Riding the Normandy Fall
Bowing to public demand we made an additional weekend tour to Normandy to round off a fine year’s road-cycling to the region. For the very first time, we made a November trip to get in the sights and smells of autumnal Normandy. Blessed by a gap in the traditional weather pattern we cycled trepidatiously off the ramp of the FB ‘Mont St. Michel’ and into a bracing sea breeze coming off La Manche.
Even the veterans in our group were slightly taken aback by the freshness of the morning and the first 'top tip' is when cycling at this time of year, extra layers of clothing, as well as ‘full-fingered’ gloves, are essential. Riders were also reminded that the cold weather, despite its relative brightness necessitated extra fuel
as it burns quicker than in warm weather. We were riding about 65-70 miles a day and, if you trust your Garmin, you would normally be burning 3000-odd calories in summer. However in the cold conditions, you burn much more, quicker, and subsequently, regular refuelling is a must. I find that cycling in the cold takes it out of the legs much quicker than summer cycling and riders should prepare for it.
As for the riding itself, it was exquisite, with the browns and gold of autumn festooning the wooded roadsides ‘en-route’. After a bracing coastal road sprint we watched a new day ushered in from the heights of the Arromanches 'clifftops' – and a stunning dawn it was. We then took a cross-country route through the Foret de Cerisy (Cherries) where the only sign of life were pairs of cep hunters going about their diligent search for woodland harvest. Other than that it was deserted and the group powered-on via the backroads to St.Lo.
We were diverted by the sound of ringing from the abbey of Cerisy and following the sound of the pealing came upon an ancient home of 11th-century Benedictine monks founded by William the Conqueror’s father, Robert the Magnificent.
Half an hour later we were in the equally medieval town of St.Lo crossing the swollen River Vire and ascending toward our evening accommodation in rural Dangy where we were hosted
in style by the ever-gracious We Love Normandy. Another day's local cycling took us along more picturesque cycling routes which provided some beautiful if chilly vistas. Back at our digs the furnace that was the local free standing wood burner in our living room blasted out heat with huge intensity and bought the coldest of riders back to life. Suitably rejuvenated the next day we made our way back along the D-Day beaches, stopping for a little 'Memorial Sunday' reflection at Juno Beach before boarding the Blighty bound ferry.
All-in-all this was a truly memorable ride in Autumnal (Fall) weather and none-the-worse for the time of year. However, preparation is everything and riders need to be aware that there are a few more prerequisites for the diligent 'cold weather' rider. Here are some:
1) Wear at least two extra layers next to your skin.
2) Long johns are essential.
3) Full-fingered gloves are quintessential.
4) Refuel and drink at least every hour
5) Double check your kit, batteries, tools, spares with a gimlet eye. Shorter days mean longer ‘lights-on’.
6) A thick, breathable waterproof jacket is a must