Thursday, 29 July 2010

28/7/10: We were a little bit concerned about getting the bike boxes ready in time for the flight and also needed our boarding passes so we left the campsite relatively early at 9am. We returned to the bike shop&this time were served by a different man who immediately went and found us 2 bike boxes. We spent a happy hour or so packing our boxes as carefully as possible so that the less than gentle baggage handlers wouldn't cause any damage! We then discovered how difficult it would be to carry our boxes across town as they weighed about 30kgs and were an awkward shape to carry. Nevertheless we dragged them accross town to an internet cafe to print off our boarding passes for the flight. We then hauled them to the bus stop. Although we may not have been cycling today we felt more tired than usual by 12pm as a result of carrying these things so far in the heat.

We got the bus to the airport and arrived at about 2pm. With all the stuff we had to do it was a good job we had spent the night in La Rochelle and got up early instead of doing any cycling on the last day. We 'caught some rays' for an hour or so before checking in (judging by the weather reports from home, there will be no sun for the next 2 months, so might as well enjoy it in France!)

We checked in and watched the baggage handlers drop Alex's bike whilst loading it onto the plane and then boarded. The plane arrived at Gatwick fine and the bikes came off the caroselle in one peice. We caught the train to Victoria station and then the tube to Kings cross.

We carried the bikes down the long escalators to the tube, I paused at the bottom to wait for Alex and immediatly a loud voice came over the tannoy, 'will the young man with the box please move immediatly, you WILL cause an accident!' This doomsome warning was a bit embarassing infront of everyone but quite amusing afterwards. We reunited and waited for the tube to Kings Cross. We stood on the platform with 2 big boxes wondering how we would get on. I squeezed into one carriage and Alex decided to wait for another tube which was less busy rather than cram in another carriage. I got to Kings cross and waited on the platform for Alex to arrive. 3 tubes came through and no Alex.....not good! Suddenly from nowhere a woman bumped into me who was on the ski instructors course with me earlier this year. We had a brief catch up and then she hopped on the next tube. I noticed my train was leaving in 15 minutes so decided I had maybe missed Alex and he was waiting for me at the platform for the big train to York. When I arrived it was due to depart in 2 minutes. I had an awqward decision to make-wait for Alex and both buy new tickets or do the bad, yet economical thing and leave him behind. I decided I'd rather leave him and go halves on his ticket than both buy new ones so hopped onboard, I was told to put my box in a doorway of a carriage by a guard and wait for further instruction. Another guard arrived and told me 'you can't stand there, mate.' I said 'thats fine, where can I put my box?' He then gave me a rather snotty order saying I should have put it in the next carriage and was blocking a fire exit. I had to firmly remind him I was only standing there because another guard had told me to. He left me alone and we pulled out of the station with a guilty feeling developing in my stomach.

I immediately phone Alex's dad to explain the situation as Alex hasn't got a phone with him on this trip. I was soon phoned back with the message that Alex had not been allowed on the tube as his box was too big, but told me to carry on. Later on I discovered if I had waited seconds longer on the tube platform I too would have been removed. Alex caught a later train back from London as he missed the main one, although they didn't charge him anything.

So here ends my trip, 1877 miles late. I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog as much as I have enjoyed writing it. I didn't feel bored at any time during the evenings as a result of being able to write the blog using my phone. Many thanks for all the comments and feedback and also to Dad and Alex Nowakowski for joining me and stopping me from going insane by breaking up the time spent cycling alone. And many thanls to the people I met on the way who helped me. I will put up a few pictures soon for those who are interested. If anyone is inspired to cycle around France or wants any advice on routes etc please feel free to contact me as I have full records of the routes I took.

My favourite part of France has to be the southern alps, the few days around Mt.Ventoux time took me through the best valleys and over the best cols. The worst col award has to go to the Col du galibier-an absolute beast if you fancy a challenge.

I have put together some statistics from the trip for those interested:

Total mileage: 1877 miles
Total Time: 167 hours, 1 minute
Average speed: 11.24 mph
Total number of Kcal burnt: 176,580 (5045/day)
Total no. Of pedal revolutions: 801,600
Total number of wheel revolutions: 4,194,124
Number of Cols: 19
And amazingly, after all of that, I weighed myself when I got home, and I have put on 1kg! Clearly the patisseries contain more energy than I thought!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

26/7/10: We left the campsite in Blaye at about 9.30am and stopped off at a bakery for breakfast on the way out of town. Today's route would take us north along the side of the Dordogne river and then follow this along to the coast as it opens out into the sea. The terrain was pretty flat, and the weather has finally changed back to super hot&sunny. We cycled through lots of small villages throughout the morning and stopped for a drink in a bar mid morning. We had lunch in a vineyard full of ants which appeared to be drawn to my cheese a bit too much. We pressed on to arrive at the beach in Royan at about 4pm. Alex realised at this point he had lost his wallet somewhere along the way (probably in the bar we had a drink in.) Luckily it contained only 1 bank card and a small amount of cash. We texted his Dad who very speedily cancelled the card. We went down to the beach for about an hour but didn't go swimming as the water didn't look invitingly clean. We then cycled to tonights' accommodation which was with my old french exchange partner in Saujon. We stopped in a huge supermarket on the way to buy some wine for them. I didn't know what to buy as I'm not much of a wine buff so asked a frenchman next to me in the wine section for advice. He looked knowledgable and sure enough helped select something suitable with great enthusiasm! When we arrived it was not quite as expected, my partners parents were in Spain and had left him and his brother home alone. They were sat around their garden table chain smoking and in the process of organising a house party that evening. Alex and I chatted for a while and then had a shower while they organised things. We were really hungry and they didn't seem like they were going to feed us. I asked about food and was reassured a BBQ was going to happen. About 15 of his friends arrived and we had a great evening by the side of their swimming pool. Alex and I were so hungry we ate some of the seafood salad on the side in the kitchen, we thought it was for the BBQ but turned out to be a bit older than expected! Eventually at about 11.30pm the BBQ was hot enough to cook on so we wolfed some sausages! We went to bed quite late but not very. It was nice to see all of Theo's friends, as I met many of them 4 years ago when I stayed with him on the school French exchange. Total mileage today was 57.83 miles.

27/7/10: We left Theo's house a bit later than planned as my alarm clock didn't go off until 10.30! We both felt a bit dodgy after the seafood we ate in desperation last night, we noticed it was still there when we left! We cycled through Saujon on the way out and bought some food for the day. The roads in this area are dead flat so we made good progress and soon arrived at Pont L'Abbe-the town where all my exchange partners have been to school. We stopped in a bar for a drink and continued to Rochefort. I was keen to go and see the ship they are building there (A replica of an old boat called L' Hermione) but when we arrived it was 8€ each to enter, so we decided to not bother since that is pretty much 1/3 of the daily budget! We had lunch on a bench in the park and I rang a bike shop in La Rochelle to reserve 2 cardboard bike boxes for us to put the bikes in for the flight tomorrow. The man said 'you can have 5 if you want, we've got loads.' We set off again towards La Rochelle. On the way we were overtaken by a man in his 60's dressed in full Cofidis team kit (a large proffessional cycling team). It was very windy so I cheekily cycled in his slipstream. He was obviously flattered by this and told me to move a bit to the right so as to be sheltered from the wind even more. I jokingly asked him if he was a rider for Cofidis, to which he laughed but told me how he used to race many years ago as a young man. He proudly told us how his ageing bike was the same as the one used in the 1995 tour de france. We decided not to comment on the fact it was several sizes to small for him! He was fascinated by our trip and congratulated us on making it so far.

