London to Spain – Days 4 & 5

Day 4 – Rochefort

Serious connectivity issues yesterday evening so going for a double helping of waffle today.

Yesterday was an awesome day’s riding. Just fantastic, albeit, ending with numerous campsite based dramas, will get to that later though.

As per the previous day, Kevin and Abigail served up a storm of a breakfast, can’t thank them enough, and we set off suitably fuelled for the 80 miles of pedalling ahead. It would prove to be another day of long straight roads…really long straight roads. A straight road on a bike can go either way. If your heads not in the right place, or your legs aren’t, or worse, both aren’t, a long road can be a tortuous, never ending, battle. The turn, miles in the distance, appearing to grow further away as you slog it out on the pedals.

On the other hand, if you’re in a good place mentally and physically, you can get your head down and go for it.

Thankfully we all appeared to be having strong days and, as per yesterday, the gang got in our little semi-functioning train and bashed through the miles.

First coffee stop was in Roche sur Yon. A host town of this years Tour de France and still proudly regaled in all the decoration that entails. Perhaps as our little train ‘stormed’ into town they may have thought the breakaway had returned…perhaps not.From here we had an 18 mile straight stretch on a mainish road. So heads down, we cracked on and made excellent progress.

The geography was changing now and we were moving very much from river sculpted rolling hills into what was very much Fen like territory. Lucon was the next stop, and what a charming little town it was. Matt managed to ‘bag’ another cathedral, and I managed to get my bike checked out by a magic bike mechanic, Phillipe.Operating out the back of a van, he had the lot.

I have to say I was quite envious of his life. I’ve no idea how much he makes, but his attitude and approach to his job, and just his general demeanour gave me the impression of calm contentment. 5 mins later, bottom bracket and headsets tightened, we were ready to press on.

We hit the Atlantic not long after Lucon, a major milestone, and were shortly plunged into the full on tourist Mecca of La Rochelle.

I was looking forward to seeing it, and it was stunning, but the gang just weren’t feeling it, neither was I. We just couldn’t handle the throng. Our chi, very much a meditative one, was being blasted by tourists, thousand of them, and so we decided to press on.It was roundabout then that, unknown to us, the campsite chaos was beginning.

The support crew had arrived at the campsite we had planned for and it was full. The tourist office directed them to another, the road was blocked, with no alternative route. They spent hours driving round until they eventually found somewhere we could camp.

I say driving around for hours, which would’ve been bad on its own, but in 30 degree heat it was torture for them. As this news fed through to us the tensions were rising. Largely as we had to abandon our pre planned route, no big deal, but in the heat, the stress is amplified.

Things were getting a tad tense. In the end it was really no big deal, but the tension had driven everyone’s thirst and upon arrival to the campsite we made a b-line to the bar.

Bad plan…. very bad plan given the bar appeared to only serve Leffe and other strong Belgian beer.

A few of us had one or 2 Leffes’s, but only 2 of us partook in the savage Belgian bottled beer, sold to us by Matt as being lower alcohol than the Leffe, it wasn’t. Oh, and I wasn’t one of those that did.

By the time we pitched our tents, had showers, and got back to the bar restaurant area I’d say we were lubricated to varying degrees.

The animateurs were in full swing, providing varied entertainment for the kids, there were a lot, having a great time dancing. Them and Abigail, perhaps loosened by the ‘Afflighem’ Matt had provided earlier.

She was having a ball, dancing like crazy, but it all went a wee bit wonky soon after…Myself, Rob and Matt decided to turn in, and wandered back to the tent. So far so good. 20 mins later a pretty smashed Abigail comes back asking if we had her bag – Matt had our bag, but not hers.

Her good night turned pretty nightmarish pretty quickly, as total panic ensued. The contents of said bag, which by this time had Luke, Kevin and Abigail wandering around the massive campsite phoning her mobile, in order to discover the thief who had clearly nabbed it, were enough to derail the rest of our trip. Her passport, her phone and both sets of keys for the van were in it.

At this point Myself and Rob were mobilised and decided to try and raise Matt, who was totally smashed to come and help. Every time we asked him to move the reply from his tent was ‘hear me now’… finally he got out his tent and we set off to aid the search…until it dawned on me that in his wastedness he might not know what bag he thought he had…. and yes, he had both bags!!!

I won’t repeat what Kevin called him – suffice to say nobody was happy.

In the end no harm was done, and I must say I do revel in a sheepish Lamby (Matt)London to Spain – Day 5 – Andernos Les Bain

Today was supposed to be 100 miles, supposed to be. In the end it was 120, but what a ride. It had the lot. Bridges, ferries, un-planned cyclocross, tearing it up for 20 miles at 22mph, fear, stress, and just beautiful group riding.

We set off a tad late, and given last nights dramas, the depart was low key. But we knew we had a big one ahead and so had to make decent pace.

The first 45 miles would take us to the ferry, which would cross the estuary upon which Bordeaux sits. Really not much to pick out here, was a case of heads down, get to the boat.

Oh! One thing, I had a classic, clipless pedal incident at a set of lights, and ended up bashing, and cutting my knees, and lying in the middles of the ground in front of traffic, no dramas – schoolboy stuff – hilarious slow-mo crash, but it did hurt…The ferry itself was pretty non eventful, but provided a good rest for 30 mins. A rest which would most definitely be needed later.

Once on the south side of the Garonne we had (or we thought we did) 50 miles of glorious riding on dedicated cycle paths through the forest.

This path was absolutely astonishing – largely a tarmac’d path through 50 miles of sand dunes. I’m reliably informed they are the largest dunes in Europe, fringing the largest beach in Europe.

We were smashing it, and the tail wind really helped. We bashed 30 miles in an hour and a half and things were looking up. Our predicted late arrival was shortening. It was round about now that Luke’s garmin caused absolute chaos. Everyone on the bike path turned left, we turned right. And right into hell.

I have no pictures, but trust me, the ‘path’ we were launched onto was no path, a mixture of sand, gravel and total chaos – for 10 miles.

Donatella (my bike) will never forgive me. Not only were we going in the [relatively] wrong direction, but we were doing it slowly…

When we finally got off this nightmare we still had around 40 miles to ride. Still the wind was at our backs, thank God, and we made it.

I did a lot of the ‘pulling’ on the front – and am absolutely ruined now – but we’re here.

One thing – Rob did his first ‘ton’ today and in the end was 120 – chapeau to him. So we’re sat eating. It’s 10 at night, and tomorrow we ride another ton. The wheels haven’t fallen off yet, they keep on spinning, and if I’m honest, they’re spinning well.

The mountains approach.

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