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.