05 Lac St. Martial – Tarn (187km, 2900m) Prototype of THE cycle touring day

You are now at post Nr. 05 out of 10 for this tour.
If you want to read the post of that trip in order, voilà:
00a Freiburg – Barcelona preparation
00b Freiburg – Barcelona READY to go
01 Freiburg – Lake Neuchâtel (206km, 1200m)
02 Lake Neuchâtel – Geneva (119km, 968m)
03 Geneva – Lyon (167km, 1585m)
04 Lyon into the Cevennes – on climbing and descending… (157km, 1885m)
05 Lac St. Martial – Tarn (187km, 2900m) Prototype of THE cycle touring day
06 Tarn – Carcassonne (203km, 2683m) – A long day in 3 dimensions
07 Carcassonne – Casteil (148km, 2635m) Arrival at the ‘base camp’
08 Walking over the Pyrenees and cycling down into Spain (110km, 2671m) – reality checks
09 Hot as hell. Tortellà, Costa Brava, Canet de Mar (145km, 1468m)
10 La Final: last 48km to Barcelona & recap. What a tour…


So far my travel days consistently progressed both in terms of their physical challenge and scenery. This day is no exception. It was extremely exhausting to me at times, particularly on the later climbs. But equally rewarding: the landscapes: no words. And how I flew down into the Tarn valley: a mind blowing experience. Here’s more: (today also more photos/videos)

I got up around 7.30h to put together all my stuff (packing the tent, bags and bike, dressing, etc.). Sadly I was optimistic enough to leave my high quality 4x-USB-charger and one battery pack in the socket in the bathroom. Someone took it. Damn, this was really a valuable piece of equipment. Also when building up my tent the night before, one part of the tent bars broke… an improvised fix did it for the moment.
Bye bye Lac de Saint-Martial (for video impressions check the previous post):


I decided not to leave on an empty stomach and got a small breakfast at the beach bar of the little Lac de St. Martial. Luckily! Because the day would start with a long and heavy climb. The gradient hardly ever went below 5,5% and by noon I already had accumulated 1000m of altitude. Yes, it was exhausting. But these views made it very bearable (also for my ‘climbing psychology’ check the previous post):

What is particularly striking is the smells around (again, more on that in the previous post)… especially when riding uphill, the pace is slow enough and one is sheltered from any headwind, so the fragrances can really work there way into my nose and mind. In this region it’s often the smell of pine trees, camomile and other things I do not manage to identify but smell very familiar.



Oh, I like that prospect on my Garmin:


And (intermediately) finally: arrival on top:​


On the summit I had a chat with a couple who recommended me to do a just 200m(!) detour to see the source of the River Loire! Without meeting these two I would have raced right past it! Voilà: “Here starts my journey towards the ocean”… how I love personifications – so powerful. Cute in this case.


But this was just a tiny fraction of that day’s stage. Naturally it continued with a great downhill ride…

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…followed by a lot of up and down on a high altitude (about 1200m) towards Lagogne. There was also a short piece of gravel on the way: almost lost control of the bike on the pebbles and sand… (simply due to the filming with one hand. Yes, mom and dad, I’ll be more careful!)


In Lagogne I really needed some calories. The bar owner was just about to close for the noon break, but was willing to make me a pizza and let me sit outside while he closed; also had a nice chat about Tour de France (which I don’t know much about…)

What followed was a somewhat ‘risky’ bit: the D71 leaving Lagogne to the south. There was no streetview available for that road; which is usually a sign that it is not paved. But: this road was the perfect connection of the route, I hoped it to be scenic (just judging by  the terrain profile and intuition) and I believed, if this road has a number as a name it must be paved. This time my optimism turned out justified. The road started with a pretty level stretch, actually even a descent:

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…but quickly turned into a real long climb. Exhausting, really. But boy/girl was it worth it: Naturally it was followed by a downhill ride from heaven; it started here, on the summit of that road. Surfing down into the valley:


From there on it was a lot more up and down… e.g. via the D41 (in case you’re bothered to look it up). A lot more down than up actually, which was nothing good: in a moment when I was already very tired, I had to do another ca 800m (of altitude) climb to get onto a plateau into which the river Tarn  – my destination for that day – had cut its way throughout the passt millionenia (yes, a new word. From now on). That was really heavy. But at some point I did reach the top, and it had its very own beauty:


