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Day 7, Vendee Velo

Set off with positive spirits, forecast to be sunny by the afternoon and warming up.

All I've got to do is get over that bridge.

Within 100metres of the hotel I'm stopped at traffic lights at a complicated junction in the middle of the village. I can't help noticing that at all of the traffic lights in France, we cyclists are catered for. There's a repeated set of small lights right at eye level, so you can't miss what's going on.

It made me think about how it works in Britain. Councils are feeling like they need to encourage cycling, as the roads are jammed and we're dying of air pollution. So one idea is to let the cyclists get to the front at traffic lights and then they can all be run down by the vehicle behind in one go. What they don't allow for is that this new cycles area at the front wasn't envisaged when the man put the lights in the road and the result is that when you're on your bike the lights are directly above your head, you can't see them. You try leaning right back but you're in danger of falling over or slipping a disc. So you end up not knowing when they turn green, piss off the car or truck behind who then hoots you or runs you down as he's in a hurry. France is just nice to cyclists

I spent the next hour cycling down the island of Ile Noirmoutier. towards the bridge. I am retracing my route from yesterday so google is redundant and I spend the time preparing an escape plan if I hit trouble on the bridge. I decide to go for the pedestrian walkway on one side, which I saw was open yesterday. Make a last minute navigational error, notice the bridge rising up next to me and I'm not on it. Just manage to slam the brakes on before I'm in the sea. This is too complicated. Decide to be a car, engage hyperdrive and go for it. The view from the centre of the bridge is amazing, I'm really high up. I'd stop for a while to take it all in if it didn't mean getting splattered by some lorry.

Once onto the continent proper I breath a sigh of relief, that's the worst part of the day overcome.

Just got to navigate to Les Sables D'Olonne, can't be hard, keep the sea on your right. Trouble is google takes you for a wander.

Its at this point I play a blinder. There's a notice advertising the Vendee Velo by the side of the road. The Vendee regional government is really keen on cycling and they've built a network of proper cycle tracks. One of the tracks will take me all along the coast. It's seriously impressive.

Proper constructed cycle tracks, usually as wide as a road lane and signage. You only have to think do I know which way to go and there's a big green sign showing you the way. The track takes me the entire way to Les Sables, 80 odd km, and that's just one small part of it. Judging from the signs, which look very new, I imagine it's quite a new thing. ie since Brexit. Might explain why there's regular passport checks to make sure it's only EU citizens taking advantage. As I come up to a check I shout Irlandais and they salute and wave me through.

The Vendee Velo is so good I ignore google. There was one example as I'm going through a wood. Google wants me to go on a track which would be challenging on a proper mountain bike, despite the most groomed, flat wide VV track next to it. It's been the best cycle of the trip so far. Along the coast, so close to the sea at times if I'm distracted and veer to the right I'll be in it. Go through St Gillies Croix de Vie. Very pretty harbour and even a line of Beneteau Figaro 3's in the boatyard to remind me I once went sailing.

With navigation sorted the other day's mission is to improve the in flight catering. After about an hour and a half I decide it's time for a coffee stop. I've got a solution, keep your eye open for a church spire, there's a chance there's a catering establishment nearby. Lunch came about in a different way. I'm going along the VV track by the side of a forest and I hear quite loud 80's rock music, which it turns out is coming from a cafe. Brilliant. Croque Monsieur and salad does the trick. I'm sat right next to the speaker taking in the vibe. The cafe owner asks me if the music is annoying me. No, not at all I reply and point out I'm the only one here who can understand the words as Freddie Mercury punches out "I want to be free". Remember him in drag pushing a hoover around...

The VV route gets better and better as I approach Les Sables and then suddenly I'm in the town. The sun is properly out and it's warm. I'm too early to check in to the hotel so I cycle around the harbour for a bit and sit on the breakwater entrance in the sunshine watching the boats going in and out.

Tomorrow, I might be stripping off.

Distance today 93km, total so far 511km


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