|Distance||77 miles||169 miles (272km)|
|Height gain||1474 metres||2829 metres (9281ft)|
Today was my first proper cycle on French soil, actually not strictly true as I cycled around the island of Morea in French Polynesia, but excluding name dropping exotic colonies, this was the first time!
I decided not to keep to the conventional coastal route to Paris but take a large detour towards a town called Arras, however what I wasn’t expecting was the hilly nature of the countryside. I know the Somme area quite well and there are a few hills but nothing like here. It was very pretty, so much so that it’s actually been designated a national park…. Caps et Marais d’Opale Natural Regional Park.
All was going reasonably well…. if I don’t think too much about the hills…. until I reached Auchel then something quite bizarre happened and something that probably would never happen in the UK. They closed the road (D341) most of the way to Arras.
At first I thought, no problem, I’ll follow the detour, but the first detour took me on a long climb to the top of a hill. Unfortunately at the top of a hill it quickly became apparent that the only way ahead was forwards down part of a motorway. Back down again…. then I used the Garmin GPS I had. To the top of another hill and then down a road which turned into a dirt track which I could not cycle down. Then my GPS after another steep climb took me to a road where bicycles were not allowed but by now I’d had enough, I cycled down it anyway…..
GPS showing the almost constant climbs.
After about an hour I found a way out through a random housing estate in the town of Divion but then came across another blocked road. This time I followed the detour but it was another biggy and took me up yet another steep hill via the small but pretty towns of Fresnicourt-le-Dolmen and Servins, but here I finally decided to do what the French do and ignore the diversions… nothing, no road works or anything.
(© google maps)
In the end, thanks to getting lost and diversions taking me down roads I could not go, the last 20 miles to Arras took almost 4 hours with all of the hill climbing taking its toll. After 80 miles I had to call it a day. Although looking at the map the detours may not seem too bad but it had been demoralising, not being able to get to a point I could basically see. It also added about 10miles further to the days cycle…..
For more detail on route click HERE.
(© google maps)