We were good to our word this morning and up bright and early. I was first up as usual with my natural body clock kicking in at just before six. I was over to the kitchen almost immediately to prepare breakfast which unlike the previous day would set up perfectly for the long day ahead.
We have arranged to couch surf with a young German student who studies in Nancy and we need to arrive there by Tuesday evening. It's only a distance of some 230 kilometres but we've had some really slow rides on the bike the last couple of days so really needed to pick it up today.
By the time I returned from the kitchen with a steaming pot of porridge and fruit Tom was still inside his tent. The only way to entice him out was with the promise of hot porridge, there was no way in the world that I was going to treat him as I've done in the past to breakfast in his tent!
The porridge proved to be the perfect fuel for the days ride and despite the cold morning air we hit the first climb of the day with renewed vigour. We were both in high spirits but Tom soon pulled away ahead simply to get away I think from my early morning singing.
In the end the climb which neither of us were really looking forward to proved to be relatively straightforward, sure it was a steep incline for about eight kilometres but in our now super charged conditioned state we made light work of it.
It was a spectacular view across the valley once we got to the top and the pictures really can't do it justice partly due to the fact that it was still really early and the sun hadn't fully come up.
"Look no hands"
As I've preached on many occasions before 'what goes up must go down' and we had a real treat today. The sign indicating a 12% gradient was just what the doctor ordered. As usual with all descents I give Tom a gentle reminder to be careful. I love the feeling of the wind zipping past my ears but I'm so conscious these days of being so close to home. Entering a bend too fast on these kind of descents could have disastrous consequences and with that in mind I was pretty heavy on the brakes all the way down. That said even at my reduced speed it's the kind of ride downwards that makes all the pushing, sweating and panting uphill worth while. The bends were deliciously long and it had those wonderful cut backs where the bike almost has to come to a complete standstill before picking up pace almost immediately and cruising downhill.
Our ride downwards lasted for a good 9 kilometres and there was plenty of whopping and fist pumping when we reached the bottom. A more gentle roll downwards followed and we rewarded our early mornings endeavour with a cup of tea and pastry at the first sit down bakery we saw.
Check out that cake on the table, a few more of those and the weight will be back on in no time!
Any fears of further climbs disappeared pretty quickly as we seemed to simply carve our way through the exquisite valley that presented itself before us. It was the perfect backdrop to our last day of riding in Germany.
We eventually reached the final town in Germany Kehl just after lunch having covered a pretty impressive 72 kilometres in the morning. By now we were both eager to get into France and push on past Strasbourg. We cycled over the river Rhine and just like that it was Auf Wiedersehen Germany and Bonjour France.
Despite some minor problems with a small section of German motorists Germany really was an absolute pleasure to pedal through. Stunning scenery, great food and yet more incredibly friendly people to help us along the way.
We still had some further distance we wanted to cover which meant that Strasbourg only received a cursory glance. Nevertheless there still remained the tricky job of negotiating our way around the city to head west and like all other occasions before it required steely nerves and extreme patience. It made me think at the time what an enormous job it will be to work our way out of Paris on the 27th.
Our pace unsurprisingly slowed somewhat in the afternoon I guess it was a combination of our early morning start and elation at entering the final country of the trip. We still managed to cover another 50 kilometres in the afternoon but by the time we reached the small village of Urmatt to the west of Strasbourg Tom was almost pleading for me to stop. I had hoped we could push on a further ten for the day but sometimes you have to say that enough is enough.
We spent the last hour of the day passing through small villages and numerous cafés on the side of the street all of which seemed to have people sitting outside enjoying a post work beer. It all proved a little too much for Tom and he made the call that we in fact needed to celebrate our arrival in France with some of France's best liquid refreshment. We sat on the chairs in almost silence, sipping on our ice cold beers looking back at a great days work.
The problem with having a cold beer after such extensive exercise is that it makes getting up out of the seat all the more difficult. Thankfully we were on the edge of Urmatt and only had a couple of minutes ride before we were outside it. Tom made a sharp turn off to the left down a small country lane and with that we'd found home for the night. It wasn't the most ideal of camp-sites but it would do for us.
While Tom pitched his tent on the slightly uneven ground by the trees I chose instead to venture into the dense wood to find myself a nice flat piece of ground. It was dark in there but I figured that the extra tree coverage might mean a less damp morning for me the next day.
We were a little concerned when we saw a farmer coming down the track in his truck knowing full well that like Germany before wild camping is prohibited in France. We waved him down and tried in our best broken French to ask if it was okay, we needn't have bothered he didn't seemed the least bit concerned where we put our tents.
I think it was the earliest that I've and certainly we've gone to bed on this trip at around 7:45 and with a similar distance to cover tomorrow it was probably a very wise call.