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The Ratae on Tour in Brittany

 

The Ratae on Tour in Brittany

Article by Kevin Commons

At 3.00 p.m. on Monday 4 July the six of us,* travelling in three cars, assembled at the Little Chef at Sutton Scotney on the A34 to complete our journey to Portsmouth in convoy. After a pleasant meal at the Brewers’ Fayre in Southsea we made our way to the Brittany Ferry for our overnight sailing. The crossing was calm and early the next day we re-assembled and left St Malo on the N137, turning off for an alfresco breakfast at an auberge in Chateauneuf.

We arrived at La Ville Davy, a centre run by Mo and Peter Henderson, who are experienced lay Buddhist practitioners following the Serene Reflection Meditation Tradition (Soto Zen). It offers space for Buddhist retreats and a range of courses, especially ones that focus on Mindfulness. The centre is also available for people visit for a quiet rest, renewal and reflection.  We were made very welcome and quickly settled in. As there were no other people in residence we had the whole of the guest block to ourselves.

We got our bikes ready and cycled out to a restaurant in one of the local villages for a leisurely lunch. Unfortunately, it started to rain whilst we were there, so we curtailed our ride and settled down in one of the lounges to watch the remaining part of stage 4 of the Tour on television back at base. After supper, we took an evening stroll through the nearby village of St. Helen, which is unbelievably quiet.

Following a good breakfast on Wednesday 6 July we set off for Cap Frehel along a route that avoided Dinan and as many main roads as possible. We were only a few miles into the journey when Bob Bragg, at third wheel, failed to pull up sufficiently quickly to avoid contact with Bob Perrett’s rear wheel at a roundabout under the N176 motorway just north of Dinan. Although, not travelling at any pace he landed awkwardly, causing an injury to his right side. From no-where a car, bearing the legend "Dinannais Cycling Club", appeared, whose driver provided first line medical help, including strong pain killers. Braggy turned down Bob Perrett’s offer of returning with him to La Ville Davy and insisted on going on, showing the true grit of the Tour, much in evidence on those early stages that had also been fraught with unexpected injuries.

We managed to stay together as we progressed to the Cap, going through Plancoet, which included a hilly section, on our way to a lunch stop at Matignon. Though still suffering Bob insisted on continuing the journey and we picked our way to the place near Cap Frehel where Stage 5 was scheduled to finish at about 5.30 French time. During the afternoon we were interviewed and photographed by Fabienne Richard of the Dinan edition of the Ouest France newspaper. Unfortunately, Bob’s pain was getting worse, so he accepted Bob Perrett’s offer of an early return to base. The rest of us stayed to see Mark Cavendish secure his first stage victory of this year’s Tour. We then headed off quickly, passing the ad hoc interviews being conducted by various TV channels outside the team buses.

The early part of the return journey was somewhat impeded by the departing Tour traffic. This built up at the main towns when the cycle became the quicker option for getting through. It was particularly scary on the one way system into Plancoet, where Guy Emberson showed his experience of riding to the principle that "bike is king" by skilfully plotting a path on the outside of the queuing vehicles and giving the occasional rugby style "hand-off" to cars that threatened to cut across him on the roundabouts.

As we neared the place of the morning’s accident, now designated "Braggy Bridge", Kevin Commons received a phone call from Bob Perrett to tell us that they had got back safely and to get an update on our position. Arriving back at base there was just time for a rapid shower before we tucked into a much needed, but very late, supper before getting an early night.

On Thursday morning Bob’s injuries were still causing him a lot of pain so he accepted a lift from Peter to visit a local doctor. Unfortunately, this meant crossing the D176, which was the route out of Dinan for stage 6 and the police would not let them through. Under the circumstances we rearranged our plans for a ride to the start at Dinan and then a trip to the coast. Instead we decided to walk through St Helen to position ourselves at the top of a small hill on the D176 to wait for the riders to pass. Whilst walking to our chosen vantage point Catherine Davy of Le Telegramme conducted another impromptu interview and took our photograph, which Roger and Keith Bentley missed because they had stridden out ahead to secure their place at the roadside.

After a fairly lengthy wait, during which we were entertained by the passing of the caravanne, the riders flashed by with a couple of them slightly off the front. We then had a roadside coffee and biscuit break by the end of which all the spectators had gone and the road looked as if nothing special had happened! We called in for another coffee at the local bar/shop in St Helen and purchased some food for a do-it-yourself lunch back at La Ville Davy before watching the Tour. Despite the showery conditions Bob Perrett managed to squeeze in a short ride before supper, whilst the rest of us got our bikes packed up as we had an early departure the following day.