We arrived in La Rochelle at about 6pm and went straight to the bike shop to get the boxes. When we arrived we were told to speak to the workshop around the back. The mechanic told us he had no boxes and he probably wouldn't have any tomorrow. Great! We rang another bike shop&they said they had just 1 box we could have, so we arranged to pick it up tomorrow. So we will have to spend some time searching for a box tomorrow.

We walked along the coast a bit and then headed to a youth hostel. when we arrived it became apparent we would have to join some sort of organisation to stay. The youth hostel wad also quite expensive so we chose to camp in the Camping Municipale instead. We cooked the last big dish of pasta and headed back into town for a wonder. In the evening in La Rochelle there are alot of magicians and street performers along the side of the port. We enjoyed watching a man doing some Diablo tricks and another man juggling fire on a unicycle. We then went to a crepe stall where a boy of about 14 managed to take 4 attempts to make us 2 crepes. We felt sorry for him at first but then when he began to swig large gulps of beer inbetween flippings we began to loose sympathy for his sloppy technique! Total mileage today was 57.00 miles. Tomorrow we fly back to London stanstead, I will update the final chapter when I get home and also put a few photos up of the best bits!

Sunday, 25 July 2010

25/7/10: Last night we formed a group from the various nationalities in the youth hostel and went out into Bordeaux to roam the clubs. We had an australian, 3 brits, 1 danish and 2 dutch making up our group. The 2 dutch girls introduced us to the bike scheme they have in Bordeaux where you take a bike for 1€ from a rack and return it to another docking station after you have used it to get where you want to go. This was a fantastic getting to know everyone activity and certainly adds an extra dimension to a night out-shame it doesn't happen in Britain! We had trouble entering clubs wearing shorts but I chatted to the bouncers at length about how light we had to travel and how carrying jeans was really unrealistic and they let us in! The youth hostel closes at 2am and reopens at 5am so at 1.30am we decided we would nee the night out and stay out late. We had a great time and managed 4 hours sleep before having to be up and off before 10am the following morning.

Feeling a little less nimble than usual we cruised through Bordeaux and out into the countryside at a gentle pace. We crossed a huge bridge over the Dordogne and had lunch in a vineyard. The weather was cloudy but still quite warm. We continued up to Blaye where we stopped to watch the Tour de France finishing in Paris in a bar. Fantastic end to a tour de france I feel I got really involved in. Shame Bradley Wiggins didn't do very well, but good to see Mark Cavensish trounce everyone on the last sprint.

We then found a campsite in Blaye which is actually within the walls of the ancient castle in the town. There was a huge scout rally going on so we were lucky to find space to camp. Alex and I decided after a measily 40.25miles today we would go and ride around the city. Spotting a steep grass bank we decided we could cycle down it. Unfortunately I went first and the steepness of the bank combined with my road bike not really being ideal for steep off road and my poor driving meant I went over the handlebars and landed in a patch of nettles and rocks. This concluded our tour of the city and I returned to the showers to clean my grazes! Rather ironic I had turned down the 1st steep bank saying to Alex, 'I've come all this way uninjured, it would be a shame to do something now. ' We cooked dinner and had an early night to catch up on sleep.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

On the last Blog I left the names of the towns we stayed in blank by accident! We went from Aire sur L'Adour to Villandraut yesterday.

24/7/10: Todays stage took us North from just outside Villandraut to Bordeaux. We were woken up by the cyclists next door preparing to set off. They greeted us with a slightly patronising greeting as we got up far later than 'competative dad&son.' We decided we had to get on the road before them so threw everything together and waved them goodbye as they faffed with their washing! After we had cycled about 5 miles along the straight roads through the Foret Dom de Capbourteil, 2 cyclists appeared to be gaining on us from far away. We recognised them to be the couple we had met earlie. We hid in a bush and let them pass so they would think we were cycling ahead and would spend all day chasing us!

Having ridded of our juvenille sense of behaviour we pressed on to Bordeaux. We arrived in time to see the tour de france time trial in full swing. The cyclists were all warming up on turbo trainers near the startline so we got to see some big names up close. They did a small circuit of the centre of Bordeaux and then headed out of town. We found a youth hostel to stay the night in and dropped our bags off before heading back onto the streets to see the final few starters of the time trial. The crowd went wild when Frank Shleck rolled onto the start ramp, but sadly he was unable to regain the lead from Contador.
We wondered around Bordeaux for a while after, it was teeming with people all travelling to see the tour. We then cooked dinner at the youth hostel and got chatting to some Americans on a tour of europe. We are sharing a dormitory with a German boy on a pilgrimage and a boy from London who has come to work in France for a while. Todays mileage was 38.46 miles.
23/7/10: We had a bit of a lie in so didn't set off until 11am today. We had already travelled 30 miles further north tan planned so could afford to have a shorter day. However, the weather was far better than forcasted so we decided to make a full day and cycle to near ...... We stocked up on croissants and hit the road. We cycled along miles of flat winding country roads and stopped for lunch in the sun. We stopped in the town centre and spread all of our clothes on the verge while we had our bagettes and attempted to rid of lycra tan lines by tactical sun bathing. Suddenly, the heavens opened and we ran around in our shorts collecting clothes from trees and socks from lamposts before they got wet again. The afternoon was full of short showers so each time the sky began to darken we would nip into a bar to watch the tour on TV and have a drink. It was nice to see Mark Cavendish get a stage so easily.

We found a very sandy campsite where Alex fell off as he rode in through the deep sand at the entrance. We met the incredible 'Steve' who was a londoner who had left the UK to escape his cocaine addiction to work as a lumberjack (he didn't put on women's clothing...) and camp in the campsite to save money! He let us use his camping stove which was great and we enjoyed hearing about his work. Just as we were going to bed a hardcore farther and son from Devon arrived. They had cycled the same route as me pretty much but had wild camped the whole way! They had a tarpaulen sheet instead of a tent. We chatted with them for a while and went to bed. Todays mileage was 68.26.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Message for 24beforemylove: Hi! Many thanks for your offer but unfortunately I have now agreed to stay with Theo (my 1st exchange partner) on the 26th. On the 27th I will cycle up to La Rochelle but need to stay in La Rochelle so I am near aiport for flight home next morning. But thank you very much, I can imagine it's a great place to be for Joel and friends in the summer. Tim

21/7/10: During the night there was a huge thunderstorm which sent amazing cracks of thunder up the valley. Sadly it soaked all the clothes we had out to dry and wet the tent which made packing up difficult. There was also a thick layer of fog from the valley floor upwards which gave a distinct 'Lake District effect' to the Pyrenees. We stopped at a bike shop on the way out and must have been the ultimate annoying customers as we didn't buy anything, just asked to use a few tools for some small mechanical difficulties and left! We ascended into the mist for the first 2 hours over the Col de Peyresourde. The top was in the fog so we didn't have a view at all. It was really cold too so we descended down to where the temperature was a bit warmer and had lunch whilst cheering passing cyclists on their way up!

