Belfort to Vittel, France – 84 miles & 1,211 metres climbed

I maybe should have known that pitching next to construction contractors on a Thursday night may mean an early start. Having worked in the industry then I know that many contractors stay away from home during the week and then return home on the Friday afternoon. I knew they were contractors by their company flat bed truck logo. They must have been working locally and camping during the week. I imagine this makes it very affordable for the contractor and in decent weather it isn’t a particular hardship. What was a hardship, to their neighbours, was that they started to ‘break camp’ at 5.15am on the Friday morning. There was a reasonably responsible attempt at minimising the noise but I was frustrated to get woken up. Sleep is a fuel.

So this clonking about went on for around an hour and I must have fallen asleep again because when I next looked at my watch it was 7.30am and they were gone. I needed to be up to get a few miles in before the inferno started and I wasn’t pleased.

I wrote about the rest day and if it had provided any recovery; obviously it was a help but I was not as fresh as I was when I started in Split. The thought of lots of climbing up seriously demanding inclines was abhorrent as I turned out of the campsite. So I decided to aim a little west to get past the mountain range to the north in the Vosges. In the heat I trundled along to Lure and then had a splendid lunch in Luxeuil-les-Bains of risotto and another Coke and ice with that delirious pleasure of the first mouthful cracking on the back of your parched throat.

Food wise I was struggling. I simply had little or no appetite yet if I failed to eat properly then I quickly faded. Often I might pass a supermarket thinking that I should get something in but I felt so uninspired as I plodded around the aisles. All this is in stark contrast to the lectures I put in my Touring Handbook on my personal site called Cycle Tour Craft. Take a look as this is a literal A to Z of touring based on my travels in Europe and North America.

With my water bottles replenished I had a vague plan to get as far north as I could and also to a campsite. In this part of France then campsites were thin on the ground and there wasn’t much to see. The landscape went up and down and arable farming was on either side of the road.

However, today the heat seemed at a new level. The thermometer read up to 36 degrees C or 97 degrees F but it seemed more intense than other days and the road heat came up at you like as if you were opening an oven door. I found myself with a dry mouth all the time and I went on to drink over 7 litres of fluid for the day. Inevitably I ran low on occasion and I surprised two ladies, sat outside their house, in some small village by pulling up in front of them and pleading “excuse moi, avez d’eau s’il vous plaît?” Of course they helped.

Ahh… another hill ahead

Which, brings me onto another subject: the sociability of the French. After the indifference of the Austrians and Germans I was now being regularly acknowledged by pedestrians I’d pass on my ride, tractor drivers, other cyclists and little old ladies urging me on as I reached the brow of another hill. In fact I often used too much French language when stationary and a torrent would come back that I had no idea about. It was simply heartening to have some interaction during 7 or 8 hours on the bike. Viva la France.

Yet, was it? The football team won the World Cup a couple of weeks earlier and there was the odd French Tricolour draped on a wall but little else. In England half the nation wouldn’t have sobered up yet had we won it!

So all a sudden despite feeling less than sparkling and still thirsty I decided to push on to Vittel (of the table water fame) and came across a blissful municipal campsite. I got there at 8.25pm and the sign at Reception suggested I should find a pitch and pay in the morning. Okey dokey.

This day got me to a total of 1,079 miles for the trip.

(Hammer: Dutch motorcyclists).

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