Monthly Archives: October 2013

Day’s 87-92: A nice time in Nice with Matt’s parents!

Hi guys! This is our last day in France. We’ll start riding a bit harder from now so you can expect more frequent blog posts (internet permitting).

Our ride to Nice was a beautiful one. We continued along the beautiful coast road which wound it’s way through Cannes. Before finding our campsite, we stopped at a town called Cagnes-sur-Mer where we met up with Alan, a friend from my Dad’s work who has moved to the area. It was their daughter Gabriella’s 3rd birthday party, and we were invited!

We had a great time chatting away and eating party food & crêpes. It was also a really international gathering too, with people from Portugal, America and South Africa! Eventually, after the birthday candles were blown out and darkness fell outside, we had to move on to our campsite.

The next day, Matt 1’s parents flew in to visit!

We met up with them and spent the next few days exploring the area and eating great food with them. We rode to their apartment and proceeded to go hunting for Moules Frites and beer. After a lovely first evening involving many pints of beer, we rode back to the campsite excited for the next few days.

The next day was spent walking around Nice, viewing the Marc Chagall museum, sitting at bars and taking in the sights of this beautiful city. Matt and I had bought a mountain of food, inspired by the various meals we’d eaten on our trip. We returned to the apartment to gorge ourselves. We rounded off the day by watching the French equivalent to the great British bake off on tv before riding back to the campsite.

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The next day was spent hopping on a sauna of a bus to Monaco, where we took in the sights of Monte Carlo. After this, we headed back along the coast to Villefranches, where we eventually found a lovely quayside restaurant for lunch. The evening was spent eating Spanish omelette and watching yet more weird French TV!

Eventually, the day came when Matt’s parents had to head back to the U.K. Their flight wasn’t until the afternoon though, so we spent the morning playing hilarious people-watching games in the main park in Nice, and had a hearty lunch in an Irish pub. It was awesome seeing Matt’s parents and we’ve had a super few days catching up and having a fantastic time.

Today we’re off along the coast, through Monaco to Italy! We can’t wait to get going!

Matt 2

Day’s 83 – 86: Riding the Côte d’Azur

Hi guys! Internet is becoming a problem again, all campsites around here seem to want to charge for wifi!

The past few days have seen us ride along some fantastic roads as we follow the Côte d’Azur.

Before we started our meandering path along the coast, we decided to check out les Calanques, some beautiful steep-cliffed coves between Cassis and Marseille. We had a great day walking around, taking some pictures and generally just enjoying the scenery. Thank you to Charles (apparently we wouldn’t be able to spell his name in French) in Aix for recommending this to us!

The next day began with a savagely steep, long ascent as we rode along the Route des Crêtes. We climbed so high that we pierced the thick cloud cover that blanketed the mountainous area. This 20km was definitely the most eerie we’ve had on the tour. The road looped around, cars appeared from the fog at the last second, only to fade away into the grey when they were about ten feet behind us.

The overcast weather continued as we rode through Toulon, though we left the fog behind us when we descended to sea level again. In the busy, bustling streets of the city, we stumbled upon a good looking bike path. We followed this almost the whole way to our campsite! It was brilliant to be on a purpose built cycle path that takes us in the right direction for once!

We had a mosquito ridden but ultimately uneventful stay at the campsite before jumping back on the cycle path the next day.

Someone must have heard our gratitude for finding this cycle path. The next day’s ride to St Tropez was almost solely on these well-paved ribbons of awesomeness!

We spent a lot of the ride wishing that we could have some paths like this in Bournemouth. We both agreed that they would be great for getting not only cyclists but runners, roller skaters and walkers more active our hometown. Perhaps we should ask Jaques, the man we met in Bouzigues for some advice. He had given advice and aided the planning of some initiatives involving cycle paths in his local area!

After our stress free ride to a town east of St Tropez, we found the only campsite open was a five star camping resort. Though it was obviously more expensive to our usual sites, we paid up for two days and stared in amazement at the toilet, shower and sink that is on our emplacement.

Today we’re enjoying our luxurious surroundings before heading to Nice where we’ll meet up with Matt’s parents for a few days. We can’t wait!

