#bikeablegood – Vive la France (you are now entering cycling country)

Prats-de-Mollo-la-Preste (PMRMaeyaert - Wikimedia - Creative Commons)

Prats-de-Mollo-la-Preste (PMRMaeyaert – Wikimedia – Creative Commons)

Bikeable Jo is on a mission – to remind cyclists everywhere to start embracing and cherishing all the good stuff that happens as we clock up the mileage on our trusty steeds. And so, with that in mind, here is my own two pronged tale of #bikeablegood:

Due to the vast number of hours I spend pedalling the hills of northern England and elsewhere, I’ve had my fair share of encounters with wildlife (dogs, peacocks, geese, sheep, bees) and odd sights in general (a mini cooper in a ditch, a parachutist crash landing in a field, a man asleep in the road)…this is truly the stuff of life.

During the course of one long day on the bike in France a couple of years ago, I had two continental encounters which very much fit the #bikeablegood template.

A riding companion and myself were in the French Pyrenees for a few days of glorious sun-kissed cycling. On this day we skirted the Spanish border and reached the town of Prats-de-Mollo, the perfect location for a coffee and a lemonade prior to tackling the Col d’Ares – a long stretch of sweeping Catalan tarmac climbing to over 1500 metres in height. We sipped our coffees and watched the comings and goings, bikes propped against the wall opposite, before filling our water bottles in readiness to get moving again.

Hippolyte Aucouturier (Wikimedia Commons - copyright expired)

Hippolyte Aucouturier (Wikimedia Commons – copyright expired)

My riding companion popped a couple of purple rehydration tablets into his bottle, then looked up briefly to see he had an audience. An archetypal Frenchman, probably in his sixties and no doubt with a few of his own tales of cycling derring-do, was watching on with narrowed eyes. The man then approached; no doubt a garbled and unintelligible encounter was about to ensue. In my minds eye the man wears a stripy jumper and a beret, and has an extravagant waxed moustache in the style of Hippolyte Aucouturier (any excuse to slip him into an anecdote). In reality he was a non-descript Frenchman doing his shopping.

He nodded knowingly at my friend’s water bottle – I mentally rolled my eyes, thinking ‘what’s coming now?’ – and he raised an eyebrow to utter the immortal syllables…

‘EPO?’

My friend, without missing a beat, replied ‘naturellement’ (of course).

Happy that the ‘rosbifs’ had played along with his little joke, our French friend smiled broadly and nodded, then wandered off with a chuckle as if to say ‘everything is as it should be’.

For any non-cycling fans out there, EPO was the cyclist’s drug of choice in the era of Lance Armstrong and the rest – a touchy subject in France, and ripe for a bit of fun. Amused, we headed off on our bikes, unaware that #bikeablegood encounter number two was imminent.

Half way up the climb the pair of us were locked in a grim struggle with the gradient, flicking our gaze between the patch of tarmac just ahead and the breathless views to the left. As we rounded a hairpin a lay-by on the right contained a single parked car and a group of teenagers laughing and joking among themselves – just kids passing the time.

With our legs quivering and lungs on fire we tensed up in readiness for the sarcastic jibes; surely the lads were about to show off and attempt to impress the girls by winding up the red-faced lycra-clad cyclists. As we drew near, the group stepped back slightly from the edge of the road to give us space, then began to clap and holler excitedly.

‘Chapeau!’

‘Allez, allez, allez!’

They were encouraging us…and showing us respect…and cheering us on!

We grinned, hearts warmed, tipped our imaginary hats, and rolled on. Proof that we were truly in cycling country…and that, in France, #bikeablegood is alive and well.

*For more cycling…pro cycling…and the bits in between – www.ragtimecyclist.com

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5 thoughts on “#bikeablegood – Vive la France (you are now entering cycling country)

  1. Going up Alpes d’Huez on the morning the Tour came up later, I was flying a saltire & was my usual older self, with a white beard. The thousands do fans cheered us up, gave us pushes plus cries of bravo & chapeau, but the best was “Allez, Le Diable Ecosse”!!

    • Le Diable Ecosse – now that is a nickname worth having! Sounds fantastic…it must have felt like you were really part of something, sounds like you rose to the occasion (saltire and white beard flying)!

  2. If only people here had that much happy spirit with cyclists. Yesterday on the hills, a car with German plates passed me after a sharp hairpin – the response of the inhabitants of the vehicle were massive thumbs up and waving. Really gave me an extra energy spurt. Lovely feeling indeed.

  3. Was amazing, I felt like I had arisen to the occasion, especially after the 15th hairpin, and going through Dutch corner was just surreal!

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