Updated: Sep 10, 2019
Well it makes bugger all difference what I write today because no one is going to read it. We will all still be happy in the afterglow of the football result. I'll say this though. I watched the game with three Germans and a Serbian and they all cheered when England won. That is not something you see every day. Aside from watching the football with me, last night's Airbnb hosts were amazing. Not just because of the kindness and friendship they showed me, but because they are hardcore touring cyclists who have been all over the world by bike. Gerhard and Hildegard shared some fantastic stories of their travels and Hildegard in particular is an extraordinary woman. She cycled across Australia solo when she was 53. Then she came home and cycled Namibia, then Argentina, Israel and half of Europe - over 16,000km in total. The ride across Australia from Perth to Sydney took her three months. Her story is all the more remarkable given that she only learned how to ride a bike at 33. She us currently planning a ride from Paris to Moscow. She quite rightly made me feel like a total amateur and is a reminder that you should never judge a book by its cover: otherwise you would just see a German school teacher and not the story behind her. My hosts are also part of the Bett + Bike scheme in Germany: a network of accommodation aimed at cyclists across the country verified by the German cycling federation. They have rules for everything, as you would expect, from the availability of showers and drying facilities for kit to insisting there must be two types of bread available at breakfast. Although surely that last one is a step too far! Once again today's ride started on canals. Not quite the beautiful countryside of France though, as the route followed the river Saar through the city and suburbs. I completed another 35km on the flat before taking a sharp turn West. By my reckoning I've covered over 130km on canal/riversides and I only covered a fraction of the total available. It's well used, although I don’t think I saw many people younger than me using them. I did see hundreds of older people on bikes though and around half of them on ebikes - these are already a big thing. The change of direction brought a shock to the system with a around 5km of climbing between 2-10% through a series of small towns. After that I was into rolling roads and farming country all the way to just outside of Shengen, my stopping point for the morning. The great thing about the cycle routes I've been on over the past nine days is that they avoid any traffic and let you enjoy the views. One downside though is that they also avoid town and village centres and you can find yourself missing out any chance to refuel or fill your water bottles. This was the ninth day in a row of riding in 28 degrees plus every day. This morning after all the climbing I was out of water and desperate for a drink, but there was nothing until I reached Shengen after 65km. It was Coke time again, but I stopped to pose for a photo crossing the border into Luxembourg. It's country number 5 on this trip, but the first time time I've been here. I can add to my list - country number 44. Hildegard had recommended a detour to my route at Shengen to go across country to Ellange. 'It's a harder climb but you will save 10km. You have to climb over those hills anyway' she said. I will take that option every time. I might need that 10km in my legs later. She wasn't wrong, it was a testing climb on tired legs in the hottest part of the day. By now I was climbing like a Colombian, I mean a a cyclist with shirt fully open, rather than a centre back climbing all over the Englishman in front of me (topical joke of the day). The short cut worked, but I was still going up and down short hills on tiny back roads and to add to the fun, it started raining. Putting on my rain jacket didn’t help as that just created a boil in the bag effect. I decided I'd had enough of cycle routes for the day and switched to the main roads, which have virtually no traffic on them anyway. Once I saw a sign for Luxembourg City 12km it gave me a huge boost and I pushed hard all the way into the city. Here I discovered that much to my surprise Luxembourg has crap signage. It was really hard to find my way across town and the stop/start of checking my phone for directions was making my legs seize up. Eventually I just gave up, stuck Google maps on full volume and wedged my phone into my bibshorts. I got funny looks from people at junctions, but stuff that, put up some bloody road signs that work. Having arrived at the outskirts of the city feeling really strong, I was tired and wanted to get off. Today was supposed to be 120km, but ended up being 110km. There's that 10km that Hildegard gave me - veilen Dank!