Following yesterday’s trials and tribulations, I emerged from Chez B&B with fresh, clean and dry kit ready to do battle with what Sunday had to throw at me. Thankfully the rain has ceased and the sun was putting in an appearance. Temperatures were still way down below average though due to the northerly winds. However, these were still in my favour.

Soon after leaving I once again joined the Canal Entre Champagne et Bourgogne on somewhat ropey surfaces and prayed this wasn’t a pre-cursor of what day ahead. A bakery was then sought at Pontailler sur Saone and provisions taken onboard for the day.

Once again, canalside cycle paths dwindled from the good to the bad to the utterly ridiculous and a reroute was quickly taken at La Marche sur Saone. This took me a bit of a long way round into the city of Auxonne which by the looks of it is really well worth a visit. It appears to be brimming with history.

With the reroute happening I was frequently stopping to consult the Google (arrrrrgh no!) Map on my phone and in Auxonne, I was approached by a gentleman who pulled up in front of me in an old Peugeot He was a portly chap, looked to be in his 60s and smelt strongly of meths even when 3 feet away.

It transpired he was president of the local Auxonne cycling club. Although, judging by his shape, I did wonder if he was there just to do the admin and wash the kit rather than partake in any two-wheeled activity. When he spoke, he gave this big beaming smile after every sentence which I thought very strange. This was also made worse by the fact that he seemed to have twice the normal compliment of teeth when compared to anybody else. All angles and all shades of anything but white bore evidence of years of tobacco and booze. When he did smile, it was like opening the lid on an old piano!

The same question was asked of this man as was Madame and her dog way back up near Chalons en Champagne. That being, are the canalside cycle paths in good order. This one the ‘Voie Bleu’ was the one in question and wound its way south. His reply, just like Madame Chien, was a positive one and with much enthusiasm he enlightened me to the fact that the surfaces were good all the way. Question was, All the way to where? Well, It turns out that our rotund, meths-swilling non-cyclist is also a bloody liar because it was all the way down the river for about 5 miles before, without warning, becoming a grassy, rutted track.

I had no choice but to use it. I could’ve turned back but there’s something psychologically wrong with going in the opposite direction when you’re hellbent on pressing forward.

Once out of the grassy stuff, tarmac was once again underneath the wheels and signs for the Voie Bleu resumed. This time though, the surfaces were perfect. High on a levy above the Saone Canal on flat smooth cycle paths with a following wind, progress was good with the frequent beeps from my Garmin watch as the miles were steadily ticked off.

Time beside the canal seemed all too brief as I had to leave it for the conventional roads to cut due south. This involved the customary long straight undulating stuff that seems to be very popular in France.

Now, in England, most straight roads are said to have been built by the Romans. If it’s the same case in France, it’s no wonder the Empire fell. Picture the scene: Somwhere near the Franck-German border, Olaf Ingelsen, Commander in-Chief of the Scando-Germanic allied forces nobly stands there atop a horse in full battle dress. One hand on the reins and the other brandishing an 8lb battleaxe. Behind him, poised are 40,000 warriors ready to take on the might of Rome. A fight to the death. Catapults, archers, slingshots. Only, there’s a small problem – the opposition haven’t arrived. After a an hour or so, oug of the morning mist, a lone Roman messenger turns up on horseback and says, “I’m awfully sorry but Caesar sends his apologies and says there will be no battle today. His boys are busy in France laying tarmac and white lining!”

A reasonable theory methinks.

The remaining 20 or so miles were a gentle descent back to canal level into the pretty town of Tournus. An 80 miler all in all. Shouldn’t have been but due to crappy surfaces, there was little choice.

Tomorrow is a short 62 mile jaunt down to the northern outskirts of Lyon. Hopefully I’ll make good time as the bike needs a bit of TLC.

Bye for now.

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