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Channel to Med, a French Coast to Coast (by Mike Coleran)

Whilst living on the Isle of Wight from the mid seventies to the mid eighties I had made a couple of trips across the Channel with my bike to France. I had explored Brittany and Normandy, both cycle-camping and staying in B&B’s and had thoroughly enjoyed the experience. For a long time after those trips I had wanted to do a longer, more testing ride through France, a country which with quiet roads and understanding car and lorry drivers, is an ideal choice for cycle touring. After much pondering of maps, the idea of a French coast to coast – a Channel to Med was taking shape. The route would have to follow a diagonal line from North West to South East and, after a bit of research, I found out that this was the perfect direction to travel in France to ensure you have a headwind all the way! Never mind, at least the sun should be in my face all the way!

I had a rough route planned out and mentioned it to a friend and fellow cyclist Joe Heatley, owner of Heatley’s Cycles in Preston. Joe thought it was a fantastic idea and said he would love to do the ride with me. Further, more detailed route planning followed and I came up with a good route which would pass through six regions of France, following mainly minor roads and visiting villages and small towns along the way. It was 700 miles and my plan was to do it in seven days – an average 100 miles per day. No start date had been decided yet, but it would have to fit in with Joe’s shop commitments.

Sadly our plans would not come to fruition. Joe had been unwell for some time and had now been diagnosed with cancer. Without going into too much detail, Joe battled with the illness for a long time before he finally passed away in the care of St Catherine’s Hospice, Preston in February 2002. Joe’s death at just 56 yrs old made me more determined than ever to do the ride and now I would do it in his memory, and raise money for St Catherine’s Hospice. I though that, as the ride was seven hundred miles in seven days, a good target would be £700 to raise for the hospice.

The plan now was for me to do the ride alone and so I set myself a provisional date in April 2003. When I mentioned my plans to work colleagues at Preston Prison many thought I was mad, but there were a few who thought it was a wonderful idea and expressed their wishes to join me. I didn’t mind one or two but if there were going to be too many of us the logistics of the trip (accommodation etc) would become very complicated. My plan was to do the ride without any backup and nothing apart from the ferry pre-booked, so the fewer riders the better. Eventually three others were so keen to join me that the final plan was hatched – four cyclists - 700 miles – 7 days - £7,000 for the hospice, a big jump from my original target of £700! It was now September, the ride would begin in April next year. Channel 2 Med was on!

The three that joined me were a mixed bunch – in terms of cycling ability/experience that is. Harry had done quite bit of cycling before but nothing on this scale. He was the only smoker amongst us but that didn’t affect his fitness too much. He was a strong rider and very determined. Sid, (real name Tony) had done a bit of cycling before but, on his own admission was the least fit of us all. Carrying a bit too much weight he found hills a real problem. His saying, which we were to hear all to regularly on the trip, was ‘I don’t do hills!’. Finally Ken, the eldest of the group at 56, was the least experienced on the bike. He had only taken up cycling a couple of years previously. (He wished he had known about the joy of cycling earlier). Ken’s brother, Tony had died in St Catherine’s Hospice a couple of years previously so Ken wanted to do this in Tony’s memory.

So, the scene was set, the date was agreed, all that was left to do now was get the ferry booked, book the leave, get some training in, and start raising the sponsor money.

Winter was approaching so training was not going to be as easy as it would have been earlier in the year. We did however manage to get a few good, long days out as a group, and one longer trip of almost two hundred miles over two days. This was in November when, with ‘iffy’ weather we headed north and over Shap to Penrith. After a night on the town there we carried on through the Lakes and over the Kirkstone Pass and around Coniston. A good, hard couple of days riding that confirmed that all four of us were up to the challenge of Channel 2 Med. Daily commutes to and from work throughout the following months ensured that our fitness levels were maintained. It was a good period for the task of fundraising too. Preston Prison employs about 500 people so, with a bit of badgering, a lot of money was extracted from them, and even many of the prisoners donated money. Requests and begging letters to families, friends and local businesses, especially in Garstang my home town, soon had the sponsorship up to a staggering £9,300! Much more than we could ever have hoped for. The winter was over, the weather warming up, and before we knew it on April 24th 2003 we were heading off down the M6 towards Portsmouth for the ferry to St Malo. The prison had a staff car, a Ford Galaxy, which the Governor allowed us to borrow, with a volunteer driver, to get us and our bikes to the ferry. The only hiccup in this part of the trip was when, on the M6 around Warrington, Ken declared that he had left his cycling shoes at home! It meant a 40 mile detour to his house to collect them. After this the remainder of the trip to Portsmouth went without incident – a long, boring day down the very busy motorways mainly in heavy rain.

