St. Malo to Nice expedition 2009
1338km (831 miles)
- Presentation of the official tour Jerseys at Big Vern’s and check final travel details,
Departing Day 1 – 18 April 2009
- 8.45 Condor Ferries Jersey to St Malo (check in 7.45)
- 11.15 arrive in St Malo and start cycling
- Cycle 97km 60m to Vitre where we have prebook 1st night accommodation
- We have a choice of hotels, the 1st to get back to me is Le Minotel
Day 2 – 19 April 2009
Day 3 – 20 April 2009
- Cycle 140km 87m from Chemille to Le Melle, this is a hospital town so any problems we can get it sorted here, there are a few hills on the way
Day 4 – 21 April 2009
- Cycle 80km 50m from Melle to Angouleme. Downhill training here then we will have a half day off where we can visit the Hennessey Cognac distillery in this town and get fuelled up for the rest of the trip
Day 5 – 22 April 2009
- Cycle 111km 70m from Angouleme to Bergerac, we start our hilly days here.
Day 6 – 23 April 2009
- Cycle 135km 84m from Bergerac to Montaban, very hilly climbs and drops, possibly the worst day for hills
Day 7 – 24 April 2009
- Cycle 151km 94m from Bergerac to Carcasson, this is a stunning town like St. Malo as it is inside fort walls.
Day 8 – 25 April 2009
- Cycle 176km 109m from Carcassonne to Port Camargue, mostly downhill, but this is the longest day in the saddle, so early start but we will get to the Med.
Day 9 – 26 April 2009
- Cycle 129km 80m from Port Camargue to Aix en Provence. Hopefully have time to see the lovely town, we cross through the national park of Camargue so hope to see a few of those wild horses.
Day 10 – 27 April 2009
- Cycle 132km 82m from Saint Aix en Provence to Les Issambres, we take the inland route that is shorter but hillier than the coast.
Day 10 and the Final day – 28 April 2009
- Cycle 86km 53m from Les Issambres to Nice
Paul, Alan & Brian head to the Airport for flights home. Tony, Gus, Chris & Richard prepare to drive to St Malo (they were universally dismayed as to how far it was & ‘how could we have cycled all this way’).
According to Richard, Routemaster & Navigator, total mileage was 777 miles. Tony reckons about 120,000 turns of the pedals. Not bad for one lad & the rest staring a bus pass in the face & certainly a great experience. We feel lucky to be all in one piece & with bikes pretty well intact. Lessons learned – more spare tyres & matching GPS, riders & support vehicle is all that springs to mind with me, although the others may have more to add. We also learned to ride as a Group & to share the brunt of the wind, at the front, in turn. This gives those in ‘the pack’ a rest & also stops the frustration of being ‘tail end Charlie’ & the debilitating feeling that comes when you can’t catch up.
May 2nd 2009
Woke to a fair breeze but joy of joys, lovely sunshine to complement our seaside setting. A good breakfast, a most friendly send off from our lovely landlady & photo shoot, we were off. The coast of the Cote D’Azur was what I’d had in my head as we planned this trip & saw myself cycling this section under a clear blue sky & soaking up the atmosphere.
I’d clearly ignored the frequent comments about the traffic, thinking this was a feature of July & August & not Springtime. In the event, it was a pain & it was almost a joy to leave the coast & head inland & up a long climb through the mountains. What beautiful scenery, what gorgeous peace & best of all, no punctures or breakdowns. We even had a coffee stop, on a terrace, overlooking the sea & in a state of high excitement to be in such close range to Nice.
Did I just say no punctures? Just on the outskirts of Cannes, Chris was suddenly detached from the peleton & the scouting party found him with a flatty! The support vehicle was well ahead & trapped in traffic so we did what seemed appropriate to the day & found a restaurant on the coast about a mile away, booked a table for seven & relaxed into an early lunch. When the van arrived, Chris was fitted with a bright blue spare tyre (save him right for taking the piss out of mine!) & after Moules, Frites , was almost smiling.
The last 7 or 8 miles into Nice was really quite nice & most of it was on dedicated cycle tracks we shared with the roller bladders & walkers. A photo shoot at the first signpost, another at the fountain & off to the Hotel Campanile (no prize, but a welcome sight). An hour & a half of packing up bikes & loading the van, a pleading session with the owner of the business behind the hotel to let us park & a quick bath & it was off to the local Garibaldi Square for beers & people watching. Our recommended Restaurant (thanks Mungo) was judged too formal & expensive so we found somewhere close by which did the trick nicely. Watched the sun go down as we people watched on the terrace & then had an excellent meal & an after dinner promenade & thought how wonderful it was to contemplate a saddle free future.
The last day was a mere 50 miles & leisurely 4 hours of saddle time.
Although we spent most of this day with rain threatening & evident all around, we didn’t actually get wet. Perhaps as well, as we got enough punctures, plus a case of mangled gears to make us think we’d been really bad boys in our younger days. The punctures, we think, were a result of having to use the hard shoulder on the busy dual carriageways, which of course carry all the grit, glass & general debris. However by about the seventh one it was all past a joke & in particular when mine went for the second time in an hour, on the downhill section to the coast. It went with such a bang it was a real shock, but all I could feel was relief as it could well have had me out of control & over the edge. However by now we didn’t have any spares left so I jumped in the van & we went in search of a bike shop which we found, after some reluctant French help, in St Maxime. Bright blue tyres on a red & white Specialized frame were not going to do my street cred much good, but as soon as we arrived at the hotel, I fitted same & promptly got back on the bike & headed back to St Maxime to get my 80 + miles in for the day & to make sure the bike was fit for the final push, tomorrow.
La Caravelle at Les Issambres was beautifully situated, right on the coast & the landlady was a joy who couldn’t do enough to make us welcome. The rather quirky rooms & temperamental plumbing might not be to everyone’s taste but it was good fun & at less than Euro100 for two, including a decent breakfast, not bad value in this expensive part of the world. At the landlady’s suggestion, we went to Maison Fleurie (I believe it was called), a short drive away. After an initial slow start whilst we were studiously ignored in favour of the locals, we eventually got fed & watered & our (probably drunk) hostess was good fun & served some surprisingly tasty food, off the set menu. A good precursor we felt, for the final push to Nice.
Stats for the day – 81 miles, average 14 mph, max 32 & 5 hours 43mins in the saddle.
I woke quite early & tried to convince myself the noise was the air conditioning unit in the room, but sadly no – it was the wind. The weather then added rain & finally torrential rain so we all turned up for breakfast in casual clothes & decided to hang on until things turned a little brighter. It wasn’t to be however & the rain got steadily worse until it became evident the roads were beginning to flood & to have continued would have been uncomfortable in the extreme & worse still, dangerous. For the rest of the trip we were to see fast flowing rivers & floods, the result of these days’ storms. We therefore set about testing the support system & trying to fit seven bikes (one spare), luggage & food plus the seven of us, into Chris’s new ‘super van’. No problems – soaked & not a bit dejected, we set off for Aix en Provence. Our coffee stop en route is not etched into memory, other than being the crummiest café this side of Algeria & with stairs to the toilet that were more dangerous than any cycling we’d done so far.
We arrived in Aix de Provence around 3.00pm & spent a few hours over a lazy lunch & a promenade in this lovely town, albeit in damp miserable weather. Back to the hotel at 8.30pm & agreed an 8.15am start the following day, although the free WIFI virtually guaranteed, via every conceivable weather web page, that we would be wet for the entire day!!