Roughly translated: Passport to the Sun. Which suggests I could rock up to an airline desk, present my credentials. and be instantly transported to the perfect vista featuring sea-to-sky sunshine. Only not in this reality. Two reasons; one none of our carriers offer the big burning ball as a destination*, and secondly selecting such a off-beat tourist destination would leave you resembling a particularly rancid pork scratching regardless of any claims made by total sunblock.
No what we have here is a metaphor. The passport is very much required to cross three national borders but the sunshine is largely optional, and certainly not guaranteed. Still as we’re deep into France and high in the mountains, snow may cover the peaks while thunders stalks the valleys. An almost ideal environment to ride mountain bikes with a similar minded hoard – all of us apparently on a day trip from the local sanatorium.
The PPDS is a race of sorts. Or sort of a race; covering 80 kilometres up and over conveniently located Alps perched high on the Swiss/French border. Any event that includes 8000 metres of chair-lift accessed climbing each buttressed by a cheese and wine stall is stretching the concept of race quite a bit. Scratching around for a corollary, the best I could come up with is Cricket which breaks for both lunch and tea.
So not a race then. But still a bloody good day out and not an easy one. 8000 metres of descending – with a cheeky 1000m thrown in where you actually have to pedal – is going to elicit some wear and tear on age-ravished bodies. Assuming you fail to plunge into a handy abyss or chin-surf a kilometre of rock hard – erm – rocks, come trail end your kidney and spleen will have swapped sides and your off-bike demeaner will best resemble a man significantly encumbered by being hand-cuffed to a road drill.
First tho we have to get there.
There’s not even a branch of spatial mathematics invented to solve the multidimensional logistical cluster-fuck which predicts nine confused men will arrive at the same bar at the right time at exactly the point it’s time to buy their round. This bar is in Les Gets – the perfect French town to begin such an arduous endeavour. Which explains perfectly well why we’ll actually be starting in Switzerland.
This, and I can see you shaking your head, is a massive improvement on where we came in, where none-of-nine had a race entry duplicated by any other. Worse still, three had picked not only the wrong country but the wrong day. One member – and I use that adjective entirely appropriately – had somehow booked himself onto two start lines in different countries on the same day. Neither in countries in which he currently abides, and since that country is France even our useless little crew nodded sagely in agreement that this had set the mr-fuck-up bar really quite high.
Anyway it’s sorted now for a given value of sorted. 4 of us are setting off from Herefordshire in Haydn’s love bus accompanied, briefly, by Matt’s electro-trance back catalogue and, latterly, by a bloodied man slumped in the front seat having been beaten unconscious with a boxed set of 80s rock music. 3 more are heading out of London at stupid o’clock to board a midnight ferry to France. From where they will drive to Italy for reasons only those recently lobotomised can fathom. One more flies into Geneva, while the final entry to the race-honed super-team shall make up for the fact that airline-boy forgot his bike by bringing him a spare.
Honestly that’s the abridged and simplified version. At 9pm on Friday night, this crew of most motley shall rendezvous at the Le Boomerang boy and plot our race strategy over a beer or nineteen. Assuming the ‘Herefordshire 4’ haven’t monged themselves during a brief warm up ride designed to shake down the bikes, but leave the limbs attached to the correct parts of the torso.
I think we can all agree it’s almost impossible to think of anything that could go wrong. Assuming no-one dies in the inevitable drinking frenzy or ends their own life rather than ensure a face-splitting hangover, we’ll find a way** to cross the border at silly o’clock the next morning to ride awesome mountain bikes in amazing scenery on stupendous trails while regularly refuelling on red wine and cheese. All of which will be under the eye of thousands of locals who turn out to celebrate this festival of cycling.
I can only assume the booze is free for them as well. Unless they have a well developed cruel streak which tends to the ‘Hey Roastbeef, merd, merd, merd…!’ when the more self concious rider passes at all the speed needed to hunt down a lettuce. Still I’ll be pissed so shall probably reply with something appropriately ambassadorial enquiring whether ones hecklers upstream family had collaborated or surrendered.
My good friend and lackadaisical dandy Martyn asked me a while ago if he thought we’d be okay. ‘Martyn‘ I counselled ‘you and me will be slumped in a French bar, lightly covered in dust, watching the sun sink behind the mountains while quaffing an ice cold beer. Tell me ANYTHING that is wrong in that picture’. I feel he was appropriately reassured.
So assuming all of that goes well, the following five days will be spent getting lost in the mountains with only my best friends and a truculent GPS for company. We will be at our best in high places, riding bikes and drinking beer. There will be thrills, spills and scenes of mild peril – more than mitigated by laughs, giggles and memories burned into that bit of your mind that has no room for regret or sorrow.
Sure there’s guilt that I am abandoning my family once more to be selfish doing the things I love. But this is something that’s long been on the ‘bucket list’ and the years are passing like hyperspace. I’m pretty fit and mostly healthy and have the perfect bike and the greatest friends to go adventuring with.
Right now I feel about eleven years old. I shall endeavour to hold onto that feeling.
* except probably Ryanair. Then it would be ‘near the sun‘ or – as normally transpires with such things – a place that’s never even seen sunshine. Let’s call that place Manchester.
** No one has any idea what this ‘way‘ might be. I’m holding out for a teleport which makes mine the sensible option.