Day 4 of England cycle: Calais to Breda (295km)

Posted: May 13, 2013 in Belgium, Cycling, France, Netherlands
Tags: , , ,

Contrary to yesterday, today was a day of burning through the kimometres (and the müsli bars). Blown by a gale tail wind, I scooted through Belgium and out the other end to Breda to take a night train back to Eindhoven. A final 7 km in Eindhoven saw me break my day record of 301 km.

I left the hotel shortly before 7 out into the cloudy, blustery morning. Maybe not ideal weather for sunbathing, but, perfect for cycling. You don’t sweat much, you don’t need much to drink, and you can go like (with) the wind. Learning from my last cycle to Calais, I avoided the coast. The area around Dunkirk is horrible for cycling, and I took a detour inland to my favourite place from last time – Licques – a cute little village nestled in a steep valley behind Calais.

From there I was bound east. And the wind was… also heading east. A match made in heaven. I have never had this. I look on the map – I need to head there. And then, next time I look, I am already there. Next place. Before I know it I’m there. After 70 odd kilometres, I found myself in Cassel – a village perched on the top of an unlikely hill in a fairly flat landscape. Some wares from the patisserie – and then a refill. I was hungry, and my appetite today was eternal.

Then, hello Belgium.

Hello Belgium

Hello Belgium

The morning was punctuated by stopping in market squares – ah yes, another cute little town hall.. 🙂

Poperinge

Poperinge

Tielt

Tielt

As time went on, I realized that today was not just going to see me enter well into Belgium to catch a train home. I could get much further. For a while I entertained the possibility to cycle all the way home to Eindhoven. When I finally zoomed out on the map to see all of Belgium when I was in Gent, I realized the impossibility of this – it would be about 350 km. Still, a day record (301 km+), and reaching the Netherlands was still in reach. But it would take a concerted effort. And minimizing stops.

On I went. No rain. But some serious looking clouds. It must have rained everywhere except over me.

No rain.

No rain.

Into Gent. Central square. Tick. Lovely buildings. Tick.

Gent

Gent

Out of Gent. More direct roads. Straight line with the wind. Speed speed speed. I arrived in Lokeren hungry and with not much water. Pizza. Quick and an energy boost. Then on. St. Niklaas, and through some suburbs of Antwerpen. How do I cross the harbour? Explored. Tunnel closed to bikes. How do I cross? Ask. Of course. The pedestrian tunnel (!). Cool.

Pedestrian tunnel in Antwerp

Pedestrian tunnel in Antwerp

It was 20:30 and getting distinctly dim. I didn’t know how far it was to Breda in the Netherlands, but, I had to be there by 23:21 to catch the last train. The road was dead straight. I could do it. Or die trying. Suburbs of Antwerp. More suburbs. Then forest. Then Wuustwezel. Then the border.

Entering the Netherlands

Entering the Netherlands

On and on. The train station was on the other side of Breda. Still, there was no traffic and I had some time up my sleeve. Just as I arrived at the Breda train station, the rain started – for the first time for me. And I was presented with a stairway to heaven – with a super heavy bike and 295 km in the legs.

Stairway to heaven

Stairway to heaven

Goal reached with 20 minutes to spare.

Breda

Breda

And then, some would say, the ultimate madness. Others understand. I cycled 7 km around Eindhoven in the rain at midnight to get my day total to 302 km – breaking the record I held with Ed when we cycled from Delft to Den Helder and back in a day. Then I could go to bed satisfied.

Day record

Day record

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