Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Discovering the Roannais

Roanne, August 8 - 15, 2011

Picking a title for this post was easy: I just had to translate the sign below:

If you are curious: the Roannais is the area around the town of Roanne which is situated pretty much in central France, with Saint Etienne (see previous post) and Lyon as the nearest bigger cities.

Roanne happens to be the home town of Ghislaine's cousin Jacques and his wife Marie-France. They have a big house there which makes that I like to call Marie-France the Chatelaine. The title is well deserved, in particular because of her outstanding hospitality. I know, because we just spent a week of vacation at their house (and with their grandson Kylian, who told me I was chouette).

Of course, I brought my bicycle along and went out on a 4 - 5 hour ride, every other day, as a last tune-up for next week (my frame number is 4605).

Of course, I wish I could have managed to go back to St. Etienne and do the venerable Col de la République climb at least once; but this will have to wait for another time. Instead, I picked the mountainous area north of Thizy (on the top-right corner of the map above - click on it to zoom in) as the destination of my first excursion. And what a destination it was - Que Du Bonheur!

I started out on the "Milk Road", but soon gained altitude through Coutouvre with its mural paintings:

... and reached areas with greener grass and even happier cows:

It was very cloudy at times, but I stayed dray and enjoyed the change from Cannes' sticky atmosphere to the clean, fresh air in the forests. I accumulated several cols and quite some total elevation gain:

At the Col du Pavillon:

... I was amused to find a sign towards Belleville:

And I touched the border between the Départements of the Loire and the Rhone:

I stopped for two more pictures on the long downhill on the way back:

Pretty little town of La Cergne


Two days later, I followed the recommendation of Jacques and went southwards along the Gorges of the Loire to Balbigny and back, discovering a different view of the Roannais. No altitude to speak of (the Loire is well below 300 m at this point); but the road often goes up and down on the hills along the river, and the climbs are generally steeper than in the forested areas at higher altitude. All in all, another wonderful excursion and good training!

Château de la Roche

Pretty railroad bridge

A flower tree in Balbigny


Finally, one last day of riding in the Roannais, this time to the top-left corner of the map at the beginning of this post:

For the occasion, the Chatelaine had made me yet another pair of sandwiches for the road, and in recognition we urged her to pose for a souvenir picture with me before I left:

This was the route with the highest elevation and the longest, most demanding climbing; I enjoyed it even more thoroughly than the previous two.

Isn't that the prettiest name for a Col?

The declared destination was the station of  La Loge des Gardes. I certainly wish I could have stayed there in the woods at 1100 m for several days:

Time to smell the flowers!

And now, I also know where the département de l'Allier is!


We are back in Cannes now, but only for a couple of days before leaving for Guyancourt / Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines. Onwards to my second big goal of this year! (I won't be able to report about it immediately after the event, however; we have additional travel plans before coming back to the South).

Monday, August 8, 2011


Col de la République - August 8, 2011

There will be a lot more to write about some time soon. For now, I am only quickly posting a map and two photos from today. Anybody who knows me just a little bit will understand that they are very meaningful for me. It was the first time I had a chance to get there. Even though it was only by car and not on the bike - yet!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Big Goals

Still in Cannes

It's time to think aloud again. Some (currently faraway) friends have indicated that they like to read about my whereabouts and my dreams. Or, rather: some of my dreams ...

As indicated earlier, the Big Eight was only the first of three big goals in this Paris-Brest-Paris year. The second goal obviously has been set up nearly four years ago, in Saint-Rémy-du-Val, when I decided not to finish my first attempt at PBP. I seem to recall that up to then, the idea was to consider my PBP participation a once-in-a-lifetime escapade. But with that unfinished business on my hands, and the first experience of three days and nights on the roads of PBP in my heart, I had no choice any more: Now I was to become a "real" randonneur. Not only to prepare for PBP 2011, but (excuse the pathos) to find myself.

Similarly, the third goal has become mandatory last September, at the moment I decided to stop, half-way through the first edition of the Mille du Sud. Of course, even if I had been able to complete the distance within the time limit, I would still want to repeat the feat on this year's remodeled route. But given that defeat and unfinished business, the goal has maintained its imperative and threatening quality.

It has been suggested (thanks, Jack!) to refer to the trilogy as my Triple Crown. We will talk about that later in September ...

For now, I find myself preoccupied with the mental preparation of the remaining two big events.

I am taking care of the physical preparation "my way" which is to say not too seriously. This comes with a silent, respectful nod to somebody who once approved of my way with a grinning "You mean you have a life?"

Within the circumstances and constraints of that life, I make my arrangements as sketched in the previous post,  changing routes and (always rather short) distances at will and at humor. I don't always take a camera with me; if I do, the pictures tend to look like the following:

View from Montauroux to Callian

This time, I'm going to climb to St. Cézaire sur Siagne!

There I am - looking back in time

What I nearly always do, however, is to include the climb to the Grand Duc in the beginning of my route. I mentioned it in my previous post already; the route is here, and this is the profile (courtesy OpenRunner):

Note the extended ramps above 10% on the profile! Come to think of it, I should also take pictures from the views along the climb and share them. Until I get to it, here are the reasons why it hasn't happened yet:
a) I need to wait for a day with dry winds; otherwise the views are too muggy in July/August
b) I am always too busy climbing and don't want to stop
c) Some of my readers tend to get too envious if they see the views.

So much for the physical preparation. The mental preparation happens during the spare time between rides, with maps and route sheets. I am visualizing my progression through days and nights, over plains and hills; I am estimating average speeds and time spent at stops, and I am projecting arrival times. I also try to visualize the feeling of running on empty, but never succeed. That's why I have to go back and actually do those rides, in order to experience it again.

The other aspect of my mental preparation is to manage my optimism and my tendency to overestimate my abilities. And that's the hard part ...