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Summer cycle in France

tomtracey12tomtracey12 Posts: 3
edited May 2013 in Tour & expedition
Hi, me and my friend (we are both 20 YO) are flying to Nice in June and then cycling back up to Calais. We are fairly fit but are just about to start training more seriously for it on Monday, we are going on approx 18th June.

We are aiming to do between 70 and 100 miles a day in 2 rides per day, morning and afternoon.

What tips would you give us regarding training, kit to take, the roads in France (whether we should cycle on some great roads or avoid others)?

Thanks

Posts

  • mercia_manmercia_man Posts: 1,388
    Recovery and avoiding saddle soreness are the secret to long multi-day rides. Any reasonably fit cyclist can ride 100 miles in a day on UK roads. But riding day after day through the mountains of France is another matter. I reckon 70 to 80 miles a day is a more realistic ambition if you are travelling light. If you're camping, 50 to 60 miles would be more like it. From my experience, around six hours in the saddle each day is enough. If you ride consistently for longer than that, your strength and endurance will suffer and you'll run the risk of saddle sores and chafing. You need a good, high-carb meal in the evening, a hot bath or shower and several hours in which to relax and recover. And make sure you take Assos chamois creme or similar and something like Germolene or Savlon to rub on any sore spots in the evening. Six hours a day is a long time to be in the saddle - even Tour de France stages are often much shorter than that in time. I find a typical average speed for me in France is 10 mph with camping gear and 12 mph travelling light - a bit less in the mountains and higher on flatter or rolling roads. Make sure you keep your energy up in the day by eating fresh and dried fruit, nuts, sandwiches and pastries. Carry at least two water bottles and keep them filled up - lots of villages will have drinking water fountains or taps - and make sure you keep hydrated. It's easy not to drink enough because the breeze of riding can cool you off. Use sun cream - I like Riemann P20 Once a Day. Take two pairs of shorts and wash one each evening after riding. Try to finish each day's ride by around 4pm, giving you time to find accommodation and get your washing and relaxation done.

    As for training, you need to get used to riding long days back-to-back. So go away for a short break carrying the sort of gear you'll be taking to France. Or go for 50-mile-plus days on both Saturday and Sunday.

    Make sure you know your bike and can fix it. You don't need to take lots of spares as France has plenty of cycle shops. I take a spare tube, puncture kit, Halfords multi-tool with chaintool, a small adjustable spanner, KMC chain link, chain oil and rags.

    I've flown to Nice Airport several times and getting out of it is tricky on a bike. I always end up going across the car park at the front, pushing my bike across several lanes of traffic on a really busy main road (almost a motorway) and then turning left along this main road for four or five miles before turning right towards Vence. You are then in cycle heaven. You can ride up the Col de Vence and then north through increasingly high mountains. If you are fit enough and have low enough gearing, you could continue north over the Cols de Cayolle, Vars, Izoard, Galibier and onwards via Annecy towards Calais. A fantastic ride, although even 50 or 60 miles a day is tough in that terrain.

    Another good route from Vence is to head north west via the huge Grand Canyon du Verdon and the Drome region, climbing up the brilliant Col de Rousset onto the high Vercors plateau and then descending along the Combe Laval, a twisting road cut through the rock high above a gorge (you often see shots of that road in cycle travel articles). That's a slightly easier option than the Alpine route above but still really spectacular. Then it's easier riding via Bourg-en-Bresse and Dijon, through Burgundy and Champagne country to Reims, St Quentin, Arras, St Omer and Calais. You'll be able to do a much bigger mileage in this northern part of France through the WW1 battlefields of the Somme. Stick to minor roads in this area and it's surprisingly good for cycling.

    I'm sure you'll have a great time. I'm envious.
  • durhamwaspdurhamwasp Posts: 1,238
    Excellent post from Mercia Man

    The biggest thing about your training is hours in the saddle. You should be able to meet your target of 70 miles per day with a few rest days thrown in, but getting your backside used to long hours is the most important thing.
    Keep putting the fuel down you all day long on the bike and make sure you get a good quality meal and rest on evenings.
    http://www.snookcycling.wordpress.com - Reports on Cingles du Mont Ventoux, Alpe D'Huez, Galibier, Izoard, Tourmalet, Paris-Roubaix Sportive & Tour of Flanders Sportive, Amstel Gold Xperience, Vosges, C2C, WOTR routes....
  • What an excellent reply thanks a lot for that, yeah I assumed the long back-to-back rides would be the hardest part, guess we've got to use these 4 months or so till we go to train hard for it.

    Thanks a lot, Tom
  • Have your flights been booked? It might be better to finish in Nice as it's a great place, probably nice than Calais. Great food and beautiful sea. Then you would start your journey with flatter stuff to get the endurance. You could finish with the classic Geneva to Nice route.

    Some good 2/3 days.trips to do as testers are Glasgow to Inverness and also the Coast to Coast from Whitehave to Sunderland.
  • durhamwaspdurhamwasp Posts: 1,238
    Have your flights been booked? It might be better to finish in Nice as it's a great place, probably nice than Calais. Great food and beautiful sea. Then you would start your journey with flatter stuff to get the endurance. You could finish with the classic Geneva to Nice route.

    Some good 2/3 days.trips to do as testers are Glasgow to Inverness and also the Coast to Coast from Whitehave to Sunderland.
    Yeah, i can add to that Way of the Roses, great ride. Also Walney to Wear, North Pennine Cycleway and Reivers to name a few
    http://www.snookcycling.wordpress.com - Reports on Cingles du Mont Ventoux, Alpe D'Huez, Galibier, Izoard, Tourmalet, Paris-Roubaix Sportive & Tour of Flanders Sportive, Amstel Gold Xperience, Vosges, C2C, WOTR routes....
  • All good advice above. For maps I'd recommend Michelin 1:200,000 spiral bound. Buy it at home, just tear out the pages you need. Doesn't need batteries or a satellite signal.
    I enjoyed riding the Routes des Cretes in the Vosges - it runs north/south but is a bit off the straight-line route between Nice & Calais.
    I like to plan in a rest day from time to time (every 5-7 days) - just to spend time off the bike and also to explore a particular place in more depth.
  • prb007prb007 Posts: 703
    Tom - how is the training going?
    Is your trip still on?
    We are doing a similar ride - 800+ miles, but finishing at Nice.
    14 of us, raising money for Ty-Hafan, a children's hospice here in Wales.
    Settled on this as our final day, from Moustiers Ste.Marie to Nice
    http://www.bikeroutetoaster.com/Course. ... rse=534138

    We start, 10 days earlier, (May 30th) in Cherbourg, heading down through the Loire,
    the Creuse, Auvergne, over Mt.Ventoux, then via the Ardeche and the Verdon Gorges.
    Most of the group have struggled to get the training done that we had planned due to the
    winter weather, but hopefully the weather gods will smile on us, keeping temperatures and
    winds in our favour :D

    Good luck.
    http://www.justgiving.com/E2EFrance
    If Wales was flattened out, it'd be bigger than England!
    Planet X Ti Sportive for Sportives & tours
    Orange Alpine 160 for Afan,Alps & dodging trees
    Singlespeed Planet X Kaffenback for dodging potholes
    An On-One Inbred for hard-tail shenanigans...
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