Monday, December 10, 2012

Jarnac Cycling Club (Velo Club de Jarnac)

Following my post about integrating into the local community I thought it would be good to share my experience of joining the local cycling club.  If you're only interested in property related posts then turn away now.

Regular readers will know that I had a kind of epiphany before my 50th birthday last year and decided to get fitter and undertake a bit of a bike ride.  Getting up from the couch felt great and I have tried to stay active and keep cycling ever since.

I don't want to mislead you....I've never been particularly sporting and you don't shed thirty years of inactivity overnight.  I'm not going to be entering races but I do fancy riding regularly so I have joined Les Poissons Rouge which is the name of the Jarnac cycling club.

Bizarrely, there is no entry fee, nor annual subscription.  You do however need to pay €50 pa for your licence & insurances and you need a doctors certificate to say that you're in reasonable shape.  You're also encouraged to purchase some items of team kit so that the team looks good when out on a club ride.

It's a friendly club with an excellent local reputation.  There are around 60 members and the Patron is a professional cyclist called Lloyd Mondory who rides for AG2R.  He's from the area and his parents are members - each year he'll come back for a ride or two and I'm particularly looking forward to sharing the peloton with a guy who rides the Tour de France each year.

This week-end I went out for my first ever group ride which was quite a nerve racking experience.  I had no idea how fast they would go or what the etiquette is for riding in a bunch.  Would I be dropped after 500 metres and left to turn around and trudge home by myself?  Unlikely as my father-in-law (who devoted all of 2011 getting me up the Col du Tourmalet) was there too but he takes these rides seriously and you never know!

We met in Jarnac town centre, opposite the imposing Courvoisier chateau.  There were about twenty people there and they're a friendly bunch.  It was sunny & mild so I was bare-legged with no wind jacket.....this caused a mixture of hilarity & consternation as everyone else was wrapped up like polar explorers.  I was also the only person who didn't have a drop handlebar road bike (I ride a Boardman Hybrid Comp as I find it more comfortable and didn't need a second mortgage to buy it) but no-one seemed to give two hoots.

Off we went and it took me twenty minutes or so to get used to the hand gestures and general movement in a group.  Wind resistance is much reduced and you ride 20-30% faster than when on your own.

We cycled for around two and a half hours and the truth is that it was a breeze.  I struggled up the hills because I'm big & heavy but I didn't get dropped and I loved every minute.  I didn't time it but suspect we were averaging around 28-30 kmh and people were chatting throughout.

Whether you are contemplating expat life or are an established expat already I'd heartily recommend joining a club like this and I wish I'd done it sooner. You don't need to be ultra fit either, my friend Paddy joined Jarnac chess team as soon as he arrived here and was soon jetting all over Poitou Charentes for club matches.

As we were riding round, one of the regulars said he liked the fact that my father-in-law and I give the club an international flavour and that they have a Spanish chap join them from June each year.

Wonder if his name is Alberto something......


Caroline Lakey said...

Hi Graham,
Glad to see you're keeping well, and fit!
I joined Dolphins de Mayenne swimming club soon after arriving here, and rather randomly (considering I'm really quite an average swimmer!) ended up winning a bronze medal at the French masters championships a couple of years later.
I also met my partner Eric at the club, and the rest, as they say, is history...
Best wishes from sunny Mayenne,
Caroline Lakey

graham downie said...

Hey Caroline, good to hear from you. I guess that's the best endorsement possible for the point I was trying to make.

Merry Christmas to both you & Eric...


French Property Ski said...

Cycling club is good to hear. I hope you are enjoying with your club members. good thing.