Today we felt like real cyclists! I'll explain in a mo.
I've never been to the Dordogne before. It really is a fantastic place. Rolling hills and picturesque towns in every valley. Very remote and sparsely populated - you can cycle for miles and not see any signs of life.
The previous night we'd looked at the maps and realised that our progress was too slow and that we'd better step on it a bit if we're to meet our (interim) target of Toulouse by Saturday. So we planned a long ride that would take us from the top of the Dordoyne (Nontron) to the bottom (Bergerac) in one day - around 100km of ups and downs. We also decided to try the main roads for a while before returning to the byways. This worked well because the main road was empty.
Incidentally I found out that this is where Cyrano de Bergerac comes from. I was never sure.
Before I get onto why we felt like real cyclists, i must mention two look-alikes I spotted (I'm always looking out for these!)
First I saw 'Chris Williams, my lovely ex-colleage walking along the pavement in Perigeaux!
Not long after I saw a dead-ringer for my good friend, and again ex colleage, Wilf Basley. No it wasn't just your random bald guy with a tache, it was spot on. Admittedly he was a good 20 years older than Wilf, had very sticky out ears, a thin emaciated body and only two teeth. But it was him! I got some photos to prove it. I may upload one to the blog when I get a mo
Back to the ride.
Today the sun came out.
Today the wind turned.
We stopped at Brantome (pictured) for a coffee, then we began the long climb out of the town. Not too steep (no steeper than Tog Hill) but quite long, maybe 7km. We felt good on the climb and tapped out a nice little rhythm. Eventually the top came into view and as we came over the crest we realised how high we'd climbed. It looked like the entire Dordoyne was way below us. We could see a long and empty road disappearing into the distance, down and down and down. This was too good an opportunity to miss. I started to turn the pedals and pick speed, 20, 30 miles per hour. Then I could see that in about 200 yards that the road suddenly fell away much more steeply. Hitting the 'edge' at a good speed I smoothly flicked both gear shifts - the front onto the big and the back onto the small. The iPod, on random play, had just clicked onto Led Zeppelin's Kashmir. This was certainly not the time for 15 mins of freewheeling, this was a time to get every last bit of speed out of the hog! Pushing faster and faster I went for it. Down and down. Legs pumping like pistons. Elbows tucked in. Chin on the bars. Eventually the hill levelled off but i just kept going. I was in the groove. On the rivetts! I felt like Martin Early on the descent into Pau in the 1989(?) Tour de France. I wanted to keep that big cog turning as long as possible. Eventually, exhausted, I slowed and came to a halt. I turned to look for jc, she must be miles behind. But no! There she was, flushed and gasping right behind me! She'd 'sensed the moment' at the top of the hill and managed to get on my wheel for the tow!
The open road for me!