Finally after the long slog across France i now feel like i'm making a dent into this challenge. I had initially been hesitant to take my first rest day as something in my head was telling me that it was showing a sign of weakness and people following the trip would think i was faltering and ready to throw in the towel. However, after a day of carb loading, binge watching and general sloth like behaviour i was raring to get back on the bike. It proved to me the importance of rest as i was like a man possessed the next morning. Full of energy and niggle free i flew along the Rhone Valley to begin what would be the highlight of my "cycling career" thus far.
On 18th February i crested the final climb of the day to be met with the unmistakable and mesmerising view of the Côte d'Azur. I had come prepared for baltic conditions through Europe but as i have masterfully coincided the opening leg with a freak high pressure system over the continent my deep winter clothes have been shoved to bottom of the bag. For the next 4 days i had the pleasure of cycling from Frejus Saint Raphael to Sanremo (Italy) along the winding roads which hugged the mediterranean. With the warm mistral at my back and temperatures reaching 18 degrees I was in cycling nirvana. It saw me take a completely different mindset to the days cycling. Whereas previously i had set out on each day with the hope of getting to my destination as quick as possible, i had now realised that the joy and happiness of the challenge was not to be found in the destination, but in the journey getting there. As long as i arrived before nightfall there was no rush. I made sure that i took in every vista on offer instead of staring at my speedometer wishing the miles away. I really feel that this change in mindset will ensure i can stay the course of the challenge.
On Thursday, i had to turn away from my new best friend in the form of the Mediterranean and head in land. The first challenge of the trip was served up in the form of a steady 15km incline up into the hills of northern Italy. Although a relative minnow when compared to future climbs it was still enough to leave me broken at the top and gasping for air. Fortunately what goes up must come down and as a reward for my efforts i have been the lucky recipient of a free downhill pass to Venice. As a downpayment for the favourable gradient i was asked to hand over a little flesh and blood which i gladly offered up when my front wheel decided to swing out from beneath me. I was thrown onto the tarmac leaving me with deep grazes to me left thigh and elbow. It was an inconspicuous tumble but those who are familiar with cycling will know that often it's these little falls that can weirdly cause the most damage. After ensuring nothing was broken (mike and the bike) and counting my blessings i was quickly back on the bike before the adrenaline could wear off.
So far so good. Over the next few days i will be heading for the Dalmation Coast and meeting up with the Mediterranean again. With every day in the saddle i feel myself getting stronger and stronger both physically and mentally. The anxiety and fear of the unknown has slowly lifted and i now relish each day on the bike exploring the world around me one pedal stroke at a time.