Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Grizzly

10/10/17

Got news today been given a place on next years Grizzly the annual 20 mile off road run along the coast down in Seaton Devon, my third full Grizzly, IF!!! I can sort my Plantar Faciitis!!!!
the other good news is my friend Rachel has also got a place!! bad news she is injured as well!!
we have nearly 6 months to get it all sorted, I hope/know we can.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Grid iron

10/10/17

what a great day out on the Wessex CTC Grid Iron Audax 68 miles round the New Forest,

http://www.wessexctc.org/grdetail.htm

leaving the house at 6am it was chilly but by the time I had parked up at Lymington , the sun was shining , I met up with 3 colleagues from the the cycling club.

It was a good start in a large group. The route was a superb route through the New Forest, taking in many traffic free lanes, dodging, horses, donkeys, pigs! hens etc on route.

the checkpoints were well serviced with tea and biscuits, despite the large numbers , they coped well.

The weather was really good, the afternoon was quite warm, very little wind, and by the time we were descending back to Lymington, it was getting quite hot.

A great day out 69 miles covered, not too many hills, lovely company.

Monday, 2 October 2017

cycling, no running

3/10/2017

Last  month has been good for cycling with 424 miles covered and the last couple of weeks 140 miles my average. This is good as I have the 'Grid Iron' Audax this weekend, this is a 68 mile route round the New Forest. I am a little concerned that the highest mileage I have been doing is only 50 miles so will feel it with another 20 miles in the day.. I hope I have a better day than the Dorset bike ride !!!!

Running on the other hand has been a massive 4.75 miles at the beginning of the month when I decided that my Plantar Faciitis needed addressing, hence rest and exercise [when I remember], I think its getting better, then I feel it again, I am missing the running and as the weather deteriorates feel I need to get out to run when the weather is poor to cycle.

I have entered the Herepath Half at the end of this month, but sadly I am having to pull out. 
The Grizzly entry ballot opened last week and despite saying I wouldnt do it again have entered the event again for next March, I am hoping to have cleared my PF by then, heres hoping!!

I did Marshal at the Seaton Park Run at the weekend , which I enjoyed, it was god to see 160 people enjoying the run on a chilly damp seafront run.

One final historic moment last week when we have finally got the estate agents in to value our house with the intention to move to the coast!!!  so its weeks of house hunting to come after 30+ years in our current house, which we love! it will be a pull when the sign finally goes up, as we have lots of space around us, and a lovely spot.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Rotary Great Dorset Bike Ride – in aid of Cancer Research

22nd September 2017

Saturday was wet and windy, but, Sunday dawned very chilly, the wind had dropped and was set to be a nice day.
It was early 6:0am when I finished packing the car for the 47mile drive over to the start of the Great Dorset Bike Ride near Wool, near Wareham in Dorset.I came through a lot of mist but the sun was rising giving stunning temperature inversions in places,  I got diverted near Dorchester as roads were closed, partly road works but partly the Ironman in Weymouth.

There were few cars there already as the 100 milers had to register by 7:30, I sat and had my coffee and second breakfast of muesli before wandering over to the registration. I have to admit at this point I wasn’t feeling too great, tired and a little ‘coldy’
It was an efficient system as I picked up my number in good time for my start at 8:30. I prepared my bike and got ready with shoes helmet etc before heading over to the start line in the sunshine . We were released in small groups to avoid traffic congestion, there was a small group of ten, I found my self leading as we headed towards Wareham, it was very chilly, the roads were still damp and after a couple of miles my fingers were decidedly cold! A  couple took over the lead , the rest sitting on our wheels. We climbed up towards Cloud s Hill, I was in the lead again, the speed was 16.7 mph!!!

We were soon at the first food point after about 16 miles, I have never seen so much food, I wasn’t ready for this but stopped and had a banana and drink of energy drink. As I left here I was on my own my average speed so far 16mph+
After Bere Regis it was the pretty Dorset villages Milbourne St Andrew etc before the climb up through the classic village of Milton Abbas the village that was moved from its original place near the Abbey so the Lord of the Manor couldn’t see it! It’s a steep climb up through the village , before turning to continueing to climb round the back of Bulbarrow hill.

It was a fast descent down to Winterbourne Strickland, I was still on my own, only passed by a couple of riders and I had passed several others. I was not feeling too good after the long climb and doubt set in! more climbing before  a very fast descent over Oakford Hill [ironically I ran a trail race over this hill a couple of years ag in the ‘Dorset 3 Peaks’) I reached the junction at Okeford Fitzpaine, this was where the 72 mile route turned back to the finish.

Right to continue the 80 mile route round Shaftsbury, left to the finish, I had completed 38 miles and it was 18 miles back to the finish ! or another 42 miles. I made the decision that I wasn’t feeling too good, I seem to have no energy, and I sat at the junction which as it happened was at the bottom of the Bulbarrow hill climb, with several 15% sections over a couple of miles.

Decision made, I turned left and started the climb of Bulbarrow, I was on my own once again, I struggled up the hill, promising myself I would walk at the next tree etc, I didn’t and made it to the summit, stunning views across Blackmore Vale, the sun had gone now though and a chill northerly wind was blowing ,I was very hot and my legs felt weak, it  was a feeling of a cold coming on.

I descended down through more wonderful  Dorset villages and countryside through Melcombe Bingham  to Cheselbourne and a feed station, I was feeling very tired now and still had 10 miles to get back. After a cup of tea and piece of flapjack a chat with a few others on the 72 mile and 38 mile routes I set off on my own once more. About a mile from the feed station the road suddenly went up steeply, I really struggled up here, the Garmin showing 12% I was pleased to get to Puddletown and knew it was only a few miles to the finish. I passed a number of very young riders with their mums, obviously doing the 10 mile ride etc. It was a fast finish downhill  and I crossed the lines with 51 miles completed, I was offered a medal for my efforts, but I turned it down as I felt I had cheated by only doing 51 miles instead of the 80 I had signed up for. The greetings at the finish were tremendous, lots of people cheering and clapping us in.

I wandered back to the car and sat for a while feeling drained, no energy, I was only glad I had turned back when I did, I would have been in trouble had I turned right over Shaftesbury.
It was a lovely route in generally good weather, and very well organised by the Rotary club in aid of Cancer Research.

When I got home, several mugs of tea and a lovely evening meal of roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, vegetables and nuttolene slices with gravy I was starting to feel better. By Monday I was feeling a little better.
Wednesday wobble day, was set to be a good day, I had recovered from my Sunday ride, I had plotted a route over to Tiverton across the Blackdown Hills.

Only four of us set off across the hills, my garmin refusing to give turn by turn!! We got to Kentisbeare after a beautiful ride over the Hills through Smeatharpe and near Dunkeswell, the old WW2 D day aerodromes , followed by the lovely woods at Blackborough. The descent down from Kentisbeare towards Willand and hopefully Tiverton was fast and long.

This is where it went ‘haywire’!! we got lost and couldn’t find any signs to Tiverton!! So after a riding round  narrow lanes lost, we finally ended up in Cullompton, we made the decision to forget Tiverton and instead find a café for coffee as it was 11:30!! We found a great café and after beans on toast followed by flapjack we were now back on track to head back through Uffculme and Hemyock to ascend back up to the top of the Blackdowns up the Culm Valley.

