The day before I left Milan for last year's journey I felt a mixture of excitement and nervousness. So many questions were going through my head that night that I barely slept. I had been sweating over the details for weeks, mostly worried about being stranded alone in the middle of nowhere.
Today feels completely different. For starters I am still at home in Warwick. I even managed to fit in a club ride this morning. I am flying out to Hamburg tomorrow morning with my bike in a cardboard box (Thanks Billy at Giant Leamington) and will build it in the airport and head out directly from there. In fact everything for the trip has been packed in those two boxes. If they get lost we will be walking home. Two boxes because I am not riding alone and instead will be joined by my younger son Michael, who was 20 yesterday.
I am relaxed about the kit, the route, the challenge. Almost everything. And yet there is a nagging doubt in my mind that I have forgotten something really important. Like I'm going to take my bike out if the box and discover I've got no pedals. As I write this I have challenged my family to come up with the thing I've forgotten. They have failed so far but the doubt persists. That doubt though is matched by a feeling that somehow everything will be OK. This not bourne out of the confidence from completing last year, but more a kind of 'how bad can it be that I can't fix it with a credit card?'. What I did learn last year is that people are generally friendly and helpful and so even if you can’t buy your way out of a problem most likely someone will help.
'How bad can it be?' is also what Michael said about riding to Brussels. Yes Brussels in Belgium. That Belgium. The country I swore I would never ride in again. His only contribution to this trip so far has been to plot a route of sorts. He hasn't actually gone as far as mapping the route though. That was left to muggins. Clearly he has failed to read my blog and knows nothing of my estranged relationship with my Garmin. His route takes us from Hamburg almost directly south through Germany to the Netherlands and then to Brussels. The best route I can find reduces the cobbles to just 30km on day 5. 30 fucking kilometres. And that doesn't take into account the shitty roads in between them. Paris- Roubaix only has 50km most years. I can tell you now there will be a grim satisfaction on day 6 when he starts to complain about the pain in his whole body From those cobbles. The folly of youth.
From Brussels we are getting the eurostar to London. Now before you accuse us of cheating, let’s remember that the Tour often includes stages that are split by flights. Are you saying that the Tour is diminished by not actually going around the whole of France? Yeah I know, it’s a tenuous arg but it’s the best I could come up with. I remain uneasy about not riding to the coast.
Time to get some sleep. Or at least to lie in bed listening to my nagging doubt.