Lots of 'intersting' kit choices on display. Strike a pose people!
Everyone knows the French love wine and that France is essentially the home of cycling. It turns out though that they love wine and cycling - at the same time! It shouldn't be such a revelation but I have to admit I was a little intrigued when I was invited to a sportive event that would basically involve cycling to various Gaillac vineyards en route and sampling their "Primeur" - the first wine of the year. Obviously I signed up immediately.
We chose the 74km route (there was a 50km route and a walking too) and the weather Gods were playing nicely as we turned up at 08:00 in the centre of Gaillac for event registration in cool but dry conditions. I don't yet have a racing licence here in France so I had to pay €5 for the route map and a list of vineyards we could visit. Having done that I quickly realised that I needn't have bothered as there was no way of discerning who had registered and who hadn't and anyone could have turned up and tagged along for the ride...and the wine!
I had downloaded the route to my gps the night before so I knew the ride was going to be an nice easy spin around the beautiful vineyards and villages here in the tarn - rather than the big "sportif" events in France which are essentially all-out races!
Having taken in some of the interesting cycling kit being displayed and numerous rule violations alongside some great looking bikes, we left the backstreets of Gaillac following the green spray painted arrows on the road and almost immediately hit the vineyards. It was a little early (even by my standards) to stop for a tasting so we cruised past the first 3 domaines we came across but by the fourth there was a thirst in the air - only to find it wasn't part of the event as they had a private primeur 'repas' planned for lunch!
Hiding our disdain at Chateau Terride!
We had no choice but to return to the ride with four other French cycling who were equally, if not more so, disappointed at the lack of wine at this early hour! It might explain why our French company chose to sit on our wheels for the next 10kms letting us do all the work despite our subtle attempts at slowing on the flats and applying a bit of pressure on the lumps!
On passing the impressive viaduct before Arzac and as we were passing through the village, we were stopped in our tracks by lots of cyclists coming and going at a surprise winery: Castagne Pierre Michel. Without delay, we all piled in and were greeted to icy cold primeur and fresh oysters. Yes, those crazy French lovelies had put on plates of OYSTERS to accompany the wine and pastries - not a High5 or Jaffa Cake in sight!
Our French group repaid our efforts in the wind by making sure our glasses were fully topped up for the duration of the stop so I was happy to call it quits on that score. Our stop-off in paradise couldn't continue as it had started without a major change to our transport plans, so we rallied our group together, tore them away from the table of goodies and got back to the important of business of cycling.
The rest of route was a scenic amble through familiar roads until we gradually began to descend back into Gaillac for the finish but on the run back into town we noticed our group had started to struggle on the hills until eventually it was just back to Iain and I rolling back to the event start. Perhaps wine and Oysters is best left for non-cycling or rest days!
Topping up the energy levels with Oysters, pastries, and new wine in Arzac