Another fine day beconed us this morning; I can see why so many people are hooked on the South of France. Great weather and beautiful scenery. What a fantastic place to be on my bicycle.
The coach took s to Valreas to experience the TDF start. The coach dropped us 1.5 km from town and we joined the masses walking up the hill to where the race would start. Ive never been in such a busy place. And that includes Asian shopping centres when there is a sale on. The sidewalks were solid with people and it was impossible to make progress without dodging down side streets. That wasnt too bad as it made it possible to see some of the lovely old buildings in the city.
I found my way to where they were selling TDF souvenirs and splashed out big time. Over priced but then this is probably the only time that Ill be here so dug deep and used the Visa card. Just getting served was an achievement as the crowd was three deep before the counter and there were only four harried women trying to serve the crowds.
I managed to make my way down to where the signing in was held. Each rider needs to sign in each day of the tour so they mount a stand as the MC rambles on in French. When Lance Armstrong went up the people around me booed but when the Frenchman who was leading the race (actually, from Martinique but close enough) mounted the stand they went wild with cheering. He has really done well and the French people and media have taken him to heart.
After signing in the cyclists proceeded to the start line which was about 100 m down the road. I had planned to go there to watch but there was no way I could make it through the crowd so I gave up, satisfied that at least I had seen the ceremony proceeding the start. Lance Armstrong rode by looking very cool, he was chatting to someone from another team and laughing. Im sure the camaraderie ended as soon as the race started.
Once the race commenced, the crowds slowly dissipated and I headed back to get my bike and start riding. I helped myself to one of the traffic signs pointing to visitors parking as a souvenir, figuring that theyd end up as rubbish anyway. I must have set a bad example as I saw a lot of others with signs as well.
The ride consisted of cycling 80 km east from the start point to the town of Serres where the coach would be waiting to collect us. There was also the option to get dropped half way at Remuzat, but Im here to ride my bicycle so opted for the longer distance. Id also be alone today so I could play tourist more than motoring along with the super keen riders.
The ride was through rolling hills with a lot of vinyards and olive groves. Apricots were also popular, with regular stands selling olive oil and apricots. This area of France has a history predating the Romans and some of the olive trees had trunks so thick and gnarled that it seemed as though they had been there for thousands of years. An example of this is in the photo below, which also shows a huge olive oil container.
The strong headwind made the riding a bit tedious; uphills and headwinds are not fun, but the day was otherwise much to my liking stinking hot at 35 degrees C. It meant that I went through a lot of fluids, for the first time emptying my 3 Litre hydration pack as well as my two water bottles before I finished the day.
The first major town was Nyons which had a sign advertising an ancient Roman bridge. I was in for that, as the photo below shows. I also used the opportunity to buy new batteries for my digital camera which was a challenge as it was lunch time and France basically shuts down from 12:30 14:30. I managed to find a newspaper agent who was open.
The town itself was delightful with these pink, old buildings. The narrow lanes wound their way in an almost random pattern, many lined with cafes. It would be interesting to know how the ages of the buildings compared to the bridge.
From there the winding road turned east towards Remuat, and followed a river gorge with steep cliffs towering above. The traffic was relatively light, with few trucks, and the gorge kept the headwind at bay for extended periods so it was a nice ride.
I was thinking about changing my brake pads to some more suitable for mountains when I passed a bike repair shop. I had no idea how to tell the woman behind the counter that I needed brake pads as that was well beyond my French abilities and she didnt speak English. Her solution was to send me around the back of the shop to the mechanic to whom I was able to explain I had a problem on Mt. Ventoux and needed new pads. He came up with some and installed them for me while I waited, also truing my front wheel. If one had to have a caricature of a French bike mechanic this fellow was it. Short, portly with an array of parts lying around the shop, but very skilled at his trade. God is good and I was fortunate to find him. I also picked up a spare tube, just in case I had further problems with my tyres.
After Rezumat the road began climbing and it basically continued to climb for about 15 km. My rear wheel got a slow leak in it and began to wobble a bit but fortunately my self sealing tube worked this time so all I had to do was stop every 8 km or so and pump it up. I was running a bit late to make the 17:00 coach departure time, and was becoming concerned that I hadnt seen others from the coach on the road. However, two of the fellows caught up with me and we then played leap frog wherein I would get ahead of them but they would then pass me when I stopped to pump my tyre. The terrain was spectacularly beautiful, with rolling hills and many small farms so my tyre problem notwithstanding, I enjoyed the ride immensely.
I had feared that the interminable uphill ride was a sign that I had arrived in the Alps, but I was rewarded with a 15 km downhill run which was wonderful, except for my wobbly rear tyre and a slightly wet road. At one point I was passed by a group from another coach who I joined, but they were a bit too fast for comfort for me with the wet road and wobbly tyre so I let them get ahead.
As I arrived in Serres I caught up with the rain which was quite refreshing given the temperature. I found the coach and loaded my bike on; the last rider for the day. Fortunately I was spot on time which was excellent. Once loaded we set off for Briancon to find the hotel. It was a long trip but it went by quickly as we soon reached the Alps with lovely villages nestled on the hills, and huge mountains in the distance. There was some serious riding coming up!.On to the next day or Home loans loans loans loans loans loans loans loans loans loans loans loans loans loans loans loans loans loans loans loans loans loans loans loans loans loans loans loans loans loans loans loans loansloans loans loans loans loans loans loans insurance insurance mortgage mortgage