Week 2 – Day 5 – Friday 13th of July 2018
near La Moustoir to near Saint Germain du Corbieis – 193 miles
Le Tour de France 2018 – Stage 7 – Fougères to Chartres
Last night was a tiring drive, oddly more so in the first half of it rather than the second, maybe because the first part was re-tracing our steps, and on the second half it was a completely new part of Normandy to us, so it was more interesting. We are about halfway along Stage 7 as indicated by the red arrow on the following map.
Even though we were right beside the roadside in a lay-by, there was hardly any traffic and we slept soundly. After breakfast I got the chairs and table out of the garage and set them up at the front of the van, as that was the direction the race would come from and it also prevented anyone parking in front of us and spoiling our view of the forthcoming action.
Parked behind us was a Tour veteran, David from Essex, and he returned in his lycra gear from an early morning cycle with the 70 odd year old Frenchman who was parked next to him. I’m not sure what age David was, but quite a bit younger than the Frenchman, however it was the elder who set the pace with David trying to keep up.
David was keen to get a guided tour of Bessie as he had an 02 registered Bessacarr Bolero and wanted to see what improvements Swift had made on this latest model. Just as he entered the van, still in his lycra gear a huge horse fly swooped down on him and bit him on the arm which turned red and swelled up immediately. Not a hospitable welcome to Bessie, but rather him than us! He was particularly interested in our two 13kg Gaslow refillable bottles as his van had only two 6kg non-refillable bottles which severely limits his continental travel.
After his tour and a chat he went for a shower in his van before starting to decorate his van with Union Jacks and cycling related flags collected over the years. To say we were outflagged is an understatement but we now know the ropes, as it were, and would be better prepared next time as we have now a collection of flags, thrown at us from the ‘Caravan’. Not only did David outflag us, admittedly not that difficult, but to rub salt in our wounds he hung bunting around his awning too.
We may have been out-flagged and out-buntinged by David but we exacted a form of revenge by out-hatting him by donning our ‘we love cycling’ cycling caps, courtesy of those kind Skoda people in the Caravan.
It was far to hot for me to sit out in front of the van so I moved my chair over to the other side of the road into the shade of some tall trees. I then went for a walk in the direction the race would approach from, maybe about four hundred yards, to the top of a hill where they would be climbing to reach the shortish straight we were parked on. Even though it was only just after eleven o’clock quite a crowd had gathered on the hill as they would see them cycling far slower than we would on the straight. On the way back I picked some roadside purple heather and The Navigator thanked me for the thoughtful gift of lavender! Hey Ho.
Lunch was one of our favourites when in France, Nimes, bought from Lidl and they are delicious. The nearest equivalent we have back home are Spring Rolls, but Nimes have a sort of battered texture as opposed to a pastry outer. They come with a sachet of a dipping sauce which is hard to describe (lemony maybe) but it compliments the Nimes perfectly.
Following on from lunch it was time to get ready for the ‘Caravan’ and I stayed on the other side of the road to maximise our chance of getting more freebies thrown at us. Although the road is closed for its arrival, when it does come the vehicles drive on the left, right and centre with most still on their normal driving side, the right. We probably did not get as many freebies today as the previous two days, but there were some new things to add to our collection of memorabilia, or stocking-filler Christmas presents!
Each Stage of the Tour de France has its own unique profile, whether it be flat for the sprinters, hilly for the all rounders, or mountainous in the Alps and Pyrenees for the top mountain climbers. Each team has one stand out competitor in what is known as the ‘General Classification’ and these riders are all-rounders who especially excel in the mountain stages. Today’s stage was the longest of the whole Tour at 231 kms long but it was considered not the most challenging, and a Stage that was planned just to move the riders to another part of the country.
When it approached us it was moving slower than we had seen it on the previous two stages, and although it was moving at forty odd kilometres an hour, as you can see in the above picture, some riders were having a drink and eating, a few were sitting up in their saddles and some were chatting. A few riders from the Spanish Movistar team got off their bikes for a ‘comfort break’ not too far in front of where The Navigator was standing. I think it made her day! The old lady standing in front of Bessie averted her eyes…
The race was strung out more today and we were able to pick out the jerseys of more teams, if not the individual riders. On the previous two stages we have seen, the riders were a bit of a blur going past us, especially on Stage 5 when we were watching them on a high speed descent. It is quite amazing the numbers of support cars and bikes that then follow the riders past horns tooting and lights flashing. Its an amazing spectacle. And then, about ten minutes after the ‘fin de course’ van passes, thats it and the road re-opens and cyclists, cars, vans, lorries and of course, motorhomes can get on their way again.
It does not take us long to get on our way, tables and chairs stowed in the garage, flags down, skylights closed, doors to manual, satnav set and we head off to our next destination to see tomorrows Stage and a new set of people to meet and chat to. Our destination, some two hours away was Le Petit Andely which is right on the banks of the Seine. On the drive there we stopped at an InterMarche, us and dozens of other cars and motorhomes to top up on both gas and diesel. As we drove away and passed a Lidl a few hundred yards away, it suddenly struck us that we had filled up here back in March on our way north through France heading home after our six months away.
