In this installment of the QB Historic Moments Series we document a conversation between aged randonneurs who considered themselves the crème de la crème of the high rouleurs back in the 1980’s. The conversation was overheard the night of 18 February, 2017 at the Resto Frites Brasserie, Place du General de Gaulle, Hautemont, Nord-pas-de-Calais, Fr.
Pierrette (showing old photo to others): Crossed paths with these guys during a solo attempt at breaking the women’s record on the Menton-Hendaye Diagonale. Memory is getting a bit foggy but I think the year was 1987. It was somewhere in the vicinity of Bagnères-de-Luchon, as I recall. Can any of you assign names to these characters? I’m finally getting around to writing the “compte rendu” and want to get the facts straight.
One might guess that if the attempt for the record were successful, then there would have been a more timely compte rendu. Everything did start out well; I rode from Menton through the Massif des Alpilles and on to Languedoc-Roussillon in great time. But my plan to divert course early on through the Pyrenées was a bust–literally. I thought I might earn brownie points by taking in the mountain passes. What’s more, I thought I might profit from a side trip through Andorra. But the mountain riding proved tougher than anticipated and my plan to smuggle tobacco and booze out of the Principality was foiled by Spanish customs officers at La Farga de Moles. Of course any smuggler worth their weight in salt would have taken the Port de Cabús route. This smuggler was young and naive. And impetuous.
The stuff was confiscated and I was detained for over 3 hours, long enough to jeopardize my shot at the record. Worse still, I had spent nearly all of my francs on the lost the investment. On the bright side, the ride through Val d’Arran and up the Col du Portillion into France was made easier without the load of contraband.
All hope for the record was lost with a rear tire blowout while descending the Tourmalet. Thank goodness I didn’t panic; I managed to bring the bike to a stop without suffering a crash. The 27 inch tire was shredded beyond a simple boot repair so I had to send for a replacement tyre from the UK. (Remember, this was before conversion of my faithful 1984 Trek 520 to 700c). Eventually I made it to Hendaye, just barely under the time limit for official finishers. Done.
The original plan was to complete back-to-back diagonales and do Lands End to John O’Groats as a finale. It would have been so perfect. Menton to Hendaye followed by Hendaye to Dunquerke from where I would take the ferry accross Le Manche to Dover. From there it would be a trivial matter to find my way through Cornwall to Lands End to start the grand finale to John O’Groats. Oh, well. Being penniless meant I had to work as an au pair for the summer to earn enough for the trip home.
Gabriel: Kooks – That’s my Dad on the right.
Pierrette: Kooky, yes! Especially the guy on the left without a helmet. I remember him going on about food poisoning; something about crêpes in Bretagne during the Brest to Strasbourg Diagonale. And then I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s a kook when he claimed to have ridden the 2016 edition of Paris-Dakar-Paris super grande randonnée. I mean come on, what kind of BS is that?!! I rode it and he was not there. I think he’s full of stories. What a Kook!
Franck: I was running the BDB French original store in Maubeuge France in the early 70′ to mid 80′ and knew Gabriel’s dad very well at the time. The shop was BoîteDechienBicyclettes and indeed the parent company of BDB that hipster fixie shop in the Mission of San Francisco, CA. Also we did have a small shop in Brest as well but it was called BDB ravitaillements ( pour le retour), small trivia that few are aware of.
That’s me on the left with Gabriel’s dad circa 1984.