With crossed fingers we set out at 9am from Reims with St. Quentin, and the British sector of the line, in our sights. We set out at a steady pace and I kept a close eye on the bike to make sure it was in good shape…however, today it wasn’t my bike that began to play up…Just 4 miles down the road a link came apart on Steve’s chain…another blow to our chances of finishing. He had a go at fixing it by the roadside but was not confident that the fix would last the trip. We needed a bike shop or a large supermarket to pick up supplies.
We carried on at a steady pace to save both bikes..there was neither supermarket or bike shop anywhere in sight. So we kept on. Mercifully the sun was shining and it was dry with only a light wind, however the rolling French countryside kept throwing damn big hills in our way and the Frenchie lorries were doing their best to push us off the road..so the first 30 miles were not the easiest.
We managed to find a Carre-Four but, guess what, it was closed…well it was 2pm, of course it was closed, it was stupid of us to even think a major supermarket would be open in the middle of the afternoon..We waited patiently for the nice manager to finish his stinky cheese and vin rouge and bowled in for a) some lunch, and b) some bike kit…we managed to get lunch, but no luck on the bike front…so we carried on.
The hills kept coming, the curses were getting louder and louder…why is France so bloody hilly! Finally we enjoyed some downhilliness and picked up our average speed, we were going to struggle to get to St. Quentin before dark. Eventually the route did flatten out, which was a good thing as it was less stressful on the bikes and slightly easier to pedal..we just kept moving on, ticking off the little villages as we passed them, stopping at a few memorials to take some pictures until finally we saw the magnificently impressive Basilica of St Quentin on the horizon. It really was a majestic site, lit up like a Xmas tree in the night sky, dominating all around. It was 75 miles to St Quentin. Thats a long way, in case you were wondering.
St. Quentin is a pretty place, it is easy to imagine it fully of British Tommies enjoying some precious time out of the line..it was very lively with lots of traffic buzzing around. Our hotel is right opposite the Basillica which is great. One thing is odd though, it is Friday night and yet it is completely quiet and empty..what do the Frenchies do on a Friday night? They dont go into town thats for sure..
Tomorrow is a shorter (hopefully) trip to Albert…bang in the middle of the Somme battlefield…can’t wait to finally cycle through the British sector of the line…
In case you were wondering, we are doing this cycle trip in aid of the Royal British Legion’s poppy appeal. You can donate online at www.justgiving.com/cyclingtheline