It was a good ascent through narrow lanes climbing for several miles; I have to say I felt much better than Sunday even though we had covered 40 miles so far. We finally covered the last few miles over Staple Hill to home. 53miles covered, I felt fine, I cant believe the difference In how I felt . It was a good ride but I was a little embarrassed that my Garmin let me down and I got us lost!!! I still don’t understand how we ended up where we did. Everyone enjoyed the ride anyway.

It was also good to get the new router so we now had our internet back!!! Its surprising how much we now depend on it.


Cycling no running!

16th September 2017

Tuesday the weather forecast was not good, a fine morning with showers in the afternoon on a strong breeze, the problem is how accurate are they, in the past few days they got it wrong!!!
I decided to get out early and managed a ride across the levels round North Curry, a steady 32 miles starting off in the sunshine and finishing under heavy cloud. Given I hadn’t cycled for over  a week I felt good.

Wobble Wednesday again dawned damp and windy, but it wasn’t raining at meeting time so 8 of us met up to decide where we could go that would give us a tail wind home, which meant going west or at least North West, so Hestercombe House was the destination going over Corfe, Near Wellington and through Bishops Lydeard, a 34 mile ride before coffee, we were lucky with the weather with pleasant sunshine. Hestercombe was quiet for a change now the children had gone back to school.
We left Hestercombe in bright sunshine cycling back over the levels through Creech St Michael  and Shepton Beauchamp, we managed to get to Curland about 10miles from home when the rain came!! It was heavy and windy and the roads were soon running with water, I had brought a lightweight Montane waterproof which helped keep some of the rain out, I had also put my mudguards on my bike ready for the ride on Sunday.

It was a very wet group that arrived back home but by the time we got home the rain stopped and the sun came out, it was a good ride today with 52 miles covered.

Friday was a trip to Exeter to update my iPad, after parting with a large amount of cash on a new one, I was disappointed to find out my internet was down! After a good 40 minutes on the phone with an EE person trying various things to get it back they finally decided I needed a new router!! So now left without internet till I get the new router delivered!

Watch this space!!!


I have decided to stop running for a while [month] to see if my Planter Faciitis improves.

Monday, 11 September 2017

A week in the campervan

12th September 2017

Wet weather once again meant no Wobble for me, it always seems to rain on Wednesday! So Thursday I got 41 miles in over the Blackdowns once again, heading over to Dunkeswell through Churchstanton and Hemyock. I set off in warm sunshine, sadly as I neared Dunkeswell black clouds were on the horizon!! I stopped for a very quick snack to get as far as possible before the first spots of rain, I was on the Luppit Straight and then it came down a very heavy shower, I stopped to put on my jacket under a tree whilst the worst of the weather came through. I remounted and continued on wet roads for the next 4 miles, then!!! It was dry roads for two miles then wet again! So by the time I got home I was wet!

Friday afternoon, it was wheelers ride they do a route over the levels, a group of 7 of us set a good pace to the café at Martock 16.7 mph!  the weather was just right, warm and no wind. 51 miles covered. So a good 119 miles cycled this week in preparation for my 80 mile Dorset cycle ride this coming weekend.
But that was before I had a week off in the Campervan !!!

Saturday [2nd Sept] we had a date down in Wimborne, but after queuing for over an hour in Dorchester we turned around and drove home, a very frustrating morning!
Saturday was also the 2nd birthday of our twin grandsons, I cant believe its gone so quickly! So Sunday we were on the Motorway to spend the day with them , party food and cake celebrated a wonderful day. That night we camped at ‘Briarsfield’ once again and really nice site. We were due to look after the grandchildren for two days whilst mum attends inset training for her job as a teacher.

We had a lovely two days playing with the children, bubbles being particularly enjoyable !!! Wednesday I had booked us into the Caravan and Motorhome site near Hereford , the site was on the site of the old railway station at Moorhampton.  


A very clean and quiet site, unfortunately we pitched on the wrong side of the park and found we were never in any of the sunshine! And a fare distance from the toilet block. We spent a couple of days visiting Leominster, Ledbury, Ludlow and Hereford real ‘grockling’ for a few days, Ludlow and Hereford were the highlights both interesting places the architecture dating back to the 16th century, we  were disappointed that Ludlow castle was closed for a Food Festival.

We were also in the ‘black and white’ village area, that is wood framed houses, painted black and white and dating back to the 15th and 16th century, very pretty villages. We were also struck by the agriculture in the area, very rural.

We had a great few days away, the weather was changeable, there was no internet or mobile phone signal on site along with no TV reception, so a few days without technology!! And we missed it.

Saturday we were back at Briarsfield spending Saturday and Sunday with the children again whilst mum ran the Great North Run for ‘Tommys’ charity. So late Sunday evening we drove home after a week away in the Van, no running and no cycling! I was hoping that the rest from running might help my Planter Faciitis.

Monday 11th September was wet and windy again so my planned cycle ride abandoned once again and the morning spent internet banking. By the evening the showers had lessened so I thought I would try a run! I felt OK running no problems, PF not  noticeable 4.7 miles run, it was only when I sat down after the PF set in again!!!!! And quite painful, I really am unsure what to do about it as I have trawled the internet and tried several suggestions, but sadly I think I may have to give up running for a while and hope it goes away. The Half Marathon at the end of October is not looking very promising.


Today [Tuesday] looking showery but I must get a few miles in to prepare for the ride at the weekend.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Weather gets better, lots of activity and a Bank Holiday.

30th August 2017

Following on from the last post Wednesday dawned bright and sunny, it was actually going to be a good day for a Wobble!
Ten of us gathered to decide on today’s coffee stop. We chose Hestercombe as most of us had, had a few trips to the coast lately so an inland trip seemed a good choice.

We set off at a good pace , down the lanes recently resurfaced or should I say surface dressed with those horrible stones leaving piles of grit and stones to catch you unawares on the corners!!! We had to take it steady in places. Up and over Bickenhall and Slough Green before descending down to cross the A358, a dual carriageway where traffic doesn’t take prisoners!! Fortunately there are traffic lights to slow them one way and there is a central refuge to wait until the other carriageway is clear. Crossed over we went on through Creech St Michael and the horrid speed bumps and chicane style traffic calming, must be horrible to live there and travel through those every day!

Over the M5 Bridge looking smugly at the traffic racing along, all three lanes very busy, before climbing up though the newly built housing of Monkton Heathfield and onto Hestercombe House and a welcome coffee stop


A pot of tea and a piece of strawberry flapjack hit the spot nicely, it wasn’t too busy so we were able to dominate the café with the 10 of us dragging tables together. It was lovely sat in the sunshine, but! All too soon it was time to remount and return. We went a similar way home but added a few extra miles bu going back round North Curry and Hatch Beauchamp, 41 miles only, but a lovely ride in great weather, no wind either!!

Thursday yet again dawned bright and sunny and Thursday was run day, a trip to Sainsburys to stock up for the Bank Holiday before I put on my trainers for an evening run, it is strange how the body changes each time you exercise, last week the same run, I really struggled, heavy legs, no power etc, today was totally different I knew it was better after the first hill, I felt good so pushed the pace, 6.4 miles, at a 9 min mile pace, I really enjoyed it, the down side was my Plantar Fasciitiswas nagging me when I sat down later, and the following morning! I really don’t know what to do about it I have tried several things, but I am reluctant to give up running, but! Maybe I need a couple of months of to get it right!!!!!!