After thanking Dave our driver and waving him off we rode down the ramp and onto the 8-30pm ferry for the overnight crossing. We soon found our four bunk cabin and headed off to the restaurant for a hearty meal before retiring for the night and a calm, uneventful crossing of the channel.

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Day 1 Friday 25th April 2003

Distance 94 miles

Wheeling our bikes up the slightly damp and slippery ramp from the car deck, we emerged into glorious sunshine at the port of St Malo at 8-30am. Our very substantial breakfast on board had set us up well for a good day’s riding and we were looking forward to getting out on the French roads.

Unfortunately there was no time to visit the beautiful walled town of St Malo, that would have to wait for another time. Instead we stuck to the outskirts of the town and joined the D155 coastal road at St Benoit des Ondes. This is a beautiful stretch of road looking out over the blue Gulf de St Malo. Only a few miles further along this road we had to turn our backs on the sea and start heading southwards towards our target – the Med. Before leaving the sea we rode down onto the beach at Le Vivier-sur-Mer for a group photo. It would be many hard miles before we got the chance of that again.

Turning inland also meant turning into the wind, a thing that we had to get used to as it was to become one of the few annoying features of the whole trip.Our first stop along this road was at Dol de Bretagne for a toilet and light refreshment stop. It is an attractive, but busy little town where we relaxed for half an hour on the grass by the big old church. We were soon on the road again and by 1-00pm we were in the small town of Combourg, a good time for lunch. Looking around this little town we found only one eating establishment and that was already full with locals, halfway through their meals. Luckily there was a boulangerie open who had some French baguettes filled with ham and salad. They went down a treat as we sat in the warm sunshine by the town’s war memorial. A little old Frenchman who had obviously been on the vin rouge too early in the day came over for a chat. I being the only one in our group that knew any French was pushed to the front to converse with him. Five minutes later the old man carried on his way, smiling to himself – probably at my feeble efforts to communicate with him. (I can manage to follow a little sober French but drunken French?).

The afternoon riding took us south west through little old villages and the small mediaeval town of Vitre where we stopped for photographs by the ancient buildings. We were caught in a heavy downpour here, which turned the remainder of the day into a mixture of sunshine and heavy showers. Frequent on and off with waterproof tops became a chore but by late afternoon things had dried up.

We found accommodation for the night in the unassuming Hotel Pegassin in St Aignan-sur-Roe. Not much to look at from the outside, and the accommodation clean but basic, but the food in the restaurant that night was exquisite! Without doubt it was the best meal we had before getting to the Med, and all at a very reasonable price.

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Day 2 Saturday 26th April 2003
Distance 109 miles

Whilst eating breakfast in the hotel we could see, and hear, heavy rain outside. Not a good start to the day but luckily, it stopped by the time we were ready to ride off and we were on the road by 8-30am.

We were now in the Loire region and it wasn’t long before we came across our first chateau, the impressive edifice at Challain-la-Potherie, a good place for a first stop for coffee and photos by the chateau. So far the morning had been dull and cool but now the sun was out and it was feeling quite warm as we rode along deserted roads through Poance and Cande to our lunch stop at the riverside town of Ingrandes. After a quick look around the small town we found a van selling freshly baked pizza, not very French but a good, filling lunch for hungry cyclists. This was followed by coffee in a café on the banks of the River Loire. Re-fuelled we crossed the river on the small suspension bridge and entered more hilly country and the first vineyards of our trip in the Anjou grape growing area.

The wind became a bigger problem now which, along with the hills, was sapping our strength quickly. Sid was especially suffering, reminding us regularly that he ‘didn’t do hills’. The return of heavy showers didn’t help things and the consequent slower speeds resulted in a rather late arrival in the town of Cerizey, our intended stop for the night.