Matt 2

Day’s 77 – 82: Aix-en-Province!

Hi guys, been struggling for a good internet connection the past couple of days so will fill you in now.

After our epic ascent of Mont Ventoux, we stayed for a couple of days in the local area to chill out and recover. We are well on schedule for reaching Nice in time to see Matt’s parents so can afford to kick back a bit.

My sister contacted me saying her old French assistant from school had been kind enough to volunteer to put us up for a night or two if we passed near her. Aix-en-Province, where she’s studying was one days ride away so we made contact and rode over the many hills to the city.

It was a tough but beautiful ride. When we stopped for lunch 55km’s in, we found that we could still clearly see Mont Ventoux on the horizon!

We eventually rode into Aix and met with Melanie, who proposed that we join her for the evening at her friends house, where we’d eat and watch some rugby on tv. After this, we’d go to another friends house to share a few beers. How could we refuse such a fantastic offer!

We had an awesome time that evening, it just so happened that both Matt’s and my teams (Saracens & Leicester) were the opposition to the teams the students were supporting. In true rugby-fan style, we all spent the game casually mocking each other, all in good spirits.

The next day was spent walking around Aix, where there was plenty to see in its medieval streets. Highlights were the huge, sprawling market and the numerous fountains dotted across town.

After this, we found out we’d had another stroke of luck with the sport. Both of our football teams (Watford and Bournemouth) could be seen on the internet! As Melanie’s friends enjoyed sport and were sympathetic to our pleas, they let us watch the games.

For the evening we went back out to Aix, to a really cheap but fantastic wine bar in one of the many town squares. We had a great time chatting about pretty much everything!

We then went back to Melanie’s friends house, as they’d kindly volunteered to let us stay on their sofa-bed. We couldn’t believe how nice all these people were being to us!

Eventually though, it was time to leave. We said our goodbyes and were very grateful to all of the people we’d met who’d made the past few days so memorable. We rode to a campsite on the edge of town and stayed the night, before riding to our current spot in Cassis the next day.

Today we plan on walking along the coast to see some of the incredible views that Melanie and her friends have recommended to us. The weather has warmed back up a bit too, which is appreciated!

Matt 2

Days 75-77: VENTOUX

Hi guys, two mountain conquering Matt’s here!

As we haven’t put a blog out of the day before our assault on the fearsome Mont Ventoux yet, I’ll describe it here first.

We left Uzes and lazily made our way over the Rhône to a town called Orange. We found a Decathlon (great sport shop) where we could both replace Matt’s balding tyres, and buy a few warmer clothes for the coming months. The lady at the till happened to be British too so we had a quick chat before heading on our way.

The next 30km to Bédoin, the village at the base of the climb to Ventoux, was taken at a relaxed pace. As we eventually came into sight of the great mountain, we found it was shrouded in cloud. This only added to its mystique, we could both feel a kind of nervous excitement building.

Once again, we had problems finding a campsite! The first one we tried was up a devilishly steep climb, which we ground our way up only to find that the site was closed. They could easily have saved us the energy by placing a sign at the bottom of the path!

Eventually as the light was fading, we found a really nice site closer to the village. We set up camp, grabbed a bite to eat, set up a few things for the morning and went to bed. The next day would hopefully see us tackle arguably the most fearsome climb in the Tour de France.

We awoke. The weather had deteriorated overnight and we had a cold, overcast day with scattered showers to deal with. This only added to our excitement. To a degree, we’d be battling the elements, as well as the mountain, and each other! The atmosphere was crackling as we prepared ourselves and our bikes for the climb. It would be our first day with no pannier bags. Matt was coming off the back of his stunning ride into France and was keen to test how far his fitness had come since day 1. I was the experienced rider, expected to do well but worried about this new animal I’d had a hand in creating. It would be no easy race for either of us.

Our ground rules were that we’d try and notify the other person if one of us got a puncture or other bike problem and the person who reached the top first would attempt to time the difference on a stopwatch (if the gap between us would allow it). Eventually it was time to ride thought the village to kilometre 0.

