Our Locations in France

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Peloton Dream

2012 Tour de France
One of my dreams has always been to race in the Tour de France.  At this point in my life that seems unlikely to happen, but I have been enjoying cycling around the French countryside. It has been a wet Autumn so opportunities to take long bike rides without getting wet have been limited. On most days we have been more likely to be sitting in front of our fire than riding our bikes in the rain. At best, Joan and I have been about do a short bike ride between rain showers.

Joanie on local bike trail
Yesterday, was a beautiful day so I took the opportunity to slip out for a ride. The outbound ride was nice, but uneventful. I followed the bike paths up the Maine, and Mayenne Rivers. Although the paths were still muddy in places, I was able to average over 20 kph, which felt pretty fast on a dirt bike path through the woods.  On my way home, I decided to follow the roads, which usually means a smoother and faster riding surface, but a lot more hills. In the past, I have sometimes regretted taking the hilly route because the French don't seem to mind have a road go up a 15% grade.

The decision to take the hilly route turned out to be a great decision because just as I was starting down a long hill, I was passed by some motorcycles labeled "Sécurité". As I approached the next intersection, I noticed that the motorcycles were blocking the traffic in the intersection for me, which seemed kind of nice. I remarked to myself that they really are nice to foreigners sometimes. Eventually, it began to dawn on me that they might not be blocking the intersections just for me.

Shortly thereafter the lead group of cyclists in their spandex outfits caught up to me on their fancy road bikes. With them breaking the wind for me, it was relatively easy for me to draft behind them down the hill at 50 kph. It was the first time I had really wanted a higher gear because I was having to pedal fast to stay up with them. The lead cyclists were young and they seemed to think that it was funny that a guy in street clothes pedaling a city bike with fenders and lights was keeping up with them. They chided the lead rider to go faster, but with them breaking the wind and a slight downhill grade, they were not able to shake me.

After a couple of minutes, the rest of the group (about 20 riders) caught up to me, They seemed to think that it was less funny that I had somehow gotten in the middle of their training session, and some of them boxed me in and forced me to the rear of the pack.  However, they didn't seem to mind having me hang onto the back of the group.

The group almost shook me on a couple of climbs but I was relatively fresh and determined to stay with the group.  I managed to stay with the group all the way back to Angers. I have to admit that it was kind of nice to be able to speed through towns with people blocking the intersections for you and a pack of riders breaking through the headwind. The net result was that on the ride home I covered 40 kilometers in about an hour (averaging about 25 mph), which may not sound very fast, but it is definitely the fastest ride I've had in France. It may not have been the Tour de France, but it gave me a little taste of what it might be like to ride in the peloton.

Today my stiff body is reminding me why I don't normally ride that fast.

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