Brioude, France: As France prepares for the Tour de France to commence in three days, my little bike ride across Europe — which I am making up day-by-day, on the fly — is starting to feel like the Tour de Folly. Today much of my 100+ kilometer cycling journey was done on the actual route of Stage 9 of this year’s Tour, which takes place on July 10. This stage passes through towns such as Saint Jacques des Blats, Murat, and Massiac, which I also passed through today, not realizing I was testing the Tour route until I was already cursing it. The official Tour website describes this stage as: “…climbs and descents all of the way. It’s a real leg-breaker.” My legs can vouch for that.
Unpredictability and the little surprises also makes this tour seem like folly. Take the weather, for example. Yesterday my primary concern was not melting in a heatwave. Heatwave’s over. Today, people are dressed in winter clothing in the Massif Central, the mountainous area I have been trying to get through for the past couple days. I dressed for heat this morning and instead endured chill and rain and headwind and greyness all day. It was hard going, but I much prefer the rain to the heat with this heavy-duty climbing.
And then there’s this morning’s tunnel surprise:
The sight of this tunnel produced a minor Uh Oh moment. Minor because the work-around solution was obvious, my tired legs just didn’t like having to climb another mountain pass. I forged ahead up to the Col de Cere (which is part of the Tour route) and was rewarded with this view of the beautiful valley, much of which is part of a regional natural park:-
At the top of the mountain pass I had yet another surprise….the ski resort of Lioran Haute-Planeze. As the weather looked ominous, I hurried down on the other side.
After the restorative capacities of a fortifying four-course lunch in Murat, I hopped back onto Bubba Too for the push to Brioude, in time for the last major surprise of the day: more rain. Cold, punishing, in-your-face rain. So much in fact that I was willing to abort my quest to get to Brioude today. I ventured into the first village I passed to see if there’s a place to stay. There was, but it was a depressed-looking place. I wasn’t that desperate, so I pressed on to the next village, and then the next until I was close enough to Brioude to just keep going to today’s finish line after all. I entered the farming town of Brioude at 5pm, headed to the old town, went to the tourist office and asked then to point the way to the best digs in town. They suggested the Hotel La Sapiniere. I was there in ten minutes and in the jacuzzi in twenty, soothing my aching body before a fantastic dinner at the Hotel as I write this blogpost.
Just another day in the Tour de Folly.
Days 25 (June 29): Aurillac – Brioude, France
Distances: 105.17 km
Ascent: 1,256 meters
Weather: grey, cold, wet
Distance: 1,979.10 km
Climbing: 14,271 meters
Rest days: 4
Police interactions: 1