We then headed all the way along the valley floor out of the mountains from Arreau to Lannemezan. The road was slightly downhill and with some tactical slipstreaming we didn't get below 20mph all the way so spirits were high despite the fog. We decided to press on to Tarbres as it is quite big so would have plenty of places to stay. Unfortunately my rear tyre was begginning to disintegrate rapidly and bits of rubber were falling off it leaving the inner skin exposed so puncture risk was high. I put an innertube repair over the worst part and carried on. We were worried about the tyre really tearing as I had no spare tyre since I sent it home with Dad. Hindsight is a wonderful thing! It began to rain on the way there so we arrived soaked. Alex had a nice fall when he couldn't get out of his clip in pedals, luckily no damage was done. My tyre had held up so we arrived in good time and there was a Formule 1 hotel. At €15 each this was a bargain and we could dry our clothes out.

I cycled into town to get a new tyre, I was cursing not having brought one as I have loads at home for this bike and really didn't want to pay more for another! I managed to find one in Intersport, just to get me home. I was served by the most reluctamt frenchman I have ever met who told me I needed a £40 tyre when I could see one on the rail behind which was fine for £10. He kept on telling me it was the wrong size until I was so insistant it was correct he allowed me to buy it. I put it on outside the shop and wondered back in to politely ask if I could use the pump, making damn sure he could see how well it fitted! We cooked in the room on my stove and planned the route for the next day. Mileage was 64.04. I have now completed all the Cols for my trip. In total I climbed 19 , and they were all killers! The alpine ones I found much bigger although I didn't do any of the big Pyreneen climbs like the tourmalet. Hardest climb award definitely goes the Galibier-less well known but definitely the hardest.

22/7/10: We decided last night we would set off at 7.30am to cycle the 30 miles to Pau to see the tour de france start. We woke to the sound of heavy rain and the clothes were still wet, not nice. We made the decisioon to have a light day and stay the night in Pau. Still, we dragged ourselves out of bed and set off. It was very grim. The rain became torrential, the temperature dropped, fog set in and lorries piled past us. We stopped only once and ground away until 10am. We arrived at the F1 hotel in Pau which we had rung ahead to make a reservation and dropped off our bags. By chance the Lampre, Euskatel and Rabobank cycling teams were in the hotel next door and were all coming out and getting onto the team busses to travel to the start. We watched them all wrinkling their noses at the rain and run to the coaches under umbrellas.

Throughout the trip Alex's rear wheel has been getting progressively more&more buckled. It all started with RyanAir damaging it in transit. It got to the stage where we had to release his rear brake to stop it rubbing. Luckily we met some Belgians at the F1 hotel who had a spoke key. I have done wheel truing before at work, but only on small kinks, Alex's was something more serious! The Belgian men didn't have a clue but crowded round offering advice which was kind, but didn't help! To make them let me do my thing we just told them we did mechanics work in bike shops and they left us alone to tinker! We got the wheel straight enough to be useable so cycled into town to find a bike shop with a proper wheel truing stand and to see the tour.

The Police in Pau were far more pleasant and let us cycle the wrong way up the road to where the tour were going to the start. We waited 30mins or so and then one by one the riders filled the start line. I was 1m away from Mark Cavendish and Frank Shleck and Armstrong and Wiggins were very close! When the yellow jersey of Alberto Contador arrived he was mobbed by the press. I was shocked by how thin he is. All the cyclists have bodies of 10 year olds with big legs, but Coontadors legs were tiny. It was depressing to see how fragile Bradley Wiggins looks in real life.

They all set off and we went to a bike shop who only charged us €3 for a wheel true and they did it there and then-fantastic! It had stopped raining when the tour departed and was looking quite nice. We decided to cycle further so cancelled our room at the hotel and reclaimed our bags. They didn't mind too much, and I apologised and explained how the weather had changed our plans. We cycled along some nice roads to Aire-Sur-L'Adour stopping only to watch Frank Shleck fail in his attempst to gain the yellow jersey from Contador on the summit of the Tourmalet. The weather was awful by the looks of it, so probably a good thing we didn't camp there last night as planned. When we arrived in this town we didn't realise it was a pilgrimage destination for many people so saw lots of religous groups everywhere. We were still a bit wet so managed to find a B&B for just €12 each including breakfast!! The room provided was huge with a double and single bed and a shower-we couldn't believe our luck. After cooking dinner on the stove I caught up with the blog and we put clothes all over the room to dry. Mileage today was 68.12 miles.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

19/7/10: Last night after I had written the blog we went into town and bumped into the Rabobank mechanics who were cleaning and servicing the team bikes in the street for everyone to see. It was fascinating to see inside the team bus where there must have been about £350,000 of bikes and wheels-we did the sums! They were cleaning them to the point of being spotless and had special stands for cleaning them that rotated in all directions. We started to day by heading straight into town (Pamiers) to see the start of todays' tour de france stage. We wondered around town for a while and picked up a few freebies before deciding we would wait 2 more hours until the riders arrived but would cycle along the road for a while and see them when they overtook us. Due to the barriers not being fully up at one road end we ended up on the wrong side of a barrier and soon had an angry gendarme shouting at us. He seemed to be incredibly angry considering the race didn't start for another 2 hours and there were people walking in the road anyway. I asked if I could possibly push across the road to get through a gap about 15m away on the other side instead of going back 1/2 a mile to the point I entered. He refused point blank and said I couldn't go back either. I replied with 'well what can I do' to which he proceeded to push me backwards quite hard! I was a little surprised by his manhandling as I felt I had been compltely polite throughout. He told me I would have to lift my bike over the barrier. Bearing in mind it weighs a huge amount with all the panniers on I asked him if I could move one barrier a little bit to create a gap and not have to lift it. He didn't seem to like this either, so fearing arrest I got Alex to help me lift it over along with his. We eventually managed to get out of town via a small, unclosed road. As we cycled out we met all 21 team buses coming into town with all the riders on board! We spent an good 20mins oggling at their bikes while all the team support cars slowly came past in the traffic jam of cars waiting to enter town. Most impressive was Lance Armstrongs' Trek Madone with the special paintjob and Andy Shlecks' truly bizarre Specialized Tarmac with weird writing all over it. It was funny to see how the teams obviously co,pete with their team coaches too-the high budget teams with darkened windowed coaches like the Saxobank one and the smaller budget teams with what look like school buses.

We cycled a way out of town and saw the tour 5km into the stage, it was fantastic and they were already moving so fast. It's amazing how into thw Tour the french are. We saw it at a small junction in the road and at least 250 people were there to watch. We then followed their exact route for the rest of the day uo unil the summit of the Col de Port D'Aspet where there is a campsite at the top.  Along the way every single French group of people by the side of the road cracked the same joke 'Allez, ils sont deja passes' To the extent that it becme funny again after the 50th time.

We had a late lunch at 3pm as all shops had closed for the tour coming through. After lunch we climbed up out of St.Girons to the top of the Col to the camspite. It wasn't too big by alpine standards but still must have been double any climb in Yorkshire, so Alex was impressed! Total mileage today was 57.07 miles.

