Leaving the chateau I was well aware that the next big town would be Grenoble. To me it signified the end of travelling south through France and the start of heading East towards Italy, the only obstacle being the French Alps! Within minutes of leaving it was obvious the sat nav was struggling as I headed through a small village and up a huge hill along a twisty lane that deteriorated to a gravel track. I held out hope as I could see tarmac at the top of the very steep hill. It was a gruelling push for so early in the day that was not rewarded in any way. The tarmac was in fact another shade of gravel, that in turn headed higher up the hill to the next crest where it turned into an empty field with a muddy track across it. I had wasted yet more time and over the last 10 days all those little diversions, mistakes and hold ups had added up to leave me quite a way behind where I had expected to be. In hindsight expecting to do 100km a day was very optimistic and was probably more due to the time restrictions and deadlines than any real understanding of what was possible for a new touring cyclist.
I wasn’t a happy bunny, trudging across the field to the nearest road and resetting the satnav for road only. Off I went headed for Grenoble just 80km away. It was an all day cycle mainly on roads and the words of the landlord of the chateau running through my mind “It’s going to be between 25 and 30 degrees today”. It certainly was and I was glad to find a little village with an bakery to top up on water, salad and cake.
Back on the bike and I picked up the river Selene towards Grenoble. It was a great path full of very fit cyclists who zoomed past me at every given opportunity, yeah but how far had they come? The river was picturesque and led almost all the way to the town itself.
Finally I came to Grenoble, very aware that I was now running behind time and I really wanted to push on. Other than walking through the city centre and stopping at almost every cold drink shop and a chemist for pain killers. (Honestly Declan Donnelly has nothing on me for taking pain killers) I tried not to be taken in by the town so I could get out the other side and get started towards my next goal, Briancon.
It was clear that the journey to Briancon would be more mountainous and I wanted to get as far into that leg as I could in the hope of crossing into Italy within two days. However, what actually happened was that I got about 5km out of Grenoble and the hotels became less frequent so I had to stop and be satisfied that I had done enough to give me a good start in the morning. As per usual the hotel was at the top of a steep hill and I didn’t even get any photographs of it. It was a nice big character house but really it was just a place to sleep. The restaurant was closed, but luckily the superstore at the bottom of the hill was open. I had another salad and tub of fruit. I was shattered and fell asleep by 9pm. Tomorrow would be the test!