views I’ve ever had so far…DSCN0869We had a bridge (only us!) from my mum and dad’s bedroom direct to swimming pool!DSCN0877DSCN0910On our way to Cassis, we passed through Andorra. We were approaching Andorra, but we had to stop all of a sudden. Why? Because of Griffon and Bearded vultures! There were at least 30 vultures soaring above our car! Try to find 12 in this image:DSCN0943DSCN0942DSCN0940Below: Top raptor is Griffon vulture, bottom raptor is Bearded vulture (Only 100 breeding Bearded vulture pairs in Europe today)DSCN0937Vroom vroomDSCN0996Spot the cricket!DSCN0994We eventually arrived some 11 hours later in Cassis, Marseille. It was night when we arrived, so we didn’t quite understand how awesome the place as until the morning! We first visited Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer, a few km away from Cassis. Here was the first time I swam in the Mediterranean Sea – I expected it to be warm, but it wasn’t. In fact, it was like Cornwall. But the views were amazing, and snorkelling with different kinds of fish was awesome too!DSCN1048Looking towards Cassis port – Every day was so hot and sunny ☀☀☀DSCN1041La Calanque de Figuerolles11028024_10153561611764898_6750443769078822995_nAfter a good snorkel, I rode with my dad out up what had to be one of the steepest climbs in France, to the top of a cliff face, on a road called Route des Crêtes – The true definition of a road.Closed to vehicles because of ‘strong wind’, which there wasn’t, it meant that no vehicles were on the road, other than bikes, and runners. The most epic, winding, totally awesome piece of tarmac I have ever been lucky enough to ride on so far! It was definitely the definition of a road. Amazingly smooth, I rode around hairpins to find bends that were even better than the one previous to it. We watched the sunset over the Calanques. Descending with a cast on is pretty extreme too, but fun. I was sooooo happy to be riding my bike again!11224649_10153567207747002_4915233289400773521_o11904669_10153567207242002_8742172694279905372_nAfter a good meal and nights rest, and learning that you can only visit the Calanques from 6:00 am till 11:00 am, we set off early. The trek was quite extreme: At some parts, you had a 200ft sheer drop to your left and the track was only 2ft wide. You also had to slide down rock faces on your bum, and climb down them like a ladder – You could imagine how much mums enjoy the trek down – “It better be worth it”.DSCN1058Calanque d’en Vau was a hidden gem – The water beamed light from underneath it, and in the water were fish of all different sizes, and colours – Black ones, silver ones, silver with yellow-stripes ones, many Mediterranean Rainbow Wrasse (cool-looking fish), and something extraordinary in Cannes – read on to find out 😉 DSCN1083Wild boars! They came to us, curious and in search of barbecue crisps – a major source of carbohydrate for them, right Michael? 🙂12006384_10153561675344898_8291348707622570605_n

The three amigosDSCN1090Michael goin’nDSCN1093Clambering out the water, frozen but in awe – Good snorkelling 🙂12009789_10153561674644898_7863810931756290672_nMichael trying to smile 😀 😀DSCN1143.JPGWild cacti – Pretty cool.DSCN1155.JPGFollowing the snorkeling, and lunch, I set off with my dad to ride on the Route des Crêtes again – The route from our apartment consisted of a 2 mile gradual downhill, before we slammed into a 1.5 mile climb averaging 10% gradient, and maxing out at 30%! The sky was really clear during our ride, and it was HOT too!wpid-wp-1447791649528.jpegCliff edge 🙂img_20151209_183920.jpgimg_20150818_164253612_hdr.jpgThe amazing Route des Crêtes – Awesome road to ride on!wpid-img_20150818_171500584_hdr.jpgimg_20150819_091635.jpgimg_20150818_171523754.jpgimg_20150818_172210285.jpgimg_20150818_172301188.jpgimg_20150819_091335.jpgWe rounded the day off by watching the sunset over Cassis – Epic!DSCN119612006081_10153561701394898_3265342093643741029_nDSCN1211DSCN1214On the day we left to Cannes, my dad, Michael and I managed to sneak in a cheeky ride/run on the Route des Crêtes in Cassis one more time! Couldn’t resist! As you can see below, it was very sunny (and the sun was STRONG) 😀11223734_10153570332147002_5640599830223953663_o

Cannes

The following morning, we departed to Cannes. Driving along the coastal road was pretty amazing in all honesty, and we stopped a couple of times to take photos of the amazing landscape, and to have an ice cream 🙂DSCN1265DSCN1262.JPGDSCN1254DSCN1260After arriving in Cannes, and being able to drive through the town’s traffic without much of a struggle, we headed down to the local beach. We went ‘pontooning’, and swam out 100 metres or so to the pontoon. Initially, there weren’t as many fish at this beach in comparison to Calanque d’en Vau – However this changed the day after!!

The following day, my dad and I set off for a coastal spin from Cannes to Saint Raphaël and back – It was hotter than I expected! Although it was only 10 am, it was 26°C! This rose to 35-36°C later on in our ride! Again, there were clear skies, sunshine, and a lot of heat – and a lot of bike riding! The 44 mile ride was relatively hard in the heat – but the seawater would soon cool me down 🙂11222077_10153572473467002_1249220445171557660_n11898565_10153572473617002_8952160082000051534_n My dad and I continued to ride along the amazing coastal road, in the sun and heat over the following few days: img_20150820_115516.jpgimg_20150820_113306.jpg

The water was calmer on the second day too, and surprisingly there were loads of fish – fairly big ones too (about 30cm), and of different colours – Brown with pink, green and white stripes, silver ones, silver and yellow-striped ones, blue/grey ones, and I even found a cuttlefish! I poked it with my finger and it swam off – Michael and I followed it for a while before it swam too fast for us to keep up with it!

