There’s the exhaustion of two days’ hot and hilly riding ( I’ve climbed 8000ft altogether over the last two days). And there’s the accumulated exhaustion of two weeks’ steady progress through France.
Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not 8000ft higher up than I was two days ago. Cyclists only record the uphill, and not the downhill in between. So I’m not that much higher above sea level, and there are some seriously big climbs to come.
So when Christophe suggested it might be time for a rest day, and there was no reason I shouldn’t stay with them another night, I didn’t have to think about it for very long…
OK, it means conceding to those (several) people who said I’d never make it to Rome by 5 July, that they were right. And it means the symbolism of a 40 day journey has to be stretched a bit.
But I’ve looked at the onward route more carefully, and I’m wondering where the earlier miscalculation was. I thought there was a climb of 4000ft just ahead. But now it turns out it’s 7000ft. And the GPS kindly points out the gradients, which aren’t friendly.
I definitely couldn’t do that without a rest first. Even the Tour de France has a couple of rest days, I’ve been reminded more than once. There’s no certainty I could do it even after a rest day.
The wonderful Neil and Marie have already studied the map, decided it’s impossible, and driven halfway across France to rescue me. We’ve packed a tent, they say, and a bike rack, some tools and a medical kit; you’ll need all of that.
So I can’t just ride off into the sunrise, and leave them in Albertville, can I? Besides, it’s Marie’s birthday, so the least I can do is take them out for lunch, wouldn’t you say?
We potter. We wander around the medieval city. We lunch long and hard. We hobble down the hill for coffee and cake. We go to our separate quiet places to sieste.
And tomorrow they will drive up the hill – starting a few hours after me – and bring me water, and wait for me at the top with lunch, and a full medical crew. And if I don’t arrive they will drive down again and pick me up from wherever I’ve fallen.
That’s all to come, tomorrow. Tonight there’s just time for a few Bartok duets with Clotilde, who tried to pretend she didn’t really play the cello, and to hear her sing some beautiful old French songs, beautifully.