Tuesday, April 5, 2016

La Sarthe à Vélo

La Sarthe à Vélo French Village Diaries cycling
La Sarthe à Vélo

Welcome to April, one of my favourite months of the year. The blossom has burst, the swallows have started arriving, the vegetable seeds for the potager have germinated and life after winter has begun once more. Yippee! It’s time for a celebration and what better way than with a road trip in France? However, this one will be a little bit different to our previous road trips as this one is a 420km bike trip, leaving in less than two weeks time, gulp.

We are heading to an area we know very little about, La Sarthe, home to Le Mans; famous for it’s 24 hour racing event and somewhere we have occasionally breezed into of an evening, eaten, rested and set off again early the next morning. This time, as we will be touring on our bikes, we should get to see and enjoy more of what this area of France has to offer, although with some days promising to be 90km long I don’t think Adrian will let me dawdle too much. The discovery of a new area is the exciting bit, the challenging bit is that for the first time ever we will be on the bikes all day for three days, have a rest day in Le Mans and then get back on the bikes for another three days cycling. The brochure from the tourist office is titled “La Sarthe, Créateur de rêves” (creator of dreams) and for me that is certainly true as it’s always been my dream to do a real cycling tour; stopping somewhere different each night, with my possessions neatly packed in panniers and having a real adventure.

Normally a big part of a road trip for us is the planning. This time that has been taken care of by the tourist board in La Sarthe and it has been quite strange leaving this aspect up to someone else. Someone who doesn’t know our abilities, or us, but who does know the area very well and what she would like us to see. Thankfully, although we were given our start and end points each day and a suggested cycle route for getting between the two, Adrian has still been able to take final control of working out exactly where we are going and saving all our routes in advance on his Garmin. La Sarthe à vélo has 420km of marked cycle paths that join the two better known French cycle routes the Véloscénie (from Paris to Mont St-Michel) and the Loire à Vélo (cycling along the River Loire and in the Loire valley). We will be starting on the river Sarthe in Sablé-sur-Sarthe, cycling east to the Loir (not Loire) valley, where we will spend a night at Le Lude and La Chartre-sur-le-Loir, before rejoining the river Sarthe in Le Mans. After two nights in Le Mans we will continue north with the river Sarthe towards Alençon, with one night in Saint-Leonard-des-Bois and our final night in Beaumont-sur-Sarthe.

La Sarthe à Vélo French Village Diaries cycling
Our La Sarthe à Vélo route
Adrian has also researched and sourced our panniers, as we didn’t have any, and has kindly volunteered to carry most of the weight of our baggage on his bike. He has also been looking closely at energy bars, gels and drinks that can be packed to keep us going between meals and patisserie stops. All I need to do is follow him, try to keep up and save enough energy to write about our experiences every evening for Freewheeling France.

I can't wait, but with the excitement there is a nervousness too. As I mentioned in my recent post about epilepsy (see here), I know I am not invincible and so we will be careful, we will be fully fuelled up at all times and obviously I will have Adrian by my side (or more accurately slightly out in front of me). It will certainly be one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced on my bike, but I’m determined to do it. Big E will not beat me! If you would like to support me in this challenge your donations to our Just Giving Page where Adrian and I are raising money for Epilepsy Action would be most welcome. Thank you and I hope you will enjoy following our adventure.