I don’t even know if it’s been 9 days or not. It has been a journey into the depths of France and out the other side. It’s hard to remember where I was, where I’ve been and what day of the week it is. La Vajol and Girona seem like a very different universe entirely and as a pinpoint on the map it seems scarcely believable that I’m in Brittany and a day from the northern coast.
Yesterday’s long ride went fairly well. I use several strategies, like a gimlet-eyed fly-half with his funny sideways moonwalk, all a part of eating the chimp or whatever they do. In my case, I break the longer rides down into manageable chunks, like four 25 mile rides. Or, I remember a terrible joke from school about leaping out of a plane without a parachute. There’s a lengthy exposition with questionable science then the punchline involves getting to six feet off the ground then everything being ok because you can jump from there. That’s sort of just what it’s like. Get to 82 miles and and it’s a 5 mile commute.
I had planned on going to Rennes, but all accommodation, even the budget stuff, was hideously expensive or simply unavailable, which was strange. I thought maybe there was a Breton hoedown occurring so did a quick Google. It was some kind of global accountancy happening. Either way, something didn’t add up. So I opted for Vitré instead, slightly further east, and I’m glad I did.
Touring cyclists are conspicuous by their absence at this time of year. It’s unsurprising. Generally the weather has been really good, but I forget it’s early March, which is on the early side for proper touring, certainly camping stuff, outside of the hardcore. It’s cold in the mornings even if it does seem to warm up, and the weather can be really fickle. I have seen quite a few French roadies though. They have a certain ageless uniform difference, all in lurid club kit with local sponsors, lots of fade going on. It’s great. There doesn’t seem to be any of the johnny-come-lately bollocks, characterised by a thousand interlocking dodecahedrons pulsing in a wave across a jersey with just-so sleeve length and some complicated socks, aligned to some sense of entitlement that whilst they didn’t invent cycling they were damn well gonna make it better and monetise it and put those old guys in a hole marked “prelapsarian fogeys”. Like I said, ageless uniformity, great fades.
I had a tailwind all the way today. It was perfect. I faffed around trying to escape the flooded river out of Angers. I now know the factual accuracy of “inondation” signs.
I then fell into a trap of trusting Google maps cycling directives once too often before going full Luke Skywalker and turning all the tech off. I stuck to the long straight quiet roads and fast tarmac, following the road signs.
The scenery was less pronounced, somehow less surprising. The architecture and geography through the Mayenne seemed more austere, lacking in the ages old stuff that littered the Dordogne, or the bourgeois houses sulking ominously on the banks of the Loire. It was relatively flat. I tried and failed to find a sandwich without meat or fish and managed to walk into a door despite being told not to by a kindly boulanger lady. I realised afterwards that she was telling me to use the other door. It was a complicated new build boulangerie with over engineered doors. I was saved again by a quiche and La Mie en Caline, my new favourite French chain. They also do takeaway coffee which seems really modern for France, but doesn’t stop you feeling like a complete philistine when doing any street drinking or eating.
Vitré is very pretty. It’s also got a very medieval bit in the middle, including one free standing house called “the island”. I enjoyed the additional time afforded by a slightly shorter route by walking around the ramparts and drinking a pression.
Tomorrow is the last day. I’m sad about it. You get into a strange rhythm of the road that’s really hard to articulate. It’s about being everywhere and nowhere, having all the time to roll along, and yet have no sense of time as it moves past as one more element of the flow of things. I’ll write more about this and why I did this (not that I need a reason, or that it’s complicated, but there is always a reason, otherwise we’d do nothing) in the forthcoming days and weeks. I’ll also include a kit list and some tips and tricks for super c touring, because the internet is really lacking in this sort of detail. (It isn’t).