The climb starts gently as the road weaves through some other villages before hitting the base of the mountain. We kept the pace slow too and allowed ourselves to take in the markings on the road still clear from this year’s Tour de France stage. A guy on a very light, very expensive road bike cruised past us. I was trying to spin my legs fast to warm them up without putting too much power down and wearing myself out. Before we knew it, the road turned left and into the Forest that covers much of the climb. The road ramped up to about 7% average incline and we knew that the easy part of the ride was over. This was where the games would begin.

I had decided to sit on the front of our duo and drive the pace at a tempo which I hoped would allow me to stay fresh while slowly seeping the energy from Matt’s legs. Over the past few weeks I’d learned that he loves to explosively jump off my wheel in an attempt to break up my rhythm and force me out of my comfort zone. After about 5km, he made his first move.

Matt leapt off my wheel and darted up the road. Quick as a flash, I jumped up a couple of gears, got out of the saddle and reeled him back in. My legs felt good. I didn’t know how Matt’s legs felt. The first skirmish had ended in a draw.

I settled back into my tempo and Matt fell back onto my wheel. Up the road we could see the roadie who’d cruised past us earlier on. We were matching his pace on significantly heavier bikes! Over the next few kilometres Matt tried a few dummy-attacks, to which I raised my cadence in an attempt to show my strength. We rode through kilometre after kilometre of incline that was never lower than 7% and had sections of up to 12%.

Matt began to say to me that he was not feeling good and wasn’t sure how long he’d be able to hold my wheel. I kept the pace the same, deciding to make a decision if he dropped off. Despite his worries, Matt remained glued to my wheel, even as we cruised past the roadie, who’s technique had fallen apart and looked to be starting to struggle. This told me that I should never write Matt off, no matter how defeated he may say he was.

As the treeline thinned, I upped the pace again very slightly. We were nearly at a key part of the climb and I wanted to be sure that Matt was working to stay with me. Together we rode out of the forest and onto the barren, rocky landscape that signalled the last 5km. This was where the fireworks would happen.

I was biding my time when Matt jumped off my wheel again and tried to power up the road. I quickly reeled him in and made what I hoped would be the decisive move in our race.

This is how the rest of the race panned out in my mind.

I sat in the saddle, opened my lungs and put as much power as I could through the pedals without burning out. Matt 1 shouted up the road that he was finished, but I was taking nothing for granted. I had engaged beast mode and was intent on building up as much of a lead as possible over the last few kilometres.

For me it was a mental battle with myself. Was I going too hard to maintain? Was I riding fast enough to stay in front? Would Matt 1 be able to bridge the gap and pull off a stunning victory? All I told myself was that I couldn’t ease up, I mustn’t slow down. My heart was pumping, my lungs were screaming, my legs kept spinning.

It became torture. I kept glancing over my shoulder. I had convinced myself that Matt would be turning himself inside out too and would be closing the gap I had pushed myself to open. A split second of relief would surge through me when I saw him further down the road. I was maintaining the gap but I still couldn’t let off.

As I crossed the final two kilometres I felt bad. My stomach felt ill (probably from the slight cold I have) and the weather was beginning to chill me. My pace dropped ever so slightly as I passed Tom Simpson’s memorial. Some riders never made it to the top of this mountain. Despite the whirlwind of pain that I was in, I had to think about his tragedy.

I looked down to the road. 1km to go. Pro cyclist, Jens Voigt’s catchphrase “shut up legs” spurred me on. The road ramped up viciously once more and I stole one last glance behind me. Matt 1 wasn’t there. I was so relieved. As I crossed the line which marks the top, some French tourists cheered me on!
I looked down the mountain for Matt. I could see that he’d slashed the gaping gap that I had once had. I started the stopwatch as I caught my breath and resisted the urge to be sick. 1…2…3…4………. roughly a minute passed and I screamed “ALLEZ ALLEZZ ALLLEEEZZ MATT! CHAPEAUUUUU!” as he crossed the line. We’d both done it done it!

