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Cannonball winner's tale

Published: 02 September 2005

Off we head again down the two lane A26, cruising at 130, approaching some lorries, one of which was trying to overtake the other at 2 mile an hour more than the slower one. I'll sort these out in a jiffy and put some space in between my two stalkers,nipped up the hard shoulder at 135 and had a slight chuckle wondering what the others would make of that little manouvere.

In fine cannonball style they followed my example and we were three again.160 miles were soon rattled off with some interesting overtakes,undertakes - wrong side of the cones during roadworks.

Even losing my left-hand bar-end did not put off the hard-charging Dutchman as it bounced and whizzed over his head. We left the motorway and wanted to be heading for Vitry. We gathered and discussed the route only to see 2 'ballers coming from the direction we intended to go and rejoin the motorway.

Why???????? We set off and soon realised the directions were wrong or we had not followed them correctly. We soldiered on as a group as we did not have a map between us, only the pamphlet with directions on and with more luck than judgement found ourselves on the right route again as we had pulled into a garage for fuel to see 2 'ballers take off with much gusto after our appearance startled them.

A quick drink and fill-up and we were in hot pursuit and soon caught them up as they were at the side of the road looking at their directions with curiosity. We sped past them without mercy only to stop and relook at the directions again when 1 of the 2 bikes stopped earlier rode past us at speed. No sign of the other rider. We took off again finding our bearings with Rolf on the V-Max taking charge and showing what could be done with a V-Max on twisty roads and soon passed a gendarme van at speed - eek! No blue lights so we went a bit faster.

Motorcyclenews.com regular Mike Doohan (1Doohan on our forums) is the winner of the inaugural Cannonball Bike Run.

MCN’s Adam ‘Chad’ Child took part – and you can read about his efforts in this week’s issue (Sep 7) or through the links, right.

And we’ll be adding video clips of some of the less pc antics soon.

MCN cannot and does not condone speeding. But this is winner Mike Doohan's (no, not the Aussie multi-world champion) story – in his own unedited words…

"A text was sent,a call was made and the money handed over, i was in the 2005 Cannon Ball Bike Run. 4 days scratching round euro-hotspots was on the bill with luxury hotels thrown in along the way."

Day 1 Calais to Geneva 440 miles

The group assembled outside outside passport control at the Port of Calais, 25 bikes ranging from GSXR, R1, CBR, APRILIA, DUCATI, HARLEY, BMW, V-MAX, VARADERO.

Where was the elusive ghostrider? What a major disappointment!. I looked around the assembled bikes checking them and the riders out wondering how far each could go on a tank of fuel as that was my main concern for the whole event.

Our instructions were in a pamphlet type book which was gaffered to the tank to stop it blowing away.The flag was raised then dropped and we were off wondering what the hell we had gotten ourselves into.

I got on to the back wheel asap for a little wheelie, put it down to see two bikes infront of me. The first bend out of Calais and the bikes had been despatched behind me. I was now in the lead heading to the A26 Paris route. Llooking in my mirrors i saw a mass of headlights behind me wondering what speeds to do. Around 10 bikes passed me after i slowed to 100mph just to see what they were happy travelling at and 120-130 was deemed the appropriate speed.

Not one to miss a nice overtaking opportunity, I wound the gixer up and passed 6 or 7 fellow 'ballers at 175mph then tucked in behind the leaders who slowly got away as I was happy cruising at 130.

I had a casual glance in the mirrors to see what was going on behind me and saw a V-Max on my tail swiftly followed by an R1. 'Poor bloke', I thought looking at the V-max, 'he's going to have a sore neck soon'. Pulled into the first fuel stop and the two behind me did the same.

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A trip on a powerboat was on offer so a bunch of us took advantage and had a blast on the Cannes sea. It was more painful gripping on to the boat for the 20min ride than the day's journey. All riders washed and assembled, we ate a fine meal rinsed down with some fine wine.

It was then announced that there was a new leader and I was the proud owner of the yellow leader t-shirt. Some people slid off to bed others headed for bars and beer. I went for a few beers and went to bed 2:30am only to be rudely awakened by my room-mates' alarm at 6am. WTF? He hit the snooze button and snored and I was awake. I got up at 7:15 and looked out the window overlooking the 25 bikes and saw the frontrunners from the first day by their bikes ready for the day ahead.

Day 3 Cannes to Chamonix 386 miles

I chucked on my leathers and bypassed breakfast yet again - not even a glass of water - got to my bike only to find it had been blocked in by crates of drink that had been delivered in the early hours of the morning. I wasn't going anywhere soon until some more bikes had been moved giving me room to get out.