20/7/10: We started the day with a 6 miles descent from the campsite into the valley floor. It was a great way to wake up, but did mean we immediately went from 1400m down to 600m. The moment we hit the bottom the road began to rise for the Col de Mente. We chipped away at this for a good hour and a half and then enjoyed another 6 mile descent into St. Beat. We had only had 2 Lion bars for breakfast as the campsite sold nothing else and we didn't pass any shops. We bought plenty of food from a supermarket and had lunch next to a woman who was sculpting huge statues from rock. We were a bit surprised to see she wasn't wearing a mask despite creating huge amounts of dust with her powertools that she seemed to be inhaling! We stopped at a bike shop to pump Alex's tyre up a bit more, and despite having closed for lunch, the man who owned the place went inside and got us his pump. The road then lead along the valley floor to the start of the Port de Bales (a climb the tour did the day before.) We did some shifting of baggage to help on the climbs as Alex weighs a fair bit more than me, more the 'Chris Hoy' type in his own words so does struggle on the climbs but doesn't on the flats! We ground away to the top and met 2 English men on the way up who had ridden the Etape two days before up the Tourmalet (an enormous bike ride following a Tour stage on closed roads but anyone can enter.) They warned us of the difficulties of seeing the tour there as people camp up to a week in advance on the mountain to see it. From the top we planned to follow a small track that turned into a road after about 2 miles and dropped down into a town called Cadeac. However, this track was on my map but in reality was a small footpath! Having cycled a further 200m higher to reach this path this was a little annoying. We could have descended on it, and were keen to test out the ofroad abilities of our Tricross bikes but spotted a mountain we had to push the bikes over to then get down. It was about 7pm by this point and we had no food or a place to stay. Alex was pretty tired after the first 2 cols and didn't fancy another, and I didn't really fancy pushing my bike up a footpath either. We returned to the road and cycled 10 miles downhill in about 20mins into Luchon where Alex and I finally enjoyed the reward for our climbing efforts! We found a campsite and had a pizza for our efforts. As a result of this and not being as far ahead as I had hoped we are going to head out of the Pyrenees tomorrow and miss out the Col D'Aspin and the tourmalet. It's a shame not to do this famous climb, but we just have to change the route if we want to arrive in La Rochelle for the 28th. Instead we hope to go around the Tourmalet and see the tour set off from Pau on the same day. Total mileage today was 56.38 miles.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

17/7/10: I set off today along an incredibly long straight road for the 1st 10 miles. The wind had picked up during the night and I was straight into it almost all day which made things much harder. After a while on the roads I decided to join the Canal du midi where I had my bike&bones thoroughly rattled thanks to numerous tree roots making their way onto the path. Peering over to the other side of the canal, I couldn't help but feel it looked far smoother on the other towpath. I crossed over at the next bridge and enjoyed all of 20m of smooth tarmac before it became far worse. I refused to turn back so battled on until I was winding my way along a 15cm wide strip of dirt inbetween brambles. The terrain was esssentially mountain bike worthy and although my bike didn't fall apart it wasnt really ideal for the job. The track then opened up into a vineyard and came to a dead end! I was blowed if I was going to turn back because by now I had travelled about 5 miles since the bridge. Instead I pushed my bike through the vines and found another track to follow. Luckily it came out at a road after a few miles and then crossed the canal again. I was able to rejoin on the original side and continue the relatively smoother track most of the way to Carcassonne-oh how the grass is always greener.....! I stopped at the ancient part of Carcassonne to have a look around the walled city. I locked my bike up and walked through the gates. It was very impressive from the outside, but sadly all a bit commercial inside. I did a brief tour before the smell of sweaty tourist and cigarette encouraged me to head back to my bike. When I returned to it, disaster had struck in the form of my first puncture of the trip. I wasn't particularly bothered about having to fix it, but was highly disappointed that I wouldn't be able to say to customers at the bike shop I work in 'I cycled all the way around France on these and had no punctures!' There was a convenient water fountain next to me so I could find out where the puncture was. I couldn't understand why the tyre had gone flat in the 10 mins I was in the city as the hole in the tube was tiny. I identified the valve was a bit dodgy so popped in a new tube and after half a million pumps with my tiny mini pump I set off to the campsite. On the way I stopped at the most grotty bike shop I've ever been in. I realise the bike shop I work in is very presentation orientated but here it was definitely the other end of the scale. Everything was a few years out of date or mildly soiled, and the man who ran the place appeared to just open his delivery boxes&scatter the contents around the shop in random in piles. He bugrudgingly went into the back to get me an innertube, after telling me he doubted he had anything that would fit. He returned with the right thing and once I told him about my trip his mood lightened and he changed his mind about how much the innertube was going to cost! I found the camping municipal in Carcassonne, it is on the playing field of a school. The wind had settled down by this point, but the moving air all day meant it was finally a bearable temperature. Total mileage today was just 52.48 miles, although with the wind and off road sections it took me just as long as a normal day. Just spotted the question from Rob earlier-I am using my map all the time for routing, as the garmin is really just for accurate stats about distance&speed as the screen is too small to display an entire days ride. I do use the Garmin for navigating cities and big towns as my normal maps are too big a scale to show details of streets. The main use of the Garmin is the almost yellow pages function it has. I can search for banks, campsites, B&B's and supermarkets nearby and it shows me where they are. It gives contact numbers for everything so I can ring ahead to make sure a campsite or B &B has space. It's also nice to have something accurate if I ever got lost-like in the vineyard today.

18/7/10: I set off at 9.20am today in order to meet Alex at the aiort. I suddenly remembered all the shops would be closed today after midday so nipped into a supermarket to buy some food. When I arrived at the airport Alex was already there with his bike, piecing it together and keen as a beaver to get cracking! We spent an hour getting everything together and set off. We planned to see the tour as it passed through Gioux and were cutting it fine to be there on time. We had to really cycle as fast as we could for 2 hours in order to make it on time. It was not an easy start to our trip&we didn't get much chance to speak! However, we arrived about 4 minutes before they came through. It was quite amazing seeing Armstrong, Wiggins and Cavendish. There were 3 helicopters, and lods of team cars and motorbikes. I cycled up the road they had just gone down&found myself a waterbottle one of Lance Armstrongs teams had thrown out-Alex found one too! We then continued at a far more relaxed pace into Mijoux and stopped for lunch on a bench. We enjoyed a more steady afternoon cycling into Palmiers along some fantastic, small roads. We found a campsite and pitched our 2 identical tents. After the usual mound of pasta we ventured into town to the 'feista' that was going on to celebrate the tour arriving. We could ssee all the team buses arriving with cyclists, but sadly they were not joining the festivities-more a case of early night with plenty of water for them! total mileage was 52.58 miles today.

