Breakfast: 06:45. Transfer: none. Start time: 08:00. Distance: 198 km. Terrain: flat (1300 metres). Climbs: two category 4. Finish: 16:55. Time in the saddle: 7:17 hours.
All measurements include riding to or from the hotel to or from the start/finish.
The official Tour de France website contains loads of information about the various start and finish towns as well as details about the routes and is well worth a visit www.letour.com . I’ve taken a look at this and some other local information too. Some things do stand out which are worthy of note, so each day this section will feature some of the things that have appealed to me for whatever reason.
Normandy, where we spend two full days, is already well-known for camembert, cider and calvados, among other gastronomic delights. But the Utah Beach area where we spend tonight is specifically known for its oyster farms. And it is also the home of Norman Cob. Who? Oh it’s a draft horse, apparently.
Tale from the Tour
Starting out from the bridge over not very troubled water by the picturesque Mont St Michel, today’s ride stayed with the Manche department in Normandy, “manche” being the French word for the English Channel. Could you imagine a French department having the name “Angleterre” in there somewhere? No. Neither can I.
We stayed in one of a number of hotels along a strip where the pros will probably also stay next week. Who knows, perhaps the reigning champion Chris Froome will be able to say that he slept where I slept! Leaving the hotel we rode a couple of km along what was once a causeway and which is now a permanent bridge to the formal start at Mont St Michel.
Riding with Gary, we had Bigfoot on the front until the first feed station at 40 km. Since that section contained the first Cat 4 climb I proclaimed myself the first King of the Mountains (that’s a competition within the main competition which is of course for the yellow jersey for the fastest overall time).
The second section was pretty nippy and we backed off a bit for the remainder of the ride. Going through Granville was beautiful with its pleasure boat bobbing sea. At the second feed station a local journalist happened to be there and was curious about what we were doing and why. As I speak French I was able to tell her and it should appear in the paper on Thursday. We will be long gone then but I have asked that the article and photo be emailed to me. The photo is of Will Wates’ parents, brother Rick and me. Bigfooters will be happy to know that I was wearing the club shirt.
At one point we came across a huge number of riders of all ages, including some little ones who were kept upright by their parents so that they would not be blown over by the wind, on an organised ride. I asked one of the blokes what it was all about and it was basically a works outing from a local milk producer. 400 people taking part and 700 working there. So if there is no milk for my cornflakes tomorrow then I’ll know why!
After getting to the east side of the penisula, we dropped south to the finish at Utah Beach. Along the way there were a number of monuments and I noticed that the road names were all dedicated to specific soldiers. There will be stories there, to be researched another day.
Penseé du Pédaleur
“Train hard, race easy”. Well in my case it’s “ride easy” as I’m not racing anyone. Today was a good introduction and not as tough as many of my training rides. Distance was long, but flat to undulating and we could bowl along fairly well without “burning too many matches”.
A reflection on today’s ride comes from the fact that we ended at Utah Beach, where many lost their lives during WWII. Last year was the first time I had visited any battlefields, when I had a couple of cycling trips to Belgium and had the opportunity to visit Ypres and the surrounding area and some of the carnage of WWI was brought home to me (try visiting the museum near Passchendaele). Anyway, the point is that I was struck by the fact that I have had the privilege to scoot around on my bike this year and last in areas where it was so very different back then.