Friday was again lovely, very little wind so decided I would meet up with the Wheelers for their afternoon ride, its usually quite fast  for the first 24 miles to the café and then a steady ride back for the last 18 miles. Many of them had met up early for a longer ride, but I couldn’t make it so, that left 2 of us to do the ride, I knew Mark from before and knew he was a strong rider, but we agreed to let each other know if the pace was too high! We set a good pace with an average of 17.5 mph to the café !!! which was fast for me, But I didn’t feel too bad and apart from the uphills where I managed to hang on to Marks wheel I did quite well and pleased with my performance, it was a good afternoon for cycling, warm, sunny, no wind. A welcome cuppa at Martock  Cedar Tree café at Yandles wood yard

we were able to sit outside, another 6 of us this time and again it was soon time to saddle up for the ride home. It was a good pace, a bit fast at times especially the big 15% climb out of Seavington  St Michael. A great ride and will try to catch it this week weather permitting I think the faster pace helps my fitness 40 miles covered at 16.5 mph.

Saturday was Bank holiday Saturday, and that means stay at home as its busy everywhere, it was gloriously sunny again, unlike the weather of recent times. I made the decision to go to Seaton to do the Park Run as I was feeling fit and I hadn’t done one since March.

It was easy driving down, as it was early, 240 of us lined up on the pebbles, many holiday visitors, I wondered how they would get on with the pebbles at the start and at the turns!!!
It was a good run I tried to keep a steady pace and kept a couple of runners in sight as a pacer, the pebbly turns certainly slowed you down! It was soon over and I recorded 16mins 57 secs which was 1 min and 3 secs slower than last time, so pleased with that, it was however, very hot!! I think the winner was something like 16 mins!!!

Sunday I decided to rest and spent the day sat in the shade reading!! But Monday I was out on my bike early to beat the heat, out at 8 back by 10:15,  28 miles covered .

Tuesday was another run off road with Rachael my neighbour, 6.1 miles off road round Neroche, an enjoyable run wher we are able to solve all the world’s problems and more!!! It was once again very hot.


Today [Wednesday] the weather has changed and started off very wet! And chilly, you can tell it’s a wobble day!! So no wobble for me, perhaps the weather will be better tomorrow! For a ride 

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Good running and cycling week


The summer continues in name only, the weather still remains very changeable with a hint of Autumn in the air, but! At least it was good weather on Wednesday for the weekly wobble, we cycled over Beaminster Down to Hamishes Farmshop at Yetminster, a great coffee stop, we were able to sit in the sunshine before cycling back through East Coker and over Ham Hill to pick up the old Fosse Way road back home, a good 50 miles today.

Thursday was run day and it was a very hard run again around town, only 6 miles  but I did struggle,my tendon and PF noticeable.

Saturday I joined a local cycle Group the ‘Chard Chaingang’ for their Saturday morning ride, I did know several of the group and decided to give them a go. There were 13 riders as we set off towards Winsham and over Chedington to Sutton Bingham before heading back as Wednesdays ride over Ham Hill to the levels and the community café at Kingsbury Episcopi, we overwhelmed the café with 13 cyclists ordering coffee, tea, cake etc! it was nice to sit outside in the sunshine. Our route home took us through Ilminster and back onto the cycle track, a great ride in good company and another 50 miles covered, I must try to get out with them again.

Sunday was a trip to see grandchildren in Gloucester, and meet up with our other son, who was in town for a dog agility show. We had a lovely day in the garden, the twins growing fast and grand daughter now growing even faster. It was a very wet drive home on Sunday night.

Monday Mrs B had to work so I took myself off to run the coast at Beer, big hills, very warm, I managed to run most of the hills, and had a very enjoyable run, but! Very hot. 6.5 miles so a good run.


So after a couple of poor weeks for getting out at least the weather wasn’t too bad and is looking good for the Wobble today. No events planned until the Herepath Half marathon at the end of October, hopefully giving my injuries time to mend themselves.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Jurassic 10k, House swap and rubbish weather continues!

15th August 2017

I tried out my new shoes on a run around town, 5 miles, its amazing how new shoes make a difference. My tendon and PF still continue in the background, but dont appear to be affecting my running, after a mile or so they seem to ease off. The mornings getting out of bed seem to be the worst.

My lead up to the Bridport Jurassic 10k was a run around the route on Thursday, a very windy day and I did struggle feeling quite dejected when I got back to the car as I didnt feel it went well at all, my legs felt heavy! I decided that I would try to loosen them with a cycle ride on Friday so 25 miles on a low gear, did seem to help a little.

Sunday race day dawned, lovely sunny warm day, making a change from the rubbish wet weather we have been having, I have been shower dodging all week.

West Bay was already quite busy when I parked up, and collected my number, I was told there were more entries this year, last year I did 24/64 with 1 hr 8 mins could I beat it!! this year.

We lined up on a great morning, gentle breeze, very warm in the sunshine.

                                      view of the race start on 'Broadchurch hill'

I kept a reasonable pace up the first hill, holding my own about half way down the field. We soon hit the single track footpath, fortunately this year the gate was open rather than the stile, I tripped on the footpath and fell heavily on my elbow, I did jump up quickly but my arm felt achy and there was broken skin.
we were soon running through the caravan park and the first drink station, I had decided this time to try flat coke with water in a small bottle, but still accepted a drink.
the climb out of Eype was steep and we were soon walking, I seem to be holding my own, and felt ok.

down in the dip before the very steep climb to Thorncombe Beacon, another drink and descend down a little before climbing back up and around to Down House Farm and the long fast descent back to Eype, I should have gone faster down the hill,but! I didnt  I had no idea on my position in the field, my time seemed ok. The final climb before descending to the finish was hard, more walking!
I tried a fast descent to the finish, holding my own with no one passing me. The finish area was lined with supporters cheering us on. I crossed the line in 1hr 10 mins and 34th out of 74. Not as good as last year, but I did my my best and was happy with the way I ran, given I didnt prepare enough with running.

I got home to find the grandchildren had arrived to swap houses for the week, we had a lovely time before we went to Gloucester to House/cat sit for the week whilst they had a holiday in our house, visiting the coast etc.

I forgot to pack my trainers, so no running or cycling for the week, although we did lots of walking whilst in Gloucester.

We came back on thursday, and had a lovely if some what windy day on the beach at West bay with the children.
I did manage to run 5 miles round town on the Saturday, seemed very hard work, very heavy legs again, not going too well at the moment. Sunday 26 miles cycle ride to try once again to loosen my legs, maybe its old age creeping in. 
No wobble again last week, the weather seems to target Wednesday for a wet day!!! I am hopeful for this week!

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

A cycle, a walk, a run and new trainers


2nd August 2017
Last week was a busy week with a good 39 mile cycle ride over the Blackdown Hills on Tuesday, Churchstanton, Hemyock, Dunkeswell with 5000 ft of climbing, a hard ride but the weather was lovely after the changeable weather we seem to be having at the moment. 

Wednesday dawned wet and windy so no Wobble again!!! My new running shoes arrived a pair of Asics Cumulus, my old Nimbus  have managed approximately 700 miles plus over eighteen months. I did a short town run on Wednesday evening after the rain only 3.4 miles with my daughter who was visiting.

Thursday was a nice change as I met up with an old work colleague [old being a key word as he was 86!] for a walk on Dartmoor. We caught the bus from Oakhampton to the Fox and Hounds on the west side of the Moor and then walked over the Moor back to Oakhampton via Great Links Tor, Sourton, Meldon Reservoir a good 10.4 miles on a very moody moor with sunshine and showers, it was good to walk with Martin as we used to run an Expedition Group at the Local college, Martin was very fit !!

