Three weeks ago today I was tired, but rather pleased with myself, having completed the first 94km of our Tour de Rêves charity cycling adventure around the Deux-Sèvres. In six days we covered 437km and experienced all the terrain the Deux-Sèvres can offer, from the flat windy low-lands of the Marais Poitevin in the west, to the hilly côtes along the Thouet and Argenton rivers in the north, accompanied with all the weather imaginable, except snow and hail, thankfully.
|In Secondigny for the Tour de Rêves grand depart|
Day one was planned to be our longest day of cycling and as we had an hour and half drive from home to Sarah and Rob’s in Secondigny, central Deux-Sèvres and our start point for the ride, it was an early start for Adrian and I. I’d love to tell you that we were bubbling with excitement as we set off, watching the sun rise on a clear and perfect September day, but I can’t. It was a chilly start to the day and the further north we went the mistier the weather became, until eventually we were driving through rain and low cloud. Our clean bikes were getting wet before we’d even begun, our moods were sombre and the disappointment that September, whose days are usually warm and cloudless, was letting us down when we needed a boost, took away any excitement we should have been feeling.
After a quick coffee at Sarah and Rob’s we freewheeled down the hill to the square by the Mairie in Secondigny, hoping a few brave souls would challenge the rain and be there to wave us off. The small crowd of family, friends and the Maire was so much more than I’d expected and lots of photos and smiles and good wishes certainly helped to warm our damp start.
|First coffee stop in Verruyes|
We even had four cyclists mad enough to join us for the morning, which meant those first kilometres were full of chatter and laughter, as well as rain.
|St Maixent L'Ecole for lunch|
I had imagined the first half of day one to be challengingly hilly, so was pleasantly surprised when we arrived in St Maixent L’Ecole, having covered 37km (out of 94km), that not only had I done it, but that it hadn’t been as bad as I was expecting it to be. We had a change of support cyclists here, the morning guys peeled off, promising to return later in the week, and two of the afternoon three were kind enough to invite us into their home and feed us lunch before we set off again. I knew to expect more hills in the afternoon as some of our training rides had been route-testing the valleys north of Melle, but psychologically climbing hills I’ve done before seems easier than facing new ones. All of a sudden, day one, with it’s 94km of undulating countryside, was looking possible. We even had sun instead of rain some of the way and were a happy bunch of cyclists.
|In Melle for an afternoon beer|
It was quite exciting to arrive in Melle as not only were Ed and Ade’s Mum waiting for us with some friends, we were also met by a journalist from the local paper, who took our photos in front of one of the impressive Romanesque churches as well as asking us all about our trip. We were within 26km of home and the end of day one, but at this point tiredness was creeping up on us and the rain reappeared. It was tempting to cycle into the village quietly and head for home, where warm showers and clean clothes were waiting for us before the small apero reception our Maire had planned for later on. However, we pulled into the village square where the war memorial stands in front of the church, and the sound of clapping and cheering could be heard from a crowd of friends and neighbours sheltering from the rain while waiting our arrival. It was an unexpected high at the end of a long day and despite feeling tired and hungry, the excitement that had been lacking in the morning was back and we couldn’t wait to get started on day two.
|From our first journalist encounter in Melle|