After the most magnificent breakfast buffet at the Thalassa Hotel this morning, it was time to tear myself away from the joys of Camaret-sûr-Mer and head inland. It was a bright and sunny morning and I was tempted to lengthen my route by exploring the beaches around Crozon, but there were still squalls around and my head overruled my heart. Today was for the hills, not the beaches.
The road out of Crozon soon followed the usual template: long tiring climbs followed by short and steep descents. Never climbing long enough to get a rhythm going, always descending too fast for it to really help. It makes for hard graft. Just when I was thinking of alternative routes, it appeared on the skyline. Menez Hom, the legendary hilltop that has been revered since Neolithic times. It loomed darkly over the landscape and the road rose to meet it. My legs aches from yesterday’s effort but I found my rhythm and climbed. You put in the work, you get the reward. The views started to open out and, although I had planned to ride on the main road round it’s shoulder, I was drawn to it. I turned off and kept climbing. I tried to stay in the saddle as long as I could, standing only to give my muscles a rest, riding hard but never struggling. Before I knew it the summit was in sight – I could actually ride to the top! I exchanged ‘chapeau’s with a chap starting down and suddenly I was there, the Bay of Douarnenez spread out before me, the Crozon peninsula becoming eaten by cloud to the west. To the north I could pick out the Pont de Térénez. People have been awestruck on their first time at this summit for thousands of years.
The cloud over Crozon started to head towards us, and I thought it best not to linger. The road descended to Châteaulin, gently at first but becoming faster more exhilarating as I got lower. I rolled into town about midday and ordered baguette and coffee, 50km down already and buzzing. It had been a thrilling morning, my legs were great and I was ready to go again.
The next stretch took me to Blasparts and although only 20km it was somewhat complicated. I was nervous of the big junction by the motorway and instead followed the river up to Saint-Ségal, a safer but harder route. It was all ups and short downs again, and I was struggling. Thunder rolled around as I sat outside a church on a hilltop square. My legs had gone and as much as tried to fill them with jellybeans it was to no avail. I limped into Brasparts after what felt like a lifetime, exhausted, wet and miserable. I needed a beer and a quiet word with myself.
Two beers later I was off. The downhills seemed to over. I was happy to work, nicely in my rythmn, feeling the road rise. I approached the Montagne St Michel and without a thought turned up it, legs strong again, climbing for the views. Again I could ride right to the top and I did, happy with the effort, excited by the view. From here I could see the road sweep out to the left in the trees on front of me, then arcing back over Roc Trevezel and fading as it disappeared into the woods near Huelgoat. One more climb and I was there.
The rain came down once more on the last climb. I no longer cared. My work was done and this was my reward, every effort going into the last climb of the day, riding hard, out of the saddle, excited as the sunshine swept in from behind me and overtook the rain as I hit the final stretch. It was awesome. I’d take a climb over a descent any day.
I came down fast into Huelgoat, the longest descent of the day, feeling like the breakaway that stayed away with the peloton scattered behind.
What a day.