Cycling Day 19: Saint-Jean-Pied-De-Port To Capbreton

Click here to see the detailed statistics of today’s cycle.

This post is dedicated to Heltor Chasca. You were the first person I thought about this morning and have been thinking much about you on and off all day.

On with the show! I spoke briefly to a cyclist at the campsite in the place with all the hyphens last night. He had just arrived from the west coast of France following a route not dissimilar to the one I followed myself today. I asked him what the terrain was like. He took a deep breath and said ‘vallonรฉ’ or, in English, hilly. Bugger! I was expecting a flat-as-a-pancake (that’s almost as bad as Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port!) day so it was with a heavy heart that I took to my ultra-thin (they’re everywhere!) sleeping mat last night. On the subject of which, I must be getting better at sleeping in the tent as when I ‘woke’ this morning (and once Hector Chasca was temporarily out of my mind) I had another cobversation (I’m not changing that Hector – it’s just for you!) with the French cyclist. He asked if I had heard all the loud talking during the night. I was a bit bemused. I had heard nothing. I later wondered if he could have been referring to my listening to The Archers at around 11pm. It took an age to download and the Aldridge family can be annoying at the best of times, especially Kate who was the focus of last night’s ‘agricultural’ drama. What’s all this got to do with cycling? Goodness knows. Heltor will be going spare.

Anyway… following a wander around very picturesque Saint-Jean etc… I set off expecting lots of ups and downs. The latter came before the former and continued for about 25km. I kept checking my Cyclemeter app too see what height I was travelling at expecting it at some point to become minus but no, despite what I experiencing on the bike the real distance of descent (not decent Heltor) was somewhat less. Not that I was complaining. I did begin to understand why the guy at the campsite had pulled a face about the terrain. While I was glorifying in the (here it comes again Heltor) decent (ha! Just joking!), descent, 24 hours earlier he must have been anguishing over the ascent. Perhaps his use of the word ‘vallonรฉ’ was just him being diplomatic.

So the terrain wasn’t a challenge but the cycling conditions were. The French drivers seemed fast compared to their Spanish counterparts and they were most certainly driving closer to the bike. By the time I had arrived in Cambo-les-bains, a town full of establishments claiming to cure this ailment or that (courtesy, no doubt, of the generous French state) I needed a change so opted for the back roads to Bayonne. The railway line that I had been following since leaving Saint etc… was in the process of being modernised and his included the pruning of many trees. Several roads were blocked but the tree surgeons took pity upon me and let me pass, despite the risk of me meeting my end from a falling branch. I survived.

At the tourist office in Bayonne I asked for a leaflet giving details of the Velodyssey – Eurovelo 1 in France – but they had nothing. Not to worry. How difficult could it be following the coast north? I was delighted to find this just north of Bayonne:

The signs continued until… well, like any cycle route, after a tortuous route through a suburban area, I lost them. It’s the same almost everywhere. The cycle planners think your average cyclist is incapable of cycling along normal, more direct roads and so he or she is sent on a complicated backstreet route so as to avoid the traffic. I’m a grown up man. I can cope with cars. I can’t cope with signs that I inevitably at some point miss seeing… I feel my blood beginning to boil once more.

I did find the Eurovrlo 1 signs again. Brilliant! Then came this:

Followed by this:

Is it me? Would you have cycled past the barrier? Heltor? You are a wise man; what would you have done? (Or would it have been too expensive to cycle here in the first place?)

Somewhat frustrated I turned back. The cycling ended at the municipal campsite near Capbreton: nice place and I’ve just spent a good while chatting with a young lawyer from Britain – Pete – who is cycling in the opposite direction to me. Useful stuff.

Tomorrow the journey continues north along that ever so straight bit of France with all the pine trees. I will smell of Flash (liquid, not Gordon) by the end of the day…

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2 replies »

  1. Good morning old tyke! Tis I again… Great to see you in France! As you may well know from our brief conversations I am a convert to the devilry of GPS. And far from being a mindless tool of the unimaginative I had long held forth against it in prior years, I have discovered it is entirely the opposite! I have created more and better routes by trusting my planing and not getting lost while trying to follow roads that have no signs (even if I have never seen the road or terrain, it usually works out), wasted less time fumbling for my over-sized-map-in-a-rainstorm (two can play that game!), avoided an awful lot of frustration and saved a lot of weight in the process… All this is entirely of no use to you whatsoever on the ground now! It took me quite a bit of time to be able to use one proficiently, it needs a lot of research into maps, settings, planning tools, file handling systems and functionality of the unit that Garmin, in their wisdom, seem incapable of putting into a manual that is any use to anyone. Briefly. never, ever pay for a map. just buy the unit. (maps are best free and simple when on the bike, velomaps are good, talkytoaster in the U.K.) Learn from the many many websites that audax riders, bloggers and touring cyclists use. Plan using your vast accumulated knowledge of how good small roads can be, on a site like mapmyride. Get the settings so the track stands out and never get lost again (almost). Having completed an out and back ride this weekend to a hostel, the sustrans route was, as most are, hilly and overly complicated. (they try to get within a half mile of large areas of populus to up their figures in the “serving the people” box to tick) I got lost twice following signs and there was only 1 place to eat. My planned GPS ride on the way back was low traffic (research before the off and small rural roads (with no signs) went to the places I wanted it to, and was less hilly in the main, more direct and more pleasant. It also avoided gravel tracks, railings, pedestrianised areas and took in a good pub. I did not get lost even though the minor roads look like a maze on the map.
    When you get back, if you would so wish, I will gladly bore you for hours on the subject, I’m evangelical about it! ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Hope France treats you well today, Bon voyage (one down from the panorama)

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