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Thoughts, thanks and figures..Part I

Planned ride distance - 1,529 km (950 miles)

Actual ride distance - 1,684 km (1,046 miles)

Ride days - 23

Rest days - 3

Average daily distance covered 73.2 km

Highest average speed day - 23.5 kph over 3 hours 27 mins of riding (Verres to Vercelli)

Lowest average speed day - 9.14 kph over 2 hours 50 mins of riding (Fornovo to Berceto)

Highest speed achieved - 71.4 kph

Lowest speed achieved whilst still ''moving'' - 3.6 kph

Hours in the saddle - 94 hours 50 mins

Number of revolutions my wheels made - 833,663

Number of gear changes made - 13,585

Calories burnt - 206,400

Weight lost - 6.2 kg (13.6 Lbs)

Inches lost off waist - 2.5 (6.35 cm)

Number of tubs of ASSOS chamois creme used - 2

Number of Neurofen/Ibuprofen tablets consumed - 9

Lowest recorded temperature of ride - 4 degrees C (38 F) *excluding wind chill

Highest recorded temperature of ride - 31 degrees C (91 F)

Number of punctures - 0

Number of mechanical failures - 0

Number of items of clothing carried and not used - 1 (thermal arm extensions)

Number of consecutive days evening pants were worn - 25

Number of times evening pants were washed - 0

Number of times the expression ''F**K this for a joke '' was thought or expressed - 11,432

Number of times I wished I had more gears on my bike - 2,456

Number of dead badgers seen roadside - 7

Number of Rapeseed fields ridden past or seen - 4 billion trillion

Most valuable / cherished piece of technological assistance used - STRAVA navigational and data recording App

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A normal day on the ride would roll like this.

7.00 - rise from sleepless night in another foreign bed in a another foreign hotel.

7.00 - 7.45 am stretching and strengthening exercises for back

8.00 - 8.30 am breakfast and wonder to myself ''who the hell eats cold slices of ham for breakfast?''... or... '' seriously?? how small can you make this juice glass?''.... or....''seriously?? how small can you make this cereal bowl??''....or.... ''seriously?? how hard can it be to have a decent toaster??''

8.30 - 9.00 am re pack panniers for umpteenth time, get ASSOS'd, change into cycling gear

9.00 - 10.30 am ride 25 km or until 10.30 am ( whichever came first) and stop for morning espresso and croissant.

1.00 - 2.00 pm stop for lunch

2.00 - 3.30 pm ride then stop for afternoon espresso

3.45 - 5.00 pm ride to destination and regret the cheese board consumed and 2 glasses of red and wonder out aloud why it is that there was always a hill to be climbed IMMEDIATELY following lunch

5.00 pm check into foreign hotel , BnB , or apartment

5.30 pm - 6.00 pm - stretching and stregthening exercises for back

6.00 pm - 7.00 pm - catch some ZZZZ or write blog

7.00 pm - 10.00 pm - Drink - Dinner

10.30 pm - lights out

REPEAT for 25 days

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One of the first questions many people ask is what was your favorite or worst day? That is a difficult one to answer because often a morning might be cloudless and windless and by the afternoon I was riding into a gale and it was wet. Probably easier to answer is the question ''what was your favorite moment and worse moment? ''

There were a couple of ''worst moments''.

The weather cycling into Pontarlier was particularly gruesome. We ( myself, Scott G. and Mark S. aka The Broken One) had just done a steep climb up out of the Loue River Valley and then there was a very long gradual climb on a heavy traffic road into a head wind that only became stronger. By the time we hit the plateau that Pontarlier is situated on, we were riding into a fiercely strong and very cold headwind and it was raining / hailing at times. Did I mention how cold it was?

The other draining weather day that comes to mind was the ride along the ''Chemins du Madame'' in Northern France between Terngier and Reims. You are atop a ridge line that has played an important part in both World Wars and on a calm cloudless day I can imagine it would be very lovely. We certainly had the cloudless bit. What we definitely didn't have was the 'calm' bit. As I mentioned on my blog for that day , Gareth W. aka The Cyclepdia, swore his spokes were singing given the strength of the cross and head wind during the 22km we rode along that road. Drafting your companion for protection had little effect it was just plain hard. I would like to say it was 'brutal' but let's put things into perspective here. We were passing war cemeteries that day where thousands of young men were buried. 'Brutal' is being sent to fight a war and sitting in a trench as heavy artillery bombards you and either side of you other young men who are your friends and comrades are dying by their hundreds.