Today, however, we were heading east instead of north, passing through an area we had never been to before, and very pleasant it was too, with many historic towns and villages passed along the way. With about 40km to go the Google Maps satnav indicated it had computed a faster route to our destination, so I pressed ‘accept’ and it took us off the dual carriageway we were sailing along to take us cross country on narrow roads through countryside where there were combine harvesters in action in many fields along the way.
In one of the small villages we passed through I had to take a blind sharp right hand turn, so moved slightly out to get Bessie’s eight metre length round to be confronted with a massive tractor and trailer right on the bend. There then followed a few seconds of a stand off while we both checked our mirrors to see who could reverse and it fell to me to do the honours and reverse onto the pavement and almost into someones drive to allow the tractor and trailer to get round the corner and straighten up. Mission accomplished, with friendly waves, we both continued on our merry way. In another few kilometres we could start to see the ridge of hills that formed the far bank of the river Seine meaning we did not have far to go, when we ran into a torrential downpour, the kind you have to slow right down in as your wiper blades can’t clear the rain away quickly enough. It slowed us down, but at least it cleared a weeks worth of flies off the windscreen.
We arrived in Le Petit Andely via the bridge over the Seine and found the parking spot I was aiming for close to the bridge, and only a few yards from the waters edge. There were a few vans already there but no doubt far more will be joining us later tonight and tomorrow morning as it is a stunning location..
By way of a change The Navigator made one of her signature dishes, a very tasty curry and when she was doing this I had a walk to find a good spot to watch the race tomorrow. This will be the first Stage that Bessie will not be directly at the roadside as we are in a town car park. The setting is spectacular with the Seine and its river traffic on one side of us and a magnificent castle ruin, high on a ridge overlooking us on the other.
The town has made a real effort to mark the occasion of the Tour passing through by decorating the nearby roundabout with a cycle display, and on the castle high above us there is a huge yellow jersey draped over the ramparts.
After dinner we had a stroll towards the town along the riverside to find a well attended soiree in full swing with 60s music, food, street entertainers, a live jazz band and lots more happening against the backdrop of a lovely sunset turning the river orange. We had a drink of some tasty chilled ‘bière à la pression’, lager to us, and sat and listened to the live band who played three very similar tunes, well they sounded very similar to our untrained ears. After they finished there was an announcement in an excited tone from the DJ and then half the crowd rushed towards a gazebo where they were handing out a foam tube which lights up in the colours of the French flag, so nothing ventured, I joined the queue to see if there was a charge, or if a voucher was needed, but no, they were free so in my finest French, “deux s’il vous plaît” obtained two, presents for our neighbour’s daughters on our return, well they are hopefully watering The Navigator’s pot plants! The Navigator, who could not believe I had managed to blag these freebies was tasked to go and get one for our granddaughter, who only a few weeks old will no doubt treasure it in later life!
Mission accomplished, we milled about taking in the sights and sounds of the occasion and as the sun was beginning to dip below the horizon, we decided to head back to the van, with one final treat in store, ‘une gaufre à la confiture’ a sort of large warm waffle covered in strawberry jam. I’m probably not allowed it, what with my condition, and The Navigator was helpful, as ever, by devouring three quarters of a treat that was meant to be shared equally! I’m sure it was a concern for my health, rather than a desire to have the ‘gaufre à la confiture’ to herself.
We got back to the van in darkness to find cars piling in to the car park, this being about 10.30pm now, we thought there may have been something about to happen, and just at that we could hear the DJ crank up the disco music, I say music, but its not music as we sixty-something oldies remember the disco music of the 70s in particular, instead this seemed to be just a thumping beat, and thumping loudly enough to be heard clearly from about half a mile away. This would go on until 1am, only interrupted at 11pm by a spectacular firework display which lasted about half an hour and the noise was reminiscent of Beirut at the height of the troubles there!
All in all, a fantastic day, and one that will live in the memory for a long time, and if dementia does kick in at some point in the future, there is always this blog to fall back on…
STAGE 7 – TOP 3
Dylan Groenewegen – Holland – Team Lotto NL – Jumbo
Fernando Gaviria Rendon – Spain – Quick-Step Floors
Peter Sagan – Slovakia – Bora Hansgrohe
OVERALL TOP 3 AFTER STAGE 7
Greg Van Avermaet – Belgium – BMC Racing Team
Geraint Thomas – Great Britain – Team Sky
Tejay Van Garderen – United States – BMC Racing Team
We are in position to view Stage 8, the Dreux to Amiens Métropole section and for the first time we will not be in the countryside, but a small town on the banks of the Seine.
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To put this blog post into context here is the route we travelled to get to Stage 7…
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