Proposed Route: St Evroult Notre Dame du Bois-Chartres-Santilly
Estimated Mileage: 87 miles/140 km
Actual Route: L'Aigle-Chartres-Orleans
Mileage Covered: 103.7 miles/166 km
Average cycling speed: 17.2 mph
Maximum speed: 31.7 mph
Cycling time: 6 hours 01 minutes.
Terrain: Gently rolling but never steep.
Weather: Cloudy and cool with occasional showers. Wind S-SW Force 3, mainly on the nose.
Degree of Difficulty:
Narrative: Well, today was a ride, and it feels good (if achingly so) to have notched up our first century. Not that it was a particularly pleasant or enjoyable ride: from L'Aigle, we left Lower Normandy to head across to Chartres, and from there descended south to the Loire River at Orleans, following main route nationale roads, straight, busy with fast cars and trucks, not relaxing or fun. But this was never a leg that I was particularly looking forward, rather a day to get in as many miles as we could, to get closer to our destination, as well as to more inviting country which we shall cover over the next several days. Indeed, from here we have an exciting prospect ahead of us: following the Loire River, longest in France, through its middle reaches up towards its source high in the Massif Central.
The highpoint of today was viewing Chartres' magnificent gothic cathedral from several miles away, standing high above the plain like some great sailing ship on the horizon. It dominates this otherwise fairly unremarkable town, and indeed all the surrounding counryside, and as we wheeled our way through the city centre, we paused just long enough to admire its commanding presence, a Saturday market spread out at its feet, the central focus for its citizens as it has been, we imagine, since the 12th century.
Otherwise, the terrain was, well, frankly dull and not very interesting, the straight roads passing over gently undulating terrain planted mainly with fields of wheat, barley and peas. Nello asked Hugh and Harry to try and find some fresh peas so maybe today we'll enjoy a Venetian risi e bisi at the end of the day's ride.
Cycling over this sort of terrain is a new experience for us, more accustomed to the steeper hills of Devon. Though on the face of it, less arduous, nonetheless such terrain requires different discipline and technique. As we clipped along at speeds usually in excess of 20 mph, it was essential to attack the rises, pumping up them in as big a gear as we could push in order to carry ourselves over the crests with our considerable speed and momentum. We thus kept up a high average speed (the 17-plus includes time meandering through Chartres and Orleans), but it was very tiring to do so. So the two-banana legend is slightly misleading: though the terrain could only be rated as such, the ride itself was very hard, and made more arduous by a stiff Force 3 that was mainly on our nose from Chartres to Orleans. I had pretty much had it by mile 85, but a cup of hot tea revived me for the final descent into Orleans where we arrived in the late afternoon quite exhausted, but also exhilarated to have reached the Loire ahead of schedule.
It's now 10.45 pm and I am nearly falling asleep at this machine. Thank you once again for all your emails. It is really good to know that so many of you are following our progress. I'd just like to explain that actually downloading this website each day is quite a considerable task and challenge in itself, fraught with potential and unforseen technical glitches. We've had wires and adaptors stretching across the width of campsite offices, us sitting on the floor trying to do it. At l'Aigle, last night's campsite, there was no telephone. When Hugh tried to access and download at a nearby hotel in the morning, there were problems with a digital exchange. When we arrived here at Orleans, the campsite supervisor was tres sympathique but a new problem arose: an old-fashioned pulse dial rotary phone that required a completely different set of configurations. Still, all of this is very much a part of the Ride for Life challenge and we are getting there, though we ask for your patience if sometimes we are not able to keep this website as current and up-to-the-minute as we would like to.
So, time for bed now: we have another big ride ahead of us tomorrow, but one which I am greatly looking forward to, along the Loire to the great wine towns of Pouilly-sur-Loire and Sancerre. If we reach Pouilly tomorrow, then we shall have earned a rest day on Monday, certainly something to shoot for.
Oh yes, tonight's meal was delicious: insalata tricolore (a variation on a Nello's favorite, made with local Pont L'Eveque cheese instead of mozzarella), minestrone, then sausages cooked on the charcoal grill with a fresh salad.
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