Stage 1 (and a bit more)

Le Passage du Gois

Le Passage du Gois

After cycling from the hotel in Challans to the start of Stage 1, I made my first mistake. I forgot to re-start the Garmin, after stopping to take a couple of photographs. By the time I had realised my mistake, I was 50kms into the stage. The stage started off really well. I joined a local rider and after chatting to him for a while, I sat on his weel for about 10kms. Shortly after we split up, the heavens opened. It was one of those showers with huge drops of rain. I was soaked in no time, but it did clear up shortly after.

After Les Sables d’Olonnes, the route goes inland, with a nice tailwind. For quite a while, this single carriageway was really busy, with very fast flowing traffic. I must admit, compared to yesterday, when Garmin chose the route, today was a different matter all together. I suppose the Peloton have the advantage of closed roads.

At Avrille, where the intermediate sprint took place, I stopped for lunch. This is where I witnessed the first of two extremes of French hospitality. This was at a small restaurant, with outside tables. I stayed outside as I was quite smelly and ate a Ham Baguette and a drink. On paying, I asked if she could fill up my bidons with tap water. She refuse and said to go to the public toilet on the other side of the road. Thanks for that!

Shortly after that, the heavens opened again. Going north, along the route, it became hillier and with the weight I was carrying, I was having to revert to the small ring, bit cog. It didn’t look good for the proper climbs in the later stages. I did manage a reasonable average speed though; 25.7kph.

After Sainte-Ermine, I got lost. I’d obviously mapped the route incorrectly as the SatNav route said that I should turn right, through someone garden. I went on a bit, doubled back and checked again when I saw a woman going towards her house Second of two extremes of French hospitality coming. I asked her where the route went from here and she pointed me in the right direction. I thanked her and asked if I could fill my bidons with tap water. She obliged and asked me to come in. She even asked if I wanted a coffee. I declined the coffee, filled the bottles up and spoke about the Tour with her and her husband for about 15 minutes. Why can’t everyone be like that?

On the quieter roads, and in particular, the hilly bits, there were words of encouragement painted across the roads. Thomas Voekler was obviously a favourite. I saw a couple of “Allez Cav”. I even saw a “Long live Louison Bobet”. For the uninitiated, Louison Bobet won the Tour 3 times in the ’50s. He died in ’83.

With about 40kms to go, I was really getting tired. My speed was dropping on the climbs. I was concerned that I would get to the hotel, which was about 25kms from the finish, quite late. When it came to it, at Les Herbier, I turned off and cycled straight to the hotel rather than go to the Stage finish 6kms away. During the last few kilometres, I had been thinking about the fact that I had committed myself to doing this sort of mileage, day in, day out. The fact that I was carrying all this extra weight on my bike and having to get from one stage to the next, on my own was really playing on my mind.

To top it all, when I got to the hotel, they had messed up my reservation and didn’t have a room for me. It was now getting quite late. Searches on the internet and phone calls later, we found that all hotels in the area were fully booked. They did manage to find me a mobile home in a local camp site though. That was the final straw. I decided that I had bitten off more than I could chew and would forget about riding the rest of the Tour. Whether through stupidity or naivety, there was no way that I could do this every day for 3 weeks. In any case, I was missing my wife and kids.

What I can say though is that I have a new personal best for distance covered in one day; 232kms.

For those of you who have followed my planning and preparation, I thank you. I also thanks you for your words of encouragement and also, to those who have sponsored me; I hope you don’t want your money back.

13 thoughts on “Stage 1 (and a bit more)

  1. Sorry to see it didn’t work out, but all those logistic problems and other headaches add up very quickly, so I can see why you changed your mind. I’m sure your family will be as glad to see you as you are to see them! Have a safe journey back. Tod

  2. Sleep on it first… don’t make a decision when you’re tired and at a low.

    If you still feel the same tomorrow, then c’est la vie! Enjoy some of the fine wines of the region and sample the local cuisine.