Friday, 16 July 2010

16/7/10: I had decided to make today a rest day. I filled up on breakfast at the B&B I was staying at and used their free wifi to sort out various things which required the internet. I then cycled the 2 miles or so to the coast. It was incredibly busy, but I managed to soap myself up and squeeze into a space to 'catch some rays.' I was delighted to find a group of 4 dutch girls next to me on holiday together. I saw this as too good an oppertunity to go missing so engaged in converstaion, they were touring around France camping and visiting various cities&beaches. We exchanged tips of which places are good to visit and enjoyed a good swim in the sea and then after the usual bagette and sausage/cheese lunch set off on my bike at about 3pm. Unfortunately getting changed on the beach meant sand in my lycra shorts-lucky I only had 30 miles to do! I was very pleased to find the 'Canal du midi' and was able to cycle along some nice flat cycle paths for 20 miles or so. Even better was the fact that there was an 'Ed' supermarket on the way-they are basically a wearhouse with food in unorderly crates&shelves. But everything is spectacularly cheap-I stocked up on 5 days pasta for 85p, and fig rolls were on special offer so that will be my snack food for the next week! I then found a good camping municipale at a very reasonable 6€-most campsites in this area area more like 15€ for 1 person for 1 night. I got chatting to a man outside the showers, it turned out he had been evicted from his house&had been in the same campsite for the last 2 months while he searched for a job. I also met a dutch woman in her early 60's who was cycling the Canal du midi all the way to Bordeaux-it's amazing the range of people you meet in these places! I carefully pitched my tent in a spot which would be in the shade tomorrow and had dinner. Total mileage today was 31.35 miles.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

13/7/10: I started the day by descending into Sault to buy some breakfast. I filled up my waterbottles and also forced as much water down myself as I could before setting off up Mt.Ventoux. I knew that there would be no water available until the top&Ventoux is famous for being exposed to the sun for a good part of it. 2hrs 11 mins later I found myself at the top, the journey up was made easier by the fact there was a running competition going on to the top-every time I felt tired I had to feel for the runners! I paused only once on the way up to see Tommy Simpsons' grave-a famous British cyclist who died about 1km from the summit during a stage of The Tour de France in the 80's, he was heavily dosed up on amphetamines at the time which didn't help. Luckily I was dosed up on Croissant so made it to the top. I enjoyed an amazing 13 mile descent from the top down to almost sea level. I clocked 55.6 mph at one stage so have finally cracked the 50mph target. Next up, 60mph.....only joking Mum! I stopped at another odd bike shop at the bottom which only appeared to sell custom built road bikes above £5,000-very nice but a bit of a niche market! I was hit by the heat when I got down from the mountain, a temperature gauge I saw was on 39 C. I have never been great with coping with heat so drank as much water as I could and carried on to a town called Orange. By 4pm it had reached oven like temperatures and the roads were melting like butter. I stopped in an air conditioned bar and watched the Tour on TV. By the time it had all finished it was about 5.30pm and the temperature was ok. I carried on to a town called Saint-Martin D'Ardeche which is, as the name suggests, at the southern end of the Ardeche. I arrived at my selected campsite at 4.50pm to find reception had closed 10 mins early and they wouldn't let me camp and pay the next morning. I pointed out they had closed early, but was given the gallic shrug. I headed to another campsite which turned out to be cheaper anyway. I enjoyed watching the final of their 'Petanque' championship. When I arrived my neighbouring campers lent me their mallet to hammer my pegs into the dry ground. They also brought me several cups of ice cold water-now that is 2 star camping! I must have looked like a dying man for them to have kept on bringing me so much water. I then spent most of the evening sweating before the temperature dropped to a bearable level to go to sleep. Mileage today was 76.76miles.

14/7/10: Woke up in the immense heat again-unbearably hot! I noticed a few people sleep outside their tents, maybe I will follow suit tonight. I cycle up the Ardeche North West as far as the Pont D'Arc. I stopped here for a swim and soon found the cool water and decent wind in the gorge made me feel the need to stay for about 2hours! It was so nice to escape the heat. I then headed South West down to Ales in the afternoon. I knocked on somebody's door for water and a very kind woman invited me in where she was watching The Tour on TV. She filled my bottles with ice which was great, and gave me a glass of cold water too. I stopped in a bar at about 5pm to watch the tour de france finish in Gap. They were doing the exact same route I did only a few days ago so it was fascinating to recognise the same roads they were on, I even spotted the house I stopped at for water where the man had told me where he would watch the tour! I finished the day rather late and was starving by the time I arrived in Ales. Unfortunately with it being Bastille day most shops were closed. Luckily there was a certain chain of fine cuisine restaurant by the side of the road starting with a Mc... sound, so I was able to induldge in some 'mal bouffe' in the form of a large portion of chips. I got to the campsite at about 8pm just outside Ales in a village called Cendras. I cooked dinner and got talking to the family next door who had a son and daughter my age. I soon found myself sitting with them with a glass whisky chatting away until late about everything from car insurance to the nudist town near Carcasonne! (Alex take note.) They were actually Belgian and were really friendly and interesting. They even invited me for breakfast with them the next morning as it was the mother's birthday. I am a bit ahead of shedule and have 3 days to get to Carcasonne so have decided to press on tomorrow and hopefully have a rest day by the sea. Milegae today was 65.91 miles.

15/7/10: Not a great nights sleep thanks to the French in the campsite celebrating Bastille day until 3am. Mind you, I am in their country! I enjoyed breaksfast with this Belgian family, it was a shame to say goodbye to them as they had really taken me under their wing over the last 18 hours. They sent me on my way with their contact details should I ever want to visit Belgium and also a couple of chocolate croissants for the road. The sky was cloudy so it wasn't too hot. I decided today was going to be a big one and set my sights on a town called Agdes, a town right on the coast of the Med' . I headed through various villages on a hilly but not moutainous route, the landscape has changed completely now and it looks very much like Greece. The heat began to rise, and I was told 36 C by a man who topped me up with water. I barely stopped for lunch and soon hit a flatter region with fantastic tarmac, so was soon pounding along, munching the miles. I stopped for more water and a very deaf old man invited me into his house. No sooner had I entered before he was offering me ice cold coke and anything to eat from his fridge! It turns out he was a keen cyclist 'back in the day' and was very interested in my trip. He offered me a 2L bottle of coke for the road, but I declined as I thought this was too much to take from him. He got out his map of France and got me to show him my route, and he made useful suggestions of where to go next. He spoke good English too as he had lived in the USA for 5 years. I had to press on so set off again. I really managed to clock some miles over the next hour as the wind was behind me and the route was slightly down hill. The next house I stopped at was again a fascinating experience! The man who opened the door this time immediatly took me to the garage to fetch some water from his fridge and also gave me a can of lemonade. I couldn't fathom where his accent was from, it was not a southern accent but sounded similiar with words like 'quinze' It turned out this man was Spanish, and lived in France. He showed me his shed which contained a little shrine to Spain! He then proceded to tell me all about his son who does road racing to what sounded like quite a high level. We discussed how well Spain were doing with Nadal in tennis, winning the world cup and Alberto Contador a strong chance for Le Tour-he liked this a lot! I set off again for the final 10 miles into Agdes. I played the 'Garmin lucky dip' again to find a B&B. I had cycled 89 miles, so some pampering was justified. However, I was set on reaching 90 miles so did a quick lap of town to take the total to 90.10 miles. I ate in their restaurant which overlooked the river where there was a full sized orchestra playing on a floating island in the middle. It is the 1st time I have done the 'eating alone in a restaurant' I felt a bit lonely and did wish I could have had someone with me for the whole trip. Still, Alex arrives on the 18th which will be good!

