Retrospective blog update:
Wednesday 18th June
Neufchâtel en Bray to Marines, then a further 20km to a campsite.
Average speed: 20.5km/h
Max speed: 53.8km/h
Cycling time: 06:18:26
Trip total: 332.1km
This was an absolutely huge day, and probably the most challenging of the whole trip. It made such a difference having the two girls for company, and we were able to help each other through the tough bits and keep our spirits high. It would have been difficult alone.
The day began with a huge thunderstorm at 05:30, which lasted for a good couple of hours. It was right over the campsite for quite a while, with constant claps of thunder and flashes of lightning. It eventually passed, but it continued to rain for a while, so we were delayed and didn’t set off from the campsite until 11:00.
We rejoined the Avenue Verte immediately, and were treated to more of the same perfect, flat, traffic free Tarmac that we’d been enjoying the day before between Dieppe and Neufchâtel. After 15km or so we just made it to a tunnel underneath a road as the heavens opened. The rain was absolutely torrential, so we decided to wait until it started to ease. At one point I knocked my helmet off my bike and it started floating off along the road as the water was so deep. We’d passed a couple of English cyclists in their 60s a short time earlier, and wondered where they had got to as they didn’t join us I the tunnel. They appeared as the storm was finishing and it turned out they’d been attempting to shelter under a tree just round the corner, unaware of the tunnel we were in. They were absolutely drenched.
After 20 minutes or so the rain stopped, and it started to get sunny. It would stay this way until the late afternoon/early evening. We set off along the Avenue again, and it finished a short time later. The route then took us along tiny, rural lanes, and the countryside began to get more and more hilly. There were some really long, hard climbs, but we were rewarded with some fantastic winding descents.
30km or so into the day we suffered the first puncture of the trip. Alice suddenly realised her rear tyre was completely flat, and we stopped outside a farm while she fixed it, taking on food and water while we waited.
We then pushed on to the next major town, Gournay en Bray, having cycled a total of about 50km. We had a huge lunch of bread, cheese, olives and fruit, and rested for a good hour, stopping at a cafe for coffee as well.
The next stage of the ride, from Gournay to Marines, was extremely challenging. We too the D129 out of Gournay, and climbed almost constantly for what seemed like an eternity. By this time it was 28 degrees in the sunshine. We finally reached a plateau and cloud see storms clouds ahead of us, with the occasional flash of lightning. This was directly in line with our route…
The road began to drop down off the plateau, and then the rain began. I can’t remember where we stopped, but at some point the rain became too heavy to cycle in, and the roads were like rivers, so we stopped and took shelter in a bus stop.
We weren’t sure what to do, as there was no sign of the rain easing at all, and the prospect of pushing on and putting up our tents in such heavy rain was slightly worrying. After 45 minutes or so the rain did start to lessen, and we decided that the only option was to push on and try to make it to Marines, where we would reassess the situation and work out what to do.
We cycled the remaining 25km or so to Marines in the rain, and thankfully it was mostly down hill, so we kept up a really high pace. Unfortunately there was one major climb on this section, and of course half-way up the hill was the time my bike chose to get its first puncture. The only positive was that by this point the rain had pretty much stopped. We pulled into a lay-by and I replaced the inner tube as quickly as I could. It could have been a soul-destroying situation to be in, but we all kept our spirits high and were laughing by the time we were back on the road.
We eventually got to Marines at around 20:00 (I can’t remember exactly when – the time wasn’t important!), and were all starving. The only place that was open, apart from an expensive restaurant, was a pizzeria, so we bought a couple of pizzas and ate them in the takeaway. Mine was absolutely huge, and I really needed it.
After we’d eaten, I had a look at where the next campsite was. The PDF route guide that I’d brought along had an arrow pointing to the east of Marines, and said the campsite was 4 miles away, so this is what we’d planned for. To my horror, the GPS showed it was actually going to be a further 20km, and we’d already done over 100km. I decided it would be best to keep the whole truth from the girls, and said it was only about 12km or so… I confessed to this the following day, and they agreed that ignorance was possibly the best option under the circumstances…!
Fortunately, after an initial hilly section, most of the route to the campsite was downhill, and included a breathtaking steep descent of perhaps 1km in length (I’ve checked this on the GPS data since, and this descent was an awesome 4km in length! Probably the most enjoyable and quick descent of the trip).
When we were 7km from the site we passed through a village and saw a sign for a municipal campsite 700m down the road, so went to have a look for it. All we found was a bizarre, abandoned, derelict site, full of run down looking camping huts. It was really eerie, especially at dusk, and we got out as quickly as we could! It was like something you’d expect to find in an exclusion zone 30 years after a nuclear meltdown. Bizarre.
We set off again, and eventually made it to our campsite at 23:00, after a gruelling 12 hour day which had given us one challenge after another. We put the tents up straight away, and all fell asleep pretty much immediately.
Update for the next day, the last stage of the ride into Paris, will follow. That was so tedious to type out on an iPhone! I can be bothered to check for any mistakes, Andrew, so don’t point them out!!!
No photos from this day. It should be obvious why.