If you see my follow my twitters you’ll know it took something like 34 hours from my front door to the hotel in Gevrey-Chambertin, near Dijon.
I remember what Summer Sunday afternoons were like in Melbourne 30 years ago: not a lot to do, nothing much open. Try France, it’s NOTHING open.
As soon as I arrived at the hotel I assembled my bike, climbing into my kit and headed out fora prologue sort of ride, turned left out the hotel gate and followed my nose for about 90 minutes. What I didn’t realise is that I was staying in the heart of the best (and most expensive) wine growing region in France (and by extension, the world?). Stunning scenery, tiny vineyards, and a couple of little climbs were the perfect recipe to clear my head after all the travel.
The tour company I’m riding with, Great Explorations, is running a couple of tours this week, one focusing on The Alps – which I’m doing – and the other is an easy, 50K per day, no hard climbs sort of trip, mainly around Burgundy. Because I arrived a day early for The Alps trip, they had me stay, along with one other guy, with the easy group for the night.
We had an amazing dinner on Sunday night, ignoring the fact that I nearly went face down at the table, no, not because I had too much to drink (two Kirs before dinner, two glasses of AMAZING local red with dinner) but because the need for sleep finally caught me.
Monday morning saw Robert (who’s also on The Alps tour) and I riding with the easy group. A very lazy 55K, nearly all flat, and quite slow speeds, took us to lunch in a little town (they’re all bloody little towns) called Vougeot, and lunch at a very local place: €13 for a “menu” of: buffet comprising pâtés, terrines, salads, some fish (maybe sardines) in oil, and so on. Then a plate of chicken and frittes, then cheese, then desert. I chose Ilse Flotant (which I’m sure is not how it’s spelt) because I was feeling pretty full, and as they always seem to be made mainly of air. Coffee was €1 extra, the beer maybe €2.50. I don’t know how they buy the food for what they charged, much less make a profit.
Easy morning, followed by easy afternoon. WRONG. What I hadn’t noticed was Robert had hardly eaten anything, just the buffet. I’d assumed he & I were going to be riding the same valley floor roads on to Beaune, and taking the most direct route, about 15K, while the other group headed back to Gevery.
As we got back on the bikes I discovered he wanted to extend the ride, do a few hills and tap out about 45K. Brilliant. Sent the rest of the ride trying not to bring up the day’s takings, and just managed it. Don’t EVER cycle hard on a 4 course lunch.
We made it to Beaune, found the hotel, and David who’d recently arrived and was heading out for a quick ride. We joined him – we’d only done about 90K – and quickly rode an easy out & back climb, returning to the hotel for a much needed shower.
Drinks in the bar, then dinner with my “family” for the next week. 20 of us in total: guides, Robbin who owns the company, and 17 paying guests. Most of whom look like they’ll be dropping me on every climb. Triathletes, a couple from Colorado who “couldn’t be bothered” to change to compact cranks, Ironman finishers, you get the idea.
I know it’s not a race, but ….
Today, Tuesday (I think), is 110K of rolling hills, tomorrow we see le Tour live, and Thursday we start the serious mountains.