It all comes down to the weather. Just like sailing.
Today was the first nice day. Breakfast was at 7am French time. It's still dark for an hour.
No porridge and bananas, no full English, probably need to say full Irish - which does exist.
Just a little bowl of crap cereal that tastes like cardboard and a croissant that breaks into a million flakes that go everywhere and your hands are covered in grease. This isn't going to be enough for my big day.
I had done some research on the route and the first big town was Vitre, which just happened to have a McDonalds. Before you all start criticising, they don't do kebabs, so I'm not breaking a promise. Instead there's a breakfast special which gives you two egg and bacon muffins, an orange juice and latte coffee. Now we're talking. I'd like to point out that means two eggs - lots of protein for muscle repair, two muffins for carbs to keep me going and we gloss over the bacon. So that was the plan.
I left hotel in Fougeres just before 8.30am, there was a mist over the ground and it was 7C. That's flipping cold. My finger ends lost feeling and my glasses steamed up so I couldn't see where I was going. Sadly google doesn't solve that. So I had to ride for a while with naked eyes, a very new experience. The French do cycle tracks so much better than britain. For quite a few miles I was on a trail way, an abandoned train line running through the countryside. Even better than the ones in Dorset. With the mist gradually being burnt off by the sun - yes it does exist, the views and atmosphere were amazing. If only I could see where I was going and had operational fingers. Overall though, brilliant start. I started thinking this trip might just have been a good move.
Arrived in Vitre after a couple of hours. Another of these stunning French towns built around an old castle, but there's always on a bloody hill, which makes the last km punishing and all the hairpins confuse google. So I have to admit google got me lost - not my fault!! I'm desperate for McMuffins, having spent the last two hours fantasying. Turned out I cycled right past the place. Now you'd think you can't miss a McM the size of a office block, but the French hate the whole concept, especially in such an historic place, so it was cunningly disguised so only those in the know would recognise it.
I finally stopped 4km later when I saw a road sign advertising it and asked this child - well a 20 year old looks like a child to me - where was McD. He didn't understand. How can a 20 year old not know who McD are? I went mad on the French accent and eventually he got it and gave me directions. So straight back literally 4km, almost ride straight past it again, but twig at the last minute. I have to tell you that breakfast went down brilliantly; I was even sat with the sun in my face. No guilt whatsoever. Just 8km added to my big day.
The plan was to stop regularly for food and coffee but the French have made this difficult. Every village and small town has a flipping bypass. Google wouldn't let me deviate. Even this B-road equivalent avoids all habitation. At the 80km point I'm in bad shape. One cyclist I met once said this is referred to as bonking - not sure if he was just having me on. Certainly none of that other bonking malarkey going on. Anyway, it's at this point I resort to the cyclist rescue, a date. Thanks to Dave who furnished my supply courtesy of Tesco. Even though the remaining ones are now a year old, and the outsides are a bit crusty, the sugar rush is amazing. It's almost like engaging hyperdrive. Sadly it doesn't fix the aching backside, but it gets me through the next 10km to Chateaubriand. Was expecting it to be amazing - has a big sign on the outskirts, but it's now a bit past it. I'm getting desperate to find a cafe, surely there must be one. After cycling around the place getting more and more panicked spy a dodgy looking place, looking locked up, locals only, don't even think about opening the door. But outside is a sign announcing a 3 course menu for 13 euro. I'll fight my way in if I have to. Must remember to get hold of an Irish flag.
A starter that included the word salad and had everything in it, even things I know I don't like, but interestingly in France they taste good. Sautéed turkey fillet and chips which I smother with salt, hoping that will keep the cramps at bay, then ice cream and lots of recently baked bread. Place was full of local men, smoking Gaulois, or however you spell it. I sat in the corner and hoped they didn't notice the aroma of my kit. I noticed all my plates were totally clean when I finished, whereas everyone else was leaving half of each dish. I thought about giving them all a lecture on doing lots of exercise, but decided it wasn't the place.
I'm now on a roll. Only 30km or so to go and I'm full. There's always something though. All throughout the day the wind has been building from nothing first thing, to now a serious breeze. And it's on the bloody nose. Just like sailing! So there was a bit more e-bike power applied than usual, but what the hell, I was going to make it and had those extra 8km to deal with.
So I'm in the hotel just north of Nantes, ready to make a dash to the coast tomorrow.
There's no restaurant nearby, but it's next to a massive hypermarket. I've got this taste for something nice as a reward for a hard day.
It wasn't my fault. I could only buy these amazing real fruit raspberry tarts, like only the French can make, in multipacks, so I'm going to have to eat all of them and be sick.
Distance of my big day 130km
Total distance fo far 340 km. Av speed 20km/hour.