Monday, July 04, 2011

From Bordeaux to the Pyrenees - cycling through SW France

As regular readers will know four friends and I have spent the last few days in the summer sunshine, cycling down through SW France from the centre of Bordeaux to the dizzy heights of the Pyrenees.

In itself this isn't an especially great achievement - particularly as there's a few hundred people spending the next month covering far greater distances at a much higher speed in pursuit of a single yellow jersey.

However, I'd be grateful if you could make some allowance for the fact that we're not really cycling afficionados, or even halfway fit...we just fancied a challenge for my forthcoming 50th birthday.

We set off on Wednesday from the centre of Bordeaux and took the excellent cycle track "Route Roger Lapebie" to get us into the countryside before turning south to the famous town of Cadillac.

The next couple of days took us down through Mont de Marsan and on to Lourdes.  En route we found a whole host of outstanding bars & cafes serving some seriously good food.  We also had a rather childish (but fun) game where we'd sprint for all the town signs that we happened upon.

On the second day we somehow found ourselves entangled with three local riders, beautifully bedecked in club colours and bowling along at high speed.

We tagged on to the back of them and, of course, eventually came across a sign.  With about 400 metres to go I pulled out of the peloton, went round the three lycra clad locals and made a mad dash for the line.

To say that these young guns were not happy to be overtaken by a chunky, middle aged man on a thirty year old mountain bike is a gross understatement.

With a roar of "merde alors" the three of them set off after me, closely followed by two of our party who also wanted the glory of our "stage win".

This meant that six of us were line abreast, roaring down a country lane, with the three locals bewildered as to what was going on but going hell for leather as they feared their pride was under attack.

As it happens I was soon over-run and it was my father-in-law who grabbed the glory....we skidded to a halt at the first cafe and left the three club cyclists scratching their heads as to what had just happened, while pedalling furiously in case we tried to catch up with them again.

The countryside through Aquitaine and the Midi Pyrenees was glorious with a wonderful contrast between the blazing yellow of the sunflowers and the succulent green vines.

On Saturday morning we set off from Lourdes for the infamous Col du Tourmalet, all 2115 metres of it.

It was such an adventure that I'm going to write a separate post about it but suffice to say that we weren't disappointed by the challenge it posed.

All in all it was a terrific way to celebrate my 50th and it only re-emphasised to me what a wonderful country France is and how many hidden gems there are in even the tiniest villages.

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