Last night I stayed in the guesthouse of Jean-Francios Comte – a painter of slightly racier subject matter.
It was nice to have a bit of time to relax, look around the Abbey and read about tomorrow’s route.
Checking Donald’s notes (who from here forward I’m calling ‘The Don’) I discovered the 65 miles I was expecting is actually 74, including 7 ‘significant’ hills.
I made sure to eat a good breakfast.
My first objective was the town of Marines 28 miles away, and the day began with a 25 minute climb that worked up a sweat.
The Don had warned me that “this stretch can feel pretty strenuous” and that “the open plateau after the village of Juoy can be tiring in headwinds”.
I was prepared for it being tough, but the first 20 miles passed quickly and it wasn’t until the last few miles that the headwind began to wear me down.
I reached Marines at midday with 28 miles and 3 significant hills behind me, for a quick breather and a coffee.
I wanted to cover at least half the distance before lunch, so decided to press on for another 16 miles to Triel.
I didn’t enjoy the next bit very much.
I was feeling tired and a long exposed section into a strong headwind was absolutely draining.
I kept on going but it wasn’t much fun.
The fourth significant hill of the day at Menucourt absolutely destroyed me, but at the top was cool pine forest and the start of the best downhill of the trip.
The descent into Triel was long, fast and I was touching the brakes all the way down to speed match the cars in front of me.
Triel-sur-Seine is the biggest town I’ve seen in a long time, and with 44 miles done I was looking forward to getting some food. However on the ride from the centre of town to the outskirts I didn’t find a single place open.
I had no choice but to push on and cross the bridge over the Seine before I finally found a supermarket in the pretty town of Villennes-sur-Seine.
I was tired, over-hungry and the last 20 miles had taken me 3 hours so I had really slowed down. I was well behind schedule but really needed a half hour break here.
It’s never good to leave it too late to eat, and I didn’t feel much better when dark clouds and big spots of rain encouraged me to get back on the bike and head for cover in the Foret de St Germain.
It was nice to get onto some cool shady trails, and after about an hour I started getting my mojo back, riding through the ancient hunting forests.
I didn’t even mind the 1.5 mile climb up Route des Princesses when I got into Foret de Marly le Roi.
I left the forests 8 miles later for a few easy miles through Versailles where there was a palpable feeling of having ‘nearly made it’, and I almost enjoyed the final hill of the trip up to the top of Foret de Fausses Reposes.
From here the final 11 miles was mostly downhill, and what an amazing ride it is.
It started by dropping down through forest, then into Parc de St Cloud where after a couple more miles downhill I was rewarded with an amazing view over Paris.
The picture doesn’t do it justice, but you can see the whole city including the tower at Montparnasse rising above the skyline.
A short hop over a viaduct and I was at the Hippodrome raceway, trying to avoid legions of lycra-clad cyclists whistling past me at high speed.
I finally made it to the Eiffel Tower a little after 7pm.
The day wasn’t quite over, as I still had to ride to Gare du Nord to check my bike in for the train home tomorrow morning but it was easy riding compared to what I’d already been through.
I was soon enjoying a long cold shower and some well-earned beer.
It’s been a great trip and the cherry on top is that you’ve helped to raise over £600 plus gift aid for Cancer Research.
Thank you very very much.
If you are reading this after the event, you can still make a donation by clicking here.