Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Tour d'Evans: day 6

The Dordogne

Today we went to, well yes you guessed it . . . S decided she wanted to get the miles in, so off we went into the 'hilly' east. Now, I don't know about you, but my experience of the world by bike has taught me that Devon and Cornwall are utter murder compared to practically anywhere else, and so it proved once more as the rolling miles (or should that be km) through stereotypical France sloughed off the wheels like so much spent adder skin in the baking sun. Talking of which, it has come to my attention that S has at last learnt to draft properly, and spent the whole ride stuck to my back wheel like she was on one of those kiddy pull-alongs.

First stop for the de rigeur café au lait was at Sauveterre; the place was packed with Brits and the adjacent table was host to two plaid shorted and rugby topped families (don't know where they parked the land rover) with kids in tow (avec plastic inflatable spider man) who would clearly prefer a water park in Magaluf rather than the Dordogne in 30 degree heat. So, fortified by the French equivalent of a custard slice (me) we carried on. Anyhow, to cut a long story short on a relatively uneventful day, we did a good 50 miles and ended up back in the swimming pool to cool, now drinking one of yesterday's killer bouteille du vin.

Off to Bordeaux by train on our rest day tomorrow.

Bon Soir

P.S. S has been bitten but I haven't - two-nil so far!

Monday, 30 July 2012

Tour d'Evans: day 5

Le Degustation

Today we set forth into the Bordeaux vineyards, specifically the Sauternes and Graves regions on the west of the Garonne. Now, I've probably said this before but I like a nice glass of wine, but my hand normally hovers below the £5 shelf in Asda and rarely gets extended upwards unless the 'half price' sticker is in evidence. However, S was determined to visit a proper Chateau for le degustation, and I ran out of delaying tactics after passing the umpteenth chateau. Any of these might have had the best bottle of plonk in France but I didn't have a clue even after reading the book in the Gite. So, upon reaching the actual village of Sauternes itself, S hares off down a long gravel drive, which I half expected Sebastian Flyte to pull out on in his Bentley, past the chateau and thence to the caves. I can see the holiday money taking a hefty dent but am slightly bouyed by the fact that S professes not to like sweet wine, which Sauterne of course is . . . Cut to le gustation . . .

S:  'that's nice, I don't usually like sweet wine, but this lovely'

Man in caves: 'thees is of course our premiere vintage , we ave others of lesser quality'

S: 'No, this is really nice we'll have a half bottle . . .'

So €14 lighter (for HALF a bottle) we say au revoir and on to the next place. On the way I did my good deed of the day - female cyclists stopped at side of road, one (Italian on a Bianchi) with puncture, the other French says of her partner 'this is her first time'. . . what can a man do . . . asked S to hold the bikes while I gallantly advised on correct technique and impressed them with my big pump (S rolls eyes skyward). So onward to the next cave where repeat of the previous sees me 50 notes lighter on the day, but with some admittedly nice vin to have with our moules ce soir.

Bon soir

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Tour d'Evans: day 4

Holiday Essentials

Today was a day of rest after the travails of the journey. A good lie in restored some of our normal zest so we elected to go for a bike ride in civvies - for the un-initiated, this involves cycling in normal clothes and without a helmet (but, I hasten to add, not with a basket on the front). So we 'offed to Cadillac (whence the famous auto was named) but never got there because we passed a supermarché ouvert dimanche, so stopped off for essentials.

Now, I don't know about you but I like a nice glass of wine; so does S, as can be seen from her photographic expertise so far. But, trying to figure out my appellations from my pays and communescand chateaux has defeated me, despite downloading an app for the phone . . . So I will henceforth resort to random sampling grom the €4 shelf, with occasional variegation up or down depending on the state of the holiday money.

Off to the Sauterne tomorrow for degustation.

Bon Soir

Tour d'Evans: day 3

Nous Arrivons

An uneventful day of train travel. After about 2 h sleep (because the house next to the hotel were having their own mini version of the Quimper festival) we retraced our wheels up the 15% hill at 6.30 to catch the train to Bordeaux. Now this was a critical part of the journey; according to the guff the the train accepted bikes on a first come basis so I had prepared for mortal chain-ring combat in the rush. As it turned out we were first there so just got on. Cut to 7 hours later . . . Arrived on time and successfully negotiated our way out of Bordeaux with only minor wrong turns and swearing - as always the hardest part was getting off the platform. Lovely ride down to the Gîte where we have our own shady al-fresco dining area and use of the pool. The supermarché is 2 km away and so far no mosquitos - however, since discovering that it has been scientifically proven that S's O rhesus negative blood group is the mozzie equivalent of Chateaux Mouton Rothschild (which is coincidentally just up the road) I just have to cunningly ensure that there is the merest square inch of her flesh showing to redirect the bloodsucking hoard during the night - hence I awaken relatively unscathed.

