It was raining when I woke up, so I had breakfast before packing up to keep dry for as long as possible. It was only postponing the inevitable however and within ten minutes of hitting the road I was soaked. The rain was heavy, but it wasn’t cold so I didn’t mind too much – I’ve found that on wet days staying dry is impossible, so the important thing is to keep warm and comforatable.

The scenery was far better than it had been for days – I skirted around Brussels this morning, but after that I was back out in the countryside proper and enjoyed the rolling fields and small villages. The hills I covered last night were just a taster and it was tough going this morning, but after so much flat land I enjoyed streaching my legs and building up a sweat. After around 30 miles I had my worst crash so far: I was going fairly fast and saw a lump of concrete covering the bike lane – this wasn’t unusual as they’re often poorly maintained. I got out of the saddle in anticipation of the shock that would come when I went over it, and kept going straight. It wasn’t concrete but sand and the front tyre sunk into it sending me over the handle bars. It looked worse than it was – all the traffic stopped even though I wasn’t in the road – but the sand broke my fall, and I got away with a couple of bruises and a raw shoulder. The bike was fine too – although the panniers had flown off fortunately nothing was broken.

A bit shaken I pressed on. I came out of the hills, following a river, and the towns became more noticably French as I left the Flemish half of Belgium behind me. It was market day, and I had to walk through the centre of every town I came to as the crowds were so thick – I wasn’t complaining though, the sights and smells of the stalls were a welcome destraction from the rain. In the early afternoon I made it to France, which feels like far more of a landmark than crossing into Belgium or the Netherlands did.

Towards the end of the day I had a bit of a revision session in climbing, ascending 400 meters over a couple of kilometres as I left the river valley for more mountainous country. I finished the day in Charleville-Mézières at a brilliant campsite, just as the rain stopped, with 100 miles in the bank.


4 thoughts on “France

  1. Congratualations on reaching France…what an achievement. Glad to hear you’re in such good spirits, especially after your fall today. Thats the third one, so hopefully thats it…..please DO be careful! Looks as if the terraine is gong to be more challenging, but at least it will be interesting, and certainly preferable to it being flat. Just packed Emma off to Spain, needless to say she was very excited. Good luck tomorrow, please take care. Love you Mum xxx

  2. Sounds like a pretty nasty crash dude, you didn’t mention how well your jersey held up! Reminds me of a crash you had earlier in the year when i asked if you were injured and you proclaimed, “It’s only skin, it grows back look at my bloody shorts.”

    Did some more shopping today and handed my bike over to my dad and his mate to do a bit of ‘advanced engineering’ to get the rack on my somewhat unwelcoming bike. They made quite a job of it. I tested it out this evening, the first time of going out with full kit was a bit of a milestone for me. I was surprised at how well I coped, and I am starting to learn the value of keeping the cadence up and the gearing soft, cheers for fitting that tiny cassette eh?!

    I was hoping to do 30 miles, as this is half of what I will need to do tomorrow to get to cambridge, but I had a flat at about halfway, caused by my inability to fit my spare tube yesterday. Not having another spare, I had to rely on an old and decrepit repair kit, to repair a hole so invisibly small that it could only be located using bubbles in saliva. I had little faith in my repair and it was only after the 5th mile (now absolutely pitch black in the middle of nowhere, having killed my phone with endomondo and minimal house music) that I felt comfortable that my repair had held.

    I got the tent up when I got home, it is the one that Sam and I will be bringing along, not a bad one, surprisingly seems to be room for 2 beds and 2 sets of paniers, which is a bonus, will be sleeping in there tonight to test out my new thermarest, heading into London tomorrow to begin my journey north. Will be getting some spokes and tubes for the road.

    Sorry for the essay, been a lot going on, can’t wait to get out there mate, I think I’ve got the bug before I have even started.


  3. By the way, if you don’t slow down, you’re going to be waiting for us for 3 days in Bordeaux.

    Not such an unpleasant idea, but perhaps try getting used to doing something less than 100 bloody miles every day…

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