The return of the prodigal son

Day 95, Nouan Le Fuzelier, 7.920 km

It took me 3 months, braving almost 8,000 km of roads and paths across 10 countries, overcoming the scorching heat, freezing cold, rain, snow and wind, escaping mosquitoes, geese and hedgehogs, eat kilos of rice, chocolate and dried fruits, to finally arrive home … Some of you will tell me that the shortest way to go from Hamburg to Nouan Le Fuzelier does not necessarily go through Bratislava, Zurich, Valence and Brussels. This is not completely wrong. However, I planned everything perfectly to arrive just before the rain. And I must say that I am glad to be comfortably seated in an armchair by the fireplace instead of pedaling on my bike at this precise moment…

But before getting home, I have to finish the Roubaix-Paris first. Last stage this Sunday. With a promising arrival on the Champs Elysées! In addition, the field is crowded with the presence in the peloton of Sophie, the rising star of French cycling, and Casca, quadruple winner of the classic of the South-West, the famous Montauban-Toulouse-Montauban race. In addition, the dire weather conditions promise to make this latest opus of the northern classic a true masterpiece. And the start already keeps all its promises: a very dense fog and a hill with terrible percentages (at least 1000% according to the unions, 10% according to the police) in the first 5 kilometers: no preliminary warm-up, the runners are already on fire!

The Seine disappears in the fog
Smiles are still in there before the actual departure

Quite quickly, we leave the city to take small country roads. The fog has not completely lifted but we can tell that the sun is not far away. There is not a breath of wind, the road is flat, almost without a single car, ideal for cycling on Sundays! Small attacks shake the peloton, especially on the climb of Radepont, but it is together that the favorites reach the first supply point…

We feel that the sun is coming…
Casca and Sophie attacking the climb of Radepont
Bicycles also need rest

Despite a little mechanical incident just before the lunch break (a portion of dirt track that was fatal to Sophie’s rear tire), we arrive at the famous T’Avernes in the village of Avernes (funny name right?) where the mid-stage refueling was planned. The boss does not seem delighted to see a cyclist pack invade her restaurant (« You want to eat? We are no longer allowed to have that many people in the restaurant with the new law … ») but the benevolent banter of Casca gets the better of her resistance and she quickly serves us a tournedos accompanied by its pepper sauce which heals morale and legs… Under the sun, the countryside is beautiful. We pass near castles, in the forest, we cross rivers, the birds accompany us in the plain, a real treat. The end of the stage is a little more complicated: the legs are heavy, the knees creak, landscapes are replaced by building bars and the fresh air by the exhaust gases. The crossing of Paris goes smoothly by following the new cycle paths of the mayor: La Défense, the Champs-Elysées and the rue de Rivoli. We finally go separate ways and I head to Maison-Alfort for a reunion raclette at Cannelle and Thomas with Adrien and Alexandra as surprise guests (a gap of almost 10 years before meeting is far too long …).

A castle on the road
Crossing the Oise
Arrival in Paris…

… and it’s Sophie who raises her arms on the Champs

The next day, the sun is still there and the temperatures are not too cold. Heading home! The start of the stage is not very exciting: lots of town, a bit of the Seine, but above all factories and industrial areas. I look forward to finally reaching the countryside. I get quickly disillusioned when I realize it’s windy. A lot of wind. Headwind. And not a single tree or a hill to shelter me from it. It’s hard. I’m not moving at all and start to tell myself that at this pace I won’t be in Nouan before 10:30 pm. I’m starting to think that if it’s really too late I’ll stop for the night. Wind turbines are becoming the object of fierce hatred for me. If I had had a spear I would have tried to become a modern-day Don Quixote … In the end, it only lasts about sixty kilometers before I reach the forest of Orleans. Rarely have I enjoyed trees so much. In addition, the road is flat, the weather is nice, it becomes pleasant to cycle again!

My worst enemies taunting me from afar
Rescued by the forest

I cross the Loire, which has since the last time I saw it reached its adult size, and I continue to ride in the Sologne forest. After my Sunday cyclists I will meet the Monday cyclist, my brother Thibaut, who comes to join me so that we do the last twenty kilometers together. Night begins to fall, Thibaut hopes to find wild boars, I would prefer not to. Finally everything goes well and we arrive home safely!

The Loire
Night is falling
Reunion on the way
Riding at night

Now a week off, to enjoy family and friends before heading west again mid next week! And this time I don’t bathe you with the daily itineraries but I have updated the map which represents the journey since my departure from Hamburg…

A not so straight way…

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