Ride to the alps: day 1. ‘So it begins’


There were times that I did feel a bit of a silly gouffern for taking this on. Even a small cycling reference to the left with FDJ, the French national lottery – and pro-team sponsor


I expect King Théoden had my cycle trip to the alps in mind when he said this in The Lord of the Chainrings but perhaps the massed army of orcs were distracting him at the time.

Leaving the port at Caen at 8am on July 11th, I rode along a great cycle track by the side of the Canal de Caen a la Mer. It joined the road at Pegasus Bridge (the original having been made famous in the film ‘The Longest Day’) with the nearby cafe which was the first house liberated by the allies on 6 June 1944.

It was cool but I was wearing the arm and leg warmers I’d put on overnight because the ferry was pretty cold. The track surface was lovely and I was travelling at a good pace. In almost no time at all I had covered ….. 5 miles.

I made a mental note to keep the Garmin on the map screen to avoid driving myself mad by checking speed and distance too often.

My route to Le Mele-sur-Sarthe was a bit lumpier than I might have liked – but was along good small roads and the miles continued to fly past. It was tried and tested as I’d been given the route by friends who have cycled there a few times as part of the twinning of Le Mele with my nearest town, Faringdon.

Just as I reached Le Mele at about 70 miles (112km) I was directed on to a cycle path, part of the widespread French ‘voie vertes’ (green way) cycle routes. It was shaded by trees, had a pretty decent, but not entirely flat, hard base and a surface of fine grit. It was OK but would have been better for a hybrid than my rather race-oriented carbon bike with 25mm tyres. It had four big disadvantages:

  • first, the noise from the grit covering was a constant assault on the ears,
  • secondly, the track kept crossing very small roads which always had priority so involved a lot of slowing and accelerating,
  • thirdly, areas of deep grit were dangerous and the bike often twitched worryingly and
  • fourth, it took me away from all the towns and villages.

It went on for the best part of 30 miles (48km) and I was running short of water and was ready for lunch for most of that.


Cycle path from Le Mele. Nice and traffic-free but certainly not ideal for an out and out road bike

Eventually I came to the end of the track and found a small village called Le Musset. There was a lovely little cafe/restaurant which produced a fine assiette (plate of cold meats and salad). I recharged my phone and Garmin from the ‘Intelligent Pelican’ mobile charger – noting that I’d actually covered a non-stop 101 miles with 3412 feet of climbing (163km with 1040m) in under 7 hours.

I pushed on after lunch, through Fraze and Chateaudun, finding myself on the rather busier-than-wanted D955 early in the evening, heading towards Orleans. I got to a town called Ormes having not spotted a hotel for many miles but I got directions to a place called Saran a couple of miles away where I found a perfectly adequate hotel that, I guess, was mostly aimed at travelling businessmen and others en route to somewhere else!

The key positives were that it had a room, a bath and a restaurant. Kindly, they put my bike in their secure conference room.

It was just after 8pm and I’d been travelling for a bit over 12 hours elapsed time. I’d covered 263km (163miles) and climbed over 6800 feet (about 2100m). It hadn’t been too hot and the winds were light, but not particularly helpful. It was probably 10 miles short of where I’d have liked to have been, but a decent enough effort given the amount of the climbing and the quality of the bike path.

I washed out my kit and prayed that it would dry in the morning (no heated towel rail).

I was tired and my backside had suffered but I ate and got a reasonably early night, not even staying up to watch England being knocked out of the World Cup, in extra time, by Croatia.



3 thoughts on “Ride to the alps: day 1. ‘So it begins’

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