The God of the cyclists (Merckx or someone) wanted to torture me a little more, though. This came in the shape of needles; almost literally: very sharp peaks on the plateau: short, but really steep climbs (>10%) in combination with headwind. Luckily relief stages in between, like it’s supposed to be for a solid torture session. But – to keep it biblically – at some point I saw the light: DOWNHILL. Into the Tarn valley. Not just a bit: really long, incredibly well paved, pretty steep, no sharp bends. I think I broke my personal speed record: 75 km/h. With luggage. In these situations my chosen setup really pays off: it is rock solid. Nothing is moving, all bags tightened – in combination with the stability features of my road-configured cyclocross bike: pure control!

Here’s one impression of that ride. Excuse my scream. It was honest. Hell yes!


And at some point, very suddenly, the Tarn valley opened up in front of me. These are moments that will last for as long as I do.

That silence after the wild ride… unforgettable. The town at the bottom is Sainte-Enimie. From there it was still another 35km to the campsite that I had in mind in Le Rozier. Sure, I could have put up my tent here. But since my next stage (after one chilled day at the river) should get me to Carcassonne – and not jut 35km before – the old rule was valid once more: every km I make today is one I don’t make tomorrow.

Luckily the wind didn’t reach out into the niches of the deep canyon and I was cycling along the direction of flow of the here still pretty wild water (meaning going at a slight but helpful decline). On top of that, now set in what I experienced already many times in the final part of a day’s stage: a sudden boost of energy that makes the pedaling feel so easy. I’m sure this is to some extent a psychological/psychosomatic effect – somehow the body ‘knows’ that the end of the tour is near, but that there’s still work to be done.

In any case, this is roughly how it looked. Of course there were places like crazy tunnels in the rock, brick-bridges, weird rock formations, chateaus, etc… but I really wasn’t in the mood for taking more pics. Yet here’s one impression:


At about 21.30 I arrived at the camp site. I had previously announced my arrival by phone. Turned out it was run by a Swiss family. And their snackbar-caravan was still open so they made me an excellent burger! I put up my tent, showered and slept; not necessarily in that order (except for the sleeping). I don’t remember. I was too tired… it was a long and eventful day.

STRAVA: click

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04 Lyon into the Cevennes – on climbing and descending… (157km, 1885m)

You are now at post Nr. 04 out of 10 for this tour.
If you want to read the post of that trip in order, voilà:
00a Freiburg – Barcelona preparation
00b Freiburg – Barcelona READY to go
01 Freiburg – Lake Neuchâtel (206km, 1200m)
02 Lake Neuchâtel – Geneva (119km, 968m)
03 Geneva – Lyon (167km, 1585m)
04 Lyon into the Cevennes – on climbing and descending… (157km, 1885m)
05 Lac St. Martial – Tarn (187km, 2900m) Prototype of THE cycle touring day
06 Tarn – Carcassonne (203km, 2683m) – A long day in 3 dimensions
07 Carcassonne – Casteil (148km, 2635m) Arrival at the ‘base camp’
08 Walking over the Pyrenees and cycling down into Spain (110km, 2671m) – reality checks
09 Hot as hell. Tortellà, Costa Brava, Canet de Mar (145km, 1468m)
10 La Final: last 48km to Barcelona & recap. What a tour…


or: On Climbing & descending – the beauty of investment and return with compound interest…

What a day… things are getting real. I started in Lyon and from there entered the Cevennes. It’s amazing what (other) beautiful landscapes we have in the heart of Europe. To get this across I’ll include the few pictures and clips I took that day. And besides that I have a short text about roadbike climbing and financial investment… äh.. yes.

[pardon the inconsistent use of tense] On my third day to Lyon I already felt the training effect. The two rest days there apparently didn’t do harm. My legs are fine and as usual after a couple of kilometers they’re back in their flow. The route started several kilometers southwards along the river Rhone, and just before Saint-Pierre-de-Boeuf right (west) into the Cevennes. This is where the first smooth, longstretched climb started. At some point down into the valley towards Annonay and again a loooong valley climb through e.g. Saint-Julien-Vocance. Some more of that and at some point in the evening I arrived at my destination; the Lac de Saint-Martial, which I had picked mainly because it was at just the right distance from Lyon (not too much less than 1/3 towards Carcassone, which I wanted to reach within 3 cycling days), and because it looked pretty cute in the satellite/Streetview pictures. As you will see below, reality did not disappoint me!