    I’ll buy you a beer when you get back. Makes me tired just thinking about it… 232kms in a day!!

  3. Oh man, I was just about to advertise your adventure on my blog then read your last post! I agree with Rick, although it’s probably too late. Stick with it a bit more – things don’t always start the way you’d like. Then again, that’s easy for me to say, sitting here on my butt in southern France. I can’t imagine doing this sort of thing unassisted. The logistics would be a nightmare.

  4. Well at least you gave it a good go (one day).
    I couldn’t do it on my bike and that’s got 1000cc to help.
    All that planning and preparation – I don’t think it’s possible unassisted and carrying your own gear. You need someone else to go along and give you a bit of stick to keep you going. I’m available next February but be warned we may only make 10k’s a day and then end up in a bar until 3am.
    Seriously Jean – you’re not giving it all up now are you after all this work – at least have a go in a more leisurely time or just see how far you get in your time limit. If you come home now you’ll regret it.
    Allez my little Gerard Doobidoo

  5. I’m really stunned here…
    A whole year of planning and giving up so easily!!! What a failure.
    Sure 232km in a single day is not easy. But it’s very far from the limits possible with good preparation.

    And this one…
    >”those who have sponsored me; I hope you don’t want your money back.”
    Man, how on Earth did you think up this??
    Surely, without question pay back everybody!!! IT’S A MUST! It’s your failure only!!

    Sorry if I sound harsh here…
    I’d sorry for you, if your tour was stopped because of an accident, injury or something like that.

    • Thanks for those comments, whoever you are. Of all the comments I’ve had on this blog, yours is the only one who doesn’t identify him/herself. You’ll say that it’s to prevent spam. Well, I’m not altogether surprised that you get spam with comments like that.
      As for my comment re sponsorship money, the money has gone to a very good cause. If anyone feels cheated in any way, please speak up.

      • Oh, I’m very identifiable from my mail address, as it is my domain.
        Even my full address is public via the domain register.
        But there you’re: I’m Attila Antal, Hungarian, born in 1973.
        I race locally on an amateur level.

        As for my views: I’ve just shared your blog’s URL on a cycling forum, and basically everybody says the same: You were underprepared, at best.

        You gave up way too easily. I’m disappointed.

        As for the money: I don’t understand the situation how it works with this foundation stuff, but that line I quoted is certainly not appropriate. Quite the opposite. You should have offered to pay back on request.
        Those who supported you will not ask it back, I’m sure. But it’s a public blog, and such communication is not appropriate.
        Not sure if that’s clearer now? (Sorry my English does not let me describe proberly what I’m thinking)

    • I think you are being too harsh. I’m sure he’s very disappointed that it didn’t go as planned and your complaining about it doesn’t help any. As far as the money is concerned, the donations appear to go straight from the donor to the charity, so he’s not in a position to refund anything. Furthermore, I took his “I hope you don’t want your money back” comment at face value, meaning that he sincerely hoped that whoever was gracious enough to donate wouldn’t take it out on the charity because he didn’t complete the trip.

      As far as riding 223km in a day, you’re right that it’s not easy, but a trip like this involves a LOT more than just riding a bike, and that’s not easy either. Having just completed a trip across Europe myself, I know firsthand how much time is spent with everything that happens OFF the bike just to keep the trip rolling along. Clothes must be washed by hand after the ride and set out to dry, food must be located and consumed, bikes need routine maintenance, hotels must be checked into and out of, plus a variety of other tasks that cannot be avoided. None of these tasks are a big deal in isolation, but they all take time, and time is valuable when so much time is required to be on a bike, because it all adds up. Add in bad weather, and the uncertainties about navigation and hotels, and I think it’s quite understandable why the trip was cut short.

      So, perhaps he bit off more than he could chew, but that’s one of life’s lessons and criticizing someone for trying, for doing their best and coming up short, is quite petty and mean-spirited.

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