It was an early start for Team Calibrand: our instructions were to meet at the National Trust property of Chartwell at 07:00 for essential pre event administration and group photo.
As we did not yet have the route we made sure we were there just before 07:00. As we drove into the car park the place was already a hive of activity, with teams unloading their bikes from a variety of cars, vans and coaches.
Team Calibrand consisted of four riders: Denis Saunders, Simon Wynne, Victor Kinderys and standing in at the last minute was Craig Dolan , who had only joined Calibrand as a Helpdesk Consultant the month before. There were also two support vehicle drivers: Patrick Cullen (Audi A6) and Griff Wynne (Ford Transit).
As the BHF marshals were running late we took the opportunity to visit the cafe for coffee, and to reflect on how little training we had actually done! It wasn't too long before the marshals arrived, we quickly signed in and received our T-shirts and the route; after a brief glance at the route (why did the word HILL appear so often?) it was time for the group photo and briefing.
We knew we were in for an interesting time when we discovered the head marshal's idea of speaking French was to add the prefix 'le' in front of every word. Now it was time for le Team Calibrand riders to don les helmets, mount les bikes and prepare for le ride ahead.
So it was that on the 5th September 2009 at 08:29 a horn was sounded marking the start of Team Calibrand's 280 mile adventure.
So day one's riding ended at Folkestone Racecourse. All the riders were suitably exhausted, but no time for rest as we had to affix our French headlamp convertors and head off to the tunnel allowing ourselves a quick stop at a quaint Kent pub for the last 'pint' for a while.
Soon we found ourselves in Calais and checked in to the tolerable Formule1 Motel. It was a great relief that the local hypermarket sold 'gel seat covers' that were a great comfort for some of the riders.
During the evening meal we took the time to look at the route for day two, 85 miles to Amiens. Disturbingly the word HILL appeared more often than it had done previously, that was concerning as we knew not what hill stood for. Needless to say we did not stay out long as plenty of rest was needed for stiff legs.
We were told in the briefing that day two was the hardest day. They were not kidding but Team Calibrand persevered and kept going till the finish behind a BP garage in Amiens. It was the first time for many riding a bike on the wrong side of the road but we all managed to stay on our bikes and avoid being knocked off. In fact the French drivers were a lot more considerate to us with many tooting and shouting encouragement as they passed (at least we believed it was encouragement).
The third day was most eventful; with one blown tyre, Victor getting stung by a wasp, and the head marshal being arrested and put in a cell for putting up signs (without proper authority)and not speaking le French!
And so it was we finally arrived at the finish line in the shadow of the Versailles Palace; the last 200m was across the cobbled Courtyard, an interesting end for those who had 3 days worth of saddle soreness.
That was the end of the ride, but not the end of the adventure. Patrick had organised a last minute upgrade from our Formule1 hotel we had booked to the salubrious Ibis, to the gratification of all, and the BHF had organised a celebratory meal.
All in all a great time was had by all, but more importantly we did our bit to raise money and awareness for BHF, a great charity.