Day 8. Why you should buy a map before cycling the length of France… (Sunday 5th October)

Today Total
Distance 73 miles 582 miles (937km)
Height gain 1613 metres 7371 metres (24183ft)
Calories 3200 22000

It had been raining all night and this morning was just the same. When I went out for breakfast I also discovered that unlike all the other days I’ve had so far in France, which had been between 20 and 25 degrees c, now it was barely 10. I prepared the bike with my many ill-fitting and many varied coloured waterproof covers and waited until the rain had died down a little and set off towards a hopeful overnight stop in Limoges. I’m not sure if I’d have set off if I’d have known, but today turned out to be the hardest day I’ve had by far and was a combination of the environment, the weather and the demoralising Romans… I mean, what have they ever done for cyclists!

It all started to get tough form a very pleasant but wet town called Argenton-sur-Creuse. This is a beautiful town made up of many medieval houses with those lining the river seemingly put up higgledy-piggledy with walls overhanging the river on supports that seemed too weak to take the weight. But this was where the first real hill climb was. It was hard getting to the top but from this point along a roman road it was head on into heavy rain on long the straight roads where you could see the forthcoming steep hills from miles away, at one point I could see five long hard climbs in the distance…. Added to this for every downhill stretch I would have to climb even higher than the drop I’d just gone down. I lost count at how many hills I had to climb, it seemed endless and added to the battering I was getting from the strong headwind and rain you really do learn a lot about yourself and your ability to push on and never quit.

Then after about 35 miles of this constant bombardment came 35 miles of a very hilly forested region around Bessines-sur-Gartempe. After cursing and shouting at the person in charge of the weather I slowly made it up even bigger and higher hills until I reached the peak at a little over 500m above sea level. At this stage I was also pretty annoyed as at this time of year the prevailing wind should have been from the north which would have helped push me up the hills, but it was still a firm headwind from the south as it had been every day so far.

It was halfway up this climb that I made a promise to myself that if I ever decided to do anything as silly as this again I’d buy a map first and then check where the bloomin’ hills were to avoid all the climbs! I’m guessing that’s something proper cyclists do, but I’m guessing no cyclist would travel without a proper map anyway, that would be mad! However it was too late to stop or change route now, I’m half way there….

I count over 20 sizeable hills up to 500 meters high on the GPS record below…

I eventually made it into Limoges where I all but collapsed. I’d cycled 73 miles which would be hard enough, but I’d also climbed a total of 1620m which is nearly 300 meters higher than the highest mountain in Britain. I was not expecting this kind of terrain here and it’s not something I was expecting to do on this bike, although, for a first nothing broke today which I am completely amazed about, the bike must love the familiar UK wet weather!

For more detail on route click HERE.

(© google maps)