Madagascar and Cycling

Julian: What is a simple bite on the butt among friends? [shakes his tail at Maurice] Julian: Come on, give me a nibble. ~ Madagascar (the Movie) – 2005

I never expected to be reminded of this movie line as I cycled around Lake Geneva. But then I never expected to be dancing until midnight to the amazing sound of one of Turkey’s pop idols, Mustafa (“Musti”) Sandal. Nor before riding 180km only having four hours sleep!

Whilst partying until the small hours and four hours sleep might not be the best preparation for a long ride, it is certainly great preparation for my round the world sailing adventure. Four hours sleep followed by a gruelling several hours on deck… all par for the course.

All dressed up with dancing to do

All dressed up with dancing to do

Arriving in Geneva at 0645 I had my trusty steed, la Pierre, saddled; food on board and ready to go, when Gary Levy pops up and casually suggests that as I have a pair of regular trainers to hand, perhaps I’d like to join him on the back of his tandem.

Hmmmmm… back of a tandem… not able to see where I’m going… no brakes… not in control…

Gary with the Yellow Peril

Gary with the Yellow Peril

” YEH, sure, why not”, I say merrily, whilst considering quietly to myself that 180km is rather a long way to go and realise that you don’t really like being on the back of a tandem at all. What if I’m scared, what if the saddle is really uncomfortable, what if we fall off, what if… what if…  And then I tell myself to “shush” and “enjoy the experience for all it could offer”.

Just how many times do we say to ourselves, “ooo, no, better not… what if…”  Well, I’d ask you – “what if it’s a totally amazing eye opening experience that you’ve just chucked down the drain?”  Have a go. You might really enjoy something, or learn something or simply have a laugh.

I cycled my regular trusty steed to Gary’s shop to pick up the tandem – a big yellow beast, although she’s gentle really. Gary gave me a quick lesson in tandem etiquette – like don’t suddenly stop pedalling when you’re bombing along at 30+km/hr or the chain might snap. And there’s a whole new vocabulary to learn – the person at the front is called the “Captain” and the rear rider, the “Stoker”… however, upon Googling this, just to check that Gary didn’t have some weird subordination issues going on, I find that the front rider may also be called pilot or steersman and the rear rider, navigator or rear admiral (I quite fancy that one!). The communication has to be good between the two riders, specifically for the front rider to let the rear know when there’s a bump – or you crack your teeth (!) – it only happened once 🙂

And what an experience, flying along at some quite ridiculous speeds to then work like mad up inclines, I found myself really enjoying the ride. And then I was reminded of the Madagascar movie, as Gary explains that occasionally he needs to stretch. Imagine then the view. As it is, you’re less than 30cm away from the person in front, upon command, we stop pedalling and Gary stands up on his pedals and stretches out his hamstrings – with his Lycra clad bottom just centimetres from my face. I could… I really could… there’s just something about biting a bottom that cracks me up. I’m sure the psychologists would have a field day on that one.

And in my head I think, “Gary, what’s a simple bite on the bottom amongst friends?”

Aly and Gary on a tandem

Aly and Gary on a tandem

I didn’t!

The day progressed from cool sunshine to grey clouds and rain and then back to beautiful sunshine as we lunched in Vevey.

Bike the Lake lunch in Vevey

lunch in the sunshine in Vevey

And then back to howling wind and rain as we arrived in Nyon with just the final 20 ish kilometres into Geneva. For those of you who’ve done endurance sports, you know just how important your nutritional intake is before and during the event. However, this is the “Bike the Lake” annual event and look what glory awaited the intrepid riders –

Cream tea in Nyon

who needs isotonic refreshment with this option available?

Those scones along with a mug of tea were a huge psychological boost as we watched lightning and thunder crash around us for a few moments before returning to the road. The last stretch reminded me of a midnight til 4am watch on board. You’re cold, tired and wet and dreaming of being warm and dry. Pedalling hard down the route du Lac, I was wet, really wet, another squishy, squelching shoe kind of wet – I seem to be experiencing a number of those this season. But with Gary’s determination and encouragement, we finished. Averaging just under 28km/hour, not a bad job for a first time out on a tandem.

So long distance cycling and sailing around the world aren’t too dissimilar, especially with the weather we’ve had this season. And what keeps me going on some of these tough rides is the camaraderie, the banter; the desire to do something amazing even when I’m really exhausted. When I’m feeling tired on the bike, I remember that on the boat I won’t be able to stop, so I tell myself to just keep pedalling.

I’m sure that when I’m on the boat, I will think of my cycling and remind myself that not only is the view from the top of the mountain glorious to behold but that as you climb, remembering to take your eyes off the tarmac and really see the surroundings, the countryside, the wildlife as well as having a chat with your friends along with a bit of grit, determination; fun and encouragement and the odd yummy treat, even across some of those big oceans, there’ll be something other than water and sky to look at – and if there’s not, I’ll just think of Julian and Maurice and wonder…


1 thought on “Madagascar and Cycling

  1. Doris

    Next time – just have a little nibble, I’m sure he won’t notice!
    Good mindset for windsurfing on Sat! x


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