01 Freiburg – Lake Neuchâtel (206km, 1200m)

You are now at post Nr. 01 out of 10 for this tour.
If you want to read the post of that trip in order, voilà:
00a Freiburg – Barcelona preparation
00b Freiburg – Barcelona READY to go
01 Freiburg – Lake Neuchâtel (206km, 1200m)
02 Lake Neuchâtel – Geneva (119km, 968m)
03 Geneva – Lyon (167km, 1585m)
04 Lyon into the Cevennes – on climbing and descending… (157km, 1885m)
05 Lac St. Martial – Tarn (187km, 2900m) Prototype of THE cycle touring day
06 Tarn – Carcassonne (203km, 2683m) – A long day in 3 dimensions
07 Carcassonne – Casteil (148km, 2635m) Arrival at the ‘base camp’
08 Walking over the Pyrenees and cycling down into Spain (110km, 2671m) – reality checks
09 Hot as hell. Tortellà, Costa Brava, Canet de Mar (145km, 1468m)
10 La Final: last 48km to Barcelona & recap. What a tour…

First of all: Greetings from Lyon/France! I arrived here on Monday, 24th of July, in the evening and was welcomed by my old friend Bérengère and her great boyfriend Joeffrey.

That was after my first three days of travelling. As I had hoped, I think they were a good physical preparation for everything else to come. But one by one…

Day 01: Freiburg(GER) – Lake Neuchâtel (CH) (206km, 1200m)
Very importantly: the Friday evening before the first cycling day I arrived by train in Freiburg/Germany – after a somewhat troublesome train connection – where I was welcomed by my Friend Diana and Micha with a) super kind and nice to talk to company and b) a very rich and delicious pasta-dinner. It was just the perfect start of my vacation! Thanks so much again to both of you!

After some good sleep I started the trip on Saturday, around 08:00h. Weather: some clouds and a bit of wind. Ideal conditions I’d say. I simply followed the peeps of my Garmin that I had previously fed with my routes (see my post 00a for the preparation).

The ride went pretty smoothly, disregarding some unexpected gravel paths and re-routed roads. The landscape around Freiburg, bordering on the Black Forest was beautiful, of course – the Rhine however rather unspectacular. No problem, since the only ‘goal’ was to start the trip in Germany; easy to bridge the gap to the Swiss border.

The urban area of Basel approached at just the right moment when I was longing for some change. Passing the border, I had a break and a refuel at the central station in Basel (proper coffee, refilling my bottles, cheesy pizza-bread. Anything that works)

Until that point it was all known terrain to me, since I’ve cycled that bit on a Essen – Luzern trip years ago. But now my GPS-beeps sent me into the unknown territory of the Jura Mountains south of Basel along the road 18 and the river Birs. In fact, in hindsight the cries of my GPS had something of Odysseus’ Sirens: luring me into misery by sketching out a bright future.

Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit. Yes, it was almost continuously going uphill for dozens of km, but at a very harmless gradient. I could have picked an alternative flat route south around the Jura, but I figured this would be a good way to get used to some climbing from day 1 on. I think it was a good decision. But then: rain – on and off – weaker and stronger. I got very skillful in putting on and off my rain jacket quickly. Thanks to my overshoes which I was testing now for the first time, my feetremained dry! Who would have thought this exists: actually rainproof “rainproof overshoes”! (Brand: Velotoze. Basically condoms for your feet)

But this was my first day… while I cycled more this year than in past years, I’d consider myself far from a well-trained cyclist. Also, besides myself I had to lift my bike and especially my luggage over those mountains. So I was having my lows… it was getting colder, I was getting weaker, my jersey wetter (from sweat or rain or a delicate mix). At some point (close to “Moutier”) needed another major break. Now I was already in the francophone territory and could test how much of my French skills remained by asking for a sandwich, some water and my beloved Magnum Double icecream.

And the journey went on. I was surprised how little of the distance through the mountains I had made yet. Another phase of gravel paths, where I misjudged the pavement in my planning. Then a more open plateau with cold headwind. And then I came to a sort of bottleneck where I had to go through a longer tunnel at La Heutte. After that, at “Friedliswart” I could have gone straight down to Biel and then along the Bieler lake. Instead I went left though Orvin along the lake on a higher altitude – in the hope that this way I would not have one rapid descent, but instead spread out my release of potential energy over a longer distance  and thus capitalize more on it. I was SO wrong: now started the toughest climb of the day! long, tedious. Really, that was incredibly shitty. The weather still unstable, wet.

At some point I reached the top point st 800m altitude. I agree… not really impressive; but tiring enough. Then I had the super steep descent (-15%) that I wanted to avoid for economic reasons. It was a pleasure though… the width of the view was in line with my feeling of relief of leaving the climb behind.

At this point I had 170km on the counter. Yes, i had planned to keep this years distances at a lower level, but on the other hand: why not suffer a bit more today in the shitty weather and do some km that I don’t have to cycle tmrw anymore..!? So, I decided to continue a bit and approach a campsite on the South side of the Lake Neuchâtel at a place called Delley Portalban – hoping it wouldn’t start raining again. 35km to go. Tough ones though: weak bones, wind, and worst of all, the last 10km turned out to be the bad kind of gravel road. Thunder and lightening in the distance. Darn… quite a fight.

Arrival at the campsite: 21h. So it was a surprisingly long day. Too late to encounter anyone at the reception of this huge campsite. So I pitched my tent next to the other smaller ones while a thunder storm started. Had a ‘Terrine du Maison’ (weird but good meat with bread) in the beach cafe, and went to sleep.

In summary: this first day was a good preparation in terms of distance, climbing and weather. Freiburg – Lyon is ca 460km of which I did 206km already. Arriving – as planned – within 3 days won’t pose a problem.

STRAVA (click)

Author: Malte Cyclingtourist

Hi, I'm Malte, cyclo-hedonist, endurance traveller, occasional bikepacking-racer (mostly road) – www.cyclingtourist.com – Strava: Malte Cyclingtourist – Instagram: @maltecyclingtourist

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