Coasts and Cols Tour - Day 11 - 'The Northwards Charge'

Bike touring never ceases to amaze me. You can see so much, and travel so far; all under your own steam (or rather, a constant supply of pastries).

Today was all about covering as much ground as possible; in order to get as close to St. Malo as I could, before tomorrow morning's ferry home.

From my finish near to Les Sables d'Olonne last night though, there was still a good 180 miles to cover to get to St. Malo. I had gone to bed praying for a tailwind...

Luckily, as I woke amongst the wind farms of Vendée, I was pleased to see the previous day's north-westerly wind, which had made things such hard work on the open flats, had swung round to the south. Time to get romping!

I've been behind on my planned mileage since my mishaps on Day 9 (read of that day's events here), and so I wasn't starting today from my intended spot, nor would I be following my intended route. In the words of my CCF days: 'B-line it Boys', was the name of the game i.e. take the most direct bearing line to you destination. With no GPS map to follow as a result, I was using my large scale national map of France for routing; and then going on bearings and gut instinct - 'if it goes north, it's probably the right road'.

Tailwind in full swing, I was making good progress by lunchtime, and had reached the Loire river. What I thought was a bridge, turned out to be a ferry; no matter though, it gave me enough time to enjoy my fresh baguette and Emmental from the local market.

Post-river crossing, and with a stomach full, I got on with some head-down riding in the mid afternoon. Laying my elbows on the tops, and tempted to rest my chin on my handlebar bag, I was chomping through the distance. The prospect of getting close to Dinan (my target for the day), seemed suddenly possible.

The afternoon went on, and I went from the Loire region into Bretagne - one of my favourite parts of France. I stopped for a pastry pick-me-up. I also grabbed a huge tin of cassoulet, which I strapped to my seatpack, keen not to be caught out by the early shop closures (again!).

The sun was going down, and the speedometer showed 230 kilometres by the time I was properly into the Bretagne hills. My legs, and mind, were dulling; but I knew I had little choice but to keep pedalling. Lights on, and with handful of apples from a nearby tree, I adopted my Day 5 (read the post) patented 'Apple Technique'.

By 21:00, with 272 'clicks' (kms) recorded, I was about spent; luckily I was also just a stone's throw from Dinan. I set up camp for the final time this trip, then had another (the fourth day running) baby wipe shower (yes, my feet stink!). Then, I cooked my mega cassoulet.

France: you are a special, diverse, and challenging landscape to cover 'en vélo'. Tomorrow will be a very early start, as I still have 40 kilometres to do before breakfast time. The final assault... *crawls into sleeping bag, and collapses*.

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