Each Pentecost Sunday, in St. Jean de Luz, there’s a big bike ride, known as the ride of the quiet valleys, done by the best part of 1000 cyclists each year. The Nogaro club had booked to do this many months ago, before we joined, but a fortnight ago a couple of people dropped out and we were invited to take their places.
We set off by car, in convoy, from Nogaro on Saturday morning, arriving in Ascain, near St. Jean de Luz in time for lunch at the hotel where most of our party were staying; we were lucky enough to be one of the three couples for whom there wasn’t space, and who had to stay at a nearby chambres d’hotes, a far better option! We had lunch at the hotel, a pretty meagre affair; they were obviously not geared up to feed hungry cyclists, then eight of us decided to go for a ride.
I only intended to do about 40km, in view of the ride the following day, but got talked into going “just to the top of the first col”, at which point they told me that we were at the halfway point now, so I might as well continue. I don’t think maths is a French cyclist’s forté; since when has 28 been half of 72,?, the distance we covered that afternoon. I’ve never descended a mountain road in a group before and certainly not at the speeds we did on Saturday; it was quite scary and although I thought I did fairly well, I was given a masterclass in descending hills before the next col! It was a beautiful ride, though, along tiny roads, lined with overhanging trees, beside bubbling streams, over the border into Spain then back into France to tackle the last two cols.
Probably as a result of the miniscule lunch we’d had, (my excuse and I’m sticking to it!) by the time we reached the last col, I was struggling to keep up, but they refused to leave me behind, and as soon as the road started to rise, I started to drop off the back of the group. A short way up the hill I felt a hand in the middle of my back and Gilles pushed me the whole of the 3km to the summit, in the process leaving the rest of them behind! When someone’s pushing you, you have to give everything you’ve got and ride as hard as you can, so consequently, by the time we got to the top, I was nearly on my knees! But the last few km were easy enough and soon I was able to soak in a bath at the B&B.
The following morning we all set off to do the main ride; there were four routes to choose from, 34km, 67km, 90km or 130km. Nick and most of the rest of the men opted for the long route, but I chose the 67km; the hotel was 10km from the start/finish, so we had to add another 20km to the distance.
All the rides started along the same route, splitting up further down the road, so I stayed with the Nogaro group for the first few km, before following the yellow arrows through pretty villages built in the typical Basque style; terracotta roofs, white walls and Basque red shutters and balconies. Loads of the hedging in the area is a type of mock orange and the perfume was amazing as we cycled along in the warm sunshine. One of the cols was the one I’d been helped up on the previous day, so it was a great relief to get to the top with no assistance and no difficulty on Sunday.
Nick completed his ride with no problem, having ridden about 650km during the previous 10 days, while his friend was visiting. His total for the weekend was 220km, while I notched up a mere 160km.
Sunday evening’s dinner was turned into a sort of stag & hen do by Maithée, one of the club members; JB and Claudine, two of our number, are getting married next Saturday, so Maithée bought them Pierrot and Pierrette costumes to wear for dinner on Sunday evening. The meal was no better than the rest we’d eaten there, but the atmosphere was very convivial.
All in all, a good weekend;-)