                         Open North Moor


                                    View West from Sourton
                                     Meldon Res

                                      View towards HIgh Willhayes and Yes Tor

Saturday I was up early for a run and put on my new trainers, they felt very plush and given my problems lately with Tendonitus and Plantar Faciliwhats it!! I thought it would help and I think it did I felt very comfortable 5.1 miles.

Sunday was a cycling day with an early morning ride of 26 miles over the levels, this was before driving over to Highbridge to look at a campervan/motorhome , an Autosleeper Lancashire, very nice vehicle, but! Too big for us so no new van, we finished the day with a 99 ice cream in the park at Burnham on Sea before the heavens opened.

Monday the weather was looking good, and Mrs Ian B was busy, I wanted to see if my fitness would be good enough for the Jurassic 10 k on the coast at West Bay, so I was running by 8:30 heading up the hill out of West Bay feeling ok, walking up Thorncombe Beacon, but a fast run back down again! 5.2 miles in just over the hour, I felt OK and decided when I got home to enter the race next Sunday, so watch this space!!

                      Thorncombe Beacon looking west towards Golden Cap and Lyme Regis

So overall a good week despite the appalling weather , I have not worn shorts since returning from France  two weeks ago, the weather this morning the rain is hammering on the window, so no Wobble ride again today!!.

My plan for the rest of the week is to run the Jurassic route tomorrow, then cycle Friday, rest Saturday and race on Sunday.

92 miles cycled and 24 miles run

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Awful weather and not much running or cycling!

24/7/2017

I cant believe the change in the weather since getting back home from holiday. I have gone from shorts,sandals and tee shirt to longs trousers, socks,trainers, and a thin fleece over my tee! there have been heavy rain showers every day with Friday being a complete washout, Saturday and Sunday not much better. Temperatures are now 15 dgrees lower than when we were in France!! Not using this as an excuse but I have only managed a 4.75 mile run and 27 miles on my bike. My plans to run the Bridport Jurassic 10k in two weeks might have to be on hold, I will make a decision this weekend, I enjoyed the run last year, but there is another coastal 10k near Exmouth at the end of August which gives me time to get some off road miles, I have entered the Herepath Half marathon at the end of October, sometime away but I like to build up the miles, it will be my third time I have run this, it would be nice to get a better time.
I have also entered the Grid Iron 100k audax down in the New Forest in October so still need to keep up the cycling miles!.
I was woken up in the middle of the night the other night with really bad cramp in my right calf, which has left it very sore, I was hoping the cycle ride yesterday might have eased it, but it feels very sore this morning, so maybe no running for a couple of days.

I still need to add photos to my M2M write up and also write up my last French trip in the campervan, so plenty to do whilst the weather is poor as well as loads of DIY to catch up.
Hopefully weather will be better later this week, but! I am not holding my breath!!!!

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Manche to Med cycling trip

22/7/2017
I have finally written up my adventure cycling trip from Caen on the English Channel, its only in draft form and I need to add the photos, but it is rather long so I may move it to another part of the blog when I add the photos. 
I have just returned from another two weeks in France, this time in the camper van with my wife, this time down the bottom end of Brittany La Foret Fouesnant and Carnac and lovely it was too, so I now need to write that up for my Blog!!! weather has been rubbish since getting back home on Wednesday night, ironically it was beautiful right up until we drove off the Ferry at 10 pm at Poole, the rain then started and the temperatures were no longer in the 20s!!!
Anyway below is my M2M trip, holiday in campervan still to be written. Cycling and running???? did a little folding bike cycling and a few runs along the coast [24 miles in total] but will try to get back into it this week, weather permitting!!

My apologies for the length of it, you cant write up a trip like this in a few words!


[Draft]
Manche to Med trip June 2017 - 14 days cycling from Caen on the English channel to Montpelier on the Mediterranean.

After much deliberation about what to take and what to take it in I decided on a travel bag rather than panniers! And my travel arrangements had sorted themselves out in the week as my son living in Wimborne was able to drive me down to Portsmouth to meet up with the other members of the CTC group and the leaders. The weather was cloudy, windy and not that warm.

We met at the http://www.shipandcastleportsmouth.co.uk pub just outside the gates of the ferry terminal. Our ferry due to depart at 2:45. We were soon chatting and getting to know each other, checking each other’s bikes etc, all nervous at what was ahead. My roommate for the two weeks Peter arrived after cycling a few miles from the train station, Peter was replacing Dave P who sadly passed away at the New Year, part of my plan was to leave a tribute to Dave at the top of the Puy Mary, a peak which Dave was looking forward to climbing.
We soon had bags packed and we were cycling down through the docks, ahead of the traffic to present our passports etc. My first experience of cycling onto the ferry, it felt very good, bikes were stashed in areas off the main car decks, tied unceremoniously together for the voyage, no thought given to damage to paintwork etc. two of the riders had newly sprayed paint work on their ‘Roberts’ frames!!!

We were soon sailing off to Caen leaving the naval dockyards of Portsmouth behind. The voyage was uneventful, I managed to get a veggie pasta meal, and was able to sit outside in the pleasant evening sun.
The coast of France came into view and we were shortly disembarking, cycling out ahead of traffic, and pushing in at the passport controls. We were very lucky we didn’t encounter angry motorists!! The hotel for the night was literally outside the gates of the docks, an IBIS. We settled in and me and my new roommate went for a stroll  up the road before meeting up with the rest of the group and the leaders to find out the plans for the next day.

Breakfast was typically French, except being English, we all emptied the cereal bowls very quickly and then topped up with croissants and panne au chocolate etc., we all hunted for tea! But I had to manage with coffee, all very nice.
Van loaded we were gathered for our first day of Cycling in France, the weather was fair, bit windy, we set off in a large group [there were 18 of us, including three leaders+ Nick who was driving a support van with our luggage, very team carish!!!]

The group were made up of:

Leaders: Nic [drove the van and sorted out coffee, lunch and hotel registration!!] and Julie [rode with us all the way] and Mark and Fiona[ both rode with us the whole time]
Husband and wife teams of 
Ann and James [Milton Keynes]
Harry and Liz [Helston]
Ian and Doreen [Dundee]
David and Carol [Basingstoke]

And the rest of the group were
Ray from Australia
Peter [room mate][Bristol]
David [Haying Island]
David [Cambridge]
Chris [Northampton]

Apparently our average age was 63!!!! But I must admit a very fit group of 63 year olds, who were very good bike riders! With lots of experience, most already completed the LeJog!

The text in italics is from the leaders details given before the trip

Day 1, Quistreham to Falaise, 70.7 km
From the hotel, we take a little time to ride west along the sea front.  This was the beach code named “Sword” the furthest east of the D-Day Landing Beaches in June 1944 and was assigned to the British and Canadian Forces.  After retracing our steps to the ferry terminal, we join the Canal De Caen a la Mer.  At 14.2 km we reach Benouville and Pegasus Bridge, so named after the cap badge of the 6th Airborne Division who flew in on gliders to liberate the strategically important point behind enemy lines. At 24 km, we reach the city of Caen and 2 km later our route leaves the River Orne and takes us up our first hill into May-sur-Orne, following the River Laize into Bretteville sur Aize at 45 km, noted for its Canadian War Cemetery. We continue onto Fontaine-le-Pin, then Ussy, then finally to our hotel, The Ibis on the northern outskirts of Falaise. Falaise, meaning “cliff” in English is worth a visit to see William The Conqueror's castle and the gothic Eglise de la Trinity, though we will cycle through Falaise tomorrow morning.