Oiled the chain and got some cameras mounted to mine and Simo's bikes while the majority gathered out the front of the Carlton for a photo opportunity then took off without us.

We were assured our time would not start until we had the cameras mounted properly and left 15 mins after the rest.

The 2 journos were still getting ready to leave after a heavy night out. Three 'ballers had just got in from the night out as we set off so were unfit for the hardest ride of the run. Me and Simo set off after the the pack like wolves after prey, heading out of town on the slippery Tarmac which had been freshly hosed down and the heat from the sun already baking our backs this early in the day. We hit the toll roads and turned the camers on and played with the traffic darting in and out of the rush hour commuters.

It seemed ages until we caught the first bikes up on the first of many montain climbs today, we pressed on and on dealing with 16mph hairpins after 16mph hairpins. we caught a bunch up who were having a rest and a drink, had a quick hello and took off in search of the front runners, passed some more guys filling up with petrol and eventually pulled in for a rest and a drink, where Carl on the Duke was just setting off.

The slow twisting bends gave way to more fast flowing ones and the 2 gixers devoured them with great relish. we came upon a group of 4 'ballers and had a dice with them then took off again as there were 2 riders unaccounted for and they could only be ahead of us and that became our mission,catch them. up and down the mountains we went in pursuit and 130 miles from leaving Cannes we saw the 2 breakaways,Jerone on th BM and Rich on the Mille leaving Col Bonnette, the highest road in europe 9192ft up in the air.

We parked up for a bit taking in the views, feeling like we were on top of the world, taking pictures and wowing at the vastness down below,reminiscing about the journey to the top,the gravel,the sheer drops,no barriers,sheep sheepdog and shepherd.By now most of the group had landed ontop of the mountain and we were hot on the heels of Jerone and Rich.

The next stage of the journey had us going thru some very dark tunnels with dodgy road surface No clear visor made it interesting. Simo wanted to eat, i wanted to press on so i worked him for another hour until we crossed into Italy where he found his hunger pangs cured with a prepacked ham sandwich and coke. I joined him for this wonderful gastronomic event keeping an eye on the road for any passing 'ballers.

Ahead we pressed back into France and up another mountain,we pulled over to check the directions and an Italian biker had great delight telling us he was 63yrs old. Whoop dee doo! The next series of mountains was like flicking thru a ski holiday brouchre, ski lifts all over the place Val d'Isere being the most famous i think.Back in Italy again and heading for Mont Blanc i thought ,i see signs for Aosta. WTF? I ask a copper in my finest Italian "Monte Bianco?", shoulders shrugged,hands outstretched,he points in the direction we just came,damn! i missed the left hand turn and went straight to St Didier.

No sign of the BMW and Mille yet and assume they are in front of us. We approach Mont Blanc and the place seems to have ground to a halt, nothing moving at all. I go to the front and wait wondering how long it will take to get thru. 5 mins later i hear the sound of bikes approaching its Jerone and Rich. We get into the tunnel first and the guy at the barrier is making sure we understand the speed limits. yeah yeah yeah let us go i tell him.

We head into Chamonix only to find the road we want is closed and full of hikers having some sort of convention,we walk thru them to the hotel to find to our amazement the 2 journos have arrived already with Chris on another Mille. Hmmmmmmm?! Jerone and Rich turn up a few mins after us.

They were parked up for lunch and saw me and Simo pass but didnt see anyone else. During dinner when the first to arrive mementos were given out Simo suggested they may not have done the whole route, i can't remember the Finnish phrase for "cheating twats", but it sounded funny, someone else suggested maybe they flew in by helicopter.

We ate well that night and drank very large beers. Again some people opted for an early night while others sought nightlife. After the pub had shut, 3 of us Rolf ,Spartacus on the Bandit 600 rider and myself went to every nightclub in town, all 2 of them and drank some more beer. Rolf and i watched in great amusement - Spartacus using the pole on the stage in one club like he was a seasoned pole dancer. We get to the hotel at 4:15am and Spartacus fires up his bandit and is bouncing it off the limiter. nice one,let the whole town know we are back.

Arriving in Geneva the directions were up the spout due to roadworks and diversions. Rolf has sat-nav which he thought he would use to guide us in which ened up with us in a deadend carpark. So it was down the path and thru an archway along some dug-up road and hey presto we were back on track... only to get lost after seeing the hotel but not knowing how to get there. We arrived in joint 4th 7:15ish and nearly 8 hours riding.

