Ready for an early start
The Cortambert Cycle Club met this morning for a 41km ride which went through some of the prettiest villages imaginable. I loved this ride as, like Escher’s perpetual staircase, it seemed to be downhill all the way until the last few kilometres back up the hill to Cortambert.
We headed north via Bray to Lys, then to Chapaize and Champagny-sous-Uxelles, and followed the river to Bresse-sur-Grosne and Sercy, ending up in St Gengoux-le-National. We had an easy ride back along the voie verte past Cormatin before turning off at Massilly for the upward climb back to Cortambert.
The profile of our route
It’s wonderful landscape for cycling. You can stay within the Grosne Valley which is relatively flat, or you can tackle the challenging ascents over the hills into the next valley. And there’s very little traffic. We must have met half a dozen motorists at most during our ride. If you want to keep off the roads the voie verte makes cycling very easy with such slight inclines that you hardly notice.
Preparations are being made for a rather bigger event, the Tour de France, which departs from Liège in Belgium on June 30th . There will be a rest day in Mâcon and on Wednesday July 11th we will see the start of stage 10, a 194 km ride towards Switzerland, climbing the 1500m Col du Grand Colombier on the way.
This rather puts this morning’s ride into perspective!
The grandchildren came to stay last week and it was perfect weather for them with blue skies and warm sunshine. It was better than when they came in August as at the end of September there is little risk of sunburn and children tend to sleep better on cooler nights.
Maggie and Jo at the playpark at St Point
It was easy to keep the kids amused. They love going swimming and we tried out the lake at St Point. Perhaps it’s not so suitable for very little children as there is no beach and the water becomes deep quite quickly. But there is plenty of shade and a great playpark by the campsite.
The lake at St Point
We also returned to Lac de Laives where the little ones could dig in the sand and paddle. Hardly anyone else was there which surprised me seeing the weather was so good.
The beach at Lac de Laives
Cycling is a new craze for Maggie and we spent a couple of mornings on the voie verte at Massilly.
Maggie on the voie verte
The voie verte is a safe place for learning to cycle or simply going for a walk.
Chris and Jo set off for Cluny
The children like going into the old railway station with its colourful mural. There are tables and chairs inside for people to have lunch if the weather isn’t too good.
Maggie is also keen on horses and our kind neighbour let her ride Duchesse round the field.
And of course there was a visit to Gwendy every day. Gwendy is very gentle and is careful not to munch on little fingers.
Maggie feeding Gwendy
This Indian summer is due to end on Friday but we can’t complain after such a wonderful September.
France is famous for its cycle races. Some of the earliest remain the biggest, such as the Tour de France (1903), and the Paris-Roubaix (1896). Club cycling is very popular here with a wide choice of waymarked routes and challenging hills. For the less energetic there is the Voie Verte which isn’t completely flat but provides an pleasant way to reach Cluny or St Gengoux from Cormatin.
Our very own Tour de Cortambert took place this afternoon. It was devised by the Maire and sponsored by the Credit Agricole. It might have been a minor event compared with the other Tour but at least this one passed by inches from our gate. It was 16 laps of a 6km route starting in Cortambert with a steady climb followed by a technical descent to Varanges and back along the road to Cortambert.
Descending into Varanges
I have mentioned before that ahead of the big cycle events the roads are often resurfaced. Last week our road was beautifully tarmacked, a good surface for bikes we thought. Unfortunately a few days ago the roadmenders were back to cover the road in hot tar and spread tons of gravel, work that was actually scheduled for September. This caused a lot of worry for the organisers as loose gravel is a danger on the bends. But the road was swept and hoovered this morning and there were no accidents, at least not in our quartier.
The youngsters lend their support
We should try a circuit tomorrow to see how much longer it takes us compared with the ten minutes or so it took the cyclists today. Or perhaps we don’t want to know!
This year sees the 98th Tour de France, lasting for three weeks in July with 21 stages and two rest days. This year it covers 3,430km, starting in the Vendée and going on to the mountain stages in the Auvergne, the Pyrenees and the Alps. It dips into Italy and finishes on the Champs Elysées in Paris. People base their holidays around it, or travel miles to stand by the roadside. Campervans will park up days before to reserve a spot at the best vantage points on the mountain routes.
Route of this year's Tour
I hadn’t realised until I read the official website that 39% of people go not to see the cycling but to enjoy the caravan that precedes it. This takes 45 minutes to pass as it can be 20km long, a procession of 160 weird and wonderful vehicles representing anything from coffee to car insurance. Each advertiser invests between 20,000 and 50,000 euros and they throw out 16 million small gifts. Everyone enjoys the scramble to retrieve the keyrings, hats and sweets.
Watching the Tour de France you get the impression that all the roads in France have been freshly resurfaced. It’s a real boost if the Tour comes through your village. You get new roads as well as your five minutes of fame. 2007 was the year when the Tour came through Cormatin.
The tour takes a different route every year. This year it doesn’t come anywhere near us so we are following it on TV, ‘visiting’ other parts of France, learning the local history, discovering the chateaux and admiring the ingenious displays set up by the farmers in their fields. We were quite pleased to see the cyclists battling against the wind and rain in the west when we were enjoying beautiful sunny weather here in Burgundy.
If it’s the actual race you want to see it is far better to watch it on TV. But for a day’s outing with all the atmosphere, the fun of the crowds, the waiting, the caravan, the noise and the colour, watching the Tour go by is not to be missed.