Posted by: Zombi | June 19, 2010

Day 16 Aix en Provence – Nice

Let me be up front. As you may or may not know I have exceedingly little will power.

This morning when I set off from Aix I was clear in my mind that I would be stopping halfway along the planned route for the night to ensure I would be left with two short days. I would, under no circumstances, be going all the way to Saint Raphael. No way. Not on your nelly.

Well I didn’t. I continued on for another 35 miles to finish up at Villeneuve Loubet, at a campsite I know well, 8 miles out of Nice. Instead of the planned 50 mile short day I ended up adding tomorrows route on as well and completing the longest day of the trip. 112 miles in total, incidentally beating my longest ever ride by 4 miles. As pleased with this as I was I must admit. I did have a little help. I got the train. (for the avoidance of doubt, that was a joke!) I got the bus.

No sooner had I set off, I realised today was going to surpass yesterday. Yesterdays breeze was no more, it had turned in to a real wind, blowing in just the right direction. I must have done something to please someone somewhere!

The pace with which I was going was unbeleivable, as opposed to the standard 13mph on the flat which feels painfully slow I was pushing 16-17mph up a gradual incline at one point and reaching the high 30’s downhill. Passing through towns was a nightmare as I was quicker navigating junctions and roundabouts than the cars, slowing my average speed.

With this assistance in mind, knowing you must never look a gift horse in the mouth (I often wonder if vets are in a catch 22 with that statement) I tore up the route I had planned, which was focusing more on minor roads and instead went straight for the main roads, following signs to Saint Raphael with the intention of seeing how far I could get.

Normally riding on the largest roads is a pretty depressing time, lorrys thundering passed you every minute as you ride in the hard shoulder is pretty dull (although for some of the time triallists I know that is the perfect way to spend twenty something minutes) however today, with the speed I was picking up, it felt exactly the right place to be.

Lunch time came and went, as did the sign for Saint Raphael (110km). Not me today I thought. Muppet.

Before I knew it I was only 35k’s from Saint Raphael. Aware of the news reports I had seen about the storms and flooding I was keeping my eyes open for any potential issues. Ip to this point there had been nothing more than some very full looking rivers and some flooded vinyards.

Le Muy is a small town, like hundreds of others round France. As I arrived, like all the others, ready to ride through the centre, as opposed to the longer bypass route often available (quicker by car but never by bike) I noticed signs diverting all cars to the bypass. As the corden was only blocking half the road and clearly not trying to stop anything at all entering I passed it and continued through the town. Initially, everything was normal. A few shops, people sat outside cafes, nothing of note. As I headed out the far side of the town, slightly down hill, I realised the bridge was closed and I would have to cut across to the bypass/ringroad. This was blocked with all the additional tragic and then I saw what was causing all the havoc.

The bottom half of the town had been totally devastated. There were police, firemen and the army everywhere. I can only describe it as being like something you see on the news. There were smashed up cars all over the place. Everything was covered in mud and I saw one car stood up on it’s bonnet against a tree. The town supermarket was destroyed, front windows smashed, mud throughout what I could see of the store. I passed either a campsite or a static caravan park and it looked like a childs toy box. Caravans were just piled into each other, some smashed to bits. It’s not as if they are light things.

Finally, as I was leaving town, the thing that really troubled me was the sight of homeowners, covered head to toe in mud, clearing all the crap from their homes. Furnature ruined, all their belongings out in the street, the only way to salvage anything was to hose it down. To say I had missed the storms by a few days, I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like.

The rest of the afternoon felt a little less euphoric.

As I rolled in to Saint Rapheal, the thought of another 35 miles didn’t seem too bad, especially as I was now following the coast road. Passing through the likes of Cannes and Juan Le Pins was superb and even better with the encouragement of a couple from England I traded places with over a few miles.

Finally, after 7:30 in the saddle I arrived at the campsite. Tent was whipped up and I was on the next train to Nice to get some tea.

Being here, somewhere I know quite well is strange. It feels like I have not cycled here.

Tomorrow (or today, as you read this) will be the last day amazingly. I will be pleased to have finished but it will feel a little strange. There will be a feeling of, what do I do now.

It’s been a long day. It’s now 1:10am, it’s raining, and I need my sleeping bag. It’s been a great day and by all accounts, it is going to be sunny from… you guessed it, the day after tomorrow (Monday)!

Finally, before I sign off. Thank you all for the comments and support so far. Each and every message has been much appreciated and I thought I had responded to them all although it became aparent the other day my comments hadn’t been saved so I really am sorry. Thanks again and let’s see if I can do it tomorrow… and no, I’m not extending the trip to Milan!




  1. Hi Ben

    I have been following you all the way and am so proud of you. Your determination, passion, zest for life and to help others along the way really is inspiring. Really enjoyed your blogs and glad to see that you don’t quite look like ‘Forrest Gump’ just yet. You have also inspired Martin – he is considering cycling to Todmorden and back with ‘knobblies’ and a flat back tyre. Good luck on your last day – you have done amazing.

    Best wishes – see you soon. Sam.

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