Bon Matin ( I am writing this the morning after -too knackered last night)

2012-07-29 09.33.23.jpg (1.9M

Friday, 27 July 2012

Tour d'Evans: day 2

If you turn up at a French railway station and your train is listed as 'supprime' it doesn't mean that you will be getting an upgrade to 'supreme', as was my initial thought. No, rather, it means that the bloody thing is cancelled. 'We can always cycle there . . . ' I said to S . . . '*@/:&£?! <comment deleted>' was her reply. Luckily, I had planned for just such an eventuality and had arranged to catch an unnecessarily early train to allow for unforeseen delays. So, panic over and we embarked for Landerau where would have to change for Quimper - a single carriage affair in which everyone had a suitcase because they were off to the festival, so you can imagine that two fully laden bikes were welcome in the equivalent of the Taunton hopper during Glastonbury. No matter, the threat of oily chainring on shin was yet again the modern equivalent of the leper bell on public transport. In the event we got off at Chateulin and biked the rest of the way to Quimper only to find the contra flow system contra flowing in a contrary manner due to the gendarmerie directing traffic away from the festival, and more specifically directing us up a 15 % hill . . . and then down the other side to the hotel for a zero sum gain. Early up tomorrow for the train to Bordeaux - let's hope they aren't having a festival.

Bon soir

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Tour d'Evans: day 1

Allez Evans. So, the tour begins, without the initial mishaps of last year which started with a puncture before even leaving the front door; no, we had an incident free trip to the ferry in glorious weather (about bloody time) and watched the Sound retreat behind the wake of L'Amorique as we headed toward Bretagne in the company of 'Magic Dave', the resident children's entertainment. Now, why does ' . . . avec Magic Dave' not sound quite the same as ' . . . avec David Magique' - something lost in translation there I think. We met some Yogis on the ferry; Graham, Rachel, Dave Skinner (sporting his nu-skin look as a consequence of hi 'off' last week - good to see him on the bike in Hawaian shirt though) who were on a quick there-and-back to Roscoff with lightweight carbon bikes ( practically weightless compared to our Panzer tanks! but we are hard, we're St Budeaux!). So, to Morlaix and the traditional biere et Perrier in the usual cafe, and we even went to exactly the same restraunt as last year, but then we were absolutely starving and ran out of mental capacity to make any comestible decisions, so Spaghetti Carbonara it was with the raw egg reminding me of the salmonella scandal that embroiled Edwina Curry before BSE made any food-related scandal small beer (several puns there - answers on a postcard). But I digress. We have the 8.05 to Quimper tomorrow but I am trying to gauge when to get off and cycle, factoring in the likely lumpiness of the terrain because, as you know if you are a regular listener, S must be protected during the initial week, much like the yellow jersey in Le Tour, to avoid mishap and potential abandonment. The big task tomorrow is to stock up at the local patisserie before catching the train - food being priority premiere (or maybe deuxiéme . . . another stope at the supermarché perhaps?).

Bon soir

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The Summer has arrived

Today the Summer arrived at last. The organisers of the 'Out and About' audax must have been doing the sun dance for it to so fortuitously shine on them this Sunday. We set off from West Buckland at 9 am and immediately into a hill of not insignificant gradient which had S off and walking before we'd had a chance to take the first sip from our bottles. But after she got her breath back and adopted my sage advice of 'recruiting the glutes' (which is admittedly anathema to the female cyclist, who is doing her utmost to lose them most of the time) she managed to grind up the remainder without too much discomfort. After the initial shock to the system it was pretty much all downhill to the sea - which got me a bit suspicious knowing that it would have to be paid for on the return leg. Stopped at a nice cafe but too early for the advertised bacon buttie, so waited until the next one for the tuna sandwich. We arrived at Seaton in pretty good time. The yachting fraternity seem to have made this a bit of a base, with lots of new housing on the foreshore and some tasty gaffs on the hill overlooking the sea - one modern mansion in particular has two wings and even a small lodge at the end of their drive (presumably for the mother in law)! We progressed through Beer but alas not able to have one this far from home so made do with another swig of electrolyte which tasted like it had already been through the system once. Now it was mostly uphill via Honiton and a myriad of Devon and Somerset villages, all with inviting beer gardens but no time to stop, partially made up for by a serving of beans on toast at the finish in West Buckland village hall. But not before I got the arse with S for apparently questioning my navigational skill - she should try cycling half the 70 miles steering with one hand while reading the route sheet on potholed country lanes and simultaneously cross-referencing to the gps . . . and they say men can't multi-task.


Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Alpine Preparation

Preparation for this year's tour started in earnest this weekend when I treated S to a jaunt up the local hill on a visit to my parents and old stamping ground in the Rhondda. This was to get us into fine fettle for the upcoming travails in the Gironde where we would be weighed down by frequent quaffing breaks and possible the odd bottle stuffed into the panniers. Needless to say, because I have related it before in this column, that hills are not her forté, however the drag up the Bwlch mountain on touring bikes with various weighty attachments was accomplished in relatively exemplary style. Near winter conditions at the top (in July!) precluded any lingering to enjoy the view so we set off on the descent into the Ogmore valley.

You may be familiar with the picturesque seaside spot of Ogmore, but the top of the valley is a post-industrial mining town which elicits variable reaction ranging from 'what an effing dump' to 'quaint' to 'I'll never forgive Thatcher for f***ing us over'. So we sped through the narrow streets to Blackmill where the downhill ends and it started to get lumpy. Now S doesn't like lumpy, she's more of a flat cycling type of cyclist - when the road goes up and down in quick succession her enjoyment takes a similar profile proportionate to the time taken to respectively increase or decresae her gravitational potential energy. However, I see it as my duty to inculcate her into the true cyling faith and look forward to the moment when she sees the light and her hill phobia turns into the bright-eyed religious zeal of the true believer who has learned to love the upward gradient. Some way to go yet on this evidence . . .