To the bar after a wash-up and watch the rest of the group turn up looking rather weary. A fine meal was eaten during which it was announced who was leading the pack and a yellow leader shirt and trophy was given for his accomplishment. Back to the bar for some light refreshment and still the 'ballers were coming in looking even more weary and even more hungry. Bed at 2am.

Day 2 Geneva - Cannes

The route had been announced the previous night with a check-point enroute with a prize for the first 10 arrivals. Got up at 7:10am chucked on the leathers,no brekky or drink and joined the assembled riders for the days ride. It was meant to be a 7:30 am start so by 7:40 nobody seemed to be in charge so i left first ,soon to be hounded like a fox with the 'ballers baying behind me. First set of lights and confusion struck,some turned left,some went straight on, i went straight on,joined the motorway and lit the gixer torchpaper.

First fuel stop and i was on my own so I thought it wise to buy a map just in case, soon to be greeted by the sight of the 2 joint leaders pulling in for fuel so i hastily got going again. Cruising along at 120 i see a light coming in my mirror and wondered who was up for it and soon had another black gixer thou for company,he passed me and i followed in and out of the traffic at 120 then he pulled in for fuel and i kept going.

Next i had to pull over on the hardshoulder as the directions weren't making sense and consulted the map which didn't make any sense and soon Simo from finland on the black gixer passed me again so i took off after him and the directions became clear again.

We left the motorway and started on the mountain section. The sun was shining, the road twisted towards the sky backwards and forwards getting higher and higher.

I was happy, enjoying the wonderful views checking back once in a while to see if any bikes were on our tail. I laughed as we passed a field which had a cow sticking its neck thru the fence to get at some fresh grass inches from the side of the road. i glanced down at my tripmeter to see i had done 80 miles since filling up and got worried as the road up the mountain got steeper and steeper. I was thinking my fuel pump may not work at this angle with the remaining fuel out of the pumps reach.

No prob, soon we were heading down the mountain road and the Tarmac went all rollercoastery, proper Tarmac whoop dee doos like on moto-x. The first one caught me by suprise, luckily i had no breakfast or it would have ended up on the inside of my visor. I thought i'd wheelie over the 2nd crest, gave the clutch a little ping and gassed it, the rev counter went ballistic and i landed with bodywork sounding off a nasty crunch. Jeez i'd just gotten airborne.

More fuel, a pee and a drink and bar of choccy, me and Simo set off again. I was leading when i noticed he had disappeared, i pulled over to check directions to see that i had missed the turning. was he trying to give me the slip now?

I took off after him and caught sight of him winding along the roads above my head, eventually reeling him in. We were homing in on the first check-point or so we thought when the directions didn't make sense again, we were heading in the wrong direction. A quick turn around and things became clear and we arrived at this place called Personnas Bridge - 1st at the checkpoint. Our prize was a bungee jump - which i promptly refused.

My life was more valuable than trusting it to a Frenchman's knicker elastic. Eventually all the riders showed up, some doing the jump, some eating, some setting off for the next leg which was timed from when you wanted to leave. Jerone on the sporty BMW asked if i was ready to leave and said i was and put my lid on to see Simo with a baguette and coke looking alarmed. I agreed to wait for him amused at watching him trying to stuff the crusty bread down his neck.

We 3 took off heading for Gap along the n85, a super winding road which eventually had us scratching our heads as the directions seemed to be wrong. A quick word with a moped rider and the Besancon direction was all we needed and we soon caught some other 'ballers.

We all headed along the D3 in a group of five and took the opportunity to film them on camcorder having a little tear-up. Another town and more roadworks and diversions meant the directions given were not suitable but eventually got back on track. Soon the road to Cannes turned fast so Simo and me took off again, passing Jerone, then Rich on the Mille having a breather on the side of the road.

The heat intensified as we got nearer the South of France and soon caught sight of the front runners in traffic. Me and Simo didn't slow down and passed them and joined a fast stretch of A road leading into Cannes. The 2 guys we had just passed were catching us up and following. Only a few miles to go, I see Le Cannett signposted and turn left with Simo, the others turn right, I see a hotel called the Grand and pull in thinking we were all done only to check directions to find out we wanted the Carlton.

Backtracking and some nifty traffic manouvres had us in touch with the two front runners again stuck in traffic. We got past them again and pulled into the 5 star Carlton on the seafront only to be ushered round the back. Arrival 17:10pm - nine and half hours since leaving Geneva. While we waited for our luggage to arrive at the hotel, those that had arrived made their way to the bar - around eight of us all in leathers, dirty and sweating necking beers in this posh hotel The looks from fellow guests were rather amusing.

