29 July 2010

It's Lycra Time Again

I know I sound like Victor Meldrew but I hate this time of year. The Tour de France cycle race has just finished and the roads are now crawling with geriatrics trying to emulate their heroes on their two-wheeled zimmers.
Three, or even four abreast, they weave along the roads making life an absolute misery for those in cars strung out behind them. They are completely oblivious to the mile long convoy trailing them as they laugh and joke with their lycra-wearing mates knowing that even if they threw themselves (and their bikes) under a car, the poor motorist would be prosecuted under the unwritten French law that says cyclists, particularly of the elderly variety, are sacrosanct and cannot be touched.
When I left in the car on Tuesday to take J and her sister to Cagnes station for the first stage of their travel to the Islands, within 5 minutes of leaving the house, I had to tell them that we would miss the train. The road was clogged with hundreds of multi-coloured, blue-bottle looking cyclists, weaving their way to the next water fountain where they’d just stop in the middle of the road, casually move their bike to the side and then wander slowly across the road as if they had a divine right to bring the entire village to a stop.
I’d love to roar right through the middle of a pack of them one day, scattering them and their bikes all over the place but I know the law would catch me and since we were dragged in front of the mayor by the police a few years ago for building issues (the house was 4 inches too high!), I’ve managed to keep a clean slate despite mooning in my kilt in the village on my wedding day and I’ve no intention of falling foul of the law again.
But back to the cyclists - those perennial pains in the ass, who I’m sure, have a strategy deliberately set to destroy the goodwill of locals and tourists alike. As I’ve said, they virtually block the road and when they come to a long straight stretch which gives motorists the chance to pass them (with THE finger), they seem to double up, completely blocking any chance of a passing manoeuvre.
The scooter is great though – it allows you to pass a few and join them in the middle of the group where I slow down and completely disrupt their carefully synchronized little blockade. Despite yelling at me, I just point to my crash helmet which prevents me hearing most things and then either shoot past them or if they’re in a loose formation, through them. Ha ha.
The recent Paris to Nice cycle race went through Tourrettes recently. Indeed, Tourrettes was the 6th stage and the stage finished in the village, but those racers who did not check the route would have been in for a shock. The race would have been over 180km long when they would have passed through Tourrettes, but hanging above the main street was a sign only the French could come up with – Finish Tourrettes/Finish in 42km! What this actually meant was that as the racers passed through the village they still had a mountain section of 42km to do before returning back to Tourrettes for the finish line!
Those who know Tourrettes will recognize the pharmacy sign in the background. Tenuous I know but never mind.

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