Today we went to see the Tour de France pass through the Beaujolais. Fleurie, at about 30km, is the nearest place to us. To avoid the main roads we went the back way up through the Pouilly-Fuissé vineyards from where there were spectacular views of Solutré.
We took Claude who always comes with us to see the Tour de France. Just outside Fleurie we picnicked by a vineyard. We got talking to the chap sitting next to us who was the owner. He said that last year he had lost the whole of his crop to hailstones. I can believe that as in a storm at the end of June hailstones the size of golfballs fell on Cormatin.
Chris and Claude keeping out of the sun
It was hot waiting but we were soon entertained by the caravan with girls hurling small gifts. I can report that being hit by flying bag of haribos really hurts! The little boy next to us collected bags and hats and sweets and keyrings…. We all got a present from Vittel as everyone got sprayed with water.
The kids wave and shout to get gifts from the caravan
Then a succession of team cars and motorbikes. The VIPs passed overhead in helicopters. Finally the cyclists came by, or what was left of them.
- Cheering on the French
I can’t imagine what it must be like to ride all afternoon in such a heat. And tomorrow will be even hotter. Bravo to all the French riders who are doing so well.
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!
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.
The hill that runs past our house climbs steeply up over the ridge to Donzy le Pertuis, nestling high on the side of the next valley. From the top of the hill we always look out for Mont Blanc which lies 180km to the south east. The weather this week has been very clear and sunny so Mont Blanc has been easy to spot, the snow glittering in the sunshine.
When we mentioned this to some people they would not believe us. So today we decided to go closer for a better look. Off we set heading east across the River Saône into the Bresse region. To us in Soâne-et-Loire, going ‘over the river’ means entering foreign lands. Ain, in the Rhône-Alpes, is very flat with large fields, and the Bresse farmhouses are very different with their brick and half timbered ‘longhouse’ appearance. Very soon the Jura mountains loomed up and we were into hairpin bends, rocky chasms and pine forests. There were many cyclists on the roads (don’t they know it’s hilly in the Jura?) but very little traffic. Soon we emerged Narnia-like into a land of Swiss chalets, alpine meadows and clanging cowbells.
Giant bike in the Haut Jura
We found to our joy that we were following the route of this year’s Tour de France. We had seen the beginning of Stage 7 near Tournus, and we were amazed to find out how far they had cycled that day (165.5km) and how steep and twisty the road was to Station des Rousses. That was described as a ‘medium mountains’ stage, an easy day for the riders. In the Haut Jura there was village with a 10m wooden bicycle made of wood. Apparently it was a copy of the Maire’s bike but 10 times as big!
We climbed over the final mountain before us was Lake Geneva and a wonderful view of Mont Blanc. And we have the photos to prove it!