Cannes – The load of fish Michael and I saw swam around these rocks 🙂img_20151105_235405.jpgimg_20150819_191826709_hdr.jpgimg_20150819_201408534_hdr.jpg

Michael looking good as James Bond 🙂img_20150819_201512424_hdr.jpg

Verdon Gorge

Around a 2-hour drive from Cannes, Verdon Gorge is awesome – It certainly looks amazing, and it is even better when you can pedal up the gorge in a pedalo! Hard work though! DSCN1321Taking a selfie on a pedalo is a first….DSCN1325MamaDSCN1326Papa DSCN1324Beautiful ♥ DSCN1327Taking photos whilst I’m pedalling like a maniac!DSCN1334DSCN1376Petite cascade aussi!DSCN1361Cool rocksDSCN1386Pretty cool caves – They were pretty big too as you can see 🙂DSCN1395

Pedalling down the Gorge was epic. But so was visiting Cap Taillat 🙂

Cap Taillat

Around 90-minutes drive from Cannes, Cap Taillat is a stunner of a beach, as you can see – We visited it in the evening, when it would be quieter. On the way there, a smart car was flew past us, and fiver other cars, around a blind bend at high speed! A few minutes later, I heard police sirens and I soon spotted the driver bent over his bonnet, handcuffed! Pretty dramatic. Saw quite a few fish, and had a few close encounters with jellyfish – Got stung in the face and on my arm #jellyfishsting DSCN1271DSCN1279DSCN1275Michael realising how cold the water actually is 😀DSCN1300DSCN1293DSCN1319Wicked snorkeling – Got stung by a jellyfish in the face and on my arm too! 😀DSCN1303img_20150820_193330963_hdr.jpg

Nice, Antibes & Monaco

As well as visiting Cannes, we also visited Nice, Antibes and Monaco! Visiting Port Hercules in Monaco as well as Nice Promenade, we drove along the F1 route, and through the ‘classic’ tunnel that curves beside the Mediterranean. As well as the sightseeing, we also had some pretty amazing food too – Brasserie l’Alcyon has some of the most awesome seafood a restaurant could offer, as you’ll see below 😉

Fancy cars were the norm along the Côte d’Azur. DSCN1434DSCN1436Inside the tunnel!DSCN1439Monaco – Awesome!DSCN1442There were many fancy yachts all around – Here’s one of them 🙂DSCN144911855748_10153563225109898_3215249313105885572_nDSCN1452DSCN1459DSCN1457.JPGDSCN1478Antibes

We arrived early, before the restaurant opened and so we had time to walk around Antibes 🙂DSCN1484Quite a few fish in the port too…DSCN1487Cheeky stroll with the lads12004952_10153563229154898_8219713611751694188_nThe four of us  – The food was GOOD!11986509_10153563233799898_4231587013939286810_n

A crab, a loster, 4 langoustines, half a dozen clams, half a dozen oysters and a dozen mussels!!

11987083_10153563234039898_2726661185235533847_n (1)The langoustines were pretty big and tasty – I think they were the best out of all.12004883_10153563234859898_554288875813756712_n

Col de la Madone

Starting in the town of Menton at sea-level, my dad and I would wind upward into the clouds, 925m above sea-level. After covering all exposed areas in suncream, we set off and the road was awesome. The road wasn’t too steep on the outskirts of Menton, but as soon as we started to leave the town, the gradient really started to kick-in. We kept on climbing, and soon enough we were half-way up the Col. A few riders passed us, all French or Italian, and one I think cheered me on and said that I was doing really well with a cast (I broke my wrist remember)! Thanking him, my dad and I pressed on and we arrived at the summit! 🙂

At the summit 🙂img_20151213_125238.jpgTop of Col de la Madoneimg_20151213_124703.jpgCheeky photo on the descent of Col de la Madone!img_20151213_124544.jpgMonaco from the descent of Col de la Madone!img_20151106_215115.jpg

On the second-to-last-day, I think I must have taken in something bad. Not sure when, but the effects of it were obvious. I started to feel dizzy, followed by an unwillingness to eat anything. I then, like a water cannon a police force would used, vomited across the room. After some cleaning up, I felt better. 20 minutes later, I passed out. It was only for around 10 seconds, but I remember it all well – Before waking up, I first felt the light behind my eyelids. I then heard the sound of the fan in the bathroom, and then I could feel my arms and legs on objects and the floor, before I woke up. Pretty cool, but concerning. Anyway, I recovered in a matter of hours 😉

Lausanne, Switzerland

Following the French coast, there were only two places left before home: Lausanne, Switzerland, and Reims, France. A long drive to Lausanne, we had time to visit Lake Geneva before the sunset. Standing on the shores of Lake Geneva, we watched the sun dip below the mountains, and we headed back to Novotel Lausanne for an early night. 12029814_10153568256694898_4863918713230694442_oSunset at Lake Geneva 🙂11037364_10153568255569898_6048841519019449444_o12019790_10153563243004898_5125405460519128207_n11233570_10153568254959898_3187603892783335616_oFreshly made macaroons!11215517_10153563242059898_2293072230508860907_nChillin12003037_10153563241224898_4938310560044818128_n

Reims & Home

11990443_10153563249579898_2164530872419585580_nLeaving to England!12002143_10153563249799898_7699850537301546294_nEncountered a bit of traffic on our way home – But we made it. What a trip!12002950_10153563251084898_672986095341429253_n

I was pleased to be back home. Thanks for reading 🙂

 

6 thoughts on “Touring! August 2015

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