It was great to be cycling, after photos etc. of our departure from the Manche it was a lovely ride down the side of the canal to Pegasus Bridge, it was Sunday so there were many people out enjoying the now lovely sunshine. After leaving the canal we cycled through the busy town of Caen, there was a Sunday market meaning negotiating lots of people using our Garmins!!! We were walking at one point as we seemed to be right in the middle of the market.
We were soon on open roads heading for Falaise, road surfaces were excellent and away from the town the roads were really quiet. We were soon knitting together as a group, chatting as we went along, the 70 km passing very quickly, tonight was another IBIS, but very nice, clean and welcoming.

Day 2 Falaise to Mele-sur-Sarthe, 73 km
From the hotel, we take a short detour through Falaise before rejoining our route where at 15 km we leave the Calvados Region.  We pass through Tournay-sur-Dive and onto Chambois at 30 km with it's lovely castle and memorial to the closure of the Falaise Gap.  At 35 km, 500 m before Le Bourg St Leonard, there is a good photo opportunity of its classic 18th century chateau set in 400 hectares of woodland. Onto Almeneches at 43.5 km, then Sees, 55 km, well worth a stop to stroll around its 13th century cathedral, the episcopal palace and the medieval old town. Our last 18 km of the day takes us through a forested area between the national parks of Parc Normandy-Maine and  Parc Regional du Perche to Hotel De La Poste.

Day 2 dawned a lovey day with clear blue skies and temperatures rising to a comfortable 29 degrees. We visited William the Conqueror’s castle, virtual rebuilt after  WW2 as Falaise played a major part in the D day Invasion.  The countryside was very rolling with lots of poppies, large landscapes of cereal fields, no real hills. 

The cathedral made an ideal lunch stop, before a visit around inside, impressive. We had to wait for the owner of the hotel to arrive before checking in, but was a lovely spot in the middle of Mele-sur-Sarthe a quiet French town, I took the opportunity to visit the local Spar shop to top up on snacks, I was glad to do so as shops etc. were few and far between over the next few days.

Day 3 Mele-sur-Sarthe to Vendome, 120 km
The route south takes us to Bleves at 6 km, onto Mamers at 21 km and Saint-Cosme-enVairais at 32 km.  Into Nogent and Le Luart at 60 km. We reach the river Loir (note not the Loire!) and into Vendome.  Tonight's Hotel St Georges is located on the island in the Loir which was where the original Roman settlement was founded.  The ruins of the feudal castle can be seen, along with the impressive Abbaye de la Trinite where a tear shed by Jesus is said to be preserved .

A longer day with 120 km covered but! It was rolling countryside, no serious hills, very wide open countryside. The hotel was in the middle of the busy town, Peter decided to seek out and buy a kettle as he was suffering withdrawal symptoms for ‘tea’ he was successful and we enjoyed morning tea for the rest of the trip as well as a well-earned cuppa at the end of the ride each day. The evening meal was interesting, being Veggie in France is not the easiest of things to be and it certainly provided a challenge for many of the hotels we stayed at, tonight’s offering included as a main course,  rice, 10 small tomatoes, cheese and potato pie, sweet potato fries, carrots, tomato juice smoothie, this was preceded by a salad starter of tomatoes and lettuce, but the dessert was good as I remember, the French are particularly good at those!!

I did visit the castle before the meal and had a good view across the town even though it made my legs ache walking up to the top.

Day 4 Vendome to Amboise, 79 km
At this point the tour changes character as we enter the Touraine area of the 'Middle Loire' valley.  Wine dominates, the favourable micro-climate makes the Loire Valley  a centre for fine wines. The Loire is equally known for its chateaux and today's route takes us past quite a few. 
We pass the impressive Chateau de Blois before crossing the Loire. The route sweeps west along the Loire and joins a cycle path .  Chaumont castle at 58 km is up on a high promontory to the left.  2 km before our hotel in Amboise, The Chateau de Clos Luce is not to be missed, it was home to Leonardo de Vinci for 3 years until his death in 1519. There may be an opportunity to visit the chateau tomorrow, which will be discussed.

A lovely days cycling today, the views crossing the Loire were stunning, the weather, was wonderful 32 degrees, and as we hit the cycle path it really felt as though I was ‘living the dream’ great weather, quiet roads, good flat cycling through beautiful countryside, the Loire was really wide, and as we stopped for coffee in Blois near a chateau and next to the magic house, where on the half hour big monsters came out of the windows, really weird!!! Lovely coffee stop though under the brollys in front of the cafe, it really felt as though it would go on forever as we still had 10 days to go of this wonderful trip. Tonight’s hotel was a best western and I have to say they did a great veggie lasagne which I shared with 3 others as it was so large! Nice hotel.

Day 5 Amboise to Loches 47 km
After a potential visit to Chateau de Clos Luce this morning, we have a relatively flat days riding. We pass Chenonceau Castle, the most visited chateau after Versailles.  We cycle through Luzille at 27 km and Chedigny then follow the Indre river almost into Loches.  Our hotel for the night, the 15th century Hotel George Sand  is perfectly located between the castle, the river Indre and the park. The medieval town of Loches is a wonderful place, best explored on foot.

The hotel was only a couple of KM from the Leonardo Chateau so we cycled there early to miss the queues of people; we left the bikes with the van in the carpark.
It was a good visit; we were the first through the doors so were able to complete the first bit of the tour through the workshops and displays before the school children piled in! well worth a visit, many of the inventions of Leonardo  Da Vinci are still in use today. The models were well made and the gardens were really pleasant to walk through. By the time we met up again at 11.00 the place as heaving with school visits, so we had timed it right!
By the time we got to Loches it was 34 degrees, the hotel was old, and overlooked the river, where a family of ducks kept us entertained whist we ate dinner in the conservatory overlooking the river. A nice town and an interesting walk around the old town, with its old chateau, I didn’t venture up to it this time as it was so hot, but sat in the park for a while in the cool of the trees, a relatively short cycle day, easy riding with very few hills of note.

 Day 6 Loches to Argenton-sur-Creuse 84 km
 Navigation and terrain are fairly easy today, following the river Indre for the first 30 km.  We pass through Le Tranger at 30 km, Clion at 32 km and at 41 km we enter the Brenne natural park.  This sparsely populated area is bisected by the Creuse river and is comparable to the Somerset levels in that it is a flat, watery area created by monks in the early Middle Ages, as well home to a range of wildlife, much of it of the birdy variety. We continue onto Sainte Gemme at 45 km and Meobecq at 60 km.  We cross the river Creuse at 73 km, then onto the last 11 km of the day to Hotel Le Prieure on the outskirts of Argenton-sur-Creuse.   This town boasts a shirt museum! Some lovely medieval houses along the waterfront and a Roman settlement aptly named Argentomagus because it was a centre for silver mining at the time.

It was a stunning start to the day, and just right for a cycle ride. A longer day at 84 km, but through rolling countryside. Poppies in cornfields in abundance again, well surfaced roads, very quiet with little traffic, we did average 15 mph today, so this shows how good the riding conditions were.

 The group get on well and has divided itself into a less fast group  group and a slightly faster group so riding you always seem to be with someone different, occasionally its pleasant to cycle on my own and get the feel of riding in a foreign country, the car drivers so far have been very courteous,  we are getting to know each other quite well now and the banter in the group is good fun. Although when we got to Argenton, it was a climb up to the Hotel on the outskirts of the town.

