I was lost. The good kind of lost when you know you’ll eventually get home, just not exactly in the energy state you expected. I could feel the subtle hints from my body telling me it was time to eat. I was already desperate for water. I was up high so I could see the church steeple by my house in the distance; but the road was like a line at Disney Land, unexpectedly serpentining through the trees, taking me away from my destination, not closer. I had to be heading back to the main road though, right? It didn’t matter really. The control-freak in me wasn’t running the show today, wherever my feet wanted to explore, that’s the path I was taking.
Forty-five minutes past my expected run time, I made it back to the house, starving, dehydrated but completely energized after discovering such an amazing road. With 1/4 of a watermelon, I sat down to find the road on Google Maps. It wasn’t there. After some cross-analysis with Strava, I zoomed in on the right spot and a tiny thread of a line appeared. I clicked on it: Unnamed Road.
Of course, when I discovered the road running I had come down the climb and that didn’t seem to count. On my bike this time, I retraced my steps and this time headed up. It was delightfully quiet like the last time with only the whirr of my wheels and the sudden rustle of leaves from an unknown animal running from the side of the road. The higher I climbed, the thicker the trees and the farther away I felt from the rest of the world. There were hairpins, gentle bends and sweeping curves. The road surface wasn’t pristine but for 7km climb at 5%, I didn’t care. It was like I had my own secret road.
I took it easy up the climb. It wasn’t the ride for anything more than slow. I was fully aware this was an experience many cyclists just don’t get to have. I’ve trained on many roads in several countries and there just isn’t anywhere like France. The high density of roads in France means new roads don’t just happen once in a while, they happen all the time. There is always an unnamed road waiting to be discovered.
The final 50m urged a gear change as the steep gradient suddenly broke the rhythm I had been keeping for the past half an hour. The trees became bushes and the bushes became field as I crested the summit. I picked up easy speed even through the road wasn’t overtly downhill. I eagerly leaned into my aero bars as I took the sweeping switchback at the top and then immediately pulled on the brakes.
The last time I was here, I was on foot. I remembered there was a short gravel section but this was more than gravel, this was moon craters filled with marbles. I hadn’t come up just to go down though, so I gingerly rolled forward. Where no TT bike has been before, that’s for sure. It felt way long than 100m but a few wheel slides and some emergency unclips later, my wheels were back on to pavement, only to meet the very perplexed face of a woman gardening. I know, I can’t believe I came from the road either, I silently told her. Past the gravel, it was like the world opened up again. I couldn’t go right on the running trail like last time, so I went left. I had never been down the road before and there was no sign but that was half the fun.