06 July 2012 and the usual start of getting up at 06:30, consuming breakfast followed by a short briefing and then out onto the road. Today was Arras to Compiene, and the final full days ride ahead of us. The weather was up to some tricks too, there were what looked like storms on the horizon and according to the weather forecast we were due to expect anything from rain, sun, thunderstorms and some hail thrown in for good measure. If all of that was not enough the wind was also against us for the day. Luckily there was only two major climbs with the rest mostly flat so it should of been easier.
As I started I could feel that the day was not going to be an easy one but we were already over half way in total so that was encouraging. We faced lots of mud for the morning, there was some localised flooding and river silt on the road from the rain overnight which gave a lot of people practice changing inner tubes. I saw so many people with punctures that morning each time I slowed just to check they were okay and didn’t need any help. Lucky for me I had as a precursor to the ride purchased some Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres, these are very heavy but very good at keeping out punctures so it was worth spending the extra money on them. You do have to put in about ten percent more effort with them but I would rather do that then have to fix punctures. Our first stop of the day was at the Thiepval memorial about 30km in. We stopped here and I quickly assessed the amount of mud on my bike which as you can see was quite a lot.
I had never expected to see something like this on the trip, I knew that there were memorials to the brave men and women who gave their lives during the war but did not know that it was here. Now I don’t approve of war but I do respect anyone who volunteers or decides to fight for their country. Having no knowledge of the memorial before I got there I took in the information available from the placards around the grounds and in the shop before going to see the memorial. As you would expect the place has a very somber, peaceful and sobering feel and there is not really much you can say about the thousands that lost their lives during the Battle of the Somme; words are not really enough so I walked around the main monument in contemplative silence. I know the feeling I left with will stay with me for some time. Every time remembrance day comes around I find it a strange experience that they televise the event and my thoughts are still that way. What I will say is I have a different view and utmost respect for the veterans who attend. Just being at this memorial bought tears to my eyes and put the whole thing into a new perspective for me, I took a few photos during the day which you can see on my Flickr stream.
As much as I wanted to stay at the memorial I knew I had a full days ride ahead so eventually it was time to move on. The wind still against me and making life harder than it already was but none of this really mattered as the images from the memorial stuck with me and even spurred me on a bit. This was further enhanced by an unplanned but signposted stop just on the edge of the Somme valley. A lot of us took photos here and it is shocking to imagine what happened all those years ago during the war in such a beautiful location.
Lunch stop seemed to take forever to arrive, the combination of taking a bit of a wrong turning, the wind being relentless and not being able to keep speed (again due to wind) was not making the flattest day yet any easier. By the time I got there I was already running later than I had hoped but food is served until all riders have been through, I knew I was not last and a matter of position didn’t really bother me but I wanted to stay within my target time. I took a longer break for lunch than normal, mostly because I wanted to rest my legs as much as possible and give my body time to recover for the next 60km. It was at lunch one of the riders who amazed me had a spot of bother. Paul is a tall guy who only has the use of one leg, his left leg is unable to bend so he has so far been riding the whole thing using one leg and an electric assisted bike. Okay you may think that’s cheating a bit having a bike that powers you uphill but the thing weighed close to 40kg at a guess so getting it anywhere must of been a big effort. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him but I guess the electrics on his bike got messed up from all the mud and water thrown up by the road that day, either that or due to the quality of the road something got shook loose. Lucky for Paul they had some sort of backup bike that he could ride on, if I found the ride hard then I can only imagine how he found it.
This was by far the longest day in the saddle for me, parts of me were aching that I had no idea existed but through the rain, hail and wind we all pressed on at our own pace. I met up with and rode with some people for a while and passed the time by chatting and finding out more about my fellow riders. At one point I remember coming over the brow of a small incline and seeing black clouds to my left and clear blue sky to my right, the weather was certainly confused for the day. We were probably only ten minutes away from the end and I wondered that despite the sun and rain I had not seen a rainbow all day, I have a thing about rainbows, not the kind of thing like the infamous YouTube video double rainbow but I find them quite amazing scientifically. I totally understand how they work and what’s happening but I still find them rather fascinating. No sooner had I said it then me and two other riders turned a corner to see a huge rainbow in a field, of course I had to take a photo of this. This really perked me up, it made then next 10-15 minutes and the last few minutes of the ride really enjoyable sharing it with the other people.
Finally we got to Compiene, rinsed off the bikes after a hard day in the mud, rain and all sorts and then washed ourselves and had a well earned beer with some food. Somehow we had got to this stage, there are still moments even looking back now that I cannot really believe I got this far and I only had one more easy day to go. Spirits were high in the night and I think a few people stayed out late but I was tucked up in bed ready for another 06:30am start the next day.
Stats for Day 3
- Total Distance: 126.19 km
- Time in the Saddle: 8:14.04
- Calories Burned: 4,374
- Avg Speed: 15.3 km/h
- Total Elevation Gain : 896 m
You can see the entire ride logged via Garmin Connect