 Day 7  Argenton-sur-Creuse to Peyrat le Chateau 108 km
A tougher day in terms of length and terrain, with the reward of a lake at the end.  We continue to follow the river Creuse for the first 30 km passing through Eguzon-Chantome to reach Dun-le Palastel at 41 km. The route undulates through a scattering of villages including St Dizier-Leyrenne at 76.5 km and Bourganeuf at 87 km.  At St Martin Chateau, 101 km we climb up into the national park of Millevaches en Limousin, then passing through La Seauve and L'Agathe 105 km.  Here cross into the Haute Vienne region and shortly arrive at the Hotel le Bellerive in Peyrat le Chateau.  This sleepy lakeside village, hides its role as a haven for the Maquis, the rural French Resistance during WW2 and its local hero Georges Guingouin.  A museum 2 minutes walk from our hotel is open until 5.30 pm.

This was the hardest day so far with 108 km and 1600metres to climb. Poor weather was forcast and it did arrive after 60km after lunch! And poured down for the next 48 km the region had lots of hills and wooded areas, the roads were running very wet, fortunately again, very light traffic, but some of the descents were challenging in the wet, and the climbs were quite long. 

We  were pleased to see the hotel in the pretty village of Peyrat le Chateau, the hotel overlooking the lake was run by an English man, and we dripped our way in! a nice evening meal, with just enough time for a walk through the village before bedtime, a nice little spot, seemingly lots of potential, we didt get time to visit the museum but I am sure would be worth it. We dried out, my room mate using the hair dryer to dry the insides of his shoes!

Day 8 Peyrat le Chateau to Mauriac 109 km Today's ride and navigation are quite challenging although rewarding for lovers of wild and varied scenery.  At 7 km we enter Auphelle on the Lac de Vassiviere.  Then onto Faux-laMontagne at 21 km and to Peyrelevade at 35 km and Meymac at 59 km.  We proceed to Neuvic at 83 km and slowly descend to the Dordogne river, crossing it on the same bridge as used on the 2016 Tour De France.  We then commence our final climb to Mauriac and our hotel  l'Ecu de France.

Today was definitely the hardest day with 109 km and 1900 metres of climbing, fortunately the poor weather of the previous day had cleared and we were back to the usual great weather, but starting at a cool 18 degrees and rising to 32 degrees by the time we reached the hotel.

There were long climbs but equally great descents, the main one being the 8 km descent to the bridge crossing the Dordogne, lots of hairpins, narrow in places, fast, but always safe, lots of TDF history on the road. The hardest part of the day came at the end when it was 5.7 km up to the hotel at Mauriac, a hard end to the day in the heat, we climbed it very slowly as it was 10% + in places. We were pleased to see the hotel.
Mauriac was a strange town and little did we know it but everywhere was shut due to the Whitsun holiday and the ‘pentanque’ competition in the town, so even though we located the supermarkets, they were shut, so no topping up of snacks

Rest day Today you have the choice of either:
 Follow in the footsteps of many Tour De France riders by climbing the nearby Pas de Peyrol – Puy Mary elevation 1589 metres
 Cycle a more leisurely loop to have lunch at the beautiful town of Salers a designated Les Plus Beaux Villages de France.  It stands at an altitude of 950 m in the "Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d’Auvergne" Nature Park.  It has unique 16th century architecture and its old houses are made of dark lavastone and topped with turrets which give the village an austere charm.

The rest day was anything but! It was looking excellent weather wise for a ride up Puy Mary at 1589 metres. It was also the day I intended to pay a tribute to my mate Dave who sadly didn’t make it on the trip as he passed away at New Year, it was a climb that Dave was looking forward to and one I am sure he would have enjoyed. 70 km with a 20+km climb from the hotel.

We went up the beautiful valley of the ‘Vallee du Mars’  the valley we passed through fields, woodland, lovely ancient villages, deserted, with lovely buildings all the time overshadowed each side by rocky peaks/edges and Puy Mary and the Pas De Peyrol  sitting high up at the end of the valley, ascending by a really nice gentle climb at 4-6% on the D12, as we passed through La Chaze the road steepened as we hit the D680, as we left the junction and went round the corner over a stream it the road suddenly went up! My Garmin recorded 12 then 15% it seemed to go on a long time, so much so that I had to get off and walk, my lowest gear not quite low enough to keep up the momentum, I noticed one of my colleague’s in front also walking but Dave a spritely 72 year old still kept going, as did several others, Mark his MTB gears really coming into their own now.

 I walked several hundred yards to the next hairpin, time to take a breather; this was a stage on last year’s TDF, many of last year’s names still painted on the road, Bardet, Froome etc. I could see the top of the col, both sides of the road now a car park, I thought it looked about 6-9% so decided to get back on and ride, it turned out to be 14% + for several hundred yards! I didn’t like to get off again as there were now people parking up, and I would have embarrassed myself buy walking [ in my head anyway!]

I saw Nick on the line at the summit, and struggled over that line taking big breaths to regain my composer! It was a great climb. After the summit photos, I found a quiet spot with a nice view and a small circle of violet coloured flowers, with a fantastic view over the valley, secluded and quiet, I placed a small piece of ribbon[two inches]  from last year’s Eroica, it had red, white and blue and a cyclist on it, I placed it next to the flowers and had a few thoughts about Dave, shed a few tears, before burying the ribbon and returning red eyed to my friends, a hug from the group leader Nick was appreciated. Dave would have loved the climb, I am missing his company.

We had a coffee, and a good look around, the views were stunning, there was still snow on the north side of the Puy Mary.Before beginning the descent – and what a fantastic descent it was, I switched on the video camera to record my descent, we gathered speed on the first 14% section before the first hairpin corner, the others had stopped here, as I went passed, I gathered more speed, Nick raced passed me, so did Dave and Peter, I struggled to keep the speed off enough to feel in control. At the next hairpin the angle eased from the 14-15% to a more manageable one, I felt now I could speed up, carefully I noticed the Garmin 38mph increasing to 40+ as we raced down the mountain, it was thrilling!! I finally overtook Peter and Mark before re-joining Nick and Dave just after the D680 junction and the end of the steepest part of the descent.it took just under 9 minutes to get down, it took us a lot longer to get up to the top. We gathered together again before starting the final descent to meet up with the rest of the group for Lunch in Salers. 

The descent continued at a lesser angle down to Salers , I stopped part way down to take photos. I then continued as the others had passed me by, only to come across Peter, being helped from the floor by Dave and Chris, with a French motor home driver stopped, Peters bike was in the road!!! We sat Peter down, the Motor home drove off, clearly not intending to help.

It transpired that Peter had hit a water gully, whilst on a narrow bit of road, giving a bit of space to the motor home. He was complaining that his shoulder hurt, I repaired his tyre and tube, and we comforted Peter the best we could, everything seemed ok, but Peter then noticed a lump on his collar bone, we called Nick and the others to let them know what happened, Nick cycled back up to us and then we set off carefully for the 5 km down to the village, I went on ahead to get the other leader to call for an ambulance, Peter in the meantime seemed to be getting worse, shock was setting in, by the time he reached the village, he was very white, the ‘Pompiers’ soon arrived and very carefully dealt with Peter, ascertaining he had a broken collar bone! He was taken off to Hospital. I had no stomach for any lunch, the rest of the group were  just finishing theirs.

