Okay, its time to ride! Due to time limitations I will be unable to start in Paris, so I will pick up where I left off last year in Loudeac. That is where Clair and I abandoned the event after falling ill. It is my intention to continue on from here to Brest and then return. I will follow the official route and try to finish it in the time that I have. I will be staying in hotels along the way and travelling during daylight hours only.

I was enthusiastic about getting started but it took some time to get ready. Once the bike was set to go I needed to get some food for the trip. This is where the first flaw in my plan was revealed. It was Sunday, and being Sunday in France all of the shops are closed. We were able to find an open bar where they served us a late breakfast, but they had no food otherwise. When I asked where I could find a sandwich the proprietor seemed confused by the request. I was told that they don’t sell sandwiches on Sunday in France. I convinced them of my need for a sandwich so the barkeeper went home and found some bread, ham and cheese and came back and made one for me. I have experienced this kind of hospitality each time I visit France.

Now I was prepared to go. Leaving from the controle location at St. Joseph College in Loudeac I headed towards the center of town where I hoped to find the correct route. This is where the second flaw in my plan was revealed. Navigation was going to be much harder than I had expected. The road signs are very inadequate and without course markings or other riders to follow, you are never really quite sure that you are going the right way. This then forces a lot of stops to try and verify the choice of direction. This in turn slows your progress dramatically and I began to worry that I would not be able to cover my planned distances for each day. Other obstacles to my progress appeared as well, first a flat tire, then I was stopped by the gendarmes to allow a local bike race to pass. My search for food and water also caused delays and it was getting later in the day than I had expected. Then there was the wind! The wind was brisk and relentless, and right in my face all day. I was happy to be on my way to Brest however regardless of my pace.

I arrived in Carhaix in the afternoon and had the same problem finding supplies. My only choices seemed to be McDonalds and a BP station. I stopped at  both and tried to make the best of it. Leaving Carhaix the route is quite appealing and I enjoyed this section, even with the climb up to Roc Trevezel.

The days are long here at this time of year but maybe not long enough. My original plan was to go from Loudeac to Brest and then back to Carhaix for the night. As the day wore on though I began to see that I would not be able to meet that schedule. I was now hoping simply to make it to Brest for the night. At times even that seemed to be questionable. Navigation difficulties, the search for food, wind and other delays had put me well behind. Finally around midnight I pulled into downtown Brest. It is a long uphill into town and I had yet to find a hotel. I pretty much took the first one that I found, a 2 star hotel in the middle of town. It actually wasn’t too bad and there was a food stand nearby that was still open. I was pretty much done for the day.

Advertisements