Can We Switch to the European Grand Prix? by Andy Bebington
He did ask tongue-in-cheek, the bloke from Addiscombe CC, or Kingston Phoenix. Or was it one of the West Kents?
We (Willie, Pat and I) had arrived at the Halfway House near Brenchley, where 400 other people had gathered to see the Tour de France flash by - and we found that not only did they have a selection of nice ales, they also had a TV tuned to ITV4 and the Tour. So we were able to watch the live broadcast whilst popping outside from time to time to watch the caravan, then the five breakaways (including David Millar) then the peloton. All whilst supping nice ales.
We'd started early to ensure that we had no panic, and had breakfast in Jimmy's in Tonbridge - I'd expected it to be packed, but the town was largely empty, barriers everywhere, "Walk your bikes, please, gentlemen!" from a policeman on duty and other words from another policeman to those cars coming down the hill from the Pembury direction who didn't know the road would be closed. Had they been burying heir heads in the sand for the past month, we wondered?
Once past Tudeley, on the way towards lunch, we found a few more cars on the road, and a lot more cyclists, as the West Kent's publicity had generated rides from many directions. And although the pub is twenty yards along from the minor road junction by which we arrived, we had to walk those last few yards as the road was closed.
Much of the next few hours was spent calling "down in front, please!" to those who had the temerity to stand between us and the TV set - calls echoed by the Addiscombe riders on the next table. And it was with those fellow cyclists that we briefly debated David Millar's situation, being five minutes ahead of the peloton, suggesting that we would go outside and cheer him past and then block the road, like angry French farmers or factory workers do from time to time. He'd have increased his chances of a stage win - but being tongue-in-cheek, the suggestion was laughed at and then dropped.
We were blessed with good weather throughout the day, an echo of the previous day in London, where, unaccountably, Pat and I had never even seen each other despite being in the same park - but then Hyde Park probably only had half-a-million people in it....
What a wonderful weekend - it'll be a long time before it comes back, but when it does, we'll be there.
Boucle de Cornouauille by Paul Coan
I first discovered this event about ten years ago following a small advert in the CTC magazine. It was then known as the Tour de Sud Finistere and I managed to attend at short notice.
It is organised by the Quimper CC and consists of accommodation in a lycee close to Quimper town centre, which also acts as the event HQ and additionally offers full board for the price this year of 330 euros (about £250) so excellent value. Subsequently I had attended at least twice with either Roger and/or Mike and Mo and last year we decided to attend again.
The week consists of various rides led by club members, all of which meet at lunchtime in a local hall, etc for a hot meal with several courses and as much wine as you can drink without falling off during the afternoon. Roger was awarded the transport contract, Mike booked us all in for the event and after considering the channel crossing options I booked the van on the high speed Portsmouth - Cherbourg service to avoid a lengthy day or night crossing.
On arrival Saturday evening in Cherbourg a short drive to Valognes, 20km inland, took us to our hotel, a small family run establishment possibly not decorated since the last world war but clean with good food all the same. We broke the journey to Quimper for lunch at Rosporden, a fair sized town but utterly deserted, all shops closed, but we managed to spot a sandwich bar tucked away in the town square - where Madame could not believe her luck in receiving our bulk order for four baguettes.
We had no problem in locating the Permanence in Quimper, where the reception was handled by club members, and after depositing our baggage in our rooms, we assembled the four bikes, all mudguard free to fit in the van and avoid the chance of a jet wash in the event of rain which does no favours to bikes when transported on a car roof.
We met Diane and Dave, friends of ours who had moved to Quimper some years ago, and Paul Noons and Frank Baker also "anciens" of this visit. Following the welcoming speeches a barbecue and buffet were laid on as the lycee was being shared with a football training camp, and stretched our legs for a walk into town before turning in.
Monday morning was rather damp but following some light showers the day stayed dry. I joined the group for the longest distance, Roger the slightly shorter ride, while Mike and Mo went on the cyclo-decouverte, short rides around the town, where each day Alain Lebec, a retired teacher, informed a small group of the heritage of the town and surrounding region.
Although all the riders would probably describe themselves as cyclo-tourists, most of the the hardware on display would not look out of place a few years ago in the Tour de France. Apart from Paul Noons and M and M with steel frames plus mudguards and carriers, and others with stripped down alloy machines, there were carbon fibre cycling footprints everywhere.
All the week's destinations included a visit to the coast and on Monday we headed southwest and in common with subsequent rides followed roads past weather-beaten churches dating from the 12th century with their displays of now almost featureless stone carvings of saints and gargoyles. Additionally, wherever a fishing port appeared en route a halt was called to investigate the day's catch. At most of these locations stalls had samples of the catch for sale.
On return to HQ the TV would be tuned to catch the remainder of the day's Tour de France stage and a bar would be open.
Tuesday's weather was brighter and after heading southbound the day's main destination was Concameau, a large fishing port and boat repair yard with a walled town busy with visitors. This was a chaotic control for the 2002 Semaine Federale where eveyone arrived at the same time giving a real headache for the staff.
Wednesday's objective was the furthest point west, the Pointe du Raz, again much of our route reminded me of the Semaine Federale including the port of Douarnenez where three ocean-going trimarans were being prepared.
Thursday was a rest day, just as well as the rain returned, so the day was filled with a wander to the excellent Fine Arts museum and a coffee shop.
Friday afternoon's route treated us to the ascent of Menez Hom, west Brittany's highest point at 330m, a climb on a par with Shepherds Hill near Merstham. The return was via Locronan, a medieval village retained in its form from the 15th century and now a busy tourist attraction.
Saturday and our last cycling day took us southeast and paid a visit to Pont Aven, a pictureque artists' haunt due to its river location, where for the first time we enjoyed an official stop and had a beer.
Prior to that evening's special gastronomic event the club arranged the routine Pot d'Amitie and managed to invite two representatives from the mayor's office to thank everyone for the organisation and parilcipation. The final meal comprised a table full of every type of sea food washed down with wine and plenty of the local pressed cider unobtainable locally here.
We had plenty of time to load the bikes Sunday morning for a leisurely drive to Cherbourg for the late return sailing punctuated by a lunch stop in the pleasant town of Lamballe.
To summarise, a week of excellent cycling on rolling roads with very few real tests for the legs. My only criticism would be concerning the constant stopping, sometimes for no apparent reason and the occasional breakdown in the consensus navigation by club members which would lead to people going in all directions at some junctions.
|Previous Newsletter Return to News Archive Next Newsletter|