Day 4 Chamonix to Paris 384 miles

Luckily its a 9:30 start today or i would have had trouble getting out of bed big time. Usual story,get up chuck on leathers,no breakfast. I'm handed another yellow t-shirt which means im still leading but dont know by what margin. its 9:40 and one of Simo's backup team points at his watch, hmmm, i neck a fruit juice get my bike out the garage and see the Finn is nowhere to be seen, has he pulled a fast one and left without me? Maybe an hour early as there are no rules. Some bikes start leaving and i'm hot on their tails, while they are waiting to join the main road the proper way, i take a short cut and nearly get t-boned for my troubles. The route looks straight forward and i set off down the winding motorway.

At the first toll booth i see Rich on the Mille, we ride together for while ,pull in for fuel, i get done and shoot off again in search of the Finn. More motorway then we get off onto some fast flowing twistys a bit bumpy at first and some colurful red tarmac is a welcome change from black. All is going well until I rejoin the motorway at Avalon, follow Paris the directions say, two mins later im passing a sign above my head saying Dijon! Eh? kept going sure i was on the right road,pulled into first service staion,filled up and pointed towards Dijon saying "Paris?".

No the attendant shreiked and pointed in the opposite direction. Damn, i got to get cracking now and set off looking for a place to turn around. A toll road lay ahead which crossed over the motorway and saw my chance to get back on track, a gap big enough for me to squeeze my bike thru, a quick blast on the wrong side of the road and sharp left avoiding oncoming car returns me on the road to Paris and i didnt have to pay extra for extra mileage on the toll road.

I started cruising at 140mph to try and make up some time, by time i got back to the place where i made the mistake i had clocked up 40 miles. again i filled up and stuck on the camcorder and got a shift on, winding the gixer up to 186mph and doing some very fast filtering, the trip meter was spinning round faster than the wheels of a fruit machine, nothing dangerous, all within my control.

Again i exit the motorway and the gixer is unleashed thru some quaint, quiet French villages. I'm keeping my eyes peeled for hidden sign called Milly, pass it and do a quick u-turn to be faced with Rich on the Mille turning into the right road, we have a tear-up until we rejoin the motorway again, my carbon akro wailing and his booming vee twin sound bouncing off the stone walls in the villages,plus a few wheelies, they must have been choking on their croissants. We are now on the last bit of m-way into Paris.

Rich has sped off and i haven't got my page turned over for the final directions, i take off after him and am not sure if he has the right page either so i slow up a bit and manage to take the gaffered directions from the tank with 1 hand praying that the wind doesn't snatch them from my grasp or i'd be well f**ked. I get a quick glimpse of the next directions stuff them in my pocket and hunt down Rich. The traffic is getting heavy and I see Rich ahead and get by and get busy when the next crucial turning point has to be taken: Join the peripherique.

I have 2 choices left or right, i take right lane then change my mind and sit in middle of junction looking at directions again expecting a Mille to come by. I take the left lane and try to join the fast flowing lanes with the French horns going berserk. Look for port de sevres and i'm home - i see the Sofitel Hotel from the ring road and the exit appears,down to the lights turn left and there's the hotel, I pull in and see no-one, no bikes no Simo. I double check with the porter and he says its the right place. wow! 5 mins later Rich and the Mille turn up and shortly after the rest of the 'ballers turn up quite quickly. off to the bar for more beers while we wait for the luggage truck to turn up. Simo's crew turn up and i ask of his where abouts, they don't know.

I think he must be lost somewhere,but he turns up and tells me he's been doing a photo shoot with MCN and other guys. A final wash-up and it's down to the bar where we gather before heading out for a meal on the Eiffel Tower followed by a party at a nightclub next to the Moulin Rouge.

In the bar the souvenirs of the event are handed out along with the top 3 rides, 3rd going to Rich on the Mille, who put in a late charge to snatch it from the next guy by 90 seconds, 2nd was Simo from Finland on the gixer 1000, who had 3 good days, only messed the first day up a bit.

That left me in 1st place to pick up a nice bit of shiney tin. My speech was brief "Thanks to everyone who stopped for something to eat and drink -i didn't"

That was what made all the difference, all the guys that i rode with were all pretty handy.

We all went for our meal which was once again very nice, 5 course i do believe and then headed for a club with a VIP section for the 'ballers and loads of free bottles of spirits and mixers covered the tables and we all got stuck into it drinking ourselves into a stat,e very pleased with what we accomplished.

We all came back safe and wanting to do it all again. The camaraderie within the group was fantastic,a great bunch of people(the organisers) sorting out a great bunch of people(the riders).

That my friends was the Cannonball Bike Run 2005

It's only 50 weeks away to the next one!

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