Day 4 began with a change of plan. Instead of driving away from the hotel to start we decided to ride from the hotel and make things a little easier on ourselves. We also decided on a new tactic for navigation only to see both the Tom Tom and then I phones that were plans A and B run immediately out of Battery before the next destination could be input. So with Plan C initiated the team headed into the center or Nantes and hoped to benefit from the bus/cycle lanes that are common in France.
What we didn’t know was that Nantes has a tram network and whilst there were cycling lanes they ran parallel to the tracks that are just about wide enough to trap a road bike tyre. Whilst looking to plot away around this ( and narrowly avoiding most of the team turning off a roundabout into an underground car park) there was a hint of surprise to see a number of us climb off the bikes and head down a flight of stairs to ride next to the trams again. “We thought it was a race” being the main rationale. Actually this riding was so different to what we have been doing which is in lovely countryside but fairly well grouped together and hard that actually having the more sedate ride through the town was a nice change.
Once the seven miles of bus lanes, roundabouts and bridges were done we got back onto the quieter rural roads and got quickly back into the swing of group riding at a fair pace.
The rest of the day including a cafe stop at a bar with a really cool pool room and lunch of Ham and Cheese baguettes at a small village meant that at 2-30 the team was looking to have finished the day by 4-30 and had dreams of early dinners and more rest. Those ideas were about to go bang quite literally.
For those who wondered why we had so much spare kit in the van last week we were about to make use of it as we had one bike break a spoke on its rear wheel and another split a hole in its rear tyre. After making a makeshift repair to the rear tyre which we hoped would hold taking a bit of time we set off only for the loud pop to happen again. This time we quickly called the van back from its waiting spot ahead and we simply switched out the wheel for one of our spares.
So we had lost a bit of our time but had a second challenge of needing to get the spoke fixed so we can continue tomorrow. This meant getting to La Rochelle as quick as we could into what was now a very brisk headwind. This is a bit like running in treacle and the effort from everyone to motor along the pan flat but windy countryside was immense.
We found two helpful bike stops and although the first could not help us they guided us to the second who could. They could not help one of our team sat down and lay back forgetting they had a banana in their back pocket though! The second shop was immensely helpful and whilst part of the team went back to the hotel the others waited for the running repairs (and two new tyres for the other bike) before finally finishing the day.