We have a skylight in our bedroom and this morning it was covered in snow! However, the cover was light, and although everything outside was frozen, the sun shone in defiance of the cold. A truly beautiful day but could we ride? Of course we could! Mmmm. The mountains were going to be beautiful today so the decision made over breakfast, was that we would delay the start in the hope that a thaw might set in or at least a partial one. Mmmm. By 10.30, and resembling a couple of Michelin men, we sought out James and the minibus which was to take us to the start of our ride just on the outskirts of Egleton. It is true that the roads were still very icy but ensconced inside a bus with snow tyres we were sanguine about the tour to come. We were less sanguine after negotiating a set of icy steps to the boulangerie and observing the provision of salt on the pavements. Nonetheless ten minutes later, we were unloading the bikes, having a nervous wee behind a convenient bush and bidding a reluctant farewell to our driver and mentor. Six or seven kilometres later, we must leave the mainish road and take on the less salted variety. James was waiting for us. For a few hundred metres it looked as if conditions were going to defeat us but not so. The ice surrendered to the sun and the road surface was rideable with care. Persistent sunshine allowed for conditions to improve and exhibit the beauty of the countryside when we had enough breath to appreciate it as we were undertaking some fairly serious climbing. In a charming village we partook of the lunch we had purchased in the valley while perusing the architecture (too cold to sit still), admiring the vista and chewing the cud with an elderly local walking his very, very small dog. If he thought we were mad he hid it well but warning us of shocking weather to come on the morrow. We decided to live for today and so, revitalised, we continued with our climb. Armed with his local knowledge, James had driven to a point where he suspected conditions might be too icy for a continuation on two wheels. Sadly, he was right and we had to finish the last few kilometres on four wheels with an engine. Disappointed we might have been, but the views from the top more than compensated for that. Add in James’ valiant attempt at boiling a kettle on a small gas stove, and we were ecstatic. That the kettle took nigh on half an hour to boil mattered not at all as we took photos of everything including the reluctant kettle. Anyway tea is always better for a wait – maybe.
Clearly, the cycling was over for the day but it had been memorable for all the right reasons and endorsed our original desire to visit this area of France. Our grateful thanks to James, without whom none of the cycling would have been possible as conditions were so unreliable and changeable. With a bus and driver monitoring progress it allowed us to maximise the amount of cycling we could do.