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The Journey - A Score to Settle - Part IV

Posted by Vikramsinh at Friday, October 14, 2011

Pain is a big fat creature riding on your back. The farther you pedal, the heavier he feels. The harder you push, the tighter he squeezes your chest. The steeper the climb, the deeper he digs his jagged, sharp claws into your muscles.
-Scott Martin

Leaving for the starting point
Finally the D day, Sunday, 21st Aug. Lazy start of the day, no hurry, we had to show up at the starting line in the evening at 6 PM. so everything was slow. Meanwhile, we had to make another decision, we booked the room for first 4 days while we stayed at the hotel. The confusion was to book the room for the 4 racing days also, only for keeping the luggage, just to add expenses. Option was put baggage at some other place, may be at storage room of hotel or may be at gymnasium. We contemplated for some time, outcome of discussion favored the booking for racing days also. UK Randonneurs from nearby room were also looking for the place to put their baggage, we extended the help and placed their baggage at our room. Now we had plenty of time till start time of the race. 80 hour start was the first to go at 5 PM, then next was ours, 90 hour start, at 6 PM in the evening. I tried to sleep for some time in the afternoon expecting about next four days I would not be sleeping quite well. Till evening things were in place, brevet cards filled, water bottles placed in bottle cages, spare set of tubes, batteries and many other things in the bag, air pressure checked, all set.

Pandora's Box

In the evening at 4 PM, we started riding towards the starting point. Though we visited gymnasium for bike check previous day, we were not sure about the route. We looked for help from passerby. Language was big barrier, we didn’t know French, that turned fatal.
After riding for some distance on the route shown by people, we heard cheering, saw all people were cheering us on the both sides of the road. Something was wrong, realization - we were on the actual race route, what the hell ..!!!
legs stopped pedaling…. We understood what exactly happened, Earlier people thought we were asking for the actual race route, and they shown that route, and we went on the racing route before even going to starting point.. what an irony

After discussing with few people standing on the road side, we were headed for correct track. This time we made no mistake in understanding the route…
But once again ..omen was not good . I was riding at bit high speed and suddenly I saw a woman was just ahead of me, on the road, in my way, walking with baby in the baby sitter. I didn’t get any time to put my brakes as I was not expecting anyone on the road. And the next moment..
Within flash of time I crashed.. what the hell !!!
I got some injuries, bruises (again deep purple patch of clotted blood on upper part of left thigh) but bike was fine. Just head light was out of place, which I fixed immediately and then adjusted handlebar. One of my water bottles jumped on the road and got emptied on the spot. The water mixed with glucose all over the road.
Sea of Riders
Now it was serious issue. Thousands of ugly thoughts.. Fortunately everyone was free from any serious injuries, lady was furious. I thought, why this is happening at this crucial point of time. Thankfully situation didn’t turn worse. 10-15 people were gathered at site, After some commotion, it was settled and we started riding again.. 
Goals for motivation

At last we reached to Guyancourt, met some friends and other Indian participants. Once inside the line up area, I saw long queue of riders, moving along the periphery of a football ground, all waiting for there turn. While standing in the queue all riders were closely spaced, moving inch by inch. That provided the chance to talk with other riders. Seattle randonneurs were distributing small souvenirs. Williamsons from Seattle, who was standing besides me, introduced himself and chatted for a while, he mentioned his wife is Indian. What I liked was the list on the paper stuck to his handle bar, the goals he wanted to focus on, whenever he would have need motivation, the list was there. What a nice idea to get motivated. He showed me one of the goals was making new friends.

When we moved the half of the distance, local TV reporter came to me and asked “how are you feeling, are you afraid of such a formidable ride?” and added few other questions. I replied with great enthusiasm as I was very excited to be a part of such amazing and wonderful journey. “I am not at all worried about the ride, of course 1230 kms in 90 hours is daunting challenge but If you never try things you might fail at, life would be more boring. I will enjoy the ride either way, the experience is so enriching that its worth living. I will ride slow and steady so that I won’t miss any fun and beauty of nature”
Here we go
Then finally our group reached the end point, where bunch of 500 riders was leaving after each 20 minutes, it took 2 hours for us to actually start the ride, organizers provided magnetic chip that can detect the location and our timings to reach controls points. Official website was getting updated with each control point timing of riders.
Standing in the queue for 2 hours we lost much energy in excitement, with nerves jumping and adrenalin pumping.  We started in the last “wave” at 8 PM, on the same route earlier we followed. People were cheering on the both sides of road, the feeling was amazing. Extended hands to cheer the riders, throwing punches while yelling “allez! allez! allez!” and “bonne route! bonne courage!”, I was careful while throwing punches, as big crowd riding closely, I worried about the collision, Veterans had warned me not to get swept up in the starting frenzy; we had 1230km to go. The start was good, no crash and no mechanical failures.

The Ride - Day 1 (First Sleepless Night)

Evening has its most beautiful color effects in the sky. Initial route was woody forest.  One can see riders having mechanical problems, standing on the road sides with their bikes. I hoped for the best. Around 9 PM darkness started to spread. Now I was riding alone (no known friends) with other riders. I could clearly see the whole route was glowing with tail lights. Thousands of red tail-lights, undulating over the landscape, towards the horizon. At times, this flickering snake of lights sends a daunting message about the route ahead. Whole area was under darkness, nothing can be seen expect the small patch of road over which headlights were focused. Forest which was looking beautiful in the twilight, turned scary.  I reminded myself that I was not hallucinating, that I was indeed speeding through a 200 square-kilometres forest in France, in the middle of the night. It was critical not to touch the wheel of a bike in front of me.
Tail lights in the night

Night was cold, more than I expected.  It was mistake not to take extra protection from cold. Small villages came and go at regular intervals. Every village seemed to precede or follow a sharp climb. Stone walls passed by, painted by dancing headlight beams.
The experience was so rich, in every village people were waiting for the riders, outside their homes, extending every help. Water bottles lined up on tables. The immense support and generosity of the people along the route, who stood out late into the night in the rain giving cheer, coffee, food and encouragement to the participants … all overwhelmed me. It was amazing and wonderful.
Mortangne-au-Perche First rest point
First rest point was at 140 kms "Mortagne-au-Perche". It took 8 hrs to reach there; I took few breaks of 5 minutes till this time. It was 4 AM in the night, I rested for some time, ate some food. I met to some of friends at control point and chatted for some time. One volunteer came closer while we were talking, he told us that one of the Indian cyclists had problem with his bike and they are going for the help. We were not sure about the cyclist. I already spent more time than planned at control. So I left, It was cold out there, and the next control point was “Villaines-la-Juhel”  220 kms. And I was not feeling sleepy, first night was almost over. Riding through the dark night, I was waiting for sun to shine and illuminate all life around me.

...To Be Continued


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