Day 11. Just a relaxing 72 miles. (Wednesday 8th October)

October 8th, 2014
Distance 72 miles 795 miles (1280km)
Height gain 590 metres 10382 metres (34062ft)
Calories 2500 30500

After the unexpected physical exhaustion of the last three days I planned a short 40 mile cycle over a last couple hills from the pretty town of Cahors to Montauban after which it should be quite flat. The hills would be quite tough but given the past three days the combined 400 metre climb would seem a lot easier. The hills are slowly killing my gears though and now I believe I'm on a wing and a prayer as to whether they will survive the journey to Andorra or break completely. I can feel the cogs constantly slipping and barely griping/engaging which doesn't bode well for a climb over the Pyrenees, but I have decided, if they do break completely by not engaging and I get within 20 miles of the border I'm walking the bike up. It will be hard work but so far I've cycled about 780 miles (1260km) and with a little over 100 more to go, it's mentally too close to quit.  Actually, that's one surprising thing, my actual distance if I complete the challenge will be about 100 miles shorter than the "google" suggested route I'd found before setting off..... and the reason? This idiot didn't have a terrain map and cycled through one of the hilliest part of France!  The reason it's so hilly is because the Pyrenees push France from the south and the Alps from the east and the effect is like pushing on a carpet from two sides, lots of bumps in the middle!  It turns out that geeks at Google knew this and avoided all of the bumps! Smart arses!


Cycling past the medieval bridge at Cahors and up the first hill of the day one of the strange things which seems to happen in France when cycling happened again.  While cycling up a hill, cars coming in the opposite direction occasionally toot their horns at me, shout and wave, I think it's friendly as they can't believe someone on a butchers bike is up there, but after the first day in France where I had been tooted at for cycling on a "car only" road I'm not too sure anymore.  No one is sticking a finger up like they would back home so I guess that's ok?


So after climbing the two hills I entered a warm and quite pleasant Montauban.  It was 2pm in what was now a baking 28 degrees, an amazing 20 degrees centigrade higher than it was a couple of days ago, but apart from extreme thirst, I didn't feel tired as after the last three days of extreme hill climbing, apart from the final couple of hills this morning it had all been relatively easy.  So I sat down and looked at google maps to see where I was.  Mmmmm, Toulouse was just 35 miles away..... 



GPS showing the end of the three and a half day hill climbing.....

the end of the climb

Another look at the map showed me that I could do 20 of those miles along a canal.... I figured I needed some flat boring terrain although the bike probably needs it more than I!  But I'd forgotten about the headwind and it turned out to be 20 miles of pain into a really strong wind again which practically stopped me on the odd occasion.... It's starting to get a bit annoying again and the god of wind must have felt his ears burning after a few particularly big gusts....  But I'm now in Toulouse although with a sunburnt left wrist! It appears that I must have forgotten to put sun block on that bit, I couldn't tell with the wind.  I decided to stop just north of the city tonight as it was rush hour, and given my experience of northern Paris and the north of other large towns in France, I didn't want to go through that again.


For more detail on route click HERE.

day 11 route

(© google maps)

Day 12. Now a relaxing day... But a boring blog. (Thursday 9th October)

October 9th, 2014
Distance 46 miles 841 miles (1354km)
Height gain 254 metres 10636 metres (34895ft)
Calories 1300 31800

I figured I needed to recover a lot of energy before trying to attack the Pyrenees so I decided to leave it as long as possible before leaving the room as it was about 28 degs, sunny and humid. Then just as I was about to leave... puncture! I guess I should have checked the bike earlier, but this surprised me as it was the first one of the trip and one I had to quickly try to get fixed by putting the bike inner tube into the sink while still attached to the bike!  But I had the problem that I couldn't risk taking the wheel of completely due to the fragility of the gears.  But the hotels must love me, they must spend time wondering why there are tire marks halfway up the walls in the bathroom! But with a mad dash I managed to find the cause... A hypodermic needle, about one cm of the metal end stick in the tire but luckily I had a pair of pliers to extract it. This probably highlights the problems of cycling down a canal anywhere in the world, they do seem to be the places for a quick fix!  When I inflated the tire it seemed to go down again which meant another mad dash to fix it only to find the problem was with the pump! Annoying, but I managed to leave just before 12.

Bikenin a bathroom

I spent a little time in Toulouse which has a nice although not memorable city centre.  Like I had on much of my trip, here I got a lot of interest in the bike with the locals coming over and asking me about how the gears worked, the type of bike and where I was cycling.  But I soon got bored at peoples disbelief that I'd cycled all the way from London and headed off towards the Pyrenees.  Other than a short stop at Decathlon to buy a spoke tighening tool (which I probably wouldn't need now as it does look like my bodge worked!) and the occasional heart attack caused by people hooting at me when they drive past, it was a completely uneventful day....  Well, uneventful as long as I forget about the gears which are dying a little more each and every day......


I decided to stop the night in the very Catalan, French town of Pamiers, it's really starting to look quite Mediterranean now! I only cycled a mere 46 miles, practically just half of my usual distance and only about a 200 metre climb but I have now entered the Provence of the Pyrenees!  This is where it gets hard harder!


For more detail on route click HERE.

day 12 route

(© google maps)

Day 13. Slow and steady... (Friday 10th October)

October 10th, 2014
Distance 45 miles 886 miles (1426km)
Height gain 940 metres 11576 metres (37979ft)
Calories 1600 33400

I had an interesting start to the day, I put the "do not disturb" sign on the door but the maid completely ignored it and walked in just as I was getting out of the shower. She seemed quite shocked as if it was my fault! She didn't even apologise.


Anyway, before setting off I had two simple options today, one was to push for the border, enter Andorra and complete the challenge, the other was simply not to! But as soon as I set off I kind of got my answer, I'd lost my first gear completely, the pedal just span around. I had no idea what had changed as it crunched and slipped but now it wasn't gripping at all. I'd have to see how difficult it would be with just a slipping 2nd gear. Not surprisingly it was difficult and one massive hill just before Ax-les-Thermes did me in completely.


I sat down, ate a late lunch and pondered what to do as I was still 35 to 40 miles away from the border and still has a climb of about 1900 meters. I had a quick fiddle with the gears and found to my surprise that one of the bolts holding the back wheel on had completely come loose. I have no idea how this could have happened as the bolt could not work loose as I'd locked the nut so it was a little strange, it was as if the axle had stretched.  I could have lost the wheel at any time. Quickly tightening the wheel and fiddling with the gears made it possible to find 1st again, although still hit and miss! Within no time, with the newly found first gear, I picked up the pace until a huge rain storm hit at Merens-les-Vals. I took shelter in the village's train waiting shelter.... but as the rain started to slow and eventually stop it was getting dark and with the height at 1000 metres above sea level it was pretty cold. So at just 45 miles cycled today it looks like this is my bed for the night! I've had worse...

Bed for the night

It may be a bench, but it's a fantastic view.


For more detail on route click HERE.

day 13 route

(© google maps)