PBP: Day 3 Carhaix to Loudeac

26 08 2007

Were it not for the hopelessly uncomfortable sleeping conditions, I doubt we would have woken up.  But sleeping on a floor with only a rain jacket for a blanket doesn’t make for leisurely mornings.  We were up at 9 and back on the bikes by 10 after a short breakfast.  We made 325 miles on the first day and were hoping for another big day to bring us back to Paris well under 72 hours.
The sun was up and the day was spectacular but for the powerful wind that we could see pushing the trees around as we got dressed.  We took off into a powerful headwind and the most rolling part of the course so far.  The rollers went form big to bigger and several could have legitimately been called climbs. We picked up riders slowly and got together a coherent group for about an hour that worked through some of the climbing sections wit 2 strong young Danes who were willing to take their time at the front.  After 2 hours we came up on a slow going but large group and we sat in on the back for a little rest and a picnic.  The terrain turned form twisting forest roads to exposed rollers that climbed up to the top of a plateau.  The group held together and grew to 50+ with a powerful old Danish guy sitting in the front left position driving the train.  Others rotated in and out of the position next to him, but he held strong to the top.  Across the top we headed into a long 20K descent in towards Brest.  The riding was much easier, but the powerful headwind made it less restful than we would have hoped.  Once at the bottom we suffered interminable rollers through the countryside and then suburbs outside Brest.  Finally, we caught a glimpse of the ocean and crossed into Brest over a pedestrian bridge that was scenic but miserable with the strong gusts that nearly blew us over. From there we snaked through the town of Brest, down by the water, and then up a set of painfully steep wall climbs into the controle around 2.
The atmosphere at the controle was jovial as everyone celebrated the half way point.  We enjoyed our first celebratory beer of the ride and loaded our pockets with sandwiches for the return.  We left without eating hoping to find a proper café en route.  Alas, that was an error in judgment as the route took us through suburbia and strip malls and nothing appealed for food.  Blood sugar dropped and spirits sagged to new lows as we rolled on.  Finally, just before the road turned back uphill for the climb up the plateau we found a café where we were able to stop for coffee and pasteries to get us up the mountain.  As we climbed the food and caffeine got into our systems and we all started feeling feeling better.  We passed many riders on the climbs, including a guy riding an antique French two speed, in classic Parisian costume (stripped shirt, beret) with a string of garlic hanging on one handlebar and a bottle of wine in his pannier.  That was a bit demoralizing, but at least he had a 6 hour start on us.  Back into Carhaix we buzzed through the controle leaving around 7 and headed onward towards Loudeac.
On the route to Loudeac the sun fell and the rain came back which slowed our progress significantly.  Rather than fight the lines for food in Loudeac we stopped at a creperie along the way 50 K from Loudeac just as the rain went from drizzling to pouring.  When we went in we found the proprietors and their friends sitting around a single table for dinner and they quickly sat us at another.  We ordered crepes with onions and tomatoes and cheese and they poured us flutes of cider and framboise to help with the “dopage”.  They were cheery and encouraging and lifted our spirits enormously.  While we were there a gregarious Italian came in, ordered, and promptly fell asleep in his chair waiting for his crepe.  We finished the meal with a crepe with pears, chocolate, and icecream and coffees and were wished well by the owners as we headed back outside into the pouring rain.  We’d originially hoped to get back to Tinteniac but we came into Carhaix wet and cold at midnight in the pouring rain.  After only 150 miles we decided to stay the night and try to get cots.  On the way in we set a strategy for the arrival to get into bed as fast as possible.  Steve would arrange for the cots, Billy and I got the drop bags.  Of course it wouldn’t play out that simply.  The cot situation was chaotic and we all needed to be there to claim our spot in the big gymnasium with rows upon rows of cots.  We told them when we wanted to leave so that they could immediately replace us as we left for the morning.  We undressed and repacked in the dark and got onto the simple plastic cots with a single blanket.  The plastic mesh of the cot and the cement floor sucked heat from my body as I lay and it was nearly an hour of fitful sleep before I realized that I needed to keep the blanket between me and the cot and drifted off for 2 hours.




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