(If you’ll rewind in your mind to the “decisive” moment, Matt 1 is now going to talk you through the last km’s of his ride)

So I had just made my big move, knowing after a series of dummy attacks that Matt 2 would attempt to get straight back on my wheel. After leaping away from him a week or so ago I saw this as one of my only tactics. This was the first time on the ride I felt pain, my plan here had failed. Knowing this I let Matt 2 get away, pleased with what I had achieved…. Then it hit me, you are not letting him get away that easy! I chased him down hard, even getting on his wheel again at one point just after the 4km to go sign. This yet again hurt, I just could not keep a tempo to match and so was dropped again.

It now became a compensation game, I could see Matt 2 in the distance and found myself willing him on. I had managed to get back into a good rhythm. Matt 2 had the gap, but that did not mean I could not really push on myself and try for a good time. In the last 2km I really upped the anti, spurred on by helicopter images of Chris Froome riding strongly on this exact same section in my head. I knew I could not catch him but was severely lowering the gap. At the beginning of the day I told myself I would be happy to finish 5 minutes behind Matt 2, so when it transpired that It was only 50 seconds or so that separated us when I finally came over the line , I was delighted.

I think the ending could have been different if I had not wasted my energy on attacking when I did…. Ha what a powerful friend Captain Hindsight is. Matt 2 fully deserved the win and I am proud we made it up together.

(Back to Matt 2 now!)

It was so amazing to see us both on top of this mountain. We’d both made it up with no mechanical issues and were able to push ourselves both mentally and physically to the limit in the process. We snapped some photos, then as the cold became more and more biting, we headed in to the cafe to grab a hot drink. In the midst of our euphoria, we’d cheered another road cyclist who we passed on the way up as he competed the final stretch. Timo joined us in the cafe (his girlfriend later drove up and joined us) and we chatted about everything from the climb, to his job and our tour so far.

Eventually though we had to brave the cold again and head down the mountain. On our way down we took time to pay our respects properly to the Tom Simpson memorial. It is customary for passing riders to leave an item at the memorial, so we decided to leave the remaining links of Matt 1’s original bike chain. Tom’s tragic story is one that should never be forgotten by cycling, and he memorial stands as a grim reminder to all sports that illegal performance enhancing drugs should never be allowed to be abused.

Shivering now, we descended carefully off the mountain. As we re-entered the forest and the weather warmed slightly , we were able to have a little more fun on the twisting corners. We both flew back into Bédoin on a massive high. We had just had the most amazing day.

After looking at the data on strava, my official time was 1:57:17 (meaning matts was around 1:58. To put this into context, strava’s number one time of 1:00:55 was set by pro-rider Lauren’s ten-Dam. My time was ranked 2,639th out of 5,608. For riding up on a heavy steel touring bike with small wheels and fat tyres, we are both very proud of our times!

The next day has been spent reminiscing our epic ride, eating vast amounts of food and lazing around! Matt has bought the official Mont Ventoux jersey from the village, so keep your eyes peeled for future pictures of him!

That’ all for now guys, thanks for reading!

The 2 Matt’s

Day’s 73 & 74: Beautiful French roads, chilly campsites

Hi readers, two well rested Matt’s here!

Thanks to Jacques, our ride between his house and our current spot was a fantastic experience. He’d directed us through quiet roads and small villages, so our ride was among the most calm and chilled out that we have had.

After riding with us to the first village, we said our goodbyes and thank you’s to Jacques. We can’t believe how much he’s helped us over the past few days and this part of our tour has been amazing thanks to meeting him.

Eventually though, we had to go our separate ways. We followed Jacques’ route to the letter, the Garmin worked seamlessly as we hopped from village to village. The kilometres flew past and we were in our campsite near Uzes before we knew it.

We spent the evening chatting with a lovely couple from the UK. Curtis and Dana are here for the area’s rock climbing and seem to be having a great holiday! This morning we said our goodbyes and they gave us some vitamin tablets! It was a much needed present that will no doubt keep us healthier for the rest of our trip.

For the next day, we decided to just blob out at the campsite! We are making great time and thought this was as good a place as any to recover before moving on. It was great just to (literally) chill out and read for the day.

Now it’s the morning, and we have a mountain to find! It’ll be a 40 mile trip to the village at the bottom of Mont Ventoux. We’ll be riding up the same roads as Chris Froome, as he spectacularly stamped his authority on this year’s Tour de France.

