Another long day in which I hoped to get into one day riding distance to Girona or Barcelona. Again, I didn’t have much of an clear understanding of the route and profile and although I was more confident about my abilities to ride to Marseille, I was somewhat uncertain if after 2.5 weeks of riding I could muster the energy to do two back to back 300km+ days.
Day of Journey:
Stage 14, Day 18, May 20th, 2009.
315km (11h 47m)
470km (Train and Bicycle – 14h 20m)
Train (155km), Bicycle (315km)
Total Distance Biked:
2428km (14 stages, three rest days)
None, no computer access.
So What Happened?
I awoke well rested from my garbage box slumber and headed out of Monaco. Before I left I opted for a croissant and a coffee which in most of France is about 2 euros, but in Monaco, it’s six – big mistake. From Monaco it was a whirlwind ride with the morning sunrise through Nice and Cannes. The coastline in amazing and beautiful is not even a significant enough concept to describe it.
I rode hard for the majority of the day and ended the coastal journey at Saint Rapheal. This small town is tucked into the red rocks of the coast and would have been a marvelous city to explore if I had more time. From here, it was inland, and back into the relentless heat. 37 degrees and in the dry, still air. The ride was torture now, with the beauty of the coast behind me, I begged for time to pass unrecognizably fast from now until Toulon – which of course it didn’t. I remembered the saying “Spend an hour with a beautiful woman and it seems like a minute, well, spend a minute riding your bike from Frejus to Toulon in the heat, and it seems like and hour.
Toulon, is no reward for a long ride. The city, I’m sorry to those who live there, gives the worst of first impressions. It is tops on the list for destinations not recommended for cycling. Cars everywhere, no bike lanes, impatient drivers. It was not enjoyable. So I left. I was exhausted, and looked into taking the train to Marseille, but given the time, I just decided to keep riding.
The route to Marseille is up and down and more up. Climbing over the mountains, the day seemed to take forever. It was at the top, about 10 km’s outside of my destination that I met a small group of French picnicers who flagged me down to ask where I was headed. I must have looked lost and exhausted. I was eager to tell them my story and upon hearing it they gave me all sorts of treats, wines, quiche and sausage. Their generosity was incredible. I spoke with them for about 30 minutes and was again on my way. The sun was setting and I needed to get to Marseille.
Marseille is amazing with great boulevards and cycling infrastructure. I cycled around the city for about two hours and then went to the train station. Upon arriving at the train station, there was a train leaving for Bordeaux in 7 minutes. Without thinking more than, “well…it’s going west”, I jumped on. I had no idea when it would arrive in Montpellier, but I knew it would because I looked at the first person I saw and asked “à Montpellier oui?”, to which they replied yes, and so, I was set. I locked up my bike in the bike room and fell asleep on the floor. I must have looked like a drunken, homeless, cyclist. Shortly thereafter, I was awoken by the train attendant kicking my foot and demanding my ticket, which I hadn’t bought. However, I knew from previous trips that I could buy on the train so I paid a slightly higher on-board fare and was on my way.
In the bike storage their was one other person – a normal looking guy, also sitting with his bicycle. He had an old vintage looking Chinese style bike, complete with the brakes that rubbed on the top of the tire. I started speaking with him and before I knew it he had offered a nights stay with himself and his girlfriend in their apartment in Montpellier. Again, generosity that in retrospect seems difficult to believe. I waited on the street wth my bike while he spent an initial 5-10 minutes inside convincing his girlfriend I wasn’t a psychopath. After that, it was superb. We ate well, chatted and I had a much better bed than the previous night. The stage was set for a final day if I could make it. A third 300km day from Montpellier to Girona.
Picture(s) of the Day:
Sunrise in Monaco
…and the other direction. The coastline that is my morning ride.
I was looking forward to having breakfast in Nice.
Cannes and the lifestyles of the rich and famous.
From the Giro, to the F1 Grand Prix, to the Film Fest, the coast was a happening place.
Crossing the mountains into Marseille and it was getting late.
The group, who saw me tired and hungry, were happy to feed me wine, quiche, & sausage for my last few km’s.