Physically the worst moment was the morning we were leaving Reims. My back had started to play up a few days before we reached Reims, unaccustomed as it was to the strain of hauling a heavy bike and owner up some steep hills. We had also done some 100+ km days. The muscles around the spine had become tired from continuously trying to supplement for my lack of core strength. By the morning of departure from Reims, just the simple act of sneezing caused my back to spasm. I had serious doubts then that I would be able to continue.

Dealing with an over officious jobsworth at Dover P&O check in wasn't a great moment either. Resulting as it did with us not being allowed to board our scheduled ferry. Which in turn meant standing in our sweaty clothes exposed to a biting cold wind at the head of queue 213 for over an hour.

Favorite moments?

There were many and they by far outweighed the worst moments. Some of the morning rides in particular left an everlasting impact on me. Leaving Licques, the countryside is pretty spectacular. As was leaving Sarry (South of Chalon-en-Champagne) and the morning ride we had then was memorable. The Friday morning ride out of Arc-en-Barrios with Scott G. and Mark S. aka The Broken One was very special. A long a valley floor with the mist rising slowly to allow a perfect cloudless and windless day to emerge. Of course it also goes with out saying that the ride from Lausanne to Martigny was right up there with the best of the best. You are lakeside for basically 60% of the ride with the Swiss and French Alps sitting across the lake and though some distance from you they dawrf everything around them. You then enter into a valley that becomes more narrow as you journey up it and by this stage you are surrounded on all sides by towering peaks. Just as you are the next day when I rode from Martingy to Pierre St Bourg. Both those days will live long in the memory bank. Some of the forest road ways I rode through were pretty spectacular too. Those being the roads both sides of Besancon and the roads between Sarry and Piney. Basically any country road where there were no cars and just you surrounded by forests or rolling fields was a highlight. Thankfully there were plenty of those and they far outweighed the heavy traffic roads that i sometimes encountered.

The favorite moments weren't all about cycling either. Some of the people I met were a highlight of the trip as were some of the towns I rolled through. The grand private country homes of France are a sight to be hold as are some of the big farm houses between Arc-en-Barrios and Seveux. The lakeside homes between Lausanne and Montreux are pretty special too. Sometimes discovering a lovely Boulangerie or patissiere was a highlight of the day. Or a particularly nice lunch stop. Two spring to mind that I will cover in Section II of this summary.

Other favorite moments would be witnessing the beauty of the color of endless plains of Rapeseed fields or passing under the massive wind turbines that adorn the Northern French countryside. The ride down the D'Aosta valley would be right up there too, as would the the roll along the Loue Valley which would rank even higher had it not been raining. As I said to my two riding companions that day, '' If it looks this good in this weather can you imagine it on a cloudless warm summers day? ''

Of course the people I met will get a mention in section II but it goes without saying that the morning I spent at the St Bernard Dog center in Martigny was a very special one too.

I will cover thoughts and other comments in section II to be published tomorrow aong with thanks ...in the meantime here are some photo's that didn't make the blog....

Passing one of countless road ''traffic assistance'' mirrors in Surrey / Kent

Born Jamaica. Came to the UK when he was five. Ardent Leeds supporter. Has two sons who live in New Zealand who he visits every year. About to turn 60. No idea of his name but he was the first of many wonderful people I came across and this was just day 1 of the trip.

Marker stone ZERO of the Via Francigena outside Canterbury Cathedral

Standing at the head of queue 213, in the cold for over an hour, at Dover was definitely not on the highlights list.

Leaving the UK and white cliffs of Dover

Accommodation at an old water mill outside of Licques on night 3 was an experience and the food was to die for

Smallest chapel / church award of the entire ride goes to this one between Licques and Arras

Sitting outside in the main square of Arras watching the sunset and the moon rise whilst sipping a cold beer and looking at this view of the main Arras Cathedral was a pretty special moment

A moving tribute to one of many that gave their lives so we could live ours. On the road from Arras to Terngier

A star of a cyclist?

Australian War Memorial at Mont St Quentin ( just outside Pommery)

Everyday at either 10.30 am or the 25 km mark . One of these and one of those.

Stopping to ask a hairdresser where the nearest cafe was. She made us coffee and gave those of us fortunate to have hair a hair cut

A panoramic view of a large Abbey / Hospice we came across before entering Reims

If you want a long, straight and undulating hill to drive or cycle or walk a long then head to northern France

Lunch here at Les - Fourges - Aux wins the ''Best lunch '' award hands down. Vietnamese in Besancon a close second.

The dividing line of nature

Eating lunch at a small bistro (with this for a view) opposite Chateau Villan was pretty special.

This patisserie at a non descript truck lay by between Arc-en-Barrios and Seveux wins the ''Best pastry and bread shop '' by a country mile

The colors of the sky and fields and isolation of this bus stop in the 'Trois Forret' region near Arc-en-Barrios I found quite lovely

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