A view from the Van - Dave Wright
“We’re just turning onto the Champs Elysees...”
Just seven words from John on the phone and, although I didn’t reckon on it taking 20 minutes in the traffic to cycle the last 1½ miles, I knew they would make it. Then the flood gates opened...
In November last year, when John asked me if I would be interested in helping out with the support on his latest madcap scheme, I didn’t realise how many things could potentially go wrong...
What if...the bikes don’t fit into that ridiculously small space at the back of the van...but they did, with the front wheels off and thanks to the creativity of my mate Stan and 3 widths of chipboard and 6 lengths of 3 x2!
What if ...we can’t find somewhere to park the van near Marble Arch...but we did and we managed to get there on time to see them off..just! John’s idea of meeting at his office worked out great for getting everything organized and it was great to have moral support from Iain and Jules.
What if ...the van breaks down...but it didn’t!
What if...it rains...it didn’t!
What if ...we take a wrong turn and get lost...but we didn’t, not really! The route John and I had prepared over hours of google mapping was translated into Garmin-speak and worked perfectly, almost!
What if ...someone is injured...but they weren’t, except for the two Dans (support bandage applied to minor wrist strain and massage to left knee niggle) and we didn’t need the list of hospitals in Kent or the maps of hospitals in France.
What if...we have loads of punctures...but we didn’t, over 2800 miles of cycling without one, how lucky was that!
What if...we have a major breakdown...but we didn’t and we didn’t need the 2 spare bikes, 10 spare wheels, spare tyres, chains, gears etc. and we didn’t need the list of bike shops in France that probably weren’t open on Sundays anyway!
What if...we get delayed on the way to the ferry at Dover, we need time to load 7 bikes into the van...but we didn’t! The next ferry would have meant a delay of 1 hour 40 mins and failure!
What if...we can’t get 7 bikes plus 2 spares plus all of the luggage, food boxes, spares, oh, and 7 of the riders into the van to get on the ferry...but we did! We had Stan!
What if...the other 3 riders aren’t allowed to ride onto the ferry even though I have checked 3 times that they can...but they could!
What if...they get tired and there is a major row or someone drops out...that was never going to happen with this team of amazing people.
What if...Mark’s ITB flares up and he can’t keep up the pace...well, he’ll just go to the front and make the pace for the others by the last stage. What a great achievement for a novice cyclist with high blood pressure!
What if...Dan H struggles, he’s only 16...going on 25 and with a great future ahead of him!
What if...Dan H gets injured...Ben will get it in the neck from his wife...didn’t happen and Ben shouldered that responsibility as well as his own challenge. Fitness personified.
What if...Cormac’s little legs seize up...no chance, head down, totally focused, real determination!
What if...Andy Haigh wants to go faster than the rest can manage...he’ll just cycle back to the last man if they are struggling and get them back to the team, a great athlete and a real team player.
What if...the pace is too slow...Rich will go to the front and gently ease things along, encouraging the others or stopping with them and pacing them back to the pack. The sort of guy to trust with something your life depends on.
What if...Dan W (Mr Invisible) doesn’t appear...but he did, eventually, and rode like a star.
What if...Andy Hector sees the van missing a left turn at the lights in Amiens, doing an illegal U-turn and going the wrong way down a one-way street...he must know gendarmes in high places! Totally in control, quiet and calm under pressure, a real gent.
What if...Simon gets too hot and lags behind...he knows he’ll get a dowsing from me so he stays in the middle of the pack. He’s been there, done that and come back for more.
What if... John hadn’t had this madcap idea...he wouldn’t be John, would he? I’m so proud of everything he has achieved in his life and it’s great do to things like this together.
So, we’re nearly there...
What if...we can’t find anywhere to park the van near to L’Arc de Triomphe...but we did, sort of, even though it was slightly illegal! (Parking is free in Paris on Sunday evening and everyone takes advantage of it). And I had Stan!
What if...I crack up...I did! I could feel the tension beginning to drain away as we walked, almost ran around the Place d’Etoile. Then, those few words from John opened a valve somewhere in my emotions and I was a wreck long before they came into sight at the last set of traffic lights. I don’t know what everybody thought of me, a grown man, blubbering like that but I didn’t care, I just wanted to hug every one of those special people. Oh, and a high five for Dan!
What if...Daniel (‘mon ami’, who won’t be there when we arrive) hasn’t made arrangements for bikes in rooms...but he has, and by the time we get there in the van, everything is sorted!
What if... the lads are too tired to go out for the meal afterwards...they were all in the bar before me and Stan and thanks for the gifts lads. The Remy was opened before bedtime!
What if... the brasserie that Daniel recommended is closed or the food is no good or...it was great and thanks for the meal team!
What if...we can’t get everything in the van to come back...that was never going to be a problem because we had made it, on time and safely, and nothing else mattered! And we had Stan! And a celebratory coffee from Rich.
What if... someone leaves something in their room...Dan?
What if...me, Marg, Stan and Angela hadn’t gone on our fact-finding mission to Paris in May...we wouldn’t have had a great time!
What if...Stan hadn’t agreed to join me...the whole thing wouldn’t have worked, you’re the man, Stan!
What if...we hadn’t done it...we would have missed one of the best experiences of our lives!
The Support Team >