With breakfast behind us there was time for a group photo, then we waved goodbye to the friends and family who had travelled down to spend the first evening with us in Kent. The tarmac that unrolled below us quickly became inclined, and it was apparent that the hills of late-yesterday would continue today. A couple of riders became detached from the main group early on.
Having gotten those early hills out of the way, we rolled along on the top at a nice pace before encountering our first significant descent, a steep one with a succession of s-bends. Myself and Gary made the most of it, hurtling down at over 40mph, but as we slowed beyond the zenith it became apparent that we were alone; where was everyone? We made contact with Bill, who explained we had missed a turn near the bottom; Gary was quick to respond that the turn was no where near the bottom. The climb back up was very tough.
Bill, Stu and Kev had kindly waited for us. We were soon making up ground over the idyllic unclassified and B-class roads that Bill has the knack of finding on the map, and soon we arrived at our first stop - 18 miles done. Leo in the support vehicle advised that most of the others were pressing ahead, keen to make the ferry at 13:30; while those riders who were dropped early on,,, were somewhere. So we opted for a quick tea stop before setting out to catch the main group.
We had heard of a puncture in the front group and so were not surprised to see Rick standing in the road and waving us to ease, however as we pulled up at the bend in the road the scene around the other side was not what we had expected. There was the horrific sight of a rider lying face down perfectly still in the middle of the road, with a car parked adjacent. It soon became apparent that Jeremy was conscious, and that no car had been involved in the incident that caused him to depart his mount at speed. However he had deep road rash on his arms, and was holding his left arm in a way that suggested something more structural was affected. An ambulance arrived soon afterwards and Rick accompanied Jeremy to the hospital. We pressed on with arrangements made to get us onto a later ferry.
The cafe at Lyminge was - typically - on the other side of a really big hill. Having made it there we were relieved to hear that Jeremy was receiving professional attention in Ashford Hospital, and that Leo had picked up the remaining riders. We gulped down a light lunch and were soon on our way, determined to make the 15:30 from Dover.
It could say something about Bill’s sadistic route planning nature, that with less than ten miles to go we found ourselves on one of the longest and steepest climbs that I have ever experienced. Bill has reasoned that he does not look at gradients when plotting a route; one struggles to believe that the laws of random probability would allow such gradients to be offered with such frequency. Or maybe Kent is just a hilly place.
The climb of which I speak challenged every one of us. Several riders dismounted and walked dejectedly to the top, where the locals advised us that twenty years ago this was the scene of the national hill climb champs! Onward to Dover, where we glided effortlessly onto the ferry, the welcome guests of our host Sea France (sarcasm).
The final leg of the day, and the first on French roads, was 27 miles neigh 41km along the coast to Boulogne. At the first ascent Kev suggested we stop by the memorial on the summit, and while I would normally be keen it had already passed 7pm, light was fading and we had the best part of 20 miles still to cover, so Kev relented and set the pace to 16mph - regardless of the incline.
The smooth tarmac, gentle climbs and long winding descents brought the day to a pleasant end. We had soon checked in at the hotel, showered, and congregated in Buffalo Grill for a couple of pints and some half way celebrations.