 We then continued back to the hotel in Mauriac, me to a room that I no longer shared as my roommate was now in hospital!!! An exciting and unforgettable day, fantastic weather, a great climb, a great descent, a lovely tribute to Dave and finally the unfortunate accident on the final descent putting Peter in Hospital with as it turned out, a broken collarbone, 2 broken ribs and a punctured lung, his holiday was over!!!

Day 9 Mauriac to Lacapelle-Viescamp 60 km
After a day's rest, today's ride on empty roads should be a more relaxed affair despite 3 notable climbs.  After leaving Mauriac, we have a long bracing descent.  At 5 km we cross the river Aude and start a steady 5 km ascent.  At 11 km we enter the village of Ally.  At 19 km we reach Pleaux and head south and enjoy a twisty descent to Lac du Barrage d'Enchanet.  After crossing the river Maronne at 31 km, the road rises up for the second main climb of the day  followed by a descent, losing much of the height gained.  At 49.3 km just before Laroquebrou we turn left to follow the rivers Cere and Authre all the way to  Hotel  Du Lac and its rather inviting pool.

After the hard climbing yesterday, a shorter distance today only 70km, after the 5km descent from the hotel in torrential rain, including a couple of hairpin bends there was a 5km climb at 9% !! there were two further climbs before the end of the day, it was only 12 degrees, freezing after the previous days of 30degrees + the heavy rain continued till Pleaux at 19 km where we all agreed we needed a coffee stop so raided the local Sports Bar, locals looking on as 18 wet and bedraggled English cyclists politely queueing for coffee, one of the leaders nipped to the local shop and came back with cake for us all. 

We warmed up, and felt a little dryer by the time we left. It had stopped raining, a twisty descent on wet pine needled roads to Lac du Barrage before the second climb, this was nearer 8km at 8%. We lunched near Laroquebroe before the final 12 km mostly uphill but an easier 4-6% to the beautiful Hotel Du Lac a cracking hotel, beautiful location and a pool, but the lack of sunshine today meant we didn’t brave the pool! We had a fantastic meal by the Australian proprietor. The next couple of days were 90 km as we started to approach the Med .

Overall a lovely day that would have had some great views on lovely roads, if!! It hadn’t poured with rain and the temperatures down to 8 degrees at one time. It was lovely to get to the hotel and dry out, a hard day, lots of climbing, in poor weather and very slippery roads!

Day 10 Lacapelle-Viescamp to Estaing 86 kms
A day of two rides today, with the last half almost flat in contrast to the lumpy first half.  We pass through St Mamet and Marcoles.  At  38 km, Cassaniouze the road starts to descend.  At 47 km we hit the river Lot, take your time cycling this beautiful stretch whilst we follow it all the way to our hotel.  We change departments from the Cantal to the Aveyron, crossing the river at 68.4 km at Entraygues-sur-Truyeres.  The final 18 km along the river takes us through Entraygues and into the beautiful town of Estaing and our hotel L'Auberge Saint Fleuret. This lovely little town is a delight to explore, with the intriguing  hickledy-pickledy Sci du Chateau d'Estaing perched on the hill behind, plus the obvious attractions of the old streets and the river front.  Interestingly, Estaing is on the Le Puy (St James) sections of the Santiago de Compostella pilgrimage route and there is still evidence of this in local churches and the occasional backpacking modern day pilgrim passing through.

It was a hard start with 3386 ft climbed in the first 38 km, but! It was a great descent of 12km down to the Lot Gorge. We started the morning in cold and wet, with temperatures down to 8 degrees, so coffee was very welcome at Marcoles, a pretty village, very peaceful and quiet. 

After this we started to descend down to the Lot, sweeping bends and high speeds on quiet roads, by the time we got to the river the sun had come out and the temperature was rising, 24 degrees by the time we had finished lunch. It was then a steady ride down along the river to Estaing the gorge cliffs rising high above us on both sides, the stunning bridge at Entraygues particularly pleasing, we stopped to look at the views in the now hot sunshine, the cold morning temperatures now forgotten. Estaing was wonderful and out hotel was opposite the town hall, a particularly lovely old building, the streets were narrow and there were quite a few ‘pilgrims’ with rucsacs walking the Santiago pilgrim [Camino] route. 

The hotel was very French and we were able to have diner out on the patio in the dying rays of the evening sunshine. This was the second night without my roommate who was now in Hospital back in Mauriac, a strange feeling!!! It was nice to have use of his kettle and make myself some tea! [ I did toast a cup to him] I joined a couple of the group to look around the town and the Chateau, a fantastic place; the Chateau was weird with bits added on, difficult to imagine it as a castle!!!

 Day 11 Estaing – Meyrueis 99 km
Todays route is very rural, passing through few villages.  We have a flat start for the first 9.5 km until Espalion. At 15 km, we climb up to the village of Lassouts and at 52 km we reach Severac-le-Chateau.  At km 69 we start our 6.5 km descent to the river Tarn which we follow until Le Rozier.  Don't forget to take in the views and stop for some great photo opportunities.  We now follow the river Jonte and the gorge which forms the border of the  Lozere and Aveyron departments all the way to hotel Mont Aigoual in Meyrueis.  

A long hard day with 100 km and 1600metres [4800 ft] of climbing . There was an easy start on flatish roads before starting to climb, there were several of these, getting harder with the heat of the day at 33 degrees the final one 8km!  we were pleased to start our 6.5 km descent down to the River Tarn, a cracking descent once again, several hairpin bends making it exciting, we crossed the River at Le Rozier and we started to follow the River Jonte and the Jonte Gorge with its stunning rock architecture and at the same time a steady climb, only 4-5% but in the heat at the end of the day was hard work, I cycled this section with Ian from Dundee, the rest of the group were either in front or behind us, although people did keep stopping to take in the views, it truly is a stunning Gorge. Meyruise was quite alpine like with its hotels laid out along the river, a nice place to overnight , tonight I was in a separate hotel from the main group, a very French hotel, very full!
We had covered over 1000km so far so the scenery was starting to look Mediterranean, clearly the weather was changing! To be consistently hot!

Day 12 Meyrueis to Le Vigan 56 km or 64 km
Today we have 2 options dependent upon weather and peoples choice.  Option 1: This is the original route and takes us from the hotel up the climb to the Col de Montjardin at a 1016m and at km 13 we reach the car park for the Abime de Bramabiau, a chasm with underground rivers and caves.  Well worth a visit for those interested.  At 24 km we reach the summit of the climb with an option to turn left to ascend the 7 km to Mont Aigoual.  If you do not want to make the climb we descend 2 km into L'Esperou.  After a few undulations, we are rewarded with a fantastic descent all the way to Le Vigan and our hotel Mas de la Prairie. Option 2: This circular route  takes us via the Col de Perjuret at 1057m to climb up to the summit of Mont Aigoual from the north side.  Mont Aigoual at 1567 m  has incredible 360 degree views and is the highest point of the Gard département. On a clear day it is possible to see the Mediterranean, the Pyrenees and the Alps. We descend to re-join option 1 at its 24 km point. 

I settled for option 2 as did the rest of the group. The day started with a rolling countryside for the first 7km before the 25 km climb to Mont Aigoual at 1567 metres, but we stopped for coffee at the roadside at the Col de Perjurat 1057 metres. it was a superb climb that I did mostly on my own, followed closely by Chris it was 5-8% with occasional 12%, fortunately, the day was still heating up, there was very little traffic on the road and I made steady progress to reach the summit, Chris and I met at the top, and were the first ones into the café at the summit for a well-earned coffee, the summit has a meteo station and provided us with a good 360 degree view. I thought Mont Aigoul was a really good climb and descent.

