Riding the length of France gives Martin Love and three friends the chance to savour endless rain, empty roads and performance-enhancing croissants
Its a misty morning in March. Ive got a stinking hangover and am being dragged round the block by the dog. Suddenly my friend Frank bounces out of the murk, part man, part Tigger. Hey, Martin, he says. Ive had a great idea. Fancy cycling to my mums house? Even by his zany standards this is bizarre. His mum only lives in Sydenham, about a mile from where were standing. I mean, my mums house in Aix-en-Provence, he adds. Hes half French, but is he half crazy, too? Aix is hundreds of miles away. But I know Frank and there is always a fearsome inevitability to his plans
Three months later its another misty morning and Frank and I are about to cycle to his mums house. A vague feeling of disbelief grips me. Frank has persuaded two other misguided souls, Mark and Joan, to join us. The route Frank has plotted, from south London to the south of France, is a meandering 900-mile wiggle which will take us in a lazy curve across Kent and under the Channel before dropping the length of France. Well be cycling from La Manche to Le Med. To keep things interesting, Franks included un petit dtour up and over Mont Ventoux a windblasted 6,273ft mountain known as the Beast of Provence.