There wasn’t much about this small town, only a couple of shops, a Gendarmarie, and the Hotel La Sporting. After being shown to our rooms by Madame Boudois, the owner, we asked her if there was any chance of an evening meal. No, she said but there is a good pizza place down the road. Having had pizza for lunch we wanted something different, something more French for our evening meal. There was a good restaurant but it was about seven or eight kilometres away she told us. Any chance of a taxi? No, but I will take you in my car she said. And so, bundled into her car, we headed off along narrow lanes to a restaurant. She went in ahead of us to make sure they had a table for us and on returning told us they had and that we should ask the waitress to ring her when we were ready and she would come and pick us up. What service! The meal was excellent too, rabbit stew with copious amounts of wine and good conversation – a most satisfying evening. Mme. Boudois duly arrived to chauffeur us back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep in readiness for another day in the saddle.

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Day 3 Sunday 27th April 2003
Distance 120 miles

We wanted to get an early start today but, being a Sunday morning, Mme. Boudois was not so keen on getting up early to prepare breakfast for us. We paid her for our accommodation the night before and let ourselves out early in the morning. Because Sid had been struggling a bit yesterday he wanted to set off ahead of Harry, Ken and me to get a head start. Harry wasn’t keen on Sid going on his own so the two of them left the hotel an hour ahead of Ken and me, who would catch up with them later on the road. Ken and I raided the boulangerie across from the hotel for some croissants and pain au chocolate for our breakfast before heading off after the other two.

It was a chilly morning and that ever-present headwind was out there to greet us. Thirty miles down the road and we stopped in St Pomain to find a bar for the obligatory morning coffee. Riding into this little village in the Poitou Charente region we saw a message chalked on the road in front of us- a message from Harry and Sid. The message told us they were going well and somewhere up the road. After the coffee break we continued, still on almost car-free roads, skirting the western side of the town of Niort. We caught up with Harry and Sid just south of Niort and all rode together to our lunch stop at Ussean. After hunting around the small town for an eating place we found a restaurant open, but rather busy. Sid decided he wanted to carry on rather than stop for lunch so off he went, following our route alone. The remaining three of us went in the restaurant to find it only served pizzas. Ah well, pizza again, which turned out to be very good but we would have preferred something more French, not Italian! The many other people in the restaurant were a local football team and members of their families. The local press were there too and when they heard what we were doing they wanted the story – and a photo. Whether we did end up in their local paper we can only guess but the reporter seemed very interested in us four crazy English Cyclists.

After lunch the sun was out and it was pleasantly warm, even the wind had dropped. It was a lovely spring day with lots of flowers in the hedgerows and birds singing away as we meandered evermore southward, now looking for Sid in the distance. Late in the afternoon we passed through the small market town of Rouillac just as they were clearing up from the day’s market. It was late afternoon and we had seen no sign of Sid. Our planned stop for the night was Hiersac, another 20 miles further. We had already done 100 miles and were already tired but we carried on with me going ahead to find somewhere to stay in Hiersac. I rode into the small town just before 7-00pm, everything was shut up and the only hotel was boarded up, not a good sign.

On riding past a farmhouse I saw a young lady in the courtyard and asked her if there was anywhere to stay locally. She wasn’t sure so got her mother who said she thought there was a Chambre d’hote a few miles away. Whilst she went in to ring the place to enquire about vacancies, Harry and Ken arrived, still no Sid. The farmers wife, Mme Ricoulleau had arranged accommodation for us but informed us that they couldn’t do an evening meal. In a flash she had the three of us sat at her huge kitchen table and fed us on home-cured ham for starters followed by stuffed, rolled pork with fried potatoes and mushrooms for main course then fruit and ice cream for dessert – oh, and a bottle of good red wine to wash it down. Whilst we were eating this delicious and unexpected feast Monsieur Ricoulleau came in from his work and found our journey quite fascinating, wanting to know all about our route and why we were doing it. At 9-30 it was beginning to go dark and, as we had no lights on our bikes we had to get going to get to the chambre d’hote before the light faded. “No problem”, declared Monsieur Ricoulleau, “Follow me!” We did, as he drove ahead of us in his car with hazards flashing, leading us safely along the road to a beautifully restored barn on a vineyard where we enjoyed our night’s stay. But where was Sid? After a couple of phone calls we established that he was safe and well and enjoying the night in the comfort of a posh hotel on the outskirts of Cognac, about thirty miles off route! He was quite happy riding alone and said he would meet up with us on the road the following day.

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Day 4 Monday 28th April 2003
Distance 85 miles

After a pleasant breakfast of cereal, bread, jams and fruit we went back to Hiersac where our first job was to go in the boulangerie/patisserie to buy a delicious looking gateau for Mme Ricoulleau to thank her for her kindness on the previous night. She had been so helpful and taken us into her house and fed us well for which she would accept no payment. She must have seen a look of desperation on our faces, standing there in her courtyard worn out after 120 miles riding, the greatest daily distance of the whole trip. Anyway, she was very pleased with the gateau as we presented it to her that morning.

