Day 9 – Besancon – 75 km

We were on the bus early and made our way towards Besancon, the start and end point for today’s 55 km individual time trial. There were several options available to us, but they basically reduced to two; stay in town and watch the start/end of the time trial or ride your bike somewhere. I of course opted for the latter along with 10 others and we headed out into the countryside towards the town of Charnay which was 39 km into the race.

For some reason we all had it in our minds that the area was going to be flat. Nope. One of the guides to the tour that I read later noted "This is an extremely tough time trial. There are only five kilometres of flat road …" That is not correct. We didn’t ever find  five km of flat roads on our trip! To add insult to injury, we had psyched ourselves out of the hills since we had left the Alps.

But I get ahead of myself. We cycled eastwards along a busy road and had problems finding the route. Finally we found the turnoff and headed towards Charnay. The area was very beautiful, with rolling hills and farms, interspersed with woods. Unfortunately, there were many, many climbs which in some places were lung burstingly steep. They weren’t as long as the Alps, but what they lacked in length they made up for in gradient. It was hard going and so our leaders (excellent cyclists) often had to stop to wait for the stragglers.

We passed through many old villages. One of them had a citadel dating back to the 12th century. The houses and buildings were built quite close to the road and I reflected that it would be amazing if the walls could speak of the 1000 years of history that this area has seen.

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We eventually found our way to Charnay, past row upon row of parked cars. We had hoped to find a café or shop in the town to get some victuals but none were to be found. Instead, the road was lined with people watching the time trialists zoom by every few minutes. They were closely followed by their team vehicles with spare bikes and wheels on top. Each vehicle had the name of the time trailist on the front so one knew who was passing—if you could read quickly.

There was the typically festive atmosphere in the area, with people set up for picnics and a large marquee serving food and drink to special invited guests. An MC was blaring out music interspersed with voice over which I found a bit much so I decided to head back to the previous town and then Besancon. Mark and Jeff joined me so the three of us cycled off.

It always amazes me how a return trip is always much faster than an outbound trip and we were very soon back at the town we had earlier passed through. We went to a shop where we bought some fruit and other munchies before heading off again. It was decided to avoid the steep hills of our inward trip so we ended up on the main road which was closed for the race. Fortunately, it was very wide so we were able to cycle along the edge of the road, stopping when the time trialists came by. Even though we were a long way from anywhere, there were many people about and they cheered us as we cycled through at our ever so slow pace.


Mark and Jeff felt a bit conspicuous and opted to take a side road back to Besancon so we wound our way back to town, eventually finding ourselves in Beure just on the outskirts. We followed the route to the centre of town where an amazing citadel dominated the valley, perched high on the hill top. The walls would have been several hundred metres long, snaking their way along the crest. The French flag flew proudly over the top.

We cut through a tunnel and found ourselves near the start of the race. Since they were down to the final ten riders we parked ourselves on the edge of the road and watched the racers pass by. Jeff got the photo below of Mark and I before a Gendarme came over and told us to get our feet off the road. How pedantic, but I guess it gave him some excitement.

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After watching the riders (go Lance!) we headed into town since Mark wanted to buy some souvenirs. We eventually found the start where there was a huge TV set up showing the time trial. The crowds were heavy and we had lots of fun navigating our way through them with our bikes. Mark got some of his kit and as we left the crowd let out a cheer – Lance was well head at the first marker point. He ended up winning the time trial.

It was then time to find our way to the coach which meant heading over towards the end of the course. After many false starts and false turns we found the end which was just mobbed by people. An alternative route was found and we eventually made our way to the coach. Right on time at 17:30. It was a further hour before the others drifted in during which time we feasted on ice cream and chocolate from a nearby shop.

The coach then took us to our evening stop, which was about 3 hour from Besancon. Arriving just before sunset I noticed an amazing old French town below the hotel, with turrets and battlements. I resolved to get up early the next morning and go for a jog through town which I did. It was our last evening together as a group and, except for the pathetic vegetarian food, it was fun. I sat next to Doug who cycled the 180 km from Besancon with George, a crazy Australian, and heard the story of the headwind and hard work they had to get there. Glad it wasn’t me.

So ended a great trip. We had a fantastic group of people who coalesced together really well. The company was great, the cycling was great, and the scenery spectacular. I will definitely do this again.


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