The morning mists at Herment
I had hoped for a sunny morning, but had to settle for another cool, damp, morning. It was 13 C and everything was wet when I left my hotel his morning. I soon discovered that Herment was the high point on D987 and that most of my riding would be downhill. Of course that didn't mean that there wasn't and almost equal amount of uphill . I still remember riding 120 miles of the lovely David Thompson Highway in Alberta and having someone say that it was an easy ride because it lost thousands of feet in those 120 miles. It did, or really it lost more than 6000 feet, but it also climbed 3200 feet. D987 was like that with long descents followed by hills with 100 m of climbing, all set in beautiful French countryside. Fine riding.
When I got to Pontaumur, I had lost almost 300 meters in 19 km, but I gained back more than half of them on my way to Saint Gervais, at about 45 km into my ride. The riding continued, even uphill, to be really nice. Part of that was the surrounding countryside and part was the fact that most of the slopes were gentle; uphills were at 6 to 7 mph and down hills were at 15 to 25 mph. The cool weather meant I didn't have a problem with overheating on the climbs and my Sugino wind vest kept me reasonably comfortable on the downhills.
At Saint Gervais, I headed east towards the Sioule river valley. After a km or two of rolling hills, D227 descends over 200 m to the river. A great downhill with nice curves that I enjoyed. I saw two bicyclists grinding their was up that hill. They didn't seem to be enjoying it as much as I was. I stopped in Chateaneuf-les-bains, the first town on D109 which runs along the river, for lunch.
The Sioule river at the bottom of the hill
I had eaten a snack near Saint Gervais, but that was just to hold me till after noon when I could eat a real French lunch. These French lunches are addictive, as well as hard to digest while riding! The entree was very good. the main course was so-so, the fromage course was excellent - with some really good yogurt which the proprietor insisted I try, and I had an apricot for desert. No one spoke any English, but we managed <grin>.
The start of D109 along the river
D109 view from above the river on the other side
Where D109 connects to D915
D915 running along the river
D915 just before Chouvingy
note the castle at Chouvingy
D915 heading downhill to Ebreuil
The ride down - with, of course, a 100 m hill climb on D109 - the river was spectacular. D915, the second road on this section, was especially nice. A great ride, mostly right along the river, was followed by a great downhill into Ebreuil. Of course that downhill to a town on the river implies a climb beforehand, but it was a long gentle climb. The wildflowers on the banks during the downhill were beautiful, as were the views and the curvy road was fun. A really nice bit of riding.
After Ebreuil there is a hard 150 m climb to where D915 crosses the autoroute. This was the only time of this day when I had full sun. With a 6 to 10% grade and no shade, it was a hot climb.
Looking back towards Ebreuil from half way up the climb
Looking east from the top of the climb
N209 to Vichy
A English Church from when the English occupied this part of France
After Ebreuil, the riding was less fun, but not bad. The road becomes N209 after a 150 m downhill into Gannat. It then crosses a flat era of wheat fields that looks a lot like Kansas (!) before climbing over a couple of 50 - 100 m ridges and crossing the river into Vichy. The most interesting part of this section was a magnificent church built by the English when this part - most of what I have been riding for the last several days -was controlled by the English; Joan of Arc and all that. The church was on the highest hill in the area, surrounded by great looking wheat and sunflower fields. When I rode up to it, I found a mural to a later event - 1522 I think - where it had been the scene of a nasty battle between Catholics and Protestants. Lots of history here!