It was 8-45 by the time we were on our way. Sid had told us the night before that he would set off early from his hotel, about 7-00am, and take minor roads to be on our route ahead of us by nine or ten o’clock. So, he should be ahead of us and with his pace slower that ours we would catch him up that morning.

It was a warm morning with plenty of hills and that ever present headwind to contend with. The roads were, as usual, almost deserted as we crossed the river Charente and past vineyards growing grapes for Cognac production. We stopped for morning coffee in a pretty little village called Blanzac, sitting outside in the warm sunshine and watching the world go by – very slowly. We could tell we were getting further south, not just by the weather but by the more relaxed pace of life. In weather like this the locals don’t rush around!

By the time we stopped for lunch in Riberac we were wondering if Sid really was in front of us or behind us – we really should have had mobile phones that worked in France. If he was in front of us he had got a move on, but if he was behind it meant he had not set off as early as he intended. After lunch of bread and cheese washed down by copious amounts of bottled water we were off again and heading uphill through heavily forested countryside.

This uphill section went uphill for a long time, about twelve miles in total. Not too steep so a steady rhythm could be kept up and eventually we reached the top. Just over the summit we were sat by the roadside taking a well earned break when we saw an elderly looking man pedalling very slowly towards us going in the opposite direction. I shouted a friendly bonjour to him and the reply that came took us by surprise – “Hello boyo’s how you doin’?” John Griffiths, an 83 year old Welshman, told us he was on his way back to England after a seven month cycle tour of Europe. He had started his tour in September 2002 in Norway and through the winter months had ridden down through Europe as far as Sicily. He had been down to Gibraltar and Portugal and was now heading north through France to catch a ferry home. He said he had slept rough in forests along the way - “Recording birdsong on my tape recorder for my grandchildren”. His bike must have weighed a ton with all the stuff he had on there – along with his not-so-compact tape recorder, and a set off books in Arabic he had acquired along the way. (He used to teach modern languages at Cardiff University). As we waved him on his way we couldn’t help feeling that our trip was just a little jaunt compared with his – what a man!

A welcome long downhill led through Mussidan and into Bergerac, our overnight stop. There was still no sign of Sid as we rode into Bergerac, by far the biggest and busiest town we went through. It was hot - 31ºC on roadside thermometers and it was still April! We crossed the River Dordogne a couple of times before finding a modest looking hotel suitable for our needs. The Hotel Chez Jakmy was on a busy road leading out of the city but thankfully the traffic was almost non-existent by the time we were ready for bed. We had eaten in the hotel cheaply (11€, three courses with wine and coffee) before ringing England to find out what was happening with Sid. We had a common number to ring if any of us was in difficulties and lost contact with the group. It turned out that Sid was indeed behind us on the road today and he was staying the night in Mussidan, a few miles back. So, the plan now was for us to set off late the following morning and hope that Sid had passed through Bergerac ahead of us – we would surely find him up ahead somewhere.

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Day 5 Tuesday 29th April 2003
Distance 80 miles

There had been thunder and torrential rain through he night but it had eased off to a drizzle by breakfast time. We crossed the River Dordogne again at 9-15am and headed off out of Bergerac on a quiet road past the tiny airport. A long, gradual climb led up to the imposing Chateau Monbazillac which was visible ahead. We had to turn left at a cross roads there and, just before the turning, there was the missing Sid, sitting by the roadside having a drink from his water bottle! He was quite underwhelmed that we were all back together again, the concensus amongst the three of us was that he was quite happy to ride on his own, at his own pace, and would have been happy to meet us by the Mediterranean later in the week. Nevertheless we were back as a group of four and cycled happily on our way.

After passing the vineyards of Monbazillac where they grow the grapes for the famous, and expensive Monbazillac dessert wine we arrived in the ancient village of Issigeac. This thirteenth century village is amazingly preserved with oak-beamed houses and shops overhanging the narrow streets. A few miles further on we entered Villereal, another ancient village, although much bigger than Issigeac. The sun had come out again and it was pleasantly warm as we had lunch at a café in the arcades that surround the square. There was a food fair on in the 14th century covered market which dominates the square and we finished of our lunch with tastings of local cheeses, pates, and dried meats.

