Monday, 6 June 2011

FRANCE - DAY 2

PETER'S BIKE - COVERED  IN RED DIRT
 The second day of the trip started with an overcast sky - a far cry from the nice weather of our first day. Following breakfast we broke camp and just as we left the site it started to drizzle....you know the sort of stuff...that really fine rain that manages to soak everything. But no need to worry.  I put on my lightweight Shutt Race Cape.
This great item of cycling clothing rolls up smaller than an orange- keeps you dry- and is 'see-through' so your club colours can  still be seen.  After about ten minutes I had to stop and take the race cape off, as the rain had stopped. Luckily that was the last we saw of the rain till the penultimate day of the trip.

The plan for this second day was to cycle to a place called Coutances. The others had found information about a cycle track that would take us the entire 42 miles to Coutances. This track was along a disused old rail track bed that had now been converted to a cycleway.
Now I must admit I am not a great fan of cycletracks. I am a roadie. I love smooth roads and France has smooth roads everywhere. However I am always willing to give things a try so I was quite happy as we pulled off a nice stretch of smooth French road on to the marked track.
It appeared to be quite a wide track and was covered with a reddish dusty gravel. Every quarter to half a mile you had to negotiate a barrier where the track would cross a road or lane. This was a bit annoying as it tended to slow my rhythm but hey...it wasn't a race so it didn't really matter.
After about 4 miles Mike and I pulled over at one of the barriers in order to wait for Peter and Chris who were just a few minutes behind us.
When Chris caught up with us one of the first things she said was 'Hey Trevor -  look at your bike'. So I did. What I saw was what had been a nice clean polished machine was now covered in a reddish muck. Where it had been raining earlier it had dampened the dusty gravel and in just the four miles had made my bike dirtier than it ever got when I cycled the entire length off France in 2009.
Well that was enough for me. I made up my mind that I would be off the track at the next convenient road crossing. The others decided to stick with the track and we arranged that we would meet at the campsite in Coutances.
At about midday we went our separate ways- Mike Chris and Peter sticking with the cycletrack and me electing to enjoy the beauties of French road riding.
Enjoy it I did. Although this was shown on the map as a main road, the traffic was very light and at times there was nothing in front of me and nothing behind. I managed to achieve an average speed in excess of 15mph fully loaded and it was a cyclists dream....this is why I love cycling in France so much. France is made for cyclists..!! I stopped only once -  for an energy bar and a drink -  and at 1400hrs I arrived at the campsite in Coutances.
Tent up...coffee on the go....time to reflect on what had been a rather special ride. I then cleaned my bike and went for a walk to explore the area. By 1600hrs I was starting to get a little concerned as the others still had not appeared. I made another coffee and at 1700hrs I tried to make contact with them by phone but their phone was on answer phone only so I just left a message. I then left them a text message. I then decided to walk down the road to where I had seen a shop and a small cafe just to check them out and as I was walking back up the road who did I see grinding their way up the hill....yes...it was Mike Chris and Peter.
They all seemed to be pleased to be arriving at the days destination and Chris's face said it all.....she looked pooped..
They were all glad to have arrived and seemed surprised that I had been at the site for almost 4hours. They told me that the track had proved difficult to ride as it gave no respite....you had to keep pedaling....you couldn't freewheel...if you tried, the bike would just slow up rapidly. All their bikes were sporting a very liberal coating of reddish dust and apparently the track itself was surrounded by trees for much of the way so they didn't get to have much in the way of views. Their experience made them view the idea of riding on cycleways very differently......after all.....why cycle on a dusty track from which you can't see much of the scenery when the roads are so cyclist friendly...! Interestingly my total mileage for the day was only 35.5 miles the others managed about ten miles more. Not only had the track been more difficult to ride it was also further.
They put their tents up....put on a brew....then cleaned their bikes. We then all went to the shop to get something for a meal. The rest of the evening was spent chatting around the campsite.

SCENE IN COUTANCES

PETER CLEANING HIS BIKE

MIKE CLEANING BIKE - NO PICTURE OF CHRIS AS MIKE CLEANED HERS AS  WELL

RIDING THE TRACK PROVED VERY TIRING....TRACK TEAM  RECOVERING

OUR PITCH AT COUTANCES

1 comment:

Chandra said...

Trevor,
The tents look nice and roomy. I agree, 40-50 miles on a gravel cycle path/track can feel a whole lot different than 40-50 on a paved road. About 20 miles of our route to Mineral Wells, was on a gravel path. While it was very scenic and enjoyable, there were some patches where the gravel was quite loose and deep and made climbing some switchbacks really difficult!{http://greencomotion.blogspot.com/2010/10/granbury-we-have-problem.html}

Enjoyed reading yet another entertaining post from you!

Peace :)