Dieppe Raid, 'Tour des Trois Vallees' 100KM route. 29/06/14
I've been a member of the Surrey Road Cycling club over 35 years, over that time I've been on more club runs, tours and audax events than I can remember. Now some cycling clubs are growing from strength to strength, while others, sadly mine included have diminished to a few hard core established members. So, way back in December, when I got my yearly Christmas card from Horace Mouatt, who for me simply is the SRCC, inviting me to join him and a few club members on their yearly pilgrimage to the Dieppe Raid I simply couldn't resist a reunion of the 'old guard'; I'm extremely pleased I didn't!
The Surrey Road CC may now be a small club, but are proud to say that they have been represented on the majority of the 'Raids' since they were started by the great Neville Chanin back in 1972. This is in no small part to Neville's friendship with both Horace and Bob, both of who had a long standing friendship with Neville, Bob himself accompanying him on a few of his legendary tours into the high mountains of Europe, with many a 'tale of derring-do' and Neville's desire to climb just one more Col....
Andrew Laidler, the legendary Horace Mouatt, Bob Yellen
The 'Raid' was to be on the Sunday, to make a proper break Andy, Horace, Bob and myself traveled on the Newhaven-Dieppe ferry crossing on the Friday evening, which effectively got us to our superb 'L'hôtel de la plage' by 5am. Even though we were not booked in until that evening the manager very kindly gave us immediate access to our room at no extra charge, giving us time for a quick power nap before the superb 'as much as you can eat' continental breakfast, giving us a hearty start for a Saturday exploring the stunning little seaside market town of Dieppe; the market being there each Saturday.
l'église saint-jacques de dieppe.
A beer or three was consumed on our exploration of this picturesque historic town, many of the little bars and cafés are so full of character and charm, normally with an old, fat, grumpy, opinionated and somewhat disheveled bloke behind the counter, an equally disheveled looking local or two propping up the bar, one with a bored equally disheveled looking poodle, the other with the long extinguished remains of a roll up still stuck to his bottom lip, all trying to look like Charles Aznavour, but none quite managing it, poodle excepted, he, quite simply, 'nailed' it; even sounding French with a grumpy "Le Woooof". To counter these grumpy old men there was normally an immaculately dressed, drop drop gorgeous lady sitting in the shade seductively outside, with an equally immaculate aloof looking poodle, both doing their best 'Marlene Dietrich' impression and both pulling this off superbly, only the poodle letting the side down with the odd aloof glance at the her disheveled counterpart, aloof yes, but there was a look in her eyes that perhaps told a different story....
Views from Château de Dieppe.
For me it's these moments that are just so conducive to those 'watching the world go by' moments that I covet when back in the hustle and bustle that is every day life. Ports like Dieppe are so often bypassed by those who simply use them as a convenient route into France, which is a shame as many have so much more to offer, St Malo, Boulogne and Dunkirk are three others that spring to mind. Refreshed from the day's meandering around town, late in the afternoon we ventured down to the welcoming reception, free drinks and a photo opportunity, the below is of just some of the entrants.
There was a variety of picturesque routes to cater for all abilities, 30-60-100-140 and 200km, along and over "des Trois Vallees" around Dieppe, each with the same lunch stop (French sticks with pâté, fruit, cake and drinks) for each ride, so that everyone could meet up if desired. This was infact a lovely touch for those groups, us included, where some maybe doing different distances, plus if needed any who wanted to reduce the distance could do so at this point, as there was shorter, direct route, back to the start-end HQ.
Bob, Andy and myself had opted for the 100km route, all three of us, for a variety of reasons were well short of any miles in our legs this year, so we all felt that 100km was more than enough. The day started with a bit of 'the old soft pedalling, I was personally sensitive to the fact that with my embarrassing lack of mileage this year even 100km was perhaps, too far! Fortunately this 'Tortoise and the Hare' approach worked wonders, as we ended up feeling fresh doing a 'Surrey Road Cycling Club' team trial for the last quarter of the route, magnificently slow but it made us feel all 'Bradley Wiggins' none the less! It has to be said that playing at 'Team Time Trials' when you are as unfit (and old...) as we all were is a fine balancing act, we needed to try just hard enough to go faster and more importantly make ourselves feel fabulous, but at the same time taking great care not to try any harder, as all that would have translated to is that we would have gone slightly less slowly and made us all feel absolutely dreadful as a result; takes great skill to get that right you know! I have to admit finishing on a high is so much more preferable to finishing on your knees and crying for your mum!
