The overnight ferry arrived in Roscoff early the next morning and we were a little tired, hungover and hungry, but rather than stop immediately to fuel up, we headed in the vague direction of where the EuroVelo route started. The EuroVelo routes are a network of long-distance cycle routes which cover nearly every corner of Europe. Some, like those in France, are completed and offer some of the best uninterrupted, traffic-free, cycling in Europe. Others are still in development, but it’s a great initiative which is getting Europe moving.
The level of signposting varies and our initial experience lead us to believe we were in for a long few weeks; we couldn’t find the start of the route. However, we finally found the sign which refers to the Vélodyssée and we set off.
Our first stop was to be Morlaix, a small but pretty town 30km from the ferry port. Here we planned to have a quick pitstop and head off to our first overnight port of call on the tour, somewhere close to a town called Carhaix, a further 50km away.
The scenery was magnificent, the air was fresh and there wasn’t another person to be seen. I myself hadn't really prepared for a trip of this magnitude, so I was aware that I might struggle with the distances early on, but what I hadn’t taken into account was that our third friend, who turned up in the 11th hour, hadn’t cycled one bit. His euphoria of initially joining up with us for this trip soon relinquished and, to this date, I still firmly believe he holds the record for the quickest person to verbally throw in the towel on this cycle route. At around 5km, the words ‘it’s over’ were muttered time and time again. To his credit, we did manage to drag him, against his will, a further 70km that day to our end point. After a three hour ‘pitstop’ we finally ended the first day’s cycling as the light was fading and we arrived at our campsite, just short of our intended destination.
A friendly French man had seen we were a bit lost prior to this and had not only directed us towards the campsite, but also, realising there were no shops open, had driven to a supermarket and met us at the campsite with a crate of food and drinks. The first of many kind gestures on this trip.
The next morning I awoke having slept like a baby. However, unfortunately the previous day’s endeavours had taken its toll on our friend and we only managed to cycle a further 10km that day to a B&B for him to rest up. We were already about 50 km behind on our itinerary and we’d been cycling for just over 24 hours. Over the next 36 hours (in which we didn’t move any further and essentially gave up on our itinerary) our third friend became ill and decided he was to head home on a train, via Paris. A book could be written about those first few days and i’m sure it would be well received. Much of what we’d anticipated for the trip had not gone to plan, but we were still confident we could push on and gain on our lost kilometres.
Over the next two days, covering about 90km, we got back into the swing of things and cycled towards a town called Pontivy. The first day’s cycling had gone relatively well and we’d reached a town called Glomel at around 6pm. We went to our campsite and got a pitch off of the campsite owner and went over to pitch our tent. Now, I don’t claim to be a genius, but pitching a tent is quite a hard thing to achieve when you realise the tent has been left in the B&B some 45km away. This was something I had to take the blame for as it was my turn to carry it, but I having been caught up in sending our friend off to Paris i’d managed to leave some luggage behind, some important luggage.
I went to speak to the French campsite owner to see if he could book me a taxi to Carhaix, but he said it would be too expensive and insisted on driving me himself. Just another great act of kindness we received on the trip. Having got to Carhaix I realised I had no idea where the B&B was, apart from being on a river, which isn’t helpful when the whole town is essentially on the river. I’d come in from a different direction on a bike route, and hadn’t really acclimatised myself with the town. The campsite owner was very relaxed though and eventually we found it and the emergency was over. The campsite owner also refused any payment for his help. So, if you’re ever camping in the Glomel region of France, please stay here.
We realised that if we were to arrive at our end point on time (Madrid for the beginning of the 2014 World Cup), we’d need to quite substantially increase the amount fo kilometres we were doing and probably have less time to enjoy the surroundings and the towns. We had a choice; consider this trip a holiday or a challenge. We quickly decided upon the former and worked out a new way in which we could gently launch ourselves back on course.
There were no trains from Pontivy, only buses which wouldn’t take our bikes, so we had to cycle to the nearest train station (don’t worry we weren’t getting the train all the way to Spain, Just to La Rochelle). The nearest train station was in Vannes, a lovely town in the south of Brittany. This took us off the cycle route and onto a main road, which wasn't the most pleasant of experiences, but French drivers treat cyclists like royalty and provide you with ample space when overtaking.
Our new itinerary was to cycle from La Rochelle to Irun, in Spain, at a more leisurely pace that what we had originally planned. Once we were on the train there was no looking back and we were excited to arrive in our new location with the hope of a slightly improved climate, glorious beaches and the beginning of the holiday.