Distance: 103 miles
Total Distance: 1220 miles
Reluctantly I left my warm, cosy hostel room, grabbed my bike from the garage and cycled into the cold, misty morning. Despite the cold and the gloom, I was in good spirits. This would be my last full day in France and I was determined to make the most of it. I had plenty of time to cover the last 200 miles and the mysterious lotion I was given last night had actually worked wonders on my knee. The pain was much better.
I kept my lights on, my headlight cutting a path through the mist until the day cleared up and I rose up into the hills. I peered north as I rode, craning my head looking out for the sea, of which there was no sign.
Mid-afternoon I reached the town of L’Aigle where I was finally able to find a bike shop. I hauled my bike inside and managed to purchase some oil for my chain, after assuring the shop assistant that my mangled handlebars were nothing to worry about. Within seconds my bike was running smoothly once more. To celebrate I wheeled myself over the road and bought some shit food in McDonalds.
Poring over the maps with a McFlurry in hand, I realised I could quite reasonably make a 100-mile day if I wanted to. It was almost 4pm and I had covered 60 miles today. I thought I couldn’t let myself come this far without doing at least one 100-mile day so I set off and went for it.
With my newly-oiled chain and my belly full of high-calorie goodness I was flying down the roads, pedalling much harder than I had done in days.
After a few hours it started to get dark and cold and I had to put my lights on to make the last 15 or so miles. Striving for 100 was completely pointless and absolutely exhausting, and there was no need for me to do it but I’d set myself the challenge now and was going to go through with it. At least it would make tomorrow a whole lot shorter.
With less than five miles to go, I began a long, fast descent down to the Seine. Despite my lights, I couldn’t see the road very well and I had to be careful of potholes and bumps in the tarmac. Annoyingly I spotted the perfect campsite at the 97-mile point – a clearing in the trees just off the road – but I pointlessly shot straight past it just to get through the last three miles. It was around here that I entered the large town of Elbeuf, sitting right on the Seine. Elbeuf was a busy town with lots of people wandering the streets, and absolutely no possibility of camping anywhere near.
It wasn’t until 103 miles – completely pitch black – that I finally I found a potential place to stop for the night, a slope leading up into the trees just outside town. I wheeled my bike into the foliage and up the hill which very quickly became impossibly steep. I had to take all the bags off my bike in order to get it up. It took a lot of climbing before I finally found a flat enough spot in the trees to pitch my tent. I then had to scramble all the way down to retrieve my bags.
It wasn’t a great spot, even once I had cleaned away all the debris and fallen branches, and certainly not the most memorable place for my last wild camp, but it would do.
I erected my tent for the last time and crawled inside, already starting to feel the last 103 miles. As soon as I got into my sleeping bag I devoured half a baguette and a packet of ham and went straight to sleep.
Only 100 miles to go, with a now fully-functioning bike, there was no longer any doubt that I would make it to London in two days time.