We are cycling the entire route of the new La Vélo Francette – here's our overview of the route from Mayenne to Domfront.
Distance today: 42.29km
After a wonderful two days cycling the Mayenne River, it was time to cross over from the Mayenne department of Pays de la Loire into the Orne in Normandy. Orne is to be our second-last department, having already visited Charente-Maritime, the Deux-Sèvres, Vendée, Maine-et-Loire and Mayenne (we still have Calvados to come).
Here's how we got on.
Mayenne to Ambrières-les-Vallées, 21.9km
We'd stayed at the gorgeous Hotel La Marjolaine – just off the Mayenne River path. We pushed our bikes up off the path and we found this room for our bikes:
This for rest and relaxation (read: vin rouge):
And our beds were inside here:
No complaints there, then. The hotel's restaurant was super with a wonderful menu made up mostly of local gourmet delights. We got spoiled.
Michel from Mayenne Tourisme had been in touch throughout our journey through the Mayenne and came to say goodbye. He, as with all the tourist board reps we've met en route, is super excited as the prospect of more English-speaking cyclists discovering his area on La Velo Francette.
Here I am with Michel (complete with €7.95 ponchy/raincoat thingy from Decathlon in Laval – it served me well today):
We followed the river to the town of Mayenne and onto a glorious old converted railway line that runs towards Ambrières-les-Vallées. The first section is glorious - smooth, with a compact sand-like surface. We were cruising at 20-25km/hr even in the rain.
The track isn't so great when it starts to run parallel to a velo-rail attraction that runs from around Saint-Loup-du-Gast. Essentially the track that is the voie verte gives way to the velo-rail and you ride beside it.
That said, my bike handled fine on my 28 tyres, though anyone pulling a trailer might have problems on this stretch (especially if it's wet). I wouldn't have wanted it to be much muddier/wetter. We made it to the end of this section with the bikes looking a bit like this:
I'm continually amazed and so pleased with how my Whyte Devon is handling through the wet, dirt and the odd bit of mud (as well as in the dry, of course). I'll post a bike review at the end of this trip.
We had lunch at the local brasserie just north of Ambrières-les-Vallées before bracing ourselves for more rain and wind.
Ambrières-les-Vallées to Domfront, 20.31km
I don't have many photos from this section because, frankly, the rain was on and off and there was a strong headwind.
These signs, however, kept me amused every time the voie verte crossed a road (!)
All the local tourist offices have an EXCELLENT map of the Mayenne valley section of La Velo Francette. You can also download it here (click 'carte des voies vertes'). It is a must-have for your jersey pocket or pannier.
At the end of the voie verte there is currently (May 2015) no La Velo Francette signage or any bike signage at all. The local tourism people tell me this should be in place by the end of June 2015, but it's worth checking ahead if you are riding this way soon – at the every least bring a local IGN or Michelin map just in case.
With the rain pelting down and the wind hitting us front on, we took a series of D-roads and also zipped down the main D962 for a bit to save time and get ahead. It was OK – not too busy – but the traffic was fast. We detoured back off on to the D262 at Céaucé and then onto the D223 for a quieter final leg to the B&B.
Beforehand, though, I snapped this in Céaucé. Very excited to see our final destination (finally!) written large after more than a week on the road.