Warning: another photo heavy post with little sewing talk.
From Toulouse, we started the main cycling part of the journey, which was organized by a third party. We were picked up at Toulouse railway station by the organisers. They were several hours late, which gave us time to meet the co-cyclists, and offload much of the delicious fruit we had been unable to resist buying at the markets (far too much for two people - I think I was buying for the whole family). Loading up the bikes gave us a good look at the latest cycling doo-dads.
I was pleased that I had packed all the cycling clothes and bike bits in their own ziplock bags, as the first thing we were asked to do was to put all the non-cycling items in a car that was remaining in Toulouse to pick up a late arrival.
I was a bit disappointed to discover that there was only one other woman participant who would be cycling during the trip.
We were driven to the tiny village of Camon.
We stayed here,
which is the most beautiful and luxurious place I have ever slept.
I want to come back here without the bikes and the work.
The first thing we did when we arrived was to do a full bike set up on our hire bikes. It was interesting to see someone else's method and to try out the compact gears. There was a 30K shake out ride, although it was rather late in the day - another benefit of 10pm sunset, and a stretching class in the pool. I learned that backwards summersaults are a great exercise for the gluteals if you are a cyclist!
I was pleased to have brought some frocks and a lace wrap top, as I felt a Michelin star restraunt in a restored 900 odd year old abbey deserved my best efforts at dressing for dinner.
I deeply regretted not being able to buy pretty sandals in Paris, which had been my original plan for my travel wardrobe (husband and work limited shopping, which I should have expected). The dinners and breakfasts were fabulous - and there was a special vegetarian dinner of equal deliciousness (and different each night) for my husband - not normally on the menu and deeply appreciated.
We had another 2 rides from Camon.
The first was about 110k - over back roads to Revel, where a stage of the Tour de France was finishing. We rode out in the mid morning, and I found discussing training schedules and bicycle bits much more interesting once actually on the bike - and able to stop to take photos of cows wearing cute bells
(much to the disgust of my companions, who felt that as we were ahead of the pack we should ride really hard - maybe for testosterone points? There were also some beautiful villages and hill-top views.
We were really lucky in Revel, and were able to ride the last 15 km of the route, even though all the banners and road blocks were up. There were a lot of spectators, all having big parties, and there was a lot of cheering and teasing comments as we rode past. This was much more fun than I had expected. I felt quite excited riding under a category 3 climb mountain points banner and the 1km to go banner. We had to turn off the route before the finish line, but that was fine with me, it was packed.
We waited in Revel as spectators.
What do you think is the load limit for the roof?
Wearing a skirt was a definite benefit as we had to change out of our cycling clothes on the street or in the van. I do not want to know how the men managed this with trousers! We spent the afternoon seeing the caravan, catching lots of junk, and then seeing the riders flash past.
More stretching classes were definitely a benefit after this long day.
Next day the tour started in Revel. We rode about 70k across to Miriproix, a touristy town with a mediaeval centre,
to watch at a sprint point. Here was a different wardrobe challenge - putting up with cycling clothes whilst being a spectator. I took a big floppy hat, being prone to sunburn, but the Europeans watching did not seem to bother with sun protection. There was hardly a non-caravan issued hat to be seen. We had taken just a small bottle of sunblock cream, trying to pack light and thinking we could purchase more whilst overseas, but this was a mistake. Whilst in France we spent over 30 euros for 2 small bottles of 50UV+ sunscreen, and had to really hunt for it each time. To put this in perspective, I only spent 35 euros on fabric in France, so you can see the problem. We rode back to Camon on main roads, a much shorter route, but not nearly as pretty.
In the evening we had the opportunity to talk to one of the support staff for HTC-Columbia, who joined us for dinner. This was really interesting. I learnt more than I had expected, always a good thing! She talked about the boredom of riding in the buses between stages. I think she should take up knitting. I was up to 2/3 of a sock from car trips at this point. (The pullover had become too big to work on in the car).