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Dogs glorious dogs, and the return of the one legged cyclist

Day 3: Chateau de Pizy - Serves sur Rhone


View TK Cycle - Day 3 on Gelli's travel map.

Distance – 110.5 miles (176.8 km)
Max speed – 48.6mph ( 77.6 kmh)

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Hard at work... But it has finally stopped raining

I'll say one thing about fancy French Chateauxs. They really know how to put on a breakfast spread. A happy stomach and bulging pockets later, it was time to attempt the impossible. I had to somehow get on my bike. It was a serious challenge. The interesting discovery that it was for the longest day, over 50km further than the previous day didn't necessarily help my mood either. 165km was scheduled. Torbe, the second half of team-Bianchi (with the Kaizer) was stuck searching for a bike store after his bike come down with sympathy for the Kaizer's Bianchi, when it's rear dérailleur had decided that it was time to retire...

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After a less than exciting start, with the weather still overcast we eventually found our way onto a handful of decent roads, and I began to realise that it was actually easier to ride a bicycle than it was to do other physical exertions, such as standing or walking. And my back seemed to be fine as well. And just like that, the miles started to roll past. Almost without realising it, we had passed Lyon, skirted the logistics warehouses by Satolas airport. Then as it started to rain and get a bit grim again, we got lost trying to find a road out of Heyrieux, and a feeling of dread started to encompass me.

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Sometimes, you've just got to go...

Then, whilst taking a comfort break under some trees, we were passed by two lovely scantily clad girls out jogging, and suddenly, everything started to work again. Kind of. After about 5minutes. We left Heyrieux via a lovely little 14% back road. Only 200m or so, but in retrospect, perhaps trying to sprint up it wasn't my cleverest idea. But after then lying on the concrete for a few minutes in pain, something happened. I have no idea what.

But the rain stopped, the sun started making occasional fleeting appearances, and i finally worked out how to sit to minimise pain as we sped towards Vienne. Two were blown out the back, and then as happens periodically with lunchtime on the horizon, Hasse and Göran started slowly winding things up. On a small rise, we spread right out before hitting a long rolling downhill section, which turned into a good 10km descent. By the time we had hit the bottom a while later, there were only 5 of is left. Probably this was because we hadn't actually looked at the map, and had thus gone the wrong way....

A long wait followed before phone contact established that they had all been waiting in the town centre for several minutes, had met the van and were happily eating lunch. But on our attempts at then finding the town centre, we even found a real bike shop. Which was lucky, as as we then rolled down to the river and on to the bike path into centre trying to find the others, the Kaizer's bike gave out properly, and Team Bianchi was no more.

We walked the last few hundred metres into town in glorious summer sunshine, and joined the rest basking in the sun on the steps to the cathedral. Vienne really is a lovely town, a former Roman town and home to an important Archbishop-ry. Quite what it is thus doing being twinned with Port Talbot, I’m not quite sure. But it worked. A couple of hours later, spirits were good, Team Bianchi were both on there way to getting fixed and we were well over half way, though it was suddenly realised that time was passing fast.

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Having lunch in Vienne on the steps of the lovely cathedral

I like hills, I always have. And short Steep ones have always been a particular favourite of mine. However, I’m not a big fan having climbs without any kind of warm up. Thus, as a handful of us headed off after lunch (the rest would follow when Team Bianchi were up and running), and we got about 120metres through Vienne, I was slightly perturbed to see it suddenly go up. Sharply. Vienne is on the Rhone in the river valley, situated at roughly 160metres altitude. Barely 2kilometres later, we had risen to almost 400m, up a steep and narrow (if lovely) hair-pined road. It was slightly perturbing to see the 4 guys behind me after the first 50metres, then 100m later, nobody at all. By the time it had levelled out near the top, I decided I had to stop and wait, simply to make sure that I had gone the correct way. When i realised that I had, i could at least get to watch people suffering if looking surprisingly happy as they passed me.

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B-G (reading the map as always), Christer and Mats (behind) and Frederik, after the steep parts and near the top of the climb out of Vienne, looking surprisingly happy

Some days are characterised by certain themes. Today’s theme is barking dogs. Lots and lots of f*cking barking dogs. Large ones. Oh, and getting lost. Every few hundred metres we seemed to come upon an even louder and larger barking dogs. And we got lost. A while later, just as everybody had caught up and we were back together as one, Christer managed to puncture and then fall off in the process of stopping. Cunningly, the puncture was fixed, but without anybody checking the tyre. Muppets. Thus, five metres later, the same thing that had punctured it first time around, punctured it again. But of course, by then, all bar three had continued without realising. And we’d gone the wrong way.

