So "Le Tour" begins


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Europe » France » Pays-de-la-Loire » Challans
July 18th 2018
Published: July 22nd 2018
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Well after a busy thursday, packing bits into the truck and the bike bags, and fixing the truck (ish), we were on the ferry Friday morning, heading to Calais. For the next 10 days, Dad and I would ride our motorbikes from B&B’s, to see the first part of the Tour de France. This year it would be starting on west coast and then making its way back towards Roubaix along the north coast. Our first stop would be in Challans, around 440 miles from Calais.

The route was fine traffic wise, but it soon got very hot, and the distance was taking its toll, not helped by the sat nav having issues with the power cable, meaning it would shut down just before a turn or middle of a city. By the time we reached the place, it was late and we were both tired and sore from riding the bikes. Unfortunately the room had no air con or a kettle, so we cooked that night, and couldn’t even make a drink. Plus the hotel didn’t have a restaurant so we didn’t eat well that night. The next day was back on the bikes, but only for 12 miles, to Saint Jean de Monts. On arrival, Dad got a bit concerned when an officer with a machine gun walked up to him and tried to talk. It turned out that there was a space next to the road that was just for motorbikes, so we parked there and had an ice cream from the van parked behind us. The timing was perfect, as no soon had we got set up, the promo caravan drove through. We then found a nice shady spot to sit and have a bit of lunch while we waited for the race to arrive. after they had past we sat back down in the shade and relaxed, as everyone else tried to drive home, mostly down the road the police still had closed off. We then realised all the bikers were leaving, which meant our bikes would be sitting in the middle of the road, so Dad went and shifted them to the side, and we continued relaxing.

The next night was just as stiflingly hot, but at least we had room on the bikes this time for shopping, so we at least could have a drink. the facility’s weren't a lot better either, with a toilet cubicle smaller than an airing cupboard and no ventilation, so you proper melted each time, then next door was a shower with no curtain, so you had to mop up the whole bathroom after. Plus Challans is a big town which meant, we couldn’t open the patio doors for the noise, and it was part of a shared balcony, so we never felt secure enough to leave it open. The next day, the route curved back on itself, so we were able to watch the race go by then, race across to the finish line in Roche sur yon, just in time to see the last 15km, and then watch them cross the line. We stayed to see the presentation awards, but too far away for pictures, then headed back. Day three was a team time trial that started and finished in Cholet. I thought I’d picked a quiet spot along the route, as we had to take a bunch of back roads to get there, only to find a huge crowd! Seems to be more popular this year.

Day 5 and we would again hit the route twice, but only because it crossed our path to the next B&B. This was also a fairly big day of riding and would be a late one due to the time we would see the race, and the distance left to go. But again the viewpoints I chose worked out well, and we arrived at the next stop just before 8. This place was a rustic old farmhouse that a couple from London had renovated and turned into a B&B. That night we were lucky, as we hadn’t preordered dinner, but luckily they had a few bits so we had a lovely meal Before bed. The route on day 6 had a few hill climb sections, which we hadn’t sen yet, so we aimed for Saint Goazec to see the first climb of the day. During breakfast, our host had suggested we visit the valley of the saints, which was sort of on route to where we were heading and would give us something to do while we waited to see the race. The valley of the saints is a massive display of stone carvings of different French saints, that spreads across a couple of fields looking over a beautiful valley. We arrived at the ace with 40 minutes to spare, which was great because I hadn’t managed to get us very close to the hill climb, due to all the access roads being cut off by the route. three quarters of the way up, and several pints of sweat lost, we choose a spot to watch from and stopped. 10 minutes later and the first riders appeared followed by the main peloton not long after.

That night we had a meal at the B&B, and met a guy who worked on the tour, building the 1km markers. He also worked on the Tour de Yorkshire, and seeing that I was a fan, he gave me a Tour de France t-shirt, which made my day. Well until I tried it on, now I just use it like a flag and hang it from the truck. Stage 6 had a funny ending, it was a hill climb that they would ride twice, once as a climb and then as the finish line. Again this needed a bit of planning to get us close, including a forest dirt track, but we ended up close to the finish. We again watched the awards presentation, then headed for a little restaurant We had past on the way there. Unfortunately, like most places in France, when we wanted them, they were closed! We did eventually find a nice little place for dinner, but by the time we ate and got back it was just as late as it would have been, had we ate back at the B&B.

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