Just before our Versailles Trip – I was on my way to buy a couple of vintage bikes, for an up and coming event, when I had the misfortune of being involved in a car accident. Luckily no-one involved was badly hurt but it did leave both cars written off. This resulted in me driving a small hire car which meant that I couldn’t pick up any bikes. With the help of some wonderful friends, they took me in their car, trailer in tow, we headed off for the Emmaus in Cholet.
There I found plenty of old bicycles, I chose two likely suspects and returned back home with the bikes in tow. That was the beginning …
Adrian had seen photos from the London Tweed Run and had applied twice but not managed to grab a place on it. He had been doing some surfing on-line when he came across this bike ride, practically on our doorstep.
After researching a little, I booked us tickets for the soiree on the Saturday evening and then for the actual bike ride on the Sunday. All we needed now was the vintage outfits to go with our vintage bikes.
On close inspection of the bikes it became apparent that Adrian’s had no gears and mine were not brilliant. But hey ho – vintage bikes and all that – how hard could it be riding along the banks of the Loire! I had booked us for the shortest ride – only 35 km! The others were either 46 km or 87 km.
The festival started on Saturday. We headed off to Saumur for a spot of lunch at our favourite restaurant – l’Alchimiste. The meal, as always, was stunning and delicious – I can highly recommend it to anyone visiting Saumur.
After the meal we walked around the Anjou Velo Vintage village.
Lots of stalls selling, well of course, vintage stuff – clothes, bikes, seats, bells, whistles, hats etc etc etc. Wine tasting, fresh coffee made via a bicycle contraption, pork produts etc etc etc.
Lots of people in the village were dressed up, getting into the spirit of the festival.
There was a stall offering vintage cut throat shaves and another providing vintage make-up and hair styles.
Throughout the day various acts, bands and groups performed on a stage. Elle and the Pocket Belles performed some lovely vintage tunes, dancers showed us their lindy moves.
There was a Concours d’Elegance – the best dressed male and female on a bike.
The soiree started around 8.00pm. It was held in one of the grande indoor riding schools. A wooden floor was fitted for dancing and hundreds of tables and benches laid out. A large stage was along one side of the school and a bar along the opposite side. A cobweb of twinkling fairy lights was hung above the whole area.
There were dancers, bands and acrobats on bicycles all performing during the night. It was a lovely evening and the food was good too. We didn’t stay until the early hours as we had a 35 km bike ride to do the following day !
The 35 km ride started at 10.30 on Sunday morning – the longer rides started a little earlier at 10.00. We arrived in Saumur around 09.30 and watched the coming and going of the other riders. The weather was looking a little ominous but we had our yellow ponchos from last year’s Main Square Festival in our baskets, just in case.
Everyone, dressed up in their vintage outfits, waited for the starter horn.
And we were off …
“You’re not so much an ace pedaller as a gourmet who wants to savour the good life in Anjou.”
The course took us through the centre of Saumur and then along the banks of the Loire before turning a little inland. Cycling along the Loire and then into the vineyards was wonderful. Serious cyclists powering passed us while others just meandered along enjoying the scenery and ambiance.
Plenty of stops on the way, lovely little chateau wineries offering a taste of their wares. The course taking us down into troglodyte caves to find more tasting tables.
Everyone seemed to have a great time, laughing, cheering and egging each other on. Even when a huge black cloud came and dumped its load on us, we all ran for cover and stood under trees and bus shelters. Singing and joking – nothing was dampening our spirits.
There were some hills, some very steep hills and when you don’t have gears you know all about them. I’m afraid I dismounted and walked up them – but I was not alone.
Adrian enjoyed riding along doffing his hat at spectators and tooting his horn. He got a lot of cheers and laughs from locals and other cyclists and a lot of smiles from the young ladies as well !
The back-up teams for the riders were incredible, out riders on motorbikes making sure everyone was OK, if not sending for a back-up van with spares, tools etc. A few of the tasting stops had mechanics ready to tighten up chains or pump up flat tyres and if someone was just too tired to carry on – a mini-bus arrived for the weary traveller, with a trailer for their bikes and gave them a lift back to the start.
We both managed to finish the ride, all 35 kms of it. I admit I was totally knackered and at one point on the journey, losing the strength in my legs for ten minutes. The stops along the way were spaced out just enough to keep us going and we were thankful that it wasn’t a hot sunny day, but overcast and cool.
And at the end …. I can honestly say – I WILL do it again. I WILL train before hand. I WILL wear my cycle shorts again!
For more photos see this flikr set.