It was a flat road down to Monflanquin, a beautiful hilltop village which we only saw from below. It would have meant quite a detour to go up to the village so we carried on over a hilly section through woodland to Fumel. Through Tournon and we were into the Midi Pyrenees region. There was certainly a feeling of being in the south of France now. The buildings were southern style with terracotta tiled roofs and the weather was getting better all the time. We passed through many attractive villages amongst stunning scenery before dropping down to flatter terrain by the River Tarn.

The town of Lafrancaise is perched on a hilltop and it seemed a long climb before arriving in the town square and beginning our now familiar task of searching for a suitable bed for the night. The aptly named Hotel Belvedere fitted the bill perfectly and we were soon settling in our rooms with a magnificent view over the surrounding countryside. The hotel staff were, as always, very friendly and interested in what we were doing. We ate in the hotel and had an early night in readiness for the following day’s riding.

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Day 6 Wednesday 30th April 2003
Distance 86 miles

We rode back down the long hill from Lafrancaise in light rain, quite chilling at 8-30am. From the bottom of the hill we located the minor road beside the River Tarn which we were to follow for the next fifteen miles. As soon as we started along this road Harry had the first puncture of the trip. On closer inspection he found that his tyre had split along the sidewall and was irreparable. Luckily we were carrying a couple of folding tyres for emergencies such as this and Harry’s bike was soon up and running once more. We stopped at Villemade a few miles further on where we found a bike shop to replace Harry’s tyre. We also took the opportunity to have a refreshing glass of chilled, freshly squeezed orange juice at a pavement café.

It was a dull day and much cooler than it had been with temperatures of around 15ºC. But occasional the sun made an appearance and with it the temperature soared. So it was on and off with layers of clothing to keep pace with the changeable conditions.

We were now riding roads to the east of Toulouse, far enough away from this busy city to escape the traffic and still on quiet country lanes most of the time. As far as St Sulpice we were in fact following the River Tarn, which at this early stage of its journey to the sea was not very impressive – unlike much further along where it plunges through the spectacular Tarn Gorge. We were not going in that direction though. Our route was to follow a parallel line to the A61 autoroute, the motorway from Toulouse to the Mediterranean. We were enough miles north of the autoroute to ensure we were not disturbed by the traffic noise. The only sounds that we heard on these fantastic, deserted cycling roads was birdsong from the many skylarks and cuckoos that kept us company. We were also surprised by the number of buzzards which we saw swooping across the road ahead of us and perching in nearby trees.

Soon after St Sulpice we stopped for lunch in a small village where the only food was from a little old fashioned grocers shop. Fruit, cheese and bread were bought and quickly dispatched beside the road before heading off into hilly country towards our target for the day, Revel. We stopped for coffee mid afternoon in Caraman where the bar owner proudly told us that the Tour de France was going to be visiting his town later in the summer. I don’t think those riders would be stopping for a coffee in his bar, but they should generate plenty of custom for him that day.

Just out of Caraman at St Julia, the road ahead towards Revel was closed for roadworks. Completely closed ‘Route Barre’ the signs said. Checking the map showed that to get to Revel by any other route would involve too many extra miles and too many extra hills. So we made the decision to go ahead and see if we could get through on our bikes, even if it meant carrying them for a short distance. After a couple of miles we found that, although the road surface was broken up we could ride all the way.

We arrived in Revel about 5-00pm and headed straight for the Tourist Information Office in the town square, where we were told that because of a local holiday all accommodation in the town was fully booked. After the helpful staff made a few phone calls we were fixed up with rooms at the Hotel Renaissance about four miles out of town at St Ferreol. Luckily it was on our route, but at the top of a very long, steep climb. Well, thinking positive, it was one climb that we wouldn’t have to do first thing the following morning. We enjoyed an excellent meal of the local Cassoulet that evening, very filling stuff!

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Day 7 Thursday 1st May 2003
Distance 115 miles

May had arrived and this was our last day of the tour. It was going to be a long, hilly 115 miles before we would be able to say we had done it, but our spirits were still high and we were enjoying every minute of the ride. Well, apart from the headwind that is!

From Revel to Carcassonne you have to cross the Montagne Noire, the Black Mountain which is the southernmost part of France’s Massive Central mountains. Not huge mountains by Alpine or Pyrenean standards, but on our seventh day in the saddle it would prove to be a big enough challenge for four not-so-young cycle tourists.

