In late July three intrepid ‘cyclists’ set off for a 1000 mile ride traversing France in fourteen days. A planned a route of 70-80 miles a day with no rest days and earning a few pounds for charity along the way.
After nearly a year of a planning and what felt like a week of support car packing it was time for the three ‘cyclists’ (in the loosest sense of the word) James, Jake and Joe, along with support car driver Emma, to set off. After catching the overnight ferry from Plymouth to Roscoff this adventure started to get very real. As soon as we were off the ferry we pulled over in the port car park, kitted up, got on the bikes and promptly set off on the left had side of the road. “Ride on the right, ride on the right!!’. We were off on day 1, an 80 mile day across Brittany.
Day 2 was another good day on the bikes, warm and sunny weather, riding along the coast to the picturesque Mont Saint Michel. After a day in the heat we thought it was time to get our selves in order, get out of the tents early and set off before it got too hot. We were greeted by a beautiful sunrise and it seemed like a good day to start making up some distance southbound.
Day 4 was the first Tonne day. Meslay de Main to Amboise was a great ride, possibly the best day of the trip. The ‘recovery day’ 50 miles were horrible. Turns out 100 miles took it out of us. A lot. We seemed to make a poor nutrition choice in going out for dinner and having eggy break for breakfast rather than what had become our staple breakfast cereal of ‘Cruisly’ (which we had been eating out of ferry sick bags after forgetting bowls). Nonetheless we made it and it was time to start heading towards the mountains.
The next challenge was to come in the next few days, riding up to and over the Massif Central. Day 6 was pretty relaxed but ended with a couple of thousand feet of gentle climbing after lunch. Day 7, Gouzon to Clermont Farrand was another day of generally uphill along the outskirts of the Massif Central. It was a tough day for Jake (from London), but a nice change from the spooky flatness of Northern France for Devon boy James and Welsh climber Joe.
On Day 8 it got real. It was a mountain day as we cycled from Clermont Ferrand to Saint Etienne, 90 miles. We hadn’t planned to do 90 miles in the mountains but our rough route ended up getting us to somewhere without any decent accommodation, so we added on 15 miles.
Due to support car trouble we called an emergency rest & admin day in Saint Etienne. We set off riding again with considerably less bum pain after a day off. It started to feel like we were starting to achieve something, we’d been through Northern France, we’d even done a few small mountains, but now we were somewhere that looks like the Mediterranean.
Second Tonne day done and the drama and faf wasn’t over – this trip wasn’t meant to be this much admin. Following on from the support car trouble, we had to change hire car, take back the other car and pick up the rest of our stuff from the support.
With all of our unexpected challenges, by day 13 we were just about ready to get there. Frejus was our destination for the night; we’d made it coast to coast! We’d cycled to the Med; somewhere you’d go on holiday to and be pleased about it! All we had to do was Cruise 50 odd miles to Nice the next day and we’d completed our ridiculous challenge.
As it happened the 50 odd miles along the French Riviera wasn’t as billed at all. Just our luck – again. It was our second day of thunderstorms and we had a massive head wind. Nonetheless we made it. In total, we’d cycled 1020 miles from the top left to bottom right of France. It didn’t really hit us at the time. We soon settled into our apartment for a few days of relaxing on Emma’s Birthday but then we thought we’d best look at the map to see what we had done. Yep, that was an achievement! And we managed to raise over £1,400 for our charities of RNLI and Help for Heroes. Our just giving pages are still live if you would like to donate: https://www.justgiving.com/teams/lignedefrance
Just to end, we couldn’t have done this without the help of our support car driver and all-round admin lady Emma, and I’m not sure I’d have made it without the other boys, Joe and Jake. Also, I’ve got to thank High5 for their support giving us a few boxes of Gels and energy drink mix etc. That stuff really did get us there, and the max energy drink mix must be rocket fuel, that really does the trick.
All photographs courtesy of James Salter/Emma Compton