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race doesn’t even provide you with a route, just a start and finish line and 4
check points in-between through which you must pass (in any order). There
is an official finisher’s party 14 days after the start and a further 48 hours
following this for you to get the final stamp on your brevet card and be listed
as an official finisher. To put that into perspective the Tour De France tends
to be around 3500km spread over a 3 week period.

Having come so late to the race, I had only 8 days until the start in Belgium,
I simply bought what Katie suggested and did anything she asked me to;
receiving parcels containing kit bought last minute, Katie lives in the ski
resort of Courcheval and struggled to source some items locally, downloading
the routes she had so excellently prepared on to my Garmin bike computer,
compiling translation sheets of key phrases for each country and buying local
currencies for as many of the countries as I could outside of the Euro Zone.
No time for anything as insignificant as actually riding my bike.

Following one Skype call and a dozen emails Katie and I arranged to meet at
Redhill station just outside of London on the morning of Thursday the 23rd
of July, Katie’s Dad had very kindly agreed to drive us over to Belgium for the
start. A couple of days before this as Katie and I were discussing how we
should organise the finances for the trip it suddenly struck me that this
may be a very elaborate scam, I was about to transfer a sizeable amount of
money to a person I had never met and who just might not turn up as agreed.
As such I suggested we split the budget 50/50 both of us carrying a pre-paid
credit card “just in case 1 gets damaged”, I only admitted this to Katie once
we were in Istanbul! Needless to say we met as arranged, loaded my bike into
her Dad’s van and set off for Calais and the ferry.

Once in Belgium the plan was to build Katie’s bike, still in a box since her flight
from France to the UK, register, do a recce ride of the cobbles of the Muur,
which is where the start line would be later that night, eat and most
importantly get a few hours’ sleep. Having started endurance events at
midnight before I know how hard it is to keep your eyes open through the early
hours of the first morning. Best laid plans and all that…Katie unpacked her
bike to find that the top tube had been damaged in transit and now sported

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