For the first time since 2006 the Hayling Cycle ride visited the delightful town of Chartres after first overnighting in Evreux. Chartres which is twinned with nearby Chichester is famous for its “Son et Lumiere” held nightly at its cathedral. Cyclists were amazed at the intricacy of this show and those who remembered seeing an earlier version on our previous visit could only marvel at how recent high-tech developments had led to impressive advances in this spectacle.
The following day we pedalled on to Lisieux. Although it had featured in previous rides it was until this year virtually the only significant Normandy town where we had not had an overnight stop. The following day we continued to Bayeux. This was the beginning of two days in which D-Day was very much the theme. We passed over Pegasus Bridge with some stopping at the famous Cafe Gondree the first building to be liberated in 1944. Cycling along the coast we passed the landing beaches of Sword, Gold and Juno and the town of Arromanches. Here a mulberry harbor, (Port Winston) could be seen. Such harbours, constructed from concrete blocks made in England were towed across the channel to facilitate the offloading of cargo after the initial D- Day landings. Hayling Islanders are very familiar with these as one block was left behind and remains to this day in Langstone Harbour close to the Hayling Ferry jetty. On the final full day in France we departed from Bayeux and turned north to cycle up the Cherbourg Peninsular with many lunching at the final D- Day landing location namely Utah Beach. Apart from the beaches we passed countless memorials and displays related to the brave people involved in the 1944 landings. It was impossible not to be moved by the evidence of the sacrifices they made.
We spent our last night in Cherbourg with the traditional final dinner and awards. As people discussed their escapades over the last few days it was clear that we had completed another very successful ride. The weather had been good, and the route well received with people delighted with the D-Day theme. The Support Team as always proved to be magnificent. Unfortunately this year we did have a few accidents which placed an increased burden on them but they handled it well and fortunately all cyclists involved in these mishaps are on the road to a full recovery. And once again the camaraderie proved to be excellent. Many new friendships were made as well as old ones renewed with feedback from new riders being particularly encouraging. This is the longest running multi- day charity cycle ride in the UK and possibly the World. Judging by this year’s event, it’s going to continue for a few years yet!