After a very pleasant stay at the Hotel de la Poste in Vitry, and after the kilometre-eating of the previous day, I set off under blue skies with high hopes of another good day. I made good time along flat roads and lakeside paths as far as Montier-en-Der, but there I made the mistake of stopping for lunch. By the time I had eaten at a mediocre Italian restaurant and waited for the local supermarket to open, the temperature had risen to somewhere over 30 degrees, with the sort of humidity you'd expect after the last few days of rain, and worse, a southerly breeze had sprung up, right in my face. The effect was something like riding into a fan oven, and within a few kilometres I was in a bit of trouble, riding the interminable false flats at not much over walking pace and stopping in every infrequent patch of shade. My hopes of making it as far as Langres vanished rapidly, and I set my sights on Chaumont instead.
When I finally reached a wooded section I chatted to the Spangly Princess on the phone for a bit to boost my morale (up to about zero) and then struggled over the next couple of ridges and dropped down to Doulévant-la-Château, in hopes of finding a bar for a restorative coffee. Sadly, it seems as though the French village cafe is a dying breed, and I made the mistake of passing what turned out to be the only open shop in about 40 kilometres of riding. The next 25 km were a long gradual ascent up the valley of a river whose name escapes me (I've left my map at the hotel...), which would mostly have been very pleasant riding had I not been so utterly shattered. On finally making it to the N19, with 20km or so to go to Chaumont, an open petrol station provided a vital couple of cans of drink; from there on it was just a matter of slogging over the last ridge, dropping precipitously back down to the valley of the Marne, jousting with artics for a couple of miles down to the Chaumont bypass, and then unashamedly walking up the steep climb into the town centre and getting the last room in the first hotel I reached. I was almost too tired to eat, and fell asleep fully dressed. And today I'm giving myself a rest day.