Day 16 Montpellier to Brighton - Laval

97kms through the mud

After last night's loss of cycling appetite we were back in the saddle again and heading north to the Channel coast. The weather forecast changed from last night's predicted heavy showers to one of light showers this morning. Although not good it was just enough to tip the balance and we left Angers, without really seeing it, through light drizzle.

Angers is were the River Mayenne joins the Loire and the route follows the Mayenne north to the town of Mayenne. From the mid-16th century, following the construction of a series of locks and weirs, the river has been navigable.

We have already cycled the route from Angers to the Channel, we did it last year, but this year it felt different.
Mud on the Vélo Francette

Firstly the recent bad weather has left its marked. The first stretch, immediately outside Angers, was under water and impassible and a big detour was required (involving at one point getting mixed up with a marathon race). After that it was just muddy and slow. Although most of the mud was OK some was really difficult to get through. Some grey grit had been applied which when exposed to immense amounts of water turned to something resembling pig slurry although fortunately without the smell. Getting through this stuff required bottom gear and a great deal of patience.

Better than the Canal du Midi?
Secondly this stretch of cycling was far more beautiful than I remembered, I guess we were just going too fast last year. It's completely different to the Canal du Midi and even prettier. The river is much wider than the Canal and because it bends it's creates more interesting views. The trees, which generally come down to the water's edge are more informal and comprising of oak, ash, beech and sweet chestnut were incredibly lush.

Mills and chateaux
Although I remembered the lovely and very large water mills which generally feature alongside the locks and weirs, I'd forgotten how many chateaux there are here. Every high point on a bend in the river seemed to feature one, romantic little castles emerging from the trees.

Apart from having to slog our way through the mud (the bike chain was really groaning at one point) the only complaint I have about the route was the lack of places to stop for refreshments. Our half-hearted departure in the morning meant were weren't that well repaired and we starving when we were forced to leave to track at Doan to eat in the very nice little bistro.

Because of the mud I guess it took us nearly to 7 hours to cycle 97kms and because of lunch and tea stops, and stops to avoid the worst of the rain, it was 6-30 before we got to Laval. I'm glad we didn't give up yesterday but we've agreed that tomorrow has to be a short day.


  1. Glad you kept going even it is only so I may continue to follow your entertaining account.
    Lets hope the sun shines soon, I'm off to France today.

  2. There are always low points on long trips as I am sure you well know, but in my experience they don't usually last longer than overnight which seems to be so in your case here. I'm not sure where you are crossing the Channel from, but you seem to be getting close now.

  3. I was not allowed my usual editorial responsibilities on this blog as for some bizarre reason the author thinks my services are not required. This is particularly galling as we now have a Knight of the realm commenting.

  4. I am as far removed from aristocracy as you are from cycling round Iceland. the explanation of my title was given in an earlier comment so worry not.

  5. Hi John
    We are eight English cyclists planning to cycle the Mayenne towpath in June this year.
    Cn you help me find out which parts of that towpath are not suitable for road bikes please?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Colin

      Until you get off the tow path the track is best described as gravel, it's not metalled like a road. Tow path cycling in France is ideal for touring bikes but not so good for road bikes. Hope that helps.