Posted by: Zombi | June 18, 2010

Day 15 Orange – Aix en Provence

What an outstanding day!

When you have those dreams, you know, the ones you don’t tell your partner about… you know… the cycling ones. Well today was one of those days for real.

No sooner had I packed up and left ‘chez dump’ (it was the first campsite I have been unlucky with. 15ā‚¬, dirty, no facilities, the whole site had not been looked after) I knew it was going to be a good day.

There was stiff breeze blowing south easterly, exactly the way I was going and the sun was roaring. The first few miles out of Orange even seemed to be down hill.

After a short climb through some vinyards I stopped for a moment to pay homage to the Mecca for cyclists, Mont Ventoux on the horizon. It would be the last time we would see each other… this year. After repacking my prayer mat I whizzed down a cracking descent on roads smoother than Duncan Goodhew’s head after ducking for apples in a bucket of immac (incidentally it is an excellent party game, it adds a bit of spice to an otherwise dull affair). The wind was carrying me alone nicely and before I knew it I was passed the halfway point of the day.

The sun was keeping things pretty warm but with us not being at the height of summer the temperature topped out at around 27 degrees. Pleasantly warm but managable to cycle in.

With around 25 miles still to go I passed a roadside stall selling fruit and veg. After admiring her mellons (come on please, this is serious) fora while I bought one and ate it just up the road next to a small drinking water rest stop.

My mellon stop signalled the end of the flat roads again and I had some cracking climbs on yet more deserted roads before a swift descent then short climb in to my finishing town just outside Aix en Provence. As I may have mentioned before I didn’t have room on my garmin for every route and the route today was the last I had planned. Another nice milestone to pass.

After a quick check to confirm I pushed on the 7 or 8 miles to the campsite on the far side of Aix, aware that with the time approaching 5:30 I had to get a bit of a move on to make sure I was in place for the England game tonight (what a waste of time that was).

Riding through Aix was particually exciting. I quite like city riding anyway and Aix was probably the largest town I have actually ridden through since London. As I followed the streets and roundabouts I was keeping up nicely with the flow of traffic and was happy with the smooth traverse of the centre. The camsite I was heading for, according to the garmin was only 2k outside the centre so I had to make sure I didn’t miss it as the traffic started to speed up on the way out of town.

Rounding a corner the road widened and was quickly speeding the rest of the traffic up. This becomes hard work keeping up but I was nearly there so persisted on. “Turn left in 200 yards” bleeped the garmin, asertively. Seeing as I was only the pedaling monkey who was I to argue and whipped across the gap in oncoming traffic, through the open gate and into the campsite. Now I have never seen a campsite with a block of flats in the middle but thought it was perhaps a new way of doing things. After a little hunting it became clear that there wasn’t a block of flats in the campsite as the campsite wasn’t there. The rather perplexed looking fellow I asked for directions told me it was further down the hill, next left. So off I went, out of the car park of the flats, up to the closed gate… which I had no way of opening.

5 minutes passed before anyone came either in or out!

I had considered taking everything off the bike and lifting it all over but had visions of someone turning up to leave and seeing a collection of bags and a bike on the floor and a strange looking chap straddling the gate as it swung open. That would have been one humiliation too far.

The speedometer clocked 75 miles for the day and a top speed of 39mph – now that was where I really wished for my road bike!

This evening was spent eating whilst watching the first half of the England game on the smallest ‘big screen’ I have ever watched before heading off to a bar for the second half. It’s a shame really because England were a waste of time to watch, no change there, and all I had seen of Aix was during the ride through. After 5 hours in the saddle, walking round in the evening isn’t really a priority. The walk to and from the campsite ensured I wasn’t too lazy though.

So, time to come clean. I have been holding this in for a few days now but it is eating me up inside and I must tell someone. Be gentle.

A few days ago, riding along, minding my own business, I sensed someones presence. Looking round I saw a mountainbiker behind. Quickly I upped the pace, on the sly of course, I couldn’t be seen to be trying. The further I went the more he caught me and then it happened. Roadies around the world, look away now. He passed me.

Clearly I tried every trick in the book, 1st I acted surprised, as if I hadn’t known he was there. Then I complained of the bike, “the brakes are rubbing” I said. “They have been since the North Pole”. Finaly, in desparation I reached down and slashed both my tyres so I was riding on the rims alone. It was all to no avail. He slowly but surely pulled away. I had been passed, my a mountainbiker on knoblies (tyres), and a full suspension bike (he practically bounced up the road and would have fit in perfectly at Boppo’s Travelling Circus, but that’s enough about L**ds Utd). The worst thing of all was I knew he was quicker, he knew he was quicker, I knew he knew he was quicker, he knew I knew he knew I kn… You get the idea.

I’ve said it. I’m now clean.

1080 miles completed, roughly 160 to go. After careful planning I have decided I will be doing the last miles on the bus, I mean, over three days meaning the last day will be a short trip of around 50 miles although I have the total unknown that is the alps. The last day will far and away be the most feet climbed of the whole trip.

I feel a bit of a fraud having three shorter days but it was the most suitable solution all round. I also still have the unknown that is the flooding and storm damage I have to ride through which could put a stop on the whole thing!

Three days and counting, I maybe have a chance…



  1. Hi Ben,
    Thanks for your text. Last day tomorrow – wow!! You have done amazingly well and we are so very proud of you. Despite being delighted that you are nearing the end of your adventure I really don’t know what I am going to do without your blog; I have loved every word and have had tears rolling down my face with laughter. You take care on the last leg of your journey and enjoy your time back in Nice – you really deserve it. With our love, Janene, Simon and Eva xxxxx
    P.S Eva sends her Uncle Ben a huge cuddle and big kiss.

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