Last year some friends rode one of the Wiggle events that starts in Dover, takes the ferry to Calais, does a long ride around northern France and then takes the ferry back to Dover. I really fancied doing it too as it looked amazing and knew it would be full of great memories to look back on. I knew I had to do it!
I was booked to do Velo Birmingham this weekend but much preferred the look of this one and so sold my Velo ticket and booked on the Le Tricolore instead. I was so excited for the event and could not wait for the day to arrive!
I did the 4 hour drive to Dover on the Saturday afternoon and stopped overnight literally just around the corner from the event HQ at Broadlees Farm. It was to be a very early start as you had to register at event HQ between 4:30 and 5:30am to get everyone to the ferry in time for sailing at 7:35am!
Never been up quite this early for a ride and it was a bit of a struggle as I was in the middle of a very deep sleep (helped by the 3 pints of Guinness I’d had the night before no doubt!).
It was obviously still dark when I arrived to register so was thankful I’d remembered my bike lights. A nice ride down the hill to the port was next and I joined the queue to have our passports checked and get a pass onto the ferry.
As I was waiting I met up with my friend Andy, who I’d ridden with last week on the New Forest 100. We had arranged to ride together today.
By this time I was starting to get hungry and saw a few people with Costa Coffee cups so wondered where they had got this from. I looked around and there was a Costa at the ferry terminal not 100 metres away – doh! How the heck had I not spotted this sooner! I blame the early morning!
Suitably fortified, it was time to board and we were all ushered onto the lower car deck, where we left our bikes against the side of the ship. I locked mine to Andy’s just in case the crossing was choppy and the bikes fell over.
I need not have worried as the crossing was super-smooth and we were soon docking in Calais. On the ship, we’d got our rider numbers and so attached this to my bike and off we set onto French soil.
A short ride from the port and we were at the starting line, which was in a port car park area not too far from the ship. Off we set, remembering to ride on the right and not the left!
The first part of the route took us along the coast to Sangatte. I’m pretty sure this is where “The Jungle”, the migrant camp, was but there is absolutely no sign of it now. Just outside Sangatte, we rode past the Fench side of the tunnel entrance with its HUGE metal fences everywhere and some armed Gendarmerie watching for intruders.
The flattish part of the ride over, it was time to head up into some lumpier terrain inland. Great fun and the scenery was absolutely beautiful.
Soon we were at the first feed stop at a very modern looking French school. They had baguettes with butter and jam, brioche and various other things in addition to the normal UK Cycling Events feed stop fare. Loved the baguettes especially and always good to have something savoury, and obviously totally appropriate on a Sportive in France!
The route split shortly afterwards and we headed off on the Epic section, which was basically a 9 mile addition to the Standard route, but with 2 longer climbs thrown in. Loved it!
We re-joined the Standard route and were soon at the second and final feed stop. This was at a layby area and with more excellent food and baguettes, which was very welcome.
Quite a bit more undulating roads later and we re-joined the flatter part of the route for the 10 mile run in to the finish line.
At the finish line, we collected our medals and goodies and quickly headed over to the ferry as we had 5 minutes to get in line for the next ferry to leave.
Back in Dover we had to get off the ship last as all the cars left first, then were escorted out of the port. It was then a short ride back up the White Cliffs of Dover to the event HQ and my Jeep.
I was debating whether to stay overnight as it was 6pm by now and I’d been up at 3:45am but thought I’d get a strong coffee and press on with the 4 hour drive home, stopping if I felt I was getting too tired.
I arrived home at 11:45pm after an amazing day out and with lots of great memories that will last a lifetime.
What a day and it was perfectly organised and ran like clockwork. Full kudos to UK Cycling Events for putting it on as it must have been a logistical nightmare to do.