Monday, 12 July 2010

11/7/10: Again the tent was wet in the morning! I packed up and bought some croissants I had ordered the night before. My route today followed the exact same course as the Tour De France stage for the 14th July. The start was very up and down but no huge climbs, then I began the long but not very steep ascent over the Col de Noyer at 1646m. The valley which lead into this was, without exaggeration, probably the most amazing place I have ever been to. There was a great smell of pine all the way&it seemed to be a bit of a backwater so there were no cars or motorbikes or other people! I stopped for water at a house and the man who opened the door seemed very keen to tell me all his plans about where he would sit to see the tour when it came through his village. I had lunch at the top and then descended into Gap with another very small col before I arrived. I had foolishly forgotten it was sunday so couldn't find anywhere to get food for dinner. I cycled about 8 miles south of Gap to a campsite and set up camp. I managed to catch the last 15km of the tour-shame to see Armstrong crack so early! I cooked dinner with the remaining ingrediants I had (cheese,sausage,pasta) and will have to find somewhere to buy food tomorrow if I want breakfast. I then enjoyed watching the football with the numerous Dutch tourists in the campsite TV room.

12/7/10: After a dry night the tent and all my clothes were dry which made packing up far easier. I rode about 5 miles south to the nearest town (Tallard) to stock up on food and have breakfast. Todays route was relatively flat,more rolling hills between mountains and althought I did take in 2 Cols,they were small ones. I particularly enjoyed cycling up the 'Gorges de la Meouge' where I stopped for lunch and had a refreshing swim. In search of water, I approached a man in his garden and he soon invited me in for some ice cold lemonade. He was keen to hear about my trip and it was a good chance to speak some French. In the afternoon I was considering trying to make it over Mt. Ventoux, but as it was 5pm by the time I reached the foot,it would be about 8pm by the time I reached a town on the other side. I passed a bizarre bike shop just before entering the town. They had an enormous range of saddles and tyres and a few other bits, but that was all they sold. They didn't sell complete bikes, but did do repairs. I stocked up on chamois cream (if you don't know what that is, it's best to remain in the dark!) and managed to get them to oil my chain. I got chatting with them, and asked about Mt. Ventoux and how long it would take. Surprisingly none of them had ever done it despite living about 5 miles from the foot of it. I decided to spend the night in Sault, a really nice town with a huge Camping Municipale. Unfortunately the pitch they gave me had ground like concrete so I couldn't get my tent pegs in, still better than having soggy ground! I chose a better slot nearby.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

9/7/10: I woke up behind my bush by the side of the road&packed up and had a wash in the river. I stopped immediatly to fill up on water for the day&buy some food. The first 8 miles was done in 21 minutes as I had a really smooth,gently downhill road to the bottom of my main climb for the day. I then spent the next 4hrs 5mins climbing to the top of the Col du telegraphe and then onto the Col de galibier. On the way up I stopped once for a drink in a bar and met a couple from Sussex who were planning a route through the Alps for their classic car club. I also met a young Brit who was cycling from Geneva to Nice and taking in numerous Cols along the way. I considered asking to join him and his friend but as the conversation went on it was clear they weren't doing many miles per day and were on more of a cafe crawl! From the top of the Col du telegraphe I had a short descent of about 2km to the start of the Galibier. I was almost driven off the edge into the Valley floor by a mad frenchman on the way down, needless to say he received a highly graphic gesture of the sort of person I felt he was! I then climbed up to the Galibier summit at 2645m, it was quite a climb, definitely the hardest so far at 37km from bottom to top, which gave me plenty of time to work out all sorts of statistics. For example my feet went around about 16,800 times in order to reach the summit. And also I should consume one of my small 'gallette' biscuits every 1min 30 secs to provide enough energy for this. And finally, had I not had 15kg of luggage I'd have been 1hr 2mins quicker to the top. I decided to have lunch a short way down the descent as a group of german motorbikers seemed intent on smoking the summit out. I then cycled down all the way to Bourg D'Oisens at a mere 700m. I did not have the energy for L'Alpe D'Huez at this point so finished here. Total mileage was 62.61miles today. I looked at a few campsites, but they were about €15-20 per night for my small tent&bike so I decided to 'go wild' again. I found a nice field which didn't appear to have had any form of tractor in for some months. Cooked yet more pasta and went to sleep!

10/7/10: This morning there was unfortunately a very heavy dew so most of the clothes I'd put out to dry overnight were wet. I hung them out on the line (bungeed onto my panniers) and set off. I stopped at the foot of L'Alpe D'Huez to leave my bags in a shop I had bought some food from. I thought if I was going to the ttop&immediatly down then there was no point in hauling them all the way. I set off up the 21 bends with seemingly every cyclist in the Alps doing the same thing! I was amazed just how much quicker I was going without the panniers, it was fantastic. I went fairly slowly all the way as I had a fair way to go after this. However, with 3 turns left a young teenager passed me with his dad. They did not even give the slightest flicker of response to my cheery 'Bonjour' so feeling snubbed and in a moment of 'testosterone surge' I had to race them to the top. I soon found my nice amble to the top turning into a flat out, lung bursting attempt to race a 13 yr old to the summit! Needless to say I pushed him off the edge into the valley floor. At the top were tens of cyclists all buying their 'I've done it' T-shirts. I decided €35 was a bit much and settled for a Fanta instead. The whole thing took 1hr11mins up and 18mins down so it wasnt as if it was anywhere near the torture of the Galibier, so I thought a T-shirt was a little OTT! I picked up my bags at the bottom and continued along the valley and up to the Col de which wasn't too bad, as it was only 1367m high. However, on the descent after I bumped into a full on thunder storm. I donned the waterproofs properly for the 1st time in 2 weeks and carried on. Sadly I seemed to by following the storm and got utterly soaked. I was offered a lift by a passing couple in a van but politely refused as I thought it was a shame not to cycle all the way, and this would be cheating! I arrived in La Mure in time to watch the last 20km of the tour. I dried out and it stopped raining. I then cycled to a campsite I thought was nearby (not realising the steep descent and ascent leading to it which took an hour!) The campsite is great and after explaining how I found them using the lodging function on my Garmin, the owner was more than happy to charge it for me. I pitched the tent with thunder in the background and it soon began raining again. Luckily I was allowed to cook in the games room, so all was well. To top it all the football was on so I cooked and watched TV. Covered a total of 52.70 miles today.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

v6/7/10: Set off from campsite after refreshing face wash in ice cold water! My route to chamonix was relatively flat and shorter than expected so I arrived there about 2.30pm. I am staying in some friends' chalet which is fantastic! So many thanks to Barbera& John! During the cycling today I received a helping hand along the way from 3 frenchmen who I managed to draft off for a good 10 miles thus being protected from the wind nicely. I decided to sort out the creaking sound from my bike headset when I arrived so took the whole thing apart. Unfortunately I dropped a vital piece in a small gap in the ground&spent the next 3 hours going to every bike shop in the valley in search of the part. I eventually got a similiar piece which means I can continue although it isn't perfect. I was able to watch a thoroughly exciting stage of the tour de france in the evening.

