I awoke at about 6.30am and instantly regretted it. I was not feeling exactly 100%. Memories of the previous evening’s drinking came back to me and I was reminded of my plan to imbibe carefully on the trip until the final evening in Paris. As a group (well, most of us), we have very little will power and I was feeling the results of that. Still, 70 miles to do that day so no point in feeling sorry for myself.
I met up with the others over breakfast (a very limited choice of bread/pastries/cereals) and soon began to revive slightly with a combination of coffee, juice and croissant. I was pleased to note that I wasn’t the only one suffering and there was some mild groaning around the breakfast table. We did manage to get packed up and ready to go by 9.00am however, we were immediately met with the need to go shopping as one of John’s cycling shoes had broken the day before – the sole almost completely detached from the body of the shoe.
A quick online search revealed a nearby Decathlon so we headed off with a brief tour of the town centre of Dieppe. We then discovered that Decathlon was located at the top of what I can only describe as a medium sized mountain! It was a long and slow pedal up the south face of Mt Decathlon and many of us arrived at the top feeling less recovered from the night before than we had after breakfast. It must be downhill from here right? John managed to source some new shoes but then we spent ten minutes trying to work out how to fix the SPD cleats. It transpired that we needed to cut a plastic cover off each shoe, which seemed a bit strange. Cleats attached, we worked out a route to the start of the Avenue Verte path and headed off (fortunately it was mainly downhill), albeit somewhat later than expected at about 10.30am.
The sun was out by now but not too hot so it was very pleasant riding through the quiet southern suburbs of Dieppe and we soon picked up the path which wound its way through some small lakes for a mile or two. It’s always a joy to be cycling off the roads and we were in high spirits as we headed south. We soon broke into more rural countryside and the views from the AV were very pleasant. The path was easy to follow and it gave distances to certain towns on or close to the route which helped keep track of distance. Given how well signposted it was, I decided not to bother following the route on my Elemnt Bolt – it seemed pointless frankly. More on that later!
We worked our way through to Neufchatel en Bray where we came across what appeared to be a former station building converted into a cafe. Given it was 12.30 and we had covered 25 of the planned 70 miles, it seemed like a helpful lunch spot. The food on offer was typically french and appealing but, nearly 2 hours later, when we were finally served with lunch, it had lost a lot of its original appeal. It’s easy to forget that the pace of life runs slower in France and we were well and truly caught out by it here. Having said that, it was only just after 2.30pm when we set off again and we only had about 45 miles to go (we thought) so spirits were still high and the sun was still shining.
We continued south on the path which was fine until we came to some works that diverted the path from its original route but it wasn’t too problematic although the signage wasn’t great. It did give us the opportunity to stock up on water and food at a supermarket just outside Les Bruyeres. The heat was beginning to build up and tiredness was already setting in so the short break was welcome.
It was at about this time that my Elemnt Bolt ran out of battery. Strange – that’s not happened before after just a few hours so I put it down to perhaps not charging it correctly the night before. No matter, the route was well signposted so it shouldn’t be an issue. It wasn’t right up until the moment we got a few miles further and the path seemingly stopped in Forges-Les-Eaux. There was a dirt track carrying on but we headed off down the side road and saw the signs pointing back the way we came for the Avenue Verte. Rather frustratingly, nothing seemed to give us directions for the way we were mean to go to continue south. We back tracked to the dirt path and tried that before giving up at the next road crossing – that was definitely not the right way. This is where a fully charged and route loaded computer would have come in handy!
We consulted the online maps as we now did not have the route on my computer and I was able to recall roughly where the route went from when I was planning it. We headed back into F-L-E and eventually re-found the route. Suddenly we were onto the roads. Very nice roads to be fair but we found ourselves going up and down a series of rolling hills that we hadn’t expected. We were however following the route signs (which were very clear) and it was easy enough to navigate. We went through Pommereaux and Haussez and then Menerval before heading towards Dampierre-en-Bray. Legs were definitely beginning to tire at this point and we were having to stop quite frequently to refuel as water was disappearing at a rate of knots as the route got hillier.
The stops were welcome but we seemed to have become trapped in a space time vortex. Every time we consulted the navigational oracle we didn’t seem to be getting any closer to the finish and our expected distance for the day of 70 miles was looking increasingly on the low side.
It was good to pick up the newly converted path of a former railway line at Gournay and this made again for easy traffic free cycling; once again we started to pick up some reasonable pace on the level ground. It was around this time that, having already covered over 70 miles, it occurred to me why we were having to go further than expected. When I’d mapped the route, I’d used two or three diversions from the classic Avenue Verte route which were recommended by some regular users. One of these detours cut out most of the hilly section mentioned previously and made the route easier to navigate! Damn! I mentioned this out of honesty but didn’t get the best of reception from the others!
We had a final stop near Parc St Paul just west of Beauvais before making the final push to the hotel – an Ibis Styles in Allonne to the south east of the town. We arrived at a much later than expected 8.30pm, tired and hot. It had ended up as a very long day in the saddle. 79.5 miles all in with the Mt Decathlon detour and the lack of planned detours later on. I made very sure to plug my Elemnt Bolt in carefully to ensure it charged for the next day.
The hotel itself was very nice, despite being located in between the motorway and some retail parks. The rooms were large and the staff were incredibly friendly. After a local but late dinner and only a few drinks tonight, I retired thankfully, looking forward to an easier final day in the saddle.