Tougher today in comaparison to the easy warm-up ride on Day One: hillier, but nothing major, rather some picturesque and familiar-feeling Kent/Surrey-type climbs, mostly short and steep, with the pretty hairpinned Côte de Cléry just outside les Andelys early on. A bit like Box Hill, and they run an annual hill climb for cars here. The weather a mixed bag of overcast, drizzle then sun as we headed south along small country roads through Vernon, Blaru, Guanville, Rouvres, Coulombes and Maintenon, then over the river Eure and on towards Chartres. Steve and Graham in the Support Team - shouting encouragement through a loudhailer over the top of music belting out of the roof-mounted speakers - certainly made things easier. The fact they had been spraying the roads with fluo chalk-based line marker paint at each significant junction meant that none of us had to ever look at our route cards, so we could really concentrate on our riding and making good time. The only downside to this is the fact that I have no real recollection of any of the towns and villages we went through. I suppose this is what it must be like to be a racer, rather than a tourist. Do the pros ever appreciate the places they travel to? Or is it just one hotel after another, focus on getting the job done, and then leave? Thank God I didn't decide - for it was purely that that stopped me - becoming a pro then. Again - a bit of organisation and we were riding through-and-off quite well to eat up the kilometres. Les would have problems eating anything at all from now on though, since his bridge fell out, but luckily was quickly found. Many phone calls back to Hannah in the UK followed that evening to get hold of the dentist to see if super-glueing it back in was acceptable.
Barjouville is basically an industrial estate outside Chartres, and the Hotel Mercure was exactly what you'd expect: modern, clean, tidy, formulaic and a touch boring, with beers (as we'd find out the next morning) at 4 euro for a demi. Nowhere to eat that night other than the adjacent Buffalo Grill, which was packed. I thought that France was a nation of food lovers, and yet here we are, Sunday night, and they're queueing up around the block to stuff themselves with spicy chicken wings and enchilladas at a Tex-Mex-themed eatery on the French equivalent of the Purley Way. No nutritional value whatsoever - if we'd been racing this trip for seven days, I think we'd all be abandonning the next day with La Fringale. Jamesy was already complaining before the meal about the onset of a runny arse, so it wasn't looking good in the toilet department for me, the man sharing a room with him.
Riding well together as a group. It would never last.
Looking for Les' teeth.
A quiet, sleepy village for Sunday lunch - crêpes - and with that jersey we could very well be back in the 60s.
Côte de Cléry - the first real climb of the trip.
Did we bump into an Italian pro training in Northern France? A unique fair-skinned one whose staple diet is Bourbon biscuits perhaps? I know that looking back in a few years' time, the wearing of sponsored 'pro' kit is going to look really naff - even if it did come courtesy of Lampre themselves.
Belgian Bracket: Elite Eight
3 hours ago