Climbing & descending – the beauty of investment and return with compound interest.

As mentioned above, there were multiple long stretches of climbs today that added up to 1880m altitude gain (on 157km). Quite something when you include luggage in the equation and the fact that I have hardly and longterm mountain experience. Luckily though, most of those climbs were stretched out enough to have gradients between 4 and 6% with some outliers up to at least 10% (estimated). I remained mostly in the saddle. In fact I realized again how inefficient standing up is on climbs – but sometimes necessary and good just to change the position, stretch a bit and shift the load onto other muscle groups – just for a few dozen meters, and then back into the regular position, slowly but consistently winding my way up.

A skill I gained now and value a lot is pacing: I follow the basic principle as I do on flat stretches: choose a gear light enough to have just a little perceived resistance at a healthy cadence (I counted once: 90rpm feels good to me). I am not shy with the small chainring (34T currently). On a climb I will go slow. I never checked my power output, but I guess it is rather low. But I know that by cycling on low pressure I will endure for quite a while; and greatly: it does not feel much heavier over the course of a climb (or day, in case of flat stages): at my healthy power/cadence the end feels almost just as exhausting as at the beginning and I can go on for quite a while.

While climbing I try to not think too much about the climbing. For one thing, climbing makes for a very different placement in the surrounding: because of the low pace and because often the mountain shields from headwind, there is no wind noise in the ear which lets you hear all of the wonderful sounds of your immediate environment: grasshoppers, bees, wind moving leafs, sometimes other animals being busy in the bushes (with ‘other’ I do not mean ‘other than me’ but ‘other than the bees’. Just to clarify. But sure, in the end I’m also just an animal pacing that world).

Then, the lack of moving air also makes scents much stronger: usually the smell of pine trees, other wood, camomile, and other things that smelled incredibly familiar but I couldn’t identify. In any case: like a high class and and ‘all natural’ (whatever that’s supposed to mean) soap bar box. Just more subtle.

And another effect from the slower speeds: I see more; obvious. I can stick for much longer to little details that are very close by: the pattern of the year rings in that log, two butterflies mating on the pavement, the old lady on her bench on her front porch, the multiple times rolled over ferret-kind-of creature whose tragedy is approaching me with every creaky crunchy turn of my tires and crank… beautiful!

When those things do not keep me busy enough, I prefer to deviate my thoughts into anything from e.g. tonal excercises, doing accents, contemplating past events or human relationships or silly mind games. One of the latter that was circulating around my mind is about climbing. I think an analogy of financial investment very much matches my psychology on climbs:

Winding my way uphill is an investment; I give away and invest current ressources – namely calories and more importantly the (primarily clearly) negative experience of work and exhaustion – and receive a return in the future – a downhill ride that is a fun experience, cooling, physically relaxing, usually had a great view and also moves me forward on the map very quickly. The thing is: that investment is very solid: I know that I started on several hundred meters above NN in Freiburg, and I will end on 0 NN in Barcelona. The return is guaranteed; like with a current German government bond. So you’d expect there to be no interest on it (since there’s no risk involved (no: Barcelona will not rise from the sea anytime soon)) – but there is: a future descent has a much higher value to me than a current descent. That is because a future descent includes the descent itself, and the hindsight memory of it, but also the joyful anticipation of it! On another level there is even some sort of cumulative interest involved: because I have the feeling that my joy on a downhill ride increases exponentially with it’s length and the length is proportional to the amount of uphill riding which naturally in turn is proportional to the time spent. So: the longer I climb, the exponentially higher the return. What a deal! Take my money!!

