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Day 3: Tour de l’Oc

Sometimes you can’t rely on sensationalist events to attract intrigue, and yet day three of the Tour de l’Oc is still worthy of your attention – and sympathy.

The group cycling across the Camargue

Why? This wasn’t a day of distracting demands, be they fast descents or endless climbs. Rather, it presented a slow-paced reminder of how painful any extended, monotonous physical activity really is.

In cycling, firstly there’s the aching knees, which grind uncomfortably with each revolution, whatever the gear, but particularly during acceleration, as well as into the persistent headwind which we faced today, unleashed across a landscape no more obstructive than a salt flat – and not much different: the last 24 hours saw us traverse the Camargue.

Then there’s the lower back, which, forced to arch for hours, sends a constant signal that this is an entirely unnatural posture.

Above that is the shoulders, which resent their new-found role as the jammed hinge between back and arms, the latter always pressing down hard on the handle bars.

Worst though is one’s behind. With other body parts it is possible using minor adjustments to achieve some level of relief, albeit briefly, but not so with this bit of the human form, which must remain planted to nothing more inviting than an arrow shaped object for hour after hour.

Nevertheless, there were a few incidents today that did help one forget the enduring aches. The WSET’s endlessly good-humoured Ian Harris was the source of one of them.

Although I’d like to say he was involved in a brave stunt on two wheels that went wrong, in reality, he was the victim of a spirited battle with a crusty baguette. His chosen tool – a serrated knife – brought down the bread stick, but also hacked into his hand, unleashing a surge of fresh blood straight into the crudités.

An injured Ian Harris after a spirited battle with a bread knife

Bandaged by our physio Andy, it wasn’t long before Ian and the rest of us were fully lunched and back on the road.

Then, a few kilometres later, we were lost. Having assumed some barely clad, bronzed female rollerbladers were heading to the same end point as us, we allowed them to lead us several miles off-course along a quiet cycle path. By the time we reached our stopover, Sète, we’d added at least 20km to the route.

Broken, before we’d even unloaded our baggage, 28 beers had been consumed.

Yes, it was an act of consolation, not celebration.

You can read about day one here, and day two here, while should you want to sponsor me, please visit my Just Giving page here.

A beautiful sunset over Séte where we finished the day.

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