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A couple of pictures telling a familiar story. Yup, we're lost again... (before lunch trying to work our way around Satolas Airport, and then in the afternoon, down to 7 after the puncture and having lost people in all directions - who all arrived before us)

What followed was an ever increasing number of backtracks, and loosing of people. Retrospectively, it was thus probably unlucky that I ended up in a strong group of 7, which then whittled down to 5 as the scorching heat, distance, and in particular speed. The speed was partly due to some fantastic roads, partly due to Hasse and Göran deciding they wanted some fun, and partly in trying to get to the finish before it got dark. For the last 90mins or so, we average well over 25mph (40 kmh), and were often significantly higher. It was great. I started feeling like a cyclist again. Flying through great Foreign scenery with serious and good company, and feeling good despite having already come 100miles that day. It was pure magic. And the closer we got, the faster we went. We had even just about lost Team Bianchi and were down to the last 3 when I suddenly heard the most amazing cracking sound and was treated to a wonderful sensation of, well, lots and lots of pain, as my (good) right knee decided to go on instant strike and more or less disintegrated there and then. It wasn’t fun.

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1980 Swedish national champion, Göran Bakfors, resplendant in his yellow jersey, on the charge after lunch, but before it started to go slightly pear shaped

As Team Bianchi then passed me, I was left to reflect on the fact that I could have done something easy like be a brain surgeon, raise a dozen kids with Kiki, become a Nuclear weapons inspector in North Korea or have been Turkmenbashi the greats right hand man, but oh no, I had to try and recreate my youthful stupidity and get on a damned bike again. I was reduced to a combination of rolling-cycling on just one leg (my left, and yes, my left is the one which historically has the worst knee and the one whose ankle I had utterly b*ggered once and for all in the curious stair falling incident years ago, which had more or less finally ended any cycling exploits which could even be considered vaguely serious) with my right one hanging free, slightly comically looking.

Thank god for clipless pedals is all I can say.

My spirits were only marginally improved by the fact that the road was perfectly surfaced and rolling slowly downhill. Yes, it helped me continue (and keep up a decent-ish speed), but it was a great stretch to be going down at full-tilt. Maybe 20mins later, I reached a village near the bottom where the guys were waiting to tell me the good news that we were lost and nobody actually knew which chateau we were suppose to be going to. A few phone calls later, and opinion was still divided. Some rolled back up the hill, some stood around. I lay on the floor and pondered superstring theory. Or something. Then, having received news from somewhere, everybody headed back the way we had come for a few km.

And this time in it’s fickeltyness (I have no idea if that’s a word or not, but I like it) gravity wasn’t going to help me. As I watched them head off, Mats and Frederik, the two we had jettisoned off the back on our run down suddenly appeared, convinced that we were actually in the right place [the village had a large and suspiciously obvious chateaux like building on the cliff above us], and went to investigate. I did the only thing I possibly could in the situation, and lay down again. At that point, the support van appeared, confirming that we were indeed supposed to be somewhere else, and trying to get me to quit and get a lift. Sometimes I can be a stupid stubborn MF, and thus declined. I couldn’t possibly quit only 4km from the end, however much I would have liked to. Thus I embarked on an agonizing, uphill, one leg struggle to reach the chateau. 1km from the end, the van again tried to get me to quit. Apparently, I looked as though I was in a small amount of pain.

Somehow though, I made it, and rolled in alone, although not quite last. It later transpired that only B-G and Christer had actually arrived together at the front. Everybody else having arrived in dribs and drabs over the next 90minutes having taken a variety of wrong turns. Mats mentioned that the other chateau actually had looked very nice

A hospital would have been a clever idea. I settled for booze.

Then, just to top off my afternoon, I cunningly, managed to get completely lost inside the chateau searching for a room whose number I didn’t know, and in the corridors of which had no mobile phone coverage. Oh yes. Whilst cartographers can – and do - get lost out in the open from time to time, I am proud of my ability to get lost inside a building which I am reduced to hopping around.

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Sadly for Greg, the day wasn’t topped off with an impressive display of flying cars or even F1 vehicles. Instead we got police. Whilst in a restaurant in a nearby town that evening, some presumably bored (and lost) kid had decided that he liked the look of the GPS machine on the windscreen of the van so much, that it should be his. A broken Swedish van window later and it indeed was.

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Posted by Gelli 03:46 Archived in France Tagged bicycle

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