So, ja, I admit it might sound a bit far-fetched but I think that’s about the mechanism at play. Bottomline:

  • I like climbs because they pay off very profitably
  • Climbing makes you make up weird analogies

But here’s the practical application: The day was in fact concluded by a very solid climb that climaxed in a really steep section on the very last few hundred meters. Strangely, my destination, the lake Lac de Saint-Martial was situated right on top of that last climb, which means that one edge of the lake (my arrival edge) was immediately bordering a steep valley front; almost surprising that the wall of the sea bed is apparently stable enough to hold the lake. As you can imagine, this situation made for a great arrival: instantaneously from ‘torture’ to paradise – impossible withought the climbing. Just look at this video that I took right at my arrival:

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​Just a few meters before the campsite.​​


Landscape

I knew of course it would be pretty. But I didn’t expect this… even parts that I in my planning expected to be rather dull, necessary sections to bridge the highlights turned out to be really pretty. But as we all know: pictures say more than 1000 words (I realized now that I don’t have too many pictures/clips available; sorrrry. Many though in the next post):

Cola break in Maclas:

Lunch break:



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More (and more valuable) photos will be in the next post!

STRAVA: click


03 Geneva – Lyon (167km, 1585m)

You are now at post Nr. 03 out of 10 for this tour.
If you want to read the post of that trip in order, voilà:
00a Freiburg – Barcelona preparation
00b Freiburg – Barcelona READY to go
01 Freiburg – Lake Neuchâtel (206km, 1200m)
02 Lake Neuchâtel – Geneva (119km, 968m)
03 Geneva – Lyon (167km, 1585m)
04 Lyon into the Cevennes – on climbing and descending… (157km, 1885m)
05 Lac St. Martial – Tarn (187km, 2900m) Prototype of THE cycle touring day
06 Tarn – Carcassonne (203km, 2683m) – A long day in 3 dimensions
07 Carcassonne – Casteil (148km, 2635m) Arrival at the ‘base camp’
08 Walking over the Pyrenees and cycling down into Spain (110km, 2671m) – reality checks
09 Hot as hell. Tortellà, Costa Brava, Canet de Mar (145km, 1468m)
10 La Final: last 48km to Barcelona & recap. What a tour…


I’m not sure a cycling day could be any more diverse than this third one…

  • from strong rain to blue sky
  • super hot to really cold
  • perfect pavement to heavy gravel
  • long 5-15% gradients to Dutch-type flatness
  • -Thick air to stable headwinds

In general this day was another good preparation for the centralparts of my trip (Massif Central and Pyrennees) because today’s distance was pretty ok, and there was some climbing involved. I mean, in the end I got myself (and 25kg of equipment) over the southern Jura mountains.

After a very sleepless night in a hostel (I had a room’mate’ who remarkably mastered both smelling and snoring on a pro level) and a pretty decent hostel breakfast I started off at blue and cloudy but dry weather in Geneva.

The ride started with this bright encounter: Within the first couple of km I approached two cyclists with a label “Barcelona” on their panniers! We had a brief chat. Turned out that Florian and Johannes were also German (started in Ingolstadt) and we’re following a similar route as I am (generally more South). We briefly exchanged contacts and I’m confident we’ll meet up for a Cerveza later to celebrate our arrivals together.

I went on, and the weather turned. Sadly I was so optimistic about the conditions that my feet were already kind of wet by the time I put on my rain gear. In any case: real rain… wrapped up like a mummy, I arrived at Chancy, a little border bridge, and entered France. And that’s where also the Jura starts. By now it was sunny again. The first road into the Jura turned out to be a super steep, slippery and rough gravel road – This can happen… that I missed some of those spots in my route planning. But more problematic (to me) was that from the first second of that climb I was accompanied by an aggressive little dog that – as far as I interpret it’s behavior – tried to catch me. It almost had me… but I gave all I had and escaped; perfect: that adrenaline got me through the next steep and rough 400m. (Ja, I’m not really a dog kind of guy).

Some impressions from when I entered the Jura (still at lower altitude): here the feeling of exploration and adventure really set in; because I have never seen this kind of area (while I had already ideas about the previous landscapes in Switzerland)


Then paved road again and the real long climb began… Gained about 800m altitude over a rather short distance. 7% gradient on average, I guess. And now it was hot and sunny. Certainly better than climbing in the rain.

Judging by the chalk letters of famous cyclists on the ground I was following a Tour de France road.


At some point I arrived at 1100m where I had a nice chat with a local who like me enjoyed this fantastic view and agreed to take my picture. In the background behind the clouds, usually the Montblanc would be visible.


