Sunday, 11 December 2016

The Ariegeoise 2017 - My First French Sportive.

Ariegeoise 2017

Yep that's right, I've finally signed up to the Ariegeoise sportive in June 2017! The only problem I have now is having to wait so bloody long for it! Some cycling friends on Facebook presented the idea of the Albigeoise in May but with cycling tours booked during that week it meant the Ariegeoise was the next best fit despite not being quite as local and more than double the amount climbing.

Interestingly, I understand from the lads here who have a few of these French events under the belts, that unlike in the UK there is usually a very large contingent of participants who take these events very seriously, basically like an all out race, so there is a competitive atmosphere that I'm very excited about.

I've wanted to do something like this in France for years but for one reason or another just never got around to pulling the necessary things together to organise it. Since moving to France in June the logistics of taking part in a French sportive got a whole lot easier so I really don't have many excuses not to do a couple.....apart from our first baby and running a new business - obvs!

Col d'Agnes Ariege
The Col d'Agnes
I've chosen the XXL and the guys I'm riding with will most likely go large too - which means 149km and 4300m of climbing.  I've always been captivated by the mountains and a few years back I took a brief interlude during our summer holiday to spend 2 days cycling in the Pyrénées so I've some idea of what to expect from the body on long climbs but I've got some work to do if I'm to counteract the attritional effects of multiple ascents but I'm quite excited to give them a bash:

Profile Ariegeoise xxl 2017
I've not climbed any of these cols previously and looking at the Strava segments for each I'm not expecting an epic performance on any! Depending on the legs, I might have a concerted bash at the Col de la Core and the Col d'Agnes but that's me saying that on a lazy Sunday afternoon and not having cycled (at all) in over a week.

Col de la Core
I don't need to worry though, as we've got a lots of great roads and climbs near us to help prepare the legs and the mind before attacking the Pyénées. Also, when you come from Coventry in the UK, you don't get much chance to do any big climbs without a fair bit of travelling and effort so I'm much better placed to give it go now we're in France permanently. We also have some cycling guests in for a week in March on one of our training camps and then our season of road and leisure cycling holidays kicks off in April so I'll have plenty of cycling under my belt by June!

If you've done the Ariegeoise already then I'd be interested to know a bit about your experience of the event or, if you're doing your first French sportive this year, let me know which.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

My New Job: Cycling Holidays in France for 2017 - Tours Du Tarn

The Tours du Tarn headquarters at Espinas, France.

Bonsoir! It's been another stupidly long period since I posted anything here but it's pretty safe to say that life has been insane since July 2015 and got progressively more bonkers up to now. Take a look at our Tarn Cycling Holidays blog for a more detailed view of what we've been up to here.

Tours du Tarn website

Before I get started, it's going to be very hard to write about this stuff without sounding like a pompous show-off so apologies from the off...

I write this as I'm sat in our kitchen with the the fire roaring away and two sets of guests staying the weekend in our barn and our cabin. When I last posted I was sat in a cafe on a business park during my lunch break in May - frantically trying to post something before an afternoon meeting! Things now couldn't be more different. 

Earlier this year I quit my job of 11 years (a comfortable, secure job in University administration), sold our house and in June we moved everything to the Midi-Pyrénées in south west France. If that wasn't bad enough it turns out that a 4 year engagement is long enough so in May, 4 weeks before the big move, Charlotte and I snuck in a small wedding.  Unbeknown to me though, the madness had only just begun as Charlotte then went on to tell me she was pregnant almost literally as we were about to move out!

Since June then we've moved in, finished converting our barn (La Grange) and our log Cabin (Le Petit Hibou) into holiday accommodation, reclaimed what Mother Nature had taken over since the place had been empty, built a new website, launched a cycling business and filmed a TV show! No really - they have made a TV show about our new life in France and airs in February 2017. I'm already dreading watching myself on TV but it was a great opportunity to promote the business and it was a great experience to be part of. 