7/7/10: I set off at 8.31am from the chalet in order to catch the bus from Chamonix to Courmayeur through the Mt.Blanc tunnel since you are not allowed to cycle through it. Yes, 14 minutes was cutting it fine and I nicely arrived in time to see the bus pull away. I decided the best way forward was to chase it through Chamonix until it stopped, not really very realistic! I sadly lost contact the moment it got onto the dual carriageway leading to the tunnel: I decided rather than wait 4 hours for the next bus I would attempt to hitch hike from the tunnel entrance. So I made my way up the hill to the tunnel and befor I even had time to stick out a thumb a very kind French couple pulled up and asked me if I wanted a lift! Quelle chance! So I soon found myself in Courmayeur having saved the €20 bus fee. I climbed out of Italy back into France on the Col du petit St.Bernard, although after spending 2hrs15mins getting to the 2212m summit from 480m I can't quite understand where 'petit' comes from. The road all the way to the summit still had things like 'Allez Lance' sprayed on it from last years tour. On the way up 3 cyclists came down the hill who were all riders for Cofidis&Francaises des jeux (2 top end pro tour teams) they later passed me on the way up having been to the bottom and back,and later on again on the way up to Tignes! In short they had done both sides of the St.Bernard and were setting off up the Col De L'Iseran by 1.30pm,who knows what they had left to do! I enjoyed a great descent down the St.Bernard and then spent a good 1hr30mins getting up to Tignes. This was a route I knew well having done it a few times when I was in Val D'Isere in the winter, but it was nice to do it in the sun not wearing ski gloves. By the time I had got to Tignes I was seriously tired, in Total I spent about 5 of the 6.5 hours climbing. I staggered into the Tourist information office and was dismayed to find the only campsite was down in La Breviere (a village wayy about 40minutes riding up hill to Tignes I had passed through.) I was not about to cycle down to it and then back up the next day so I splashed out on a B&B in Tignes which the very helpful people in the office booked for me. The Spanish cross country ski team are staying here for their summer training and I am watching Spain .v. Germany with them. I did a total of 70.31 miles today.

8/7/10: Early start as I wanted to go skiing on the Glacier in tignes. I bought my lift pass and rented some kit and headed up the funival to the glacier. The snow was ok, but reallly quite slushy as you'd expect. There were about 6 runs open,so I spent a few hours doing these. I headed back to the B&B to collect my stuff and descended back down to the magnificant barrage/damn in the valley below Tignes and Val D. I climbed up to Val through the various tunnels and stopped for lunch just outside the town before the road steepens and winds up through the Solaise area of the resort and into Le Fornet. It was quite different seeing it all in the summer. I climbed for a good hour to the top which is at a towering 2770m, the highest I think I'll reach on my trip. The descent down was quite something,it was incredibly steep with great big drops off the edge of the road into the valley and no form of barriers at all, not that I was complaining given the slog to the top! When I got to the bottom I was still at 1850m so set off along the valley floor hoping I would slowly descend into Modane. The road was downhill all the way really but there was an incredibly strong wind blowing into me all the way so I didn't arrive until about 7pm. I couldn't find a campsite in any villages after Modane as I'd decided I didn't want to stay in the town. I knocked on a few doors to collect plenty of water and then as a was feeling like saving money I set up camp in some long grass by a small road next to a river which runs through an EDF hydroelectric power station just up the valley. I washed in the river/stream and cooked dinner. Total mileage was just 58.49 miles as I didn't stop skiing until 1pm. Tomorrow I continue SW towards Alp D'Huez.

Monday, 5 July 2010

4/7/10: Having had a fair but not great nights sleep I set off from the campsite at 9.30am. I thought that choosing to pitch next to a family with 2 young children would be quiet....but amazingly they were buzzing until late and still got up before me! The first 30 miles or so where dead flat with the wind behind me so I was soon cranking along at a healthy 25mph thinking I'd make it to Chamonix for lunch. After a brief pause to help 2 Dutch boys with a puncture (they didnt have a puncture repair kit with them&were cycling around France!!!) I entered a more hilly area. I did 1 small climb of about 400m in altitude gain and stopped for lunch on the plateau. I also bought a drink at a cafe where I was informed 'Bien sur, ca monte en plus!' in reply to my question 'how much more climbing?' I cycled along the plateau before ascending to 855m above sea level. The climb passed 'Clairvaux les lacs' and peaked just after. I was then rewarded with 3 fantastic descents down to St.Lupicin, they were classic winding roads down through the trees and the tarmac was perfectly smooth and dry meaning I could really get some much needed wind through the helmet vents! At one point I was bombing through a village and a crowd of people at the side were all shouting 'allez allez allez!' I appreciated their enthusiasm although was a bit suprised. About 20 seconds later a car behind me began furiously hooting his horn. I turned round to see 'voiture de controle' written on his bonnet. I pulled in and about 10 seconds later a single cyclist came past followed by a peloton of about 30 cyclists. I did not realise I had wandered onto a race course! The reason the crowds were so loud was because they thought I was the breakaway man from the race. I waited until they had all passed and then set off with some furious pedalling in attempt to catch them! Sadly this did not happen (blame the panniers of course!!!)and I continued alone into St. Claude. I found a small bar where I could enjoy watching the last 15km of the tour de france despite the awful pileups. I then discovered a great campsite with swimming pool and showers for 4.95€/night. After a quick swim I boiled up my usual pasta and wolfed it down. According to my Garmin I appear to be burning 1Kcal every 3 seconds so not surprising I need 250g of pasta per night! In total I covered 79.05 miles today.

5/7/10: Struggled to get out of the tent today due to the outer part being still a little damp and couldnt face packing away a wet tent! Eventuallly managed to stir myself into action and set off at 9.45am. I was aware I had a bit of a hl ead at the srt of , and soon found my first 1hr30mins spent grinding up out of the valley. I bumped into a very chatty Frenchman and his son who were out for a ride, he was very interested in my route&gave some useful advice about where to watch the tour de france. He was a retired Ecole du ski francais instructor. I reached the summit with this man (the highest village in the Jura region at 1,150m) and then enjoyed a great descent into Mijoux, where I was shown how to descend the switch backs properly! My route for the rest of the day followed the exact roads as the TDF does during stage 8. I however, finished after a fair few less km's! I enjoyed bumping into this man Lee who is cycling around the world for a 3rd time-what are the chances of that in France?! We cycled about 5 miles together before he had to head off in a different direction. We had a drink in a bar at the crossroads where we would depart and watched a little of the tour on TV. As we set off we bumped into 2 Australian men who were walking across France from Annecy to La Rochelle. We enjoyed a good chat and I finally set off as I was a bit concerned about making it to Annemasse in time to find a campsite. I continued to cycle until 7.30pm and passed through Annemasse to Bonne. I could not find a campsite so knocked on a door and asked for some water, during the conversation that followed I slipped in how I was cycling around France and couldn't find a campsite. I then asked if I could camp in this man's garden. Instead, he gave me directions to a field 200m away down a track near his house. Down there was space to camp and a fantastically cold stream which I had a very refreshing bath in. I cooked my dinner and pitched the tent. After an exhausting day with many hills (70.58miles) I was glad to get into bed. It is funny how you can get used to anything, I am now in the pattern of sleep, eat, cycle, eat, cycle, eat, sleep.........Today I managed to spend £5.17 in total,even though I have some food left for tomorrow. This is such a small amount considering how much I have eaten and seen!