Shortly after leaving the hotel we passed the Basin de St Ferreol a roadside lake popular for windsurfing and yachting. Steady climbing through woodland led to the hilltop village of Saissac. The old grey buildings cling to the hillside and overlook the ruined castle with a spectacular view across the intervening flat countryside and to the snow-capped Pyrenees beyond. Soon after Saissac the road began to descend towards the city of Carcassonne. We didn’t go into the city but skirted around the northern side on lanes through fields full of poppies and cornflowers, and frequent glimpses of the fortified old city of Carcassonne. Eventually we were down in the valley and alongside the famous Canal du Midi at Trebes. The inland waterway that links the Atlantic with the Mediterranean was busy with holiday makers in their hire boats, or ‘noddy boats’ as the more serious boaters call the cabin cruisers.

We followed the canal as far as Douzens where we had a coffee stop before heading south and into the Corbiere Hills, the last upland area before reaching the sea. The hills were fairly gentle and we were riding through an area full of vineyards. It was along one of these roads that the second, and last puncture of the trip occurred. It was me this time, having got a drawing pin of all things in my rear tyre. It was soon fixed and we continued through rocky gorges to Ripaud. We all agreed that we should stop here for a short break and take in some water. That was all we could take in as we hadn’t been able to find anywhere for food for quite a long time. We had covered over seventy hilly miles and were feeling the effects of not having eaten anything substantial for quite some time. We carried on towards the coast hopeful that we would find somewhere to eat. It wasn’t until we reached the A9 motorway near Sigean that we found food, and it was in the form of a drive through Macdonalds! At this stage of the day anything would do so we duly devoured Big Macs and fries washed down by copious amounts of Coke! Not really good cycling food but it actually tasted delicious, we were so hungry.The final miles down the Mediterranean coast were slightly disappointing, the only part of the whole journey that I would amend if I were to do it again. It consisted of many miles on a busy hard shoulder of the coast road. Strong cross winds and heavy traffic made this section unpleasant. We were off this road eventually and riding through the seaside town of Canet-Plage, following the main avenue down towards the sea. We reached the coast and rode our bikes down onto the beach under heavy grey skies, not what we had expected of the Mediterranean, but we were there! We had arrived at our destination! Six hundred and eighty nine miles on the clock, just short of our seven hundred mile target but we would make the rest up looking for a hotel! We found the Hotel Cholosse on the outskirts of town and booked in for two nights. Time to relax and celebrate!

The following day we took things easy, getting up late and strolling down to the beach. A couple of beers in Pavarotti’s bar at lunch time and a relaxing afternoon in the, by now, warm sunshine. We had a great meal, probably the best of the trip in a Catalan restaurant that night, followed by a good session back at Pavarotti’s until 2-00am.

Saturday was a glorious day so after breakfast we got the bikes out and rode down the coast through Collioure and up into the hills to the Spanish border beyond Cebere. This deserted border and customs post overlooked the northern Spanish coast way down below us. After photos it was time to head back down to Collioure for lunch by the sea before a leisurely ride back to the hotel. Another meal at the Catalan restaurant followed by Pavarotti’s ended our stay nicely.

Sunday morning and we were riding to Perpignan’s northern motorway exit to be picked up by the European Bike Express which delivered us safely back to England.

With last minute fundraising and collecting of promised donations, we had a total of £9,300 which we proudly presented to St Catherine’s Hospice, along with a ‘Tour de France’ print inscribed with a dedication to the memory of Joe Heatley and Tony Flemming.

All four of us were in agreement that it had been a fantastic trip, and for a very worthwhile cause. There were times when one or more of us was finding it hard work, especially into those headwinds, but when you are doing something you enjoy you can put up with a few minor inconveniences and discomforts. At times we rode along all together as a group and other times we split up and re-grouped at a point further up the road. The episode with Sid disappearing for a couple of days was a little worrying for the three of us wondering where he was and if he was OK, but it was of no concern to Sid – he was quite happy riding on his own with no pressure to keep up with the rest of us, especially on the hills! And he get a night in a first class hotel – with a Jacuzzi!

I'm glad to say that this trip was an inspiration to one of my fellow Garstang Cycling Club members to follow in our footsteps and complete the Channel 2 Med. In June 2007, 70yr old Bob Raftery completed it on his own . Never having udertaken a foreign cycle tour before, and not speaking any French, it was a fantastic achievment for Bob, who thouroughly enjoyed our Channel 2 Med route.

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