Up there it was really cold and now there was no mountain between me and the solid west wind anymore. But generally very quiet up there!

From there it went mostly (not exclusively) downhill. But once more I ended up on heavy gravel in the woods. And in terms of rain now shit hit the fan. Felt like a wet winter. Here’s an impression from a rainless moment in the woods:


Luckily no uphill fights anymore. At some point I reached a low altitude where it was warmer and greener again. And then surfed down a valley… unbelievable:


Sadly, at some point my potential energy that I worked for so hard earlier, was gone.. At this point I was really exhausted. Just the perfect moment to get the Bifi Roll into the game that I received from Diana and Micha three days earlier.


At some point I was liberated from the shadows of the Jura and absorbed by the width of the Rhone valley landscape. 60km to go to Lyon. And now strangely I felt really strong. I put on some motivating music.

Soundtrack of that Stage:

  • Tom Misch and
  • Talking heads

Perfect!

I raced down towards Lyon. Apart from another unwanted gravel episode on the last few km along the Rhone, everything went really smoothly and fast. I guess I nailed more than a 30km/h average there.


Arrival in Lyon about 20h. That night (and the next 2 days) I would stay at my friend Bérengère’s and her boyfriend’s place. We went out to have some original Lyonnaise food that night. My Lyon stay is something for some other post, but let me say that these 2,5 days with Bérengère and Geoffrey were very lovely and relaxed and fun! Thanks so much to both of you once more! Bérengère and me had not met in 6 years…


STRAVA: click

02 Lake Neuchâtel – Geneva (119km, 968m)

You are now at post Nr. 02 out of 10 for this tour.
If you want to read the post of that trip in order, voilà:
00a Freiburg – Barcelona preparation
00b Freiburg – Barcelona READY to go
01 Freiburg – Lake Neuchâtel (206km, 1200m)
02 Lake Neuchâtel – Geneva (119km, 968m)
03 Geneva – Lyon (167km, 1585m)
04 Lyon into the Cevennes – on climbing and descending… (157km, 1885m)
05 Lac St. Martial – Tarn (187km, 2900m) Prototype of THE cycle touring day
06 Tarn – Carcassonne (203km, 2683m) – A long day in 3 dimensions
07 Carcassonne – Casteil (148km, 2635m) Arrival at the ‘base camp’
08 Walking over the Pyrenees and cycling down into Spain (110km, 2671m) – reality checks
09 Hot as hell. Tortellà, Costa Brava, Canet de Mar (145km, 1468m)
10 La Final: last 48km to Barcelona & recap. What a tour…


A rather easy day here! And a short blog post…

I had the idea to spend a night either in Lausanne or in Geneve anyway. Lausanne would have been too short (60km); Geneve at a relaxed distance (120km).

The ride was divided into two parts: firstly from my campsite through some hilly terrain to Lausanne, and then from Lausanne along the Lake Geneva to Geneva.


Part 1: After getting up I packed my stuff (took a while), had some spare food from the day before for ‘breakfast’ and headed off. Between the Lake Neuchâtel and Lausanne you find already some softer folds of the pre-Alps and Jura. Those had to be crossed. These 60 km were pretty tiresome and I overestimated my completed distance at any given time by sometimes 50%. So, the lesson after 2 days was: climbing means half the speed/double the time.

At some point the climbs turned into descends. Arrival in Lausanne. The air seemed to be notably more Mediterranean (even though we’re still far from it); the city is located on a steep slope.


However, I did not dive too much into the architectural and historical features of Lausanne, but instead put the emphasis on culinary experiences:

Part 2: The trip continued southwestward along the Lake towards Geneve – another 65km – under headwind that turned out less bad than expected; that menu (depicted above) had such reviving effects that all went quite smoothly.

Pretty!

Arrival in Geneve:


I arrived around 19h and had plenty of time to stroll around the city and sort out everything in the hostel I had booked.

From here i was just 1 daydistance from Lyon.

