Tuesday 23 February: Clermont-Albert, France, 96km. Done: 1,417km. To go: 1,471km. Weather: Diabolical (rain, rain, rain, cold).
On paper an easy day. Sadly we don't ride on paper. Last night we had 'dinner' at Les Amis des Barbariens, near the Arc de Triomphe. In reality, canapes – vying with the sparrow for worst cycling food.
Joanna came back in a taxi, with a driver unaware of her fluency. He was having a strange conversation on his mobile, with long pauses punctuated by odd remarks: "And what are you doing now?", "What colour is it?". I wonder whose meter was running faster?
Terrible postscript to evening: Giant van broken into in St Dennis, home of the Stade de France and seemingly most of the country's hardcore criminals. William and David lost passports, laptops, cash, cameras and more – but no bikes – after turning their backs for one minute. David is from New Zealand, and keen that he is called David. So from day one he has been Aussie Dave.
Overnight we're now 70 riders, of hugely different standards, including a big bunch from Greene King, one of our sponsors. A truly relentless slog in driving rain across the bleakest flattest countryside. It's impossible not to let your mind drift back nearly 100 years as we approach the Somme. More on that tomorrow.
Former England centre Will Greenwood came and went in a day; now known as doing a 'Dominguez'. Rafa Ibanez has arrived for three days. It's heavy lifting here.
No more rain, please. Forecast: Rain.
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