It was soon time to leave the summit and look forward to the 20km descent on good roads and sweeping hairpins to our hotel . This was a great days cycling and really was ‘living the dream’ good quiet roads, lovely warm weather and a sweeping descent. Le Vigan was a run down town, I did walk into the middle but was disappointed, it was very hot and busy. The hotel was nice though even though I was in a roof room I did have air conditioning!! And we were able to eat dinner outside again as the weather was so good.

Day 13 Le Vigan to Aniane – 69 km
It would be safe to say that of all the rides, today's is one of the more spectacular ones.  After passing through Aveze, we start climbing up to Montardier at 8 km. At Blandas, 18 km, the road gets twisty and the descent marks the approach of the Cirque de Navacelles. This amazing rock formation was created by a meander in the river Vis that became an oxbow lake which eventually dried up.  At 23 km, the route crosses the river Vis which marks the boundary with the Herault Department. Where the road levels out at 27.5 km don't forget to stop at La Baume Auriol Auberge both for the viewpoint but also a well earned coffee break.  Continuing on the road tops out at the Col du Vent, 703 m.  From here, it's almost all downhill to Aniane and our hotel the Hostellerie St Benoit with its tempting swimming pool.

The day was again a beautiful start, and the group set off a little earlier as it was another tough day with a lot of climbing in very hot weather. And after a few KM the road started to climb up to Montardier and continued climbing for another 18 km to Blandas, across very open countryside, scrubland like in places, and rolling greenery in others. At Blandas we had no idea what we would be seeing in the next few KM and nothing could have prepared us on the trip so far.

We started to descend, on twisty roads, then all of a sudden the whole area in front of us was like a very large hole, several KM across! And several KM deep. We stopped at the top of the steep descent into the valley to take in the view of the Cirque de Navacelles a stunning valley with only one exit and that was up the zig zag climb we could see from our current position.  We also witnessed a world record, unbeknown to us, there was a slack line stretched across the valley and there was a man walking very carefully across it!!! Several hundred meters above the valley floor, for a distance of several KM in seering hot sunshine, they were attempting the worlds  longest slack line walk, and apparently they did manage it!!!

Anyway, after the entertainment, we continued to descend down the very steep and twisty road to the bottom where we had a welcome coffee from the van. What comes down must go up! And what an up it was the temperature was now 35 degrees and the climb out of the Cirque was several KM and at a gradient approaching 14% at times, I took off my helmet and replaced it with my cycling cap, deciding it would be a little cooler, the road went up, round hairpin bends and I just turned the pedals over, sweat dripping on to my bars, standing occasionally to relive the pressure on my calves. It was the hardest climb of the trip.

 I was pleased to see the Auberge La Baume Auriol where it took me several minutes to cool off in the shade and a whole 750 ml of water to slake my thirst. The rest of the group finally arrived and all went in for a refreshment, I decided to take in the view and sit in the shade. It was a stunning view across the Cirque, the countryside now more Mediterranean than before, we continued climbing until the Col Du Vent. We stopped at the lovely village of St Maurice a sleepy village where a pentanque competition was about to start, the bar in the village was full of locals as it was the weekend, a great atmosphere, it was very hot!

As we got near Mont St Baudille the road peaked out and we started to descend, what a descent, twisty wide well surfaced roads, quiet, with stunning views across the valley,  I had to keep stopping to take in the views.
The heat was increasing and at times it felt like riding in front of a fan oven. I stopped at one point and noticed a peach tree in a local garden, at St Jean the bridge crossed the Herault, and created a small beach, this was full of locals enjoying the good weather, whilst daring youngsters leapt from the bridge into the river to cool off, quite spectacular we stood for sometime watching them before continuing on through wine vines to our Hotel at Aniane.

I really enjoyed the day, really good cycling again even given the very hot steep climb out of the Cirque. I think everyone was tired after today. It was a fitting next to last day of the trip particularly the descent . The hotel was nice, but we were apprehensive as there were a load of ‘Bikers’ who informed us they had been told not to party tonight as there were a load of cyclists needing a good rest!! Apparently they partyed hard the evening before!!!

Before dinner we met as a group to discuss the arrangements for the following day, our last day and Bike bus day!! We had a surprise when we were presented with a Manche to Med pin badge, but we had to promise to complete the next day otherwise we have to give it back.

Day 14 – Part 1  Aniane – The Med – 42 km
This mornings departure time will be dependent on the bike bus timings and the weather. Please take care, this area may have more traffic than we have encountered over the last 2 weeks, especially if it is a hot, sunny day.  Heading south east, we pass through La Boissiere, Montarnaud and Cournonterral at 28 km. After crossing over the motorway at 33 km, we soon start our final descent towards The Mediterranean. 

It was a sad breakfast as we were on our last day of the trip, only a total of 60km today, before catching the bike bus home L  it dawned once again hot, sunny and a beautiful day 34 degrees at 8:30 am .
 As we set off we met quite a few groups of other cyclists coming in the other direction, the road surfaces were particularly good, a couple of easy climbs through La Boissiere and Montarnaud and finally Cournonterral descending down a lovely but very busy road to meet the cycle track and along to I think Les Aresquiers overlooking a lagoon with Flamingos happily wading around, where we were able to paddle in Med  except Fiona who actually swam in the med!

We had made it, all a bit of an anti climax really, I think we were all very sad we had finally arrived. After our celebrations, photos etc. it was time to look towards getting to St Jean le Sec to catch the bus, but not before we cycled along the causeway to Maguelone, sea on oneside.Lagoon and canal on the other.

 I was cycling near the back as the track was just a dirt track, sadly Ian Punctured so I waited and helped him change his tube, giving me extra time to absorb the atmosphere and saviour my achievement of cycling the length of France over the two weeks. We met up again at the end of the causeway and had our last lunch of trip, French stick, cheese, tomato, crisps etc. we made our way back in land to St Jean, the leaders had arranged for usto use a hotel to shower and  change before boarding the bus for the overnight journey home.

Day 14 – Part 2 The Med to The Bike Bus – 18 km Weather permitting we will follow the causeway along the coast towards the Cathedrale de Maguelone. From here we head back inland to St Jean de Vedas and our rendevouz with the Bike Bus. Before departure, you will have time to have a shower and get changed at the Premiere Classe Montpellier Ouest which is 300 m from the Bike Bus pick up point.

After showering and changing we sat waiting for the bus to come, it wasn’t too long before we were loading our bikes onto the trailer and finding our seat, saying our goodbyes and thankyous to Nick and Julie he leaders.  Had been a wonderful trip and one I will treasure, the views, roads, people, the cycling, the weather………
We were soon gunning up the motorways towards Lyon and Paris and finally Calais, I did sleep a little, but was very hot on the coach, we got to Calais just intime to catch the ferry back to Dover, where it was time once again for some goodbyes to the rest of those continuing on up to the North of England.
I picked up my hire car to drive back home, my thoughts and memories of the trip, keeping me on a high for the journey home, but!! I had to keep stopping for coffee etc as I was tired and hadn’t slept much on the coach. I was glad the M25 and A303 were too bad and I got home in good time, glad to be home after a fantastic adventure .
14 days cycling
1118km[698 miles]
13558 m[44482 ft] of climbing
62 hours moving time
Rest day
Puy Mary 88.7 km [55.4m] 1556m[5105ft] climbed 4hrs 18 mins


Average age of group 63years!!