'Don't panic,' says Nicola. 'Stay calm. Just turn around very, very slowly. And then peddle as fast as you can.' But I have seen what she has seen and am already turning my bike around. There is a rottweiler in the garden of the house ahead and it is barking and baring its teeth. The gates are open and it is not tethered. I know not to make eye contact with it - a gesture interpreted by dogs as an act of aggression rather than friendliness - but as we cycle away, I am expecting my ankles to be made into a sandwich by its angry jaws at any moment. Fortunately, this rottweiler is all empty posturing and does not follow through.
Still, it's another one to add to The List. Since my friend Nicola and I embarked on our evening cycling expeditions last summer, we have followed nearly every back country road within a 20K radius, to its conclusion. More importantly, we know where the dogs are. And there are lots of them in the French countryside, nearly all of them, it seems, trained to be guard dogs. Most are safely behind a fence. A few unfortunately, are not, as we know from an incident last summer when we were chased along a country lane by a pack of five angry dogs, until the owner called them off. Still, at least we both now know to avoid a little hamlet called La Toucherande.