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Wednesday 09 July 2014

Bryn and Emma's C2C Challenge Day 17: Last day in the saddle

Posted by: Help For Heroes | Categories: General

Our hotel in Seillanes was great, more like a museum than a hotel, with a couple of sedan chairs, amazing Empire period artefacts and pictures of Napoleon and his Generals everywhere. In the morning, after our best breakfast yet, I even had boiled eggs and (Imperial Guard) soldiers, we got talking to the owner whose family has lived there for centuries. Following our now somewhat familiar routine, I asked for his local knowledge to ensure we had a simple, downhill route to the coast. Speaking very good English, he showed me how to enjoy both a scenic and largely downhill descent and had even arranged for a howling gale to be at our backs. So that's all good then.

We freewheeled past Fayence and joined the (red) D562 towards Grasse. The wind was at our back but too many fast cars and camions were at our side. The miles just fell away and we turned off onto the (yellow) D37 towards Lac de St Cassien. Our host had warned us of a little hill there so we hardly noticed it, up and over before crossing the Pont de Pre Cleou and admiring the lake. In retrospect I could have stopped at this stage to do a map confirmation but saw my expected left turn and happily took it. A pelaton of velos buzzed past and we set off up a slight incline into some lovely cool woods. This was a dream and so much better than going past Kareoke bars and garden centres on the Grasse road.

Fuelled by my two boiled eggs and knowing that the incline was short, I stayed in the big gear, and powered up. I was impressed to see in my mirror what I took to be Emma holding on behind me, so I dug deeper. She kept there, Cor, she's going to overtake, bloody hell that's impressive,  so I worked harder. Lungs started to burst and sweat squirted out horizontally and still I could see a white topped figure behind so I clung on. Finally I couldn't hold it any longer and I dropped down to an easy gear, conceding defeat. It was only then that my attacker cruised past saying Bonjour, and it wasn't Emma. 

Not only was it not the right cyclist, it wasn't the right road. The penny dropped and I realised that we had taken the first left not the second and we were now committed to climb Mount Tanneron; the mountain that I had even highlighted while route planning as a 'feature to be avoided'. Well we were now on it.

I stopped to inhale a pint of water,  Emma caught up and I confessed to my easily made error. She took it in her stride of course and agreed that a simple downhill ride to Cannes would have been boring after all... Or something like that. In penance she made me 'fess up to camera and then my second pedal of the trip broke. I broke two pedals, she broke two mudguards, how did that happen?

This is obviously one of those routes that every cyclist worth his or her salt has to tackle and we kept being buzzed by Lycra legends but then we had another wonderful moment. A cyclist locked on behind us, couldn't take the incline, wobbled, dismounted and walked....yes! It doesn't happen often but when it does, bottle it! Panniers 2 Amateur 0.

Dripping, we made it to Tanneron for a double espresso and apple pastry and Holy Smoke!, a view of The Sea! We descended down the mountain, (thank you Gareth and Cycle Tec, yet again, for my brakes) into Mandelieu la Napoule and back to the real world of traffic. 

Emma's cousin Jeff and his French wife Nicki, have an apartment nearby and so jumped into their car to meet us and give us a VIP escort to the coast... Wonderful, at last we had some proper navigational assistance. Big hugs and some photos on the beach. It was an extraordinary feeling to have made it to the Med.

Saying Au Revoir for now to Jeff and Nicki, we were propelled along the sea front by the howling gale until, starving, we stopped for a tomato, mozzarella and pesto baguette at a beach kiosk. Then after a brief paddle in the sea, we set off again to try to find Antibes.

We cycled along past huge yachts and all the designer label shops, eyes out on stalks. This was probably the most dangerous part of the entire trip as people tried their best to step off the pavement in front of us or some massive black limo tried to take us out. Even more bizarre was that our route to Antibes was clearly marked with DA Orange Arrows which gave our route in a real BBBR feeling. 

Finally we found Antibes and our hotel. It feels very odd to think that we won't be putting on the Lycra again tomorrow but we have still washed it all out and it is hanging in the window like some sort of abstract art installation... Perhaps it should be called ' Journey's end'.

Onwards and Upwards


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