Montagu.

Day 3: Saumur to Morthemer

Distance: 133.36
Trip distance: 443.24
Av: 18.0kph
Max: 44.4kph
Time: 07:22:10

Montagu’s Harriers: 1, maybe 2
Deer carcasses: 1/2 (front end)
Large squashed snakes: 1
Cuckoos: 2 (you know the drill)

Today couldn’t have begun any more differently from yesterday’s ride. I woke up in my hotel room feeling refreshed and recovered from the challenging ride the day before, and most importantly everything was dry and packed away ready to get back on the road.

After a huge breakfast (involving another spillage…) I headed out into a gloriously sunny morning, setting off at 09:10 and heading south out of Saumur, soon finding myself climbing gradually through dense woodland. This lasted for the next 15km or so, and appeared to be France’s answer to Area 51. The entire forest was some kind of military training area, with signs on either side warning road users not to enter the forest, and barriers blocking all the paths and roads leading in for anything other than military vehicles.

After leaving the forest I passed through a little town called Fontevraud-L’abbaye, and as I stopped for a rest a group of 40 or more cyclists, all dressed in identical jerseys and caps, and all riding vintage steel-framed road bikes, climbed the hill into the village, which resulted in a lot of bonjouring from me to them and them to me (insert Chuckle Brothers joke). Leaving Fontevraud, I rode through vast expanses of farmland, and spotted what turned out to be a Montagu’s Harrier (probably – found out courtesy of a phonecall to my Uncle) flying low over a field of barley.

The rest of the day, while not being particularly noteworthy, was very rural and picturesque, and involved a fair amount of climbing as the temperature hovered around 33C all afternoon, peaking at 34 at one point. This turned what would have been a really enjoyable afternoon of riding into a bit of a slog towards the end of the day, but it was still great riding.

I passed through Mirebeau, skirted round the edge of Poitiers (which looked large, uninviting, and busy), then pushed on through the final 25km or so to Morthemer, suffering towards the end due to the effect riding in 30+ degrees all afternoon had had on my legs.

I quickly found my host for the night, Anna, who I’d got in touch with through WarmShowers.org. A garage full of bikes and tandems in various states of repair was a good sign straight away, and she showed me round the house and then to my room, with a huge comfy looking bed.

Anna works as an engineer at the nuclear power plant a few km from Morthemer (so THAT’S what those two huge chimneys I could see from miles away were), and has been the perfect host – we’ve spent the evening looking at maps, chatting about bikes and travel (she’s just come back from a cycling trip in Andalusia) and she cooked a huge bowl of pasta and pesto for me – perfect cycling food.

We’re having an early start tomorrow, setting off at 7am when she leaves for work, and she’ll cycle with me for a few km to put me on a nearby bike path she knows that will get me onto my route for the day, rather than using a busy road.

Day three has been another great day, but a real challenge in the heat, and I’m more tired tonight than I was after days one and two. Time to get my head down, and then a genuinely shorter day tomorrow at 90km or so, instead of the 150/150/133 I’ve done over the last three days.

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