Strava: (click)


01 Freiburg – Lake Neuchâtel (206km, 1200m)

You are now at post Nr. 01 out of 10 for this tour.
If you want to read the post of that trip in order, voilà:
00a Freiburg – Barcelona preparation
00b Freiburg – Barcelona READY to go
01 Freiburg – Lake Neuchâtel (206km, 1200m)
02 Lake Neuchâtel – Geneva (119km, 968m)
03 Geneva – Lyon (167km, 1585m)
04 Lyon into the Cevennes – on climbing and descending… (157km, 1885m)
05 Lac St. Martial – Tarn (187km, 2900m) Prototype of THE cycle touring day
06 Tarn – Carcassonne (203km, 2683m) – A long day in 3 dimensions
07 Carcassonne – Casteil (148km, 2635m) Arrival at the ‘base camp’
08 Walking over the Pyrenees and cycling down into Spain (110km, 2671m) – reality checks
09 Hot as hell. Tortellà, Costa Brava, Canet de Mar (145km, 1468m)
10 La Final: last 48km to Barcelona & recap. What a tour…


First of all: Greetings from Lyon/France! I arrived here on Monday, 24th of July, in the evening and was welcomed by my old friend Bérengère and her great boyfriend Joeffrey.

That was after my first three days of travelling. As I had hoped, I think they were a good physical preparation for everything else to come. But one by one…

Day 01: Freiburg(GER) – Lake Neuchâtel (CH) (206km, 1200m)
Very importantly: the Friday evening before the first cycling day I arrived by train in Freiburg/Germany – after a somewhat troublesome train connection – where I was welcomed by my Friend Diana and Micha with a) super kind and nice to talk to company and b) a very rich and delicious pasta-dinner. It was just the perfect start of my vacation! Thanks so much again to both of you!


After some good sleep I started the trip on Saturday, around 08:00h. Weather: some clouds and a bit of wind. Ideal conditions I’d say. I simply followed the peeps of my Garmin that I had previously fed with my routes (see my post 00a for the preparation).


The ride went pretty smoothly, disregarding some unexpected gravel paths and re-routed roads. The landscape around Freiburg, bordering on the Black Forest was beautiful, of course – the Rhine however rather unspectacular. No problem, since the only ‘goal’ was to start the trip in Germany; easy to bridge the gap to the Swiss border.

The urban area of Basel approached at just the right moment when I was longing for some change. Passing the border, I had a break and a refuel at the central station in Basel (proper coffee, refilling my bottles, cheesy pizza-bread. Anything that works)


Until that point it was all known terrain to me, since I’ve cycled that bit on a Essen – Luzern trip years ago. But now my GPS-beeps sent me into the unknown territory of the Jura Mountains south of Basel along the road 18 and the river Birs. In fact, in hindsight the cries of my GPS had something of Odysseus’ Sirens: luring me into misery by sketching out a bright future.

Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit. Yes, it was almost continuously going uphill for dozens of km, but at a very harmless gradient. I could have picked an alternative flat route south around the Jura, but I figured this would be a good way to get used to some climbing from day 1 on. I think it was a good decision. But then: rain – on and off – weaker and stronger. I got very skillful in putting on and off my rain jacket quickly. Thanks to my overshoes which I was testing now for the first time, my feetremained dry! Who would have thought this exists: actually rainproof “rainproof overshoes”! (Brand: Velotoze. Basically condoms for your feet)



But this was my first day… while I cycled more this year than in past years, I’d consider myself far from a well-trained cyclist. Also, besides myself I had to lift my bike and especially my luggage over those mountains. So I was having my lows… it was getting colder, I was getting weaker, my jersey wetter (from sweat or rain or a delicate mix). At some point (close to “Moutier”) needed another major break. Now I was already in the francophone territory and could test how much of my French skills remained by asking for a sandwich, some water and my beloved Magnum Double icecream.

And the journey went on. I was surprised how little of the distance through the mountains I had made yet. Another phase of gravel paths, where I misjudged the pavement in my planning. Then a more open plateau with cold headwind. And then I came to a sort of bottleneck where I had to go through a longer tunnel at La Heutte. After that, at “Friedliswart” I could have gone straight down to Biel and then along the Bieler lake. Instead I went left though Orvin along the lake on a higher altitude – in the hope that this way I would not have one rapid descent, but instead spread out my release of potential energy over a longer distance  and thus capitalize more on it. I was SO wrong: now started the toughest climb of the day! long, tedious. Really, that was incredibly shitty. The weather still unstable, wet.