Hopefully it all goes smoothly!

Matt 2

Day’s 71 & 72: Jacques!

Hi guys, we’ve had another unbelievable stroke of luck!

Our ride north of Sigean went really smoothly, the wind was strong, but either behind or across us so wasn’t so much of a problem. We were making great time across some beautiful French countryside.

Eventually, we had decided that we’d done enough riding for one day, so decided to look for a supermarket to stock up on supplies before finding a campsite.

Matt had gone into an Intermarche to do the shopping, whilst I stood outside guarding the bikes and our kit. As I was waiting, a man came out and started talking as he packed his own shopping onto his bike.

It turned out that he’d been born in Watford, which is where most of my family come from! He also loved cycle touring, and had completed his own adventure in Spain a few months ago! In the midst of the conversation, he suggested that we should come and stay at his house in a neighbouring village.

The words he used were “there’s nothing on TV tonight so I could use some good conversation!”. We thanked this kind man and headed to his village across a lovely cycle path.

When we arrived at Jacques’ house, we were amazed by his collection of prehistoric artefacts. Over a delicious dinner, we chatted about both of our adventures. Jacques had worked in some amazing places, he told us stories of his time in Africa, Brazil and Nicaragua (to name only a few!). We went to bed, inspired by this man’s stories and excited for our own futures.

In the morning, it was suggested that we stay a day to see his village and the surrounding countryside. We were in need of a rest so gladly accepted the offer.

The evening was spent with Jacques, planning our route to Mont Ventoux. He has given us a detailed list of villages to follow. We’re now really looking forward to the next couple of day’s riding.

Now, after a hearty breakfast, it’s almost time to hit the road again. Jacques has kindly offered to ride with us for some of the way, as he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the local cycle paths. We’ll be sad to say goodbye to yet another amazingly kind and generous person. Both Matt and I, both would love to stay in contact long after our trip.

Matt 2

Day 70: More coastal headwinds!

Hi readers! Yesterday was an unexpectedly hard day in the saddle for us.

We left our campsite after enjoying proper French pastry for the first time in a while. Almost as soon as we hit the road, we met head on with an absolute beast of a headwind. We got our heads down but really struggled to find any sort of decent pace.

We’d only covered about 20km when we stopped for lunch, but it had seemed like an eternity already. Over a massive baguette filled with delicious patê, we decided to ride for a campsite 30km away. After battling the winds over ever more exposed coastal land, we made it to the campsite, only to find that it was an aire for motorhomes.



So we headed down the road to the next campsite, which had closed for the season. Unfazed, we rode further to try another, to find that they didn’t allow tents. Luck was not on our side.

We rode on, and failed in our next attempt. There were campsites everywhere but nowhere seemed open! Eventually as we were getting more desperate and our blood sugar was plummeting, we found an open site. We both thought we were hallucinating as we saw ostriches, zebras and other African animals on the stretch of road before the site. It turned out that there was a safari attraction right next to us!

After we’d paid up and eaten some sugary food, we saw another two cycle-tourists roll in! We said hi and ended up having a chat after dinner. Steph and Brad had met on their own tours and were heading through the Pyrenees to Barcelona. We shared stories and recommended routes, as we were both heading in the direction the other had come.

Steph has her own blog too, it’s well worth a read! Click here to see the blog!

We returned to out tents feeling great. When we woke up, we said goodbye to our fellow cycle-tourists and are now in the process of leaving ourselves.

We’re not sure how far we’ll get today, but we’re both hoping (and praying) that the wind is in our favour!

Matt 2

Day 69: Returning to France!

Hi guys, we successfully made it back into France yesterday. It was a beautiful ride along a stunning road.

Coming back to France means a lot of things! Cheap camping and better roads on one hand, more expensive food and having to charge my devices in campsite toilets on the other.

As I said before, the ride was beautiful. We made a beeline for the coast, where the road we highlighted on the map yesterday began. After taking a snap of a nice beach we attacked the winding, hilly road.

