Hot cross buns! French kids singing Beatles songs! Cyclists sucking sugared almonds! Nuts near faces!
This was day two of the adventure they call #Cycletomipim, with three separate pelotons of charity riders aiming to arrive in Cannes on Tuesday.
The foodstuffs, along with vegan salads, Frazzles, wine, coffee and cake were all fuel for this year's Legal and General Real Assets sponsored Club Peloton rides from London and Bari to Cannes.
Ride conditions on the Folkestone route in France were blustery - Hopkins' Jonathan Webb even commenting that he had 'a bit of a strop with the wind'. Our ride insider reported that half way through the first stage during a pee stop, all the men on the ride used a nearby field, but one unfortunate (unnamed) female rider emerged from a portaloo to find that the 'peeloton' had already left. Kudos to the mechanics for sourcing an entire groupset from a shop in Kent and fitting it to a bike while it was in the tunnel under the Channel. And more to the mayor of Boiry Ste Rictrude, who welcomed riders with schoolkids singing Beatles songs and waving union jacks (blissfully unaware of Brexit). And, after some 300kms in the saddle for some, (225km on the Italian ride but with 3500m of climbing) there were some final victuals on offer, even including a free minty rum concoction given to 'real cyclists' by one friendly French barman, plus an impromptu band rehearsal by some of the riders. MegaLOLs.
Meanwhile, over in Italy, Danielle Purkiss and Joe Morris of Morris+Company report on their own progress:
It’s 5.45am and the hotel room phone goes off.
My first thought of the day is
‘Where am I?’
Followed by an inventory of grumbling body parts. So far, so good. No ‘double bagging’ needed today (I’ll save that for a cheeky treat later in the week).
After a caffeine loaded brekkie we depart Campobasso on our 220km journey to Carsoli. The group feels energetic this morning, racing up some impressive climbs, rewarded with amazing scenery and a delicious feast at our lunch stop in San Biagio Saracinisco.
One of the best things about the Cycle to MIPIM challenges is the chance to meet and chat with your fellow cyclists. Cycling side by side through unfamiliar landscapes, you learn an incredible amount about each other (and yourself). There is also a healthy dose of banter. I discover quite quickly that I have broken the first rule of cycling cool. My top bar bag, now dubbed my ‘lunchbox’ (not a euphemism) attracts a lot of attention from the group. In my defence, it’s a very practical way of keeping your food and essentials dry and to hand. I really stumble into it at dinner. I protest ‘what’s so bad about it? I like having nuts near my face...’. FFS
For me, the highlight of the trip so far has been leading the peloton home through the dark evening and rain on our last stage today. The cold and wet was a challenge, but well worth it for the stunning view of the peloton lights casting shadows over the dark hillsides in the distance. Magic.
As well as a journey of unfamiliar hills and valleys, replete with a cornucopia of monumental mountains with their snow topped peaks, this ride to MIPIM stands out for its culinary hospitality.
Each meal, breakfast, lunch, dinner, is a journey of its own, travelling local recipes and dishes. Unlike the UK, and perhaps Cycle to MIPIM (with its ubiquitous cheese and ham baguette), lunch on this ride has taken in several wonderful and hidden gems. Course follows course as we replenishing broken bodies. Lunch today, Stage 3, promises to be spectacular, so we are told. We only hope the Morris+Company sponsored Veg+van #moco_vegvan which is serving vegan and vegetarian pots can live up to the same.
Pics by Matt Alexander and Joozle Dymond