At some point I reached the top point st 800m altitude. I agree… not really impressive; but tiring enough. Then I had the super steep descent (-15%) that I wanted to avoid for economic reasons. It was a pleasure though… the width of the view was in line with my feeling of relief of leaving the climb behind.


At this point I had 170km on the counter. Yes, i had planned to keep this years distances at a lower level, but on the other hand: why not suffer a bit more today in the shitty weather and do some km that I don’t have to cycle tmrw anymore..!? So, I decided to continue a bit and approach a campsite on the South side of the Lake Neuchâtel at a place called Delley Portalban – hoping it wouldn’t start raining again. 35km to go. Tough ones though: weak bones, wind, and worst of all, the last 10km turned out to be the bad kind of gravel road. Thunder and lightening in the distance. Darn… quite a fight.

Arrival at the campsite: 21h. So it was a surprisingly long day. Too late to encounter anyone at the reception of this huge campsite. So I pitched my tent next to the other smaller ones while a thunder storm started. Had a ‘Terrine du Maison’ (weird but good meat with bread) in the beach cafe, and went to sleep.

In summary: this first day was a good preparation in terms of distance, climbing and weather. Freiburg – Lyon is ca 460km of which I did 206km already. Arriving – as planned – within 3 days won’t pose a problem.

STRAVA (click)

00b Freiburg – Barcelona READY to go

You are now at post Nr. 00b out of 10 for this tour.
If you want to read the post of that trip in order, voilà:
00a Freiburg – Barcelona preparation
00b Freiburg – Barcelona READY to go
01 Freiburg – Lake Neuchâtel (206km, 1200m)
02 Lake Neuchâtel – Geneva (119km, 968m)
03 Geneva – Lyon (167km, 1585m)
04 Lyon into the Cevennes – on climbing and descending… (157km, 1885m)
05 Lac St. Martial – Tarn (187km, 2900m) Prototype of THE cycle touring day
06 Tarn – Carcassonne (203km, 2683m) – A long day in 3 dimensions
07 Carcassonne – Casteil (148km, 2635m) Arrival at the ‘base camp’
08 Walking over the Pyrenees and cycling down into Spain (110km, 2671m) – reality checks
09 Hot as hell. Tortellà, Costa Brava, Canet de Mar (145km, 1468m)
10 La Final: last 48km to Barcelona & recap. What a tour…


Everything is sorted out! I am now on the train to Freiburg where I will stay at my friend’s place. Tomorrow morning (Sat. 22nd of July) i’ll mount my horse for a ride towards Lausanne/CH – not knowing exactly where I will end up in the eve.

For whoever may find it interesting, in this post i will simply go into the details of my setup and what I packed.

Packing list

Bildschirmfoto 2017-07-21 um 03.21.38

1. Regular Clothes

  • 2 t-shirts (one for sleeping)
  • 1 long sleeve buttoned shirt
  • 1 fleece pullover (can also used as pillow-stuffing)
  • 1 trousers (zipp-legs)
  • 1 belt
  • 2 shorts socks
  • 1 long socks
  • 3 boxers (one for sleeping)
  • 1 pair of sneakers

Continue reading “00b Freiburg – Barcelona READY to go”

00a Freiburg – Barcelona preparation

You are now at post Nr. 00a out of 10 for this tour.
If you want to read the post of that trip in order, voilà:
00a Freiburg – Barcelona preparation
00b Freiburg – Barcelona READY to go
01 Freiburg – Lake Neuchâtel (206km, 1200m)
02 Lake Neuchâtel – Geneva (119km, 968m)
03 Geneva – Lyon (167km, 1585m)
04 Lyon into the Cevennes – on climbing and descending… (157km, 1885m)
05 Lac St. Martial – Tarn (187km, 2900m) Prototype of THE cycle touring day
06 Tarn – Carcassonne (203km, 2683m) – A long day in 3 dimensions
07 Carcassonne – Casteil (148km, 2635m) Arrival at the ‘base camp’
08 Walking over the Pyrenees and cycling down into Spain (110km, 2671m) – reality checks
09 Hot as hell. Tortellà, Costa Brava, Canet de Mar (145km, 1468m)
10 La Final: last 48km to Barcelona & recap. What a tour…


Preparation

As usual, preparation took a lot of time and i think i did it thoroughly. It involved mostly proper route planning, changes to my luggage setup (for more comfort) and installing lighter gearing.