Each route gave the riders a bit of variety, with rolling green open spaces, gentle valley roads with gradual rolling climbs in-between, forest sections, disused railway lines and some lovely seaside bays at the end for the longer distances thrown in for good measure. Each aspect was loaded with charm as we meandered our way around the course. Although there was GPS downloads for each route (see links at bottom) in reality the course was so well marked that I simply found the GPS warnings were nothing more than a welcome prompt that a junction was approaching. I'm pleased I had it though, I confess I've missed many a vital turn off in the past admiring the view, only to discover that I should have turned off before the massive hill I've just descended; I always, always, get the blame for it as well!
Navigating the course made so much easier as it was so stress free! This is in short because I often forget how quiet French roads can be, so wonderfully quiet were the 'normal' roads that I found myself pining for the same experience back here in Surrey and Sussex! There was also some sections along the disused railway line, I always enjoy riding on these, as even though the roads were amazing quiet it's still lovely to switch off even more and simply take in the surroundings. There is always a slightly different 'feel' to these old railway lines that I enjoy; wouldn't want to ride all day on them, but as part of a course as they were used here I find it a welcome addition that adds to the variety of a course that even without this was more than varied enough, with long valley sections, hilly and rolling in-between finishing off with a lovely blast along the coast.
The final sections of our 100km route had us riding along the cliff top coast roads via the picturesque bays of 'Quiberville Glisse' and 'Pourville-sur-Mer', both with bars and beach front Cafés' that I know many, us included, frequented in near ride end celebrations! To be fair it didn't take much arm twisting, especially as it had just started to rain and a quick conclusion that it would be prudent to seek shelter and let the shower pass; low and behold our shelter seemed to sell beer. The weather forecast had included thunderstorms, but these and the showers, although present, were extremely local, by sheer good fortune when needed we seemed to turn away from the doom and gloom and into the sunshine just at the right time, it wasn't until 'Quiberville Glisse' that we needed to take evasive action and seek beer....I mean shelter!!! As can be seen by these pictures no sooner had the rain stopped and the sun would come out.
Andy and Bob at the viewpoint overlooking Pourville-sur-Mer.
The day ended in bright sunshine and a warm descent back into Dieppe and a welcome cuppa at the HQ, before numerous trophies and stories were shared at the prize giving presentation later in the afternoon. Many of us then attended the farewell meal at the Windsor Hotel, infact we pretty much took over the place! Us 'Surrey Road Cycling Club' four actually remained in Dieppe for another three days, sight seeing and more cycling, with a lovely ride to the pretty village of 'Auffay', where we had one of the best meals of the holiday in a local Café, beautiful food in a beautiful setting and a bike ride all thrown in; a cyclist's dream.
I can see why Bob and Horace are seasoned regulars on this tour, extremely well organised with well thought out picturesque routes and deservedly well supported, I can easily see why it attracted 381 participants, 234 from the UK and 86 ladies of all abilities. In short, superb. For more information see their website as well as the very informative Facebook page; a huge well done to all the organisers.
The Surrey Road Cycling Club; we'll be back!
Tour des Trois Vallees 28th June - 30th June 2014
Click on each will take you to the 'ridewithgps' website, showing a visible map as well as GPS files in formats to download to most GPS units. The site is free to join, although note you don't need to join if you just want to export the route. For my Garmin 810, I simply selected the 'Export' tab, (top rh side of linked to pages), downloaded the GPX Track (.gpx) then added that file to my 810 via the 'New files' folder, I then got turn by turn directions; perfect. It maybe different depending on what GPS system you use but that's what worked for my 810.