Saturday, 3 July 2010

29/6/10: Enjoyed fantastic buffet breakfast at this 'premiere classe' motel, and were able to take some snacks for the road! Cycled through the first rain of the trip at the start, so the panniers were given a good test of their waterproof capabilities. We spent most of the morning cycling through the Vineyards of Champagne until suddenly the terrain became flat and we were back in the agricultural area. We pressed on quickly on the flatter terrain and arrived late afternoon in 'Brienne le chateau.' We found a great B&B with some fantastic dingy, beige corridors but nice room. Moinseur cooked an enjoyable lasagne which helped gets some carbs back in us as we seem to be struggling to get enough food in with all the miles (66.92 today.)

30/6/10: Set off about 10am as we decided to have a slight rest day. We are quite ahead of schedule in terms of our position to Dijon so can afford to take in a few more sights along the way. We passed through the Lac D'Orient in the morning which looked like a great holiday place, and we did even have time for a dip in the lake about midday. We continued on through numerous small villages and finished the day after 55.94 miles in Bouix, a town near Chatillon-Sur-Seine. We had trouble finding a place to stay but managed to get into a small B&B with a rather offhand owner who originally told us she was full but then appeared to change her mind. The French is finally becoming more speedy, although only 12 months ago I was finishing my A2 French exams I have forgotten a huge amount! Many thanks to Steve for the comments on my blog-I am afraid I have tried to right back but am unable to post the comments! Will try again next time.

1/7/10: Cycled 51.06 miles south to 'Pouilly-en-Auxois.' We took in a fair section of the Voie Verte cycle route, which was fantastic but further pain to the backside as our road bikes were not ideal for canal towpaths! We are staying in a B&B with a great view over the town square. Witnessed an interesting waitress this evening who served the 2 tables of people who arrived after us first and then said she had run out of something we ordered that the other tables had. Clearly sour about Andy Murry beating Tsonga at Wimbledon! Very close to Dijon now, where Dad will be leaving me for the solo part of my trip. We are quite a bit ahead of schedule so have had some slightly lower mileage days. I am planning a rest day on Saturday and then crack on to the Alps. I have enjoyed reading a bit of the French newspaper 'L'equipe' which keeps me up to date with all the sport and most importantly 'Le Tour.' I hope to watch a bit of every stage in local bars in the afternoons, hopefully I will bump into some old crusty frenchmen with whome I can discuss the event and where to see it!

2/7/10: Cycled a shorter distance today, 41.74 miles, almost all on the 'Voire verte' cycle trail which had a fantastic final 10 miles on smooth cycle-specific tarmac. Came into Dijon about 3pm and bumped into the guy we met earlier in the trip who is cycling around the world. Had a great swim in the lake in the centre of Dijon and then headed to our B&B. Dinner in Dijon (last chance for a good meal before Dad leaves!!) where we were serenaded by some fantastic accordian players. Would highly reccommend Dijon to anyone, really nice student filled town.

3/7/10: Dad left B&B at 8.30am to catch his train to Paris then home via Channel Tunnel. I took the oppertunity to do the teenage thing and stay in bed until 9.30! Then had breakfast whilst sneaking as much bread,cheese and fruit into my pockets so as not to have to buy lunch. Set off from the B&B at 10.30 and headed back to the park in Dijon to watch a bit of the triathlon they were having there. Then headed out of Dijon on the final section of canal towpath to St.Jean de losne. I found a great campsite, just €7.60 for the night so pitched my tent. I wandered into town in search of the Tour De France prologue on TV in a bar, sadly the great sport had been pushed aside by the football, so I was forced to sit and watch a German family gettting very excited and happy! Cooked dinner and went to bed. Today was my rest day before cranking up the miles as tomorrow I will hopefully be crossing the Jura. My jouney continues South East as I head to Annemasse and then Chamonix.

Monday, 28 June 2010

28/6/10: Set off at 9.15am again to make use of the day before it gets really hot (28c)at about 2-3pm. Cycled south from Chauny to Eperney which was 67.84 miles in total. Route was a bit hillier today but did not quite live up to the description 'montagnes de Reims' as it was more rolling. We passed numerous champagne vineyards on the way but didn't feel it was a good idea to venture in as a 'quick sample' could easily turn into a resting afternoon! Just before finishing for the day we bumped into a man called 'Lee' who was from Derby and was cycling around the world. He has a website ( ) which is worth visiting to read more about his incredible journy! We found accommodation in Eperney in a 'Premiere classe' hotel-v.much like a Formule Un motel (basic but clean and most importantly,cool! Last night was roasting.) Chance to wash some clothes and have a meal before going to bed.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

25/6/10: Drove down to folkstone,channel tunnel across to calais on bike minibus. Fantastic service,we were the only people on it! Then cycled 10miles to 8&8 near Guines. The owner was very friendly, but her dogs were not,they were essentially biting us!We cycled into town for meal (place heaving with Brits!) Got back&did some route planning before bed.

26/6/10: 1st full day,did 75miles to a village near Ardres Called 'Fonqueviller.' Baking heat all day,drank 7 litres in total and still felt thirsty!Quite hilly in this area despite what we thought. Found a v nice B&B to stay in with Dad, it was the upstairs of a Bar/Restaurant. The owner was a steriotypical Frenchman, serving food in his sleeveless top and telling us about his bookings&world cup opinions! He helped us plan a good route for the next day. We had Rabbit for dinner. Bedroom was basic but better than the tent I'll be staying in once Dad leaves!!Bed at 11pm,soooo tired! Legs fine but saddle wasnt exactly an armchair without going into too much detail....

27/6/10: Set off a little earlier at 9.15am after the slightly too late finish of yesterday! Headed south to 'Chauny' along some fantastic flat roads through the fields. Did 58miles. We spent a considerable amount of time near a canal towwpath although despite having Specialized Tricrosses, we both felt far more speed would be achieved on the parallel roads. Had lunch under some trees in a very well kept German cemetary-we are in the middle of the Somme area so plenty of graveyards to be seen unfortunately. We then picked up the pace&soon arrived in Chauny in time to head to a bar and see most of Germany seeing off England much to the amusmant of the locals! We struggled to find a B&B but eventually found one in the town, despite being told 'c'est vraiment terrible' by the owner of the bar opposite!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010


During the next 5 weeks I will be cycling around France with a variety of people, and sometimes alone! My Tour De France starts on the 25th June and I return on the 28th July. During this time I aim to cover just under 3000 miles cycling clockwise around France.

I will start from Calais and cycle south to Dijon. Frome here I head south west to the Alps. I will cycle almost the full length of the alps with the aim of climbing many famous mountain passes, in particular the Alp D'Huez 23 bends and also Mt.Ventoux. The Col De L'Iseran will also be another challenge, although I have done most of it during my time in Val D'Isere this winter but never had the oppertunity to make it to the top due to snow! I will then travel up the Ardeche and head West to Carcasonne. From there I aim to take in the Pyrenees and see plenty of the real Tour de France. I will hopefully be present on the summit of The Tourmalet when the tour reaches its' climax on the 17th Stage.

Joining me on my journey is my Dad (Simon) for the 1st week and also a friend from the bike shop I have been working in during my gap year, Alex Nowakowski, for the last 10 days. For the middle 15 days I will be alone unless there is anyone who fancies joining me?

Right, better continue packing! I will update the blog as often as possible from internet cafes in France.

A bientot!