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Rachael takes a holiday

Rachael takes a holiday

Rachael takes a holiday

For me summer is not summer unless I’ve had a little holiday. So where did mine take me? Devon, the home county for Primal and then to Ypres, Belgium the road cycling capital of Europe and the annihilators of the 2016 Velodrome Six Day Series.

The last time I was in Devon was in April for the ambassador social media weekend where I left a lung up that hill from Dewsbury to the top of Shaugh Prior!  Arriving at our holiday destination in Newquay I was spotting lots of surf boards, inflatable dinosaur rings and riders out on their bikes so I was feeling a bit caged in. I wanted to bring my bike with me but it wouldn’t have been fair on the rest of the clan and probably gone down like a lead balloon if I went pedalling off shouting “sayonara” through a cupped hand pedalling as quick as I could out of sight. Walking everywhere wasn’t bad at all when you have the Devon coastline at your feet. They have the most beautiful beaches, blue sea and yellow sand. Having the Norfolk coast almost on my doorstep is not as exotic with its dark brown sandy sea but is just as spectacular.

On the one day where I was going to get my own way and get out on a bike we all headed to St Ives where there was a local cycle hire hub in a hilly (which really means, hair raising) sea side village, nice!! At least they have disc brakes I thought as I stepped into the shop to make inquiries just as the heavens opened! Typical, but the Great British weather is one way to start a conversation with anybody and a great way to drop in to conversation when slightly prompted with an enormous grin that I am a Primal ambassador while proudly pointing at my Black Primal T-Shirt.

Rachels black Primal Europe T-Shirt needed a holiday as well

On the days when it wasn’t raining I was plodding along the coastal paths trying not to be blown away by the sudden gusts or scooped up by the enormous seagulls over my head who were after my mint choc chip. I had packed my Sharkie socks, my Rain-boa and my Paradiso jersey on the holiday on the off chance I could get some decent photos on the beaches for my social media and blog. I usually have something with me wherever I go but as soon as I arrived on the beach, put on a jersey and socks and then pulled out my camera a surfer ran up and asked if I would take a photo of him and his friends with their boards (using their camera not mine) and commented “love the socks”.  The Sharkies were a hit with the surfers, another good talking point.

Rachel relaxing at the beach with her Primal Europe Sharky Socks

I didn’t want to leave Devon but it was nice to be back in the flatlands of East Anglia as I was getting proper grumpy and itching to get out on the bike since holidays get in the way of your cycling life momentum. As usual the weather reports did the exact opposite of what they were reporting, then there was matter of the wind again. Hop off the bike in the middle of nowhere and you notice how still it is, there is nothing whistling through your lug holes as you look across the miles of fields. I usually plan my route like most, on the direction of the turbines in the hope of getting a tail wind home but when you see that all the turbines grouped together are all pointing in different directions you want to scream. As soon as you start pedalling it’s like being in front of a Eurovision wind machine and I’m convinced there are people who are employed to sit inside the turbines behind a wheel with binoculars and a walkie-talkie with the sole purpose of spotting cyclists and playing a game, it’s a bit like a modern-day version of the sheep in Mint Sauce.   

When the evenings were good it was great to get out and help ride lead the new ladies Wednesday group and the Thursday well-being ride for any lady on any bike of any ability which have become really popular since the Pink Ribbon event. It is always a great feeling to help encourage and chat with the new riders but on some evenings for safety reasons rides were called off due to the wind and rain so rather than sulk I decided to give my lungs an indoor work out on the treadmill. I probably hadn’t run since completing the London Marathon in April because I didn’t have to. I surprised myself at how much I “enjoyed” lolloping along in my new Primal Alpine Camo leggings noticing how my running fitness was not too bad! I had completed two 5K runs where I had managed to do it faster than when I was running regularly, shame the same couldn’t have been said for the Sunday CCC Inters ride to Oundle for coffee and cake.

The Oundle ride was 66 miles door to door with lots of steady inclines and short sharp hills that should have been only a little bit challenging but with 3 weeks out of the saddle it was amazing how quickly the stamina had depleted and how I actually hadn’t fully recovered from last month’s cold, which at the time of typing has returned leaving me again wheezing like Mutley, the last time I was like this was 4 years ago when I ended up with a case of very mild Pneumonia for 6 months. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one finding it hard after not riding for a bit so by the time I had got home I really didn’t know if I was tired, hungry or thirsty and spent a few hours not knowing what to do with myself, I felt obliterated so it came as a good excuse to have a rest from doing too much, hang up the helmet for a few days and take a trip to Belgium. 

If you have never been to Belgium, go!! The country is steeped in history and preservation from the 1st world war and it was met with mixed feelings visiting various key places. I was keen to learn more about the crucial role of the Army Cycling Corp/bicycle infantry and how they would head back and forth with messages and mail among other vital roles on their bicycles. Just as fascinating was witnessing the modern-day attitudes to cycling and the awareness and integration for each other which seemed a whole lot better than in the UK.

Driving around Belgium it was apparent just how similar the country is to the flatlands of East Anglia, very flat, very windy but not a pothole to be seen along the designated well-maintained cycle paths. There were road cyclists everywhere going flat out in their pelotons and upon checking in to our hotel at lunchtime we were in line with around 20 serious Belgian cyclists, I was too busy checking out the bikes to realise everyone in my party had entered the lift and gone. We spotted the 20 cyclists an hour later dressed in normal attire and heading to the bar, they were still there at midnight and still in suit the following morning as we spotted them through the hotel window that over looked the restaurant and bar. Visiting a café just across the road from the hotel we chatted briefly to a couple who had come over from the UK on a cycling holiday and that set me off looking at dates for a return with the bikes. Checking out of the hotel at lunchtime I noticed that only a handful of the hardcore Belgian cyclists were leffe (see what I did there) at the bar. So that’s the secret to being one of the top cycling nations??

Driving out of Ypres I happened to notice two male cyclists going in the opposite direction towards Menin Gate but that they were both on classic cycles and in vintage clothes, it was the metal water bottles on the handle bars that I noticed first and thought just how cool these two guys looked in all their attire. The beach town of De Panne was a hive of cycling activity and the best of all was seeing the 7-seater conference cycles whizzing around with people laughing and testing their scare skills as they all played their part in pedalling along the promenade, kids practising on balance bikes and families transporting the kids and pets on Dutch cycles amongst the organised chaos of pedestrians.  After a whistle stop tour of the area it was time to head back to Dunkirk for the ferry. While waiting for the call to board I needed to get out and stretch the legs and get the steps up on my pedometer as part of the final stretch in the global corporate challenge “Get the World Moving” whereby I captain a team to walk, swim, cycle or run daily to get around the world in 100 days, competing against other teams all over the world. Having clocked up around 10 miles of walking already that day it become a bit addictive watching the step numbers go up, 19856 steps, let’s get to 20000 before I get back to the car. Walking around in circles I noticed two men with their cycles having a chat with Matt and then I noticed the two old metal water bottles on the handlebars, the vintage clothing and those amazing cycles, it was them, the two I spotted earlier in Ypres. We got chatting about their adventures and what they were all about.  They simply had a love of cycling and all things vintage therefore combining the two to travel all over Europe on their 1943, 3 speed hub vintage cycles while documenting their travels on social media. Through a long story short it transpired that one of them knew a friend of friend, what a small world, so what about you one said. “me?” I replied” I’m a Primal ambassador”.

 Rachel enjoying her holidays with the Primal Europe Rain-Boa Jersey