I needed to put some serious miles today, 34 to be exact. I travelled out by Denhead and up over Drumcarrow Craig, the rising wind began to make its presence felt, I was totally exposed now. I fought the wind all the way into Peat Inn; relief came as I dropped down to Largoward. Turning right at the crossroads I climbed into the foothills of Largo Law, cresting the hill at Wester Newburn is always a delight to see the river laid out before you. I once more faced with the full force of the wind from the southwest, less troublesome as I scooted off down into Upper (Kirkton) of Largo, now with the wind on my back, it was throttle wide open for the next 5 miles into Elie, 16 miles on the clock now but struggling for that average of 10 mph.
I was feeling good with the wind’s hand firmly pressed upon my back, I always do, running before the wind, so did not stop until I had reached Anstruther, another 5 miles in and 4 more, on into Crail. The wind was no longer a favourable one, but no great threat either. Crail marked the started the long, slow climb, following the North Sea coastline for Brownhills, ending in a big Weeeeeeee back into St Andrews. I was feeling on top of the world, 37 miles, (it should have only been 35, but I’m not going to argue with the computer).
It was not until I had reached home and was sitting with my obligatory pot of tea, that the tiredness hit me, my legs felt fine, but I was pooped, hardly surprising for my average speed now read a tad over 11 mph (wind-assisted). If I had been doing as much mileage on a long trip, it would not have been sustained as today, I would never have pushed to the point of exhaustion, but this is all about getting some fitness back into my body.
Brissac-Quince to Fontevraud-L’abbaye, 34 miles,
This is without doubt one of the finest cycling, touring areas in the world, then again I have not been everywhere in the world. It is not just the beautiful countryside but the whole ambience of the area, the dress, white sandstone of the building, unique to the Loire, which gives off a warm creamy glow in the strong light of the day, turning to rich gold in the last rays of the sun. Passing the many, many caves where they store the famous Saumur sparkling wine, a delicious temptress, fermented from the grapes grown in the rich soil that rises up from the Loire valley, the Saumur Brut, and Cremant de Loire, sparkling wines, truly equal to any of the finest of all the champagne of France, but without the price tag. You can not help but be won over by the atmospheric old streets of palaces, such as Fontevraud L’Abbaye and its impressive monastic complex, the largest in France incidentally. The roads are hardly challenging, mostly flat running alongside the calm waters of the Loire.
La Loire à Vélo is a unique cycle route, that forms the western section of the EuroVelo 6 route, linking the Atlantic with the Black Sea, A large stretch of the Loire is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; in parts, it’s also known as France’s Valley of the Kings and as The Garden of France. All along La Loire à Vélo, you stick closely to France’s last great wild river, with its sandy banks and islands, its vine-covered slopes, its typical towns and villages, passing under the canopy of small woodlands, the last vestiges of what was once the great hunting forests of the French nobility, all of this, comes with fine food and an atmosphere totally unique to the Loire valley, (of course I may just have customer prejudice in favour of what France, offers me her best customer.)
I will be riding the eastern part of the route, the Black Forest to Vienna, returning via Salzburg and Zurich, in the spring, although on the return trip I may well enlist the help of a train and/or bus. These routes are designed with cyclists in mind, with more than 50 per cent of the route traffic-free, (the part I will ride from the Black Forest to Vienna almost totally traffic-free) the remainder on back roads, and not at all like here in the UK, an afterthought, more often than not on poorly maintained paths or using cyclists as a traffic calming incentive. Money handed to quangos with highly paid executives in well-staffed offices rather than the money spent making, well-maintained cycle tracks, traffic-free and safe roads for cyclists. Sorry on my little soapbox once more.
If you are in need of lots of fun with like-minded people on bikes then join in the Anjou Velo Vintage. As the name suggests it is a festival of cycling, held over two days, with the majority of the cyclists making the effort to come on vintage machines and in the costume of the era of their machine, the main object of the festival is just about having fun. There are rides, loops, from 50k to 150k, so something for everyone. Like others around France, these festivals are well organized and you will be well catered for, with refectory tables set up and campsites organised, give yourself a real cycling break and attend a French-style cycling rallies, (the Cider Meet in Brittany is another excellent rally).