Before we left the campsite Matt, in one of our many daily moments of madness smeared his face in bike oil and dubbed himself “The Cycling Viking”. When we began riding up the winding road, his war paint had given him some form!

I can offer all the excuses I like. My legs felt about 50%. I may have had some on-the-limit past sauce last night. I didn’t eat enough last night. All of this ignores the fact that Matt unleashed the sort of barbaric attacks on those slopes that his new, Scandinavian brethren would have been proud of. I reacted, but just could’nt reel him back in.

He claimed the imaginary polka dot jersey as we entered France and will wear it with pride!



We followed the winding roads along the coast. Our route took us through the charming French towns that we hadn’t realised we’d missed until seeing them. We arrived at the campsite with smiles on our faces.

After some pasta and some sleep, I’m hoping my legs can keep the now marauding Matt 1 in check as we ride up the coast past Perpignan towards Montpellier.

The Two Matt’s are back in France and loving it!
Matt 2

Day 68: Last day before returning to France

Hi guys, we had a really enjoyable ride yesterday.

For practically the whole day, we were on the same road! The N-II was a smooth, if a bit busy road that started by following the coast, then moved inland to Girona.

Our plan was to ride to Girona, then get closer to the French border before finding a campsite. For once, this plan ran without a hitch!

We arrived in Girona and stopped for a spot of lunch outside the local Mercadona. Being home to many pro cyclists, I was holding a slight hope that we may spot someone around the area. No such luck there!

As we rode on from Girona to Figueres, we noticed that the landscape had changed once again. We rode through grassy fields, lined by forests, with hills topped with Roman-looking churches in the distance. As we neared our destination, we could see some big mountains on the horizon to our left. Fortunately we’d be heading in the opposite direction tomorrow!

We arrived at the campsite and set up. At dinner, we ended up reflecting on the amazing experiences this incredible country (and Gibraltar) have given to us over the past couple of months. We really believe that we’ve become immersed in the country in a way that would not be possible without a bike.

When we consulted the map, it told us that we had a choice for our next day’s ride. On one hand, we could continue down the N-II and reach the French border and Perpignan in very good time. On the other, we could head back towards the coast and follow a very wiggly piece of road to the same destination. The choice was a no-brainer, we’ll be riding on the wiggly road!

It’s the morning now and Matt is repairing a couple of his punctured inner-tubes before we ride today.

Thank-you to Spain, Gibraltar and all the people we’ve met in between. We’ve had such an unforgettable time here.

Matt 2.

Day 67: Triathlons and well timed storm clouds!

Hi guys, we didn’t make it to Girona in the end. It wasn’t our fault though!

We hastily left the hostel before Matt or I completely lost our tempers with the staff. In contrast, the ride out of Barcelona was completely stress free! The Garmin worked seamlessly with the city’s bicycle paths to safely navigate the worst junctions.

As we reached the outskirts of town, we found that our road was closed. After following the diversion, we were left with one choice, the motorway. As there were police around, we decided to ask them the best way to travel.

We noticed that our road was closed because it was part of the route of a triathlon! We were impressed that the Spanish still have the ability to close roads for events like this.

The policeman directed us across the closed road, and allowed us to ride along the promenade for as far as it went. Eventually though, we had to veer off and take a detour through a town.

When we returned to our road, which happened to be the only realistic way to Girona, we found that it was still part of the race route. A friendly, cycle tourist loving marshall explained that it would continue for another 25km. Instead of battling through and around the race, we decided just to cut our losses and head for the nearest campsite.

Besides, there were some angry looking clouds overhead…

We had just put up our tents when the heavens opened! Within 5 minutes, the whole campsite was a series of lakes and rivers! Matt had pitched his tent up in the middle of one of these lakes, but it was waterproof enough to stay dry inside. In fact, it was like sitting on a waterbed!

We had made the right decision in stopping when we did.

When the rain eventually eased we made a dash for the restaurant, where we tucked in to half a roast chicken each. Bellies full, we went to bed hoping our tents would continue to be waterproof.

Today we’re hoping to ride through Girona and find another campsite as close to the border as we can get. Hopefully no sporting events or storms will slow us down!

Matt 2