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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Ride and a postcard...

Hey you lot,

Ride is on for 9 am tomorrow and we have a special treat with Joseph bringing little Edward to meet us for the last part of the ride and for a cuppa. 
Let me know if you're a starter. 

I have posted Andy's latest postcard below...

Hmm.  left it a bit too long to continue the diary, many things will be lost in sweat over the last 10 days!
Thursday of SF week is the picnic. After the hot days preceeding we were expecting more hot weather and so itturned out. Met the others  and headed off together. Lost Joan a few times on the hills but she was with us when PeterD found a Carrefour that sold week bix.  Coffee  stop not long after. We had coffee but the French riders were having beer! Great view out of the back window.
Getting hotter and hillier  as we found the queue for lunch. No sign of Murk who was to meet us. Duck, potato/cheese and cake  went down very well then time for a snooze with the pbp aspirants making sure their techniques  were sound, judging from the amount of snoring coming from them.
After lunch we did the circuit down into the old coal mine which is now a sports complex with grass ski slopes, chairlift, lake etc looked pretty ok for a coal mine which of course are much better to look at than the big wind turbines we rode past on the way back to Albi.
Dinner was fried chicken and chips from one of the vans at the conviviality tent with everyone except Murk. He had made it to the picnic area but decided the walk was too far so he had a nice lunch in a nearby village. He had a light meal in his camper.
Friday was a flat ish ride so we did the p3 and finished with 116 or so. Very hot in the arvo so needed a good cidre or two to cool off. Silly paying the same money just to get fizzy water.
Dinner at the restaurant at the airfield was a bit pricey but they had Grimbergen beer and steak which suited me. The risotto  was a bit light on but they did have a power point to charge PeterD ' s phone. A late night for Murk.
Overcast for our last ride for the week. We decided that the loop  up the Tarn then back down the other side was too good to miss so we just did the p1  course. Started raining early and did much the same thing all day. The control at Ambialet was stunning. Curches on the tops of hills (one 1250ad  so right up there as one of the oldest we have found), the power station that looked like a châteaux and the beautiful bend in the Tarn river. And as well as that the live music - Catalan we think- prompted one of the old cyclists to get a crowd of riders tripping the light fantastic. A two hour stop which could have been longer.
The ride back was even  better than the ride up with the lush vegetation giving way  to views  down the valley and even a couple of tunnels to enjoy in the absence of cars.
Still raining at Albi so we had a snooze in the tent before tea. Met the others for the final dinner but the long queue that showed little sign of moving was too much for Murk. He needed an early night before he drove to Geneva the next day.
We managed only til 11pm when we deserted before the deserts came.
Great food and entertainment again. Walked back to the tent in the rain.
Sunday for us was pack up day. Fortunately it was dry in the morning as we packed our panniers and loaded up the bikes. Murk said his good byes and we joined the others for the ride to the stadium to assemble for the parade. Leigh had a puncture on the way so with the help of an old French racing cyclist (showed me his framed photo) we had it fixed quickly. Start of the parade was delayed as we put our raincoats on and off a few times before the skies lightened. The Kangaroo were a great hit again and our small group made a large impact on the crowd.  In the last 100 m of the Parade the vollies narrowed the lane to allow one cyclist through the cheering crowds at a time. Quite an experience - partly because I was not sure I could keep on track and not skittle a few of the over enthusiastic ones, and partly because I thought we should be applauding them for their time and effort over the last years  and a week to make it all work so well. Bravo!
After the parade we said goodbye to Joan, Peter,  Leigh and Allan who were staying until they caught their train towards pbp on Tuesday.
We headed north towards Paris or so I thought. Little did I know. We followed the main road out to Cordes with St Antonin a possibility.  the rain settled in big time after allowing us to ease into the long 6% grade out of Albi. The loaded bikes were not so spritely now!   we made it to Cordes, only 30k and decided that we would camp there.  Thecamping ground was a few k out of town but a nice walk. Another medieval village built on top if a hill, each one better than the last it seems. After a long walk around the crowded streets we had a lovely meal at a small restaurant near the camp.
Got to St Antonin for coffee the next day, another beautiful French village. We had our lunch along the road watching the Chateaux high above us. After a long climb out of Caylus we noticed the 'keep out' signs. The area for the next ten rolling k was an army base with deserted  villages and no signs of life except for the army barracks where we could hear the men singing in the distance. Very odd feeling going along the very scrubby plateau. Could have been a million miles from France. As we descended the plateau in the heat of the day we stopped to admire the limestone cliffs and the distant sight of the Lot valley.
The run down was very nice at the end of a hard day's riding. Even better was the sight of another Medieval French village. Thus one is called St Cirq Lapopie and will live long in my mind's eye. The first view from the road junction was of the old town rising steeply from the lush valley with the curve of the Lot river competing the scene. We camped at the ground close by and walked up for an explore and dinner and both were excellent. No rain in the after noon and getting warm again.

On the road early heading to Gramat   just short of Rocamadour. Beautiful ride up down the lot valley for a few k then right turn to head up the Cele river valley, a gentle climb until Bengues  and lunch sitting in the sun outside the church. The climb out of th he valley to Espadallie  was a typical French gut buster and we used our lunch fairly quickly. Maybe these legs are getting too old for the 8 per centers or maybe the garmin just gives me too much information. Anyhow we found a lovely old hotel over the top of the hill to prove that it was beer o'clock. The restaurant inside was full and the tables in the shade across the road were at capacity as well. At 2.30 in the arvo they must have been doing something right. Undulating to Gramat where we decided that we could manage the last 18 k to Rocamadour. As we rode in I tried to work out whether it would be as good as Iremembered it from 2003. Approaching from the west you do not see anything special at all, just the rather scrubby landscape. We set up camp and headed in the general direction of the village, now with a bit of a glimpse of the deep valley in front but no signs of anything special. A few meters further and we could see the amazing sight of the châteaux at the top and churches and houses clinging to the rock face further down. Full of tourists of course but not enough to have worn the stone steps down to the fossil layers - thousands  of pilgrim feet would have achieved that.

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