We've met and made friends with the neighbours and locals, worked hard on our French language skills and even managed to get a few guinea pigs friends over to stay in the newly finished accommodation to help is get a feel for being hosts and test out what we've got to offer. A special thanks to all those who risked it with family and friends - not really knowing whether we would be finished or what sort of state the place would be in! Thankfully we were finished right on time - in a Carol Smillie and Changing Rooms kind of way!

It won't have gone unnoticed that in amongst all of that, there wasn't a mention of cycling. That's because, whilst there was some cycling in the mix, there wasn't anywhere near enough of it. I did manage to squeeze in a few really nice rides over the summer and most of them were "recce'ing" routes/roads for our cycling holidays.

We did take some time out to spend the day in Saint Antonin for Stage 6 of the Tour de France when it rolled through our local roads - taking with it all of the best Strava segments! The "côte de Saint Antonin" segment became more of challenge the instant the pro's hit it! That aside, there was a real buzz in the town and it was a great day all round and we were back in time to catch the sprint finish in Montauban on the TV.

Since the first guests returned home and the summer slowly turned to autumn there's been more time to take in some of the roads and do some exploring - especially since the weather has been gloriously warm and dry. I have to admit that I've missed cycling in a group so I'm just about to check out a club up at St Projet with some local lads and I'm hoping that will get me back in the swing of things and introduce some new roads too. 

I'm hoping the winter will be kind so I can get out a lot more regularly and some longer day rides - I have a couple planned in: One over to the Lot valley and a hilly one up to the volcanic plateau of Aubrac. Should be "good" for the legs!

I think that's about enough for now but will be posting more frequently now about cycling related stuff and gear. For now though, a bientôt!

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Le Tour - coming to a town near us.

I cannot be more excited right now to see that this year's Stage 6 of the Tour de France will pass right through our local town of Saint Antonin on July 7th - meaning we're only minutes away from the action. The countdown is well and truly on.

Although we've been holidaying in France for many years, despite my love of the Tour, I've never managed to get our holiday timing right to see a stage pass through. Maybe it's right that I should see my first stage on the first year of actually living in France - almost like having to earn it.

We'll be busy putting the final touches to the new barn and grounds ready to accept our first paying guests of the season but I think we can take an afternoon off in celebration of the world's most famous cycle race. I'm thinking of cycling over to Caylus, where the peloton will pass through before heading down the road to St Antonin. I can then follow them down in to town where I have no doubt that the party will continue long after the publicity 'caravan' and race has passed through...

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

A New Chapter for the Thirty Something Cyclist: Tarn Cycling Holidays

Things have been very quiet on here for some time and, being full of excuses, here’s why…

tours du tarn

We’ve been busy saving, searching and working away at building work, planning applications and setting up our new business in south west France!

For the past 3 years we’ve been working away to get ourselves a property and making some changes so we can host our new venture: Tours du Tarn.

As you will see, we’re predominantly focussing on centre-based cycling holidays for people interested in exploring France at a leisurely pace by bike. We provide breakfasts and hearty evening meals, bikes and all the routes and equipment you need to enjoy a cycling holiday in the Tarn in south west France. I’m really excited to show people a little known area of France and showcase what the region has to offer. The roads are quiet and well maintained and the scenery is reason enough to visit but if you do, the wine here is really taking off and should not be overlooked!

We’re predominantly focussing on 2017 but we’re going to be shipping out in June to live their for good and have some bookings to give us some practice at dealing with guests and checking that the accommodation is fit for purpose.

To say I’m excited is an understatement and getting started on all of the work to be done before our first paying guests arrive is August is going to a priority – although I keep insisting that we can’t run a cycling business without doing lots of “research” by bike!

This is obviously a shameless plug for the website but its also a bit of a promise that this blog will update more often as a hub for my own personal thoughts on our new life in France, how the business progresses and importantly - some actual cycling!