The Route

Figuring out the exact route is important to me because I do not want to end up taking only big roads just because it’s the ease-to-navigate option. So I had to really plan, and also check almost every km of the route in StreetView for proper pavement – where possible.

So I used Google MyMaps to lay out some routes. I took into consideration that I wanted to visit a great old old friend in Lyon, pass the Massif Central through exciting areas, exit it in Carcassonne, and then wanted to find a pass over the Pyrenees that is not the easy and crowded option (like through Andorra) but preferred to find something more lonely. remote and adventurous. So I ended up with something roughly like this:

Luggage setup

I was actually very happy with my basic setup. There was one major change: Last fall I bought aero-bars. Last year’s tour was very strenuous for my arms. So I thought aerobars could be a worthwhile idea. Of course I also hoped to feel some aerodynamic effect. At first I felt a bit ridiculous, but after some fine tuning I started to love it!

Sadly that meant I could not use my Ortlieb bag anymore. Instead I would strap a drybag with my sleeping bag and mat under the bars, would add two food pouches and a fuel tank bag. Since I did not store my sleeping gear on the rack anymore I had space left to empty the backpack and put more stuff on the rack which would make the riding even more comfortable.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset
Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

Gearing

I do not have much mountain experience. And this will be a killer mountain trip. So I had to do something about my gearing. I bought an 11-32 cassette. But to accommodate the large cog I also needed to replace the derrailleur with a larger WiFli-cage. Furthermore I changed the front chainrings from 46/36 (cyclocross gearing) to 46-34. So with a combination of 34/32 I should get up the climbs despite my poor climbing experience and the luggage.

Little things

Furthermore I had to sort out many little things to make everything work. Among them:

  • had to get ahold of spare spokes. I did not want to end up with a broken spoke on the top of a lonely Pyrenees pass. Was wuite a hassle to find the right model for my bike…
  • I lost the clamp of my great Pletscher Orion rack. After some E-Mail exchange with Pletscher and some confused communication I bought a new rack – same modell. I modified it for my needs: sawing off the cage with the accessory compartment, built a little board to fill the gap, sawing off and rounding off the tip of the closing mechanism so it doesn’t rub on my leg.
  • finding the right kinds of bags was a challenge, too. I ended up with two Revelate Designs food pouches (thanks Michael from m-bikes for your help!), a Blackburn fueltank bag and a simple drybag.
  • find a new saddle. This is actually quite a risk: I bought a new saddle 3 weeks ago and didn’t really do a hardcore test (actually I did, but my new Assos pants were so terrible that I couldn’t judge the saddle). I ended up with the Specialized Power.
  • had to find some proper straps to make the mounting of my bags easier. Was also more difficult than expected.

Flashback: Why?

At the beginning of this year I had serious doubts whether to do another tour this year. I’ll be honest A) I remembered how in some moments last year on my Berlin/St.Pete/Helsinki trip on an uphill highway in the rain I thought “next time I’ll do this by car”… and B) I opened the season in March with a 100km ride and noticed: it’s exhausting.

Flashback: Previously I couldn’t help thinking where my next trip should go: Clearly: last year 1) was not really summery, 2) the landscape was very homogenous and flat and 3) I cycled distances that did not really allow me the time to interact with these exciting countries and people or relax. So these were…

the requirements for this years tour:

  • warm
  • mountains
  • a direction I didn’t explore yet (= South Europe)
  • shorter day distances
  • make it more recreational
  • start in Germany (to explore “from home”)
  • but not through all of Germany

The two options for me were: Through the balkan to Greece or to Spain/Portugal. I prefered the “culturally easy” option plus I had never seen Barcelona and had heard great things. So if I were to do a trip, it would be this:

Freiburg to Barcelona. Roughly 1300km and thousands of meters of altitude to climb. Because it will be hot at the Mediterranean Sea and because the coast line can be a bit dull, I decided to go through the Massif Central and the Pyrennees.

Flash forward: When I doubted to ride at all, I did check some random StreetView spots… close to Carcassone, in the Pyrenees, in the Massif Central. SO BEAUTIFUL! So: I had to go.