St Jean de Losne to St Claude

Brutal. That’s the word that sums up Thursday. This is where the biking starts to have a bit of a sting in the tail following on from some nice jaunts through rural France.

The day started in the usual way with packing up our camping spot and eating my pot of porridge. Luckily Dizzy the dog had dried out from her unplanned canal swim the night before. An electrical storm passed through in the night and it left a gray day behind for todays antics.

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I thought I was going to be lucky and be cycling too slowly to catch up with the rain but it found me and stuck with me 90% of the day. Today was going to be a tall order. The destination was St Claude, about 70ish miles away but it was by no means going to be flat. Rain plus hills isn’t a great combination and it took me a while to get my upper body clothing right so I stayed warm and dry-ish. As for my bottom half….drenched.

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The planned lunch stop was a quiet, subdued affair on my part. I think Amy could tell I was finding it tough so she left me with my thoughts. It’s so valuable having a support crew on this leg. It’s so challenging and the thought of seeing the van around the next bend with Amy and Dizzy is a great motivator. If things are going well I press on, but if I need a pick me up I’ll stop off for a quick chat and some snacks.

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I knew this hill was coming up….and in thought I might be able to give it a go. Who was I trying to kid? About 400m up, tucked in to the right to avoid the heavy traffic including HGVs, I was barely moving. I made it another 100m to a pull in where Amy was and I had to admit failure. We had a quick chat and agreed that to try and go the rest of the way would be too dangerous. In effect it was a massively steep dual carriageway with no pavement. I chucked the bike in the van and got a ride up for the remainder of the hill and jumped out at the top to recover. Not a good feeling to have to do that but close encounters with HGVs aren’t the best at any point in the day.

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Pressing on in the relentless rain and up relentless hills was the only thing to do. Not even iPod could make a dent on my mental state this afternoon. The one saving grace was that the scenery suddenly changed and I was surrounded by mountains. As my feet sloshed in my bike shoes, I was looking around and appreciating the awesome scenery. By 4pm it bloody stopped raining! That made the last 2hours of riding far more enjoyable. Plus, I found the longest downhill I’ve ever ridden….7km of pure downhill!!!

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It was a controlled descent as the roads were pretty soggy but I was soooooo happy to be travelling down instead of up! In the back of my mind I was thinking “What if there’s a 7km climb the other side”. I decided I didn’t care. That descent took me just 6km from St Claude and it was going to be a hotel night tonight. I had so much wet kit to dry that it was a bit of a no brainer and I felt that a mini reward was due. Route planning for tomorrow has been a bit intimidating.

To get to Geneva there is no alternative but to go up and over some quite big hills (mountains). I’ve picked my route and will get well rested for an early start tomorrow. I’d love to make it to Annecey but let’s see how it goes.

As I go on my way I’m raising money for Sport Relief. Here’s the link if you’d like to donate. It would be great to reach £1500: http://my.sportrelief.com/sponsor/alpinestarstothealps

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