After another wholesome breakfast on Friday 8 July we set off back to St. Malo for the return ferry journey. This was much quicker than the outbound one and our reclining chairs provided a good base for watching Stage 7 of the Tour as it unfolded. The disembarkation went smoothly and we were quickly making our separate ways back to Leicester using the motorway system, which comes right into Portsmouth. Even with a short meal break we got back home by about 10.30 p.m.

It should be noted that this account misses out several "Moose Trophy worthy" events as a safeguard against possible litigation.

*The party comprised:

Bob Bragg and Guy Emberson

Roger and Keith Bentley

Bob Perrett and Kevin Commons

 

Article by Keith Bentley

 

Monday 4th July

Left home at 11.30am, a bit of a hold up at Banbury but otherwise not a bad journey down to Sutton Scotney where we met up with our four companions.  Had coffee and off we went to Portsmouth in a mini caravan, bumper to bumper.

Went to Southsea, parked up and had a walk along the front where we evetually had a meal in a Befeater type pub.  Back to the cars and down to the St.Malo embarkation dock.  Quite tedious in the queue but we were eventually parked on the boat by 8.0 o'clock.

Finding our overnight cabin was quite fun and the cabin was not bad at all.  I was on the top bunk with Roger below.  You could say it was both comfortable and claustrophobic.

 

Tuesday 5th July

We all had a reasonable night's sleep but just before we were called to disembark Roger discovered that he had mislaid his passport.  After a lot ot panic he eventually found it in his deep, very deep trouser pocket just as we reached the checkout - panic over.

We made our way to the La Ville Davy via a small cafe in a village.  I made a nuisance of myself by spilling coffee and redesigning Bob Perrett's trousers, brilliant eh ?

When we arrived at La Ville Davy we were introduced to Mo and Peter, they showed us to our rooms and made us feel at home.  At lunch time we made our way to a Cafe for a spot of lunch and then the rain came down and we spent the rest of the day watching the Tour on the television in the back lounge before an excellent evening suppertime.

A tour of the Buddist Chapel and grounds before a gentle stroll into St. Helen and then coffee at home to finish the day.  Good day and good company.

 

Wednesday 6th July

After breakfast we all started out, our destination being the Cap Frehel to see the final part of the 5th stage of the Tour.  We had 38 miles on the clock when we arrived, but unfortunately during our ride we had an accident at a traffic island with Bob Bragg really hurting his ribs, unfortunate indeed.

We had lunch in a restaurant in a village along the way.

We had to hang around in the finish area for about 3 hours more but the final was worth it because we saw 'Cavvo' win the stage with a sprint finish and we were elated, of course.

Going home via the villages, which were packed with slow moving vehicles, was exilerating especially following Guy at speed - brilliant !

The way home seemed rather long and after a shower we tucked into a well deserved, hearty supper prepared by Mo and Peter.  Everyone did their bit on the way home.  We were in bed by 11.15pm.

Another great day except for Bob's accident.

 

Thursday 7th July

Walked up the main road near La Ville Davy to view the Tour going by, due at 11.45am - 12.00noon.

We assembled at the top of a hill with a few hundred other spectators and when it came through there was great excitement.  The crowd had been waiting for at least two hours and the Peleton went by in a matter of seconds.  What a spectacle it is in France.

Back to the retreat, via the small bar in St. Helen where we had a small cup of French coffee and bought bread and ham to eat at La Ville Davy.  We had decided to go for a bike ride but it poured with rain so we watched the race on the television.  Then supper at 6.30pm with the wine, we had bought for the bar, before retiring into the lounge for the rest of the evening to reminisce.

 

Friday 8th July

Breakfast at 8.30am and out and away after our goodbyes to Mo and Peter.

Our caravan led by Bob Bragg and Guy made it's way to St. Malo docks and out embarkation to Portsmouth and home.  We dispersed at the docks and made our own way home from Portsmouth.  Roger and I stopped at Sutton Scotney Service Station for a drink and fish and chips to sustain us on the way home.  We arrived at 10.45pm, tired but happy that we had enjoyed a short, but very good break.

Finally on behalf of us all I would like to thank Kevin for organising the holiday and us !

Keith   

 

 
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