Nothing to do with the food – there’s been a 10 to 20 mph NNE blowing all day. I’m heading roughly north, tacking from left to right as the roads dictate, so I’m heading right into it a lot of the time and then struggling to make 8 mph on the level. You become very sensitive to your surroundings under these conditions. When sheltered by a hill, a few trees, or buildings, making progress is very much easier. When I made a couple of navigation errors and had to retrace my tracks, all I had to do was steer – the wind did the rest. This morning the wind was compounded by a leaden sky, a cold, penetrating damp, temperatures around 6C, and the occasional shower. The Roman road out of Jonzac was long, straight and undulating. As much as I love my cycling, this was damned hard work. I was reminded of Bill Bryson’s description of typical British weather being like “living insde Tupperware” – but I think he was living in Yorkshire at the time, so what did he expect!
Head down and battling, I arrived in Sureges at 1pm, I stopped at a restaurant in the central square where I followed the biggest breakfast I’d had in years with an equally sumptuous lunch. The meal, a great steak and chips followed by cheese and coffee, set me back £10 and the bar owner offered me another free coffee as I was paying the bill. I tightened the cotter pin again, the chain wheel had stopped squeaking but had been clunking for the past 10 miles because it was too loose to squeak. I then bought some batteries for the lights, thinking I might just need them today.
As I came out of the restaurant, the sun came out from behind the clouds and stayed out all afternoon. The riding, a mixture of rolling hills and long flat sections, was much more pleasant but still very hard work.
One annoying habit of some (a minority) of French drivers is to ‘toot’ to warn cyclists of their presence. This is entirely unnecessary of course because if you cycle on roads you expect to be overtaken by cars. Most of the roads were built for them. What you are not expecting is a blast in your left ear from Citroen’s latest electro-acoustic innovation. In the wrong hands it could be lethal.
I set my sights on Pouzages as a target destination for the day. A quick Internet search on the iPhone showed that it had several hotels. When, at 7pm, I arrived in a small village 20 miles south of Pouzages I was out of energy, out of water, and out of food. I ate a big chocolate and nut bar (575 calories, it said on the label) drank a Coke and a coffee and topped up the water bottle. Twenty undulating miles later, with the sun already below the horizon but enough remaining light to see my way, I battled up the steepest hill of the whole trip to reach the “centre ville” of Pouzages. It’s clearly a place designed to keep out invaders. I stopped at the first hotel I found, a bar with rooms really, and checked in. The barman told me that they will be open until 2am but I know that the noise is not going to keep me awake. Tomorrow, there is no rain forecast but the morning temperature is going to be just above freezing and the NNE wind remains. It was a bad decision to leave my knee warmers at home!