Procycling - - Paris Tours -

The sky in this part of France is vast. The land­scape is flat in ev­ery direc­tion though in some places it tilts up almost im­per­cep­ti­bly. Not enough to class any of the roads as climbs, but enough for you to gaze back along the race route through bare, ploughed fields, and watch the slow progress of the pelo­ton from a great dis­tance. The trees are be­gin­ning to show au­tum­nal tints of yel­low and brown and the crops are all long since har­vested, but it still looks like a tamed, cul­ti­vated land­scape, with signs of ac­tiv­ity and in­dus­try ev­ery­where you look.

We’ve stopped off at the 75km point on the route, just af­ter the small town of Cloyes-sur-le-Loir. The pelo­ton took the long route from Brou, head­ing north east, then turn­ing south and south west in an open loop. If they’d looked right across the open fields at the 55km mark, they might have seen the sky­line of Brou, just a few kilo­me­tres away from them.

This may be La France pro­fonde, but it’s not empty of spec­ta­tors. At the point we’ve cho­sen to stop, at the top of a gen­tly slop­ing field, there are no houses vis­i­ble, yet we can count 37 peo­ple who have con­gre­gated by the side of the road. Paris-Tours is fa­mous for this – small gag­gles of fans and on­look­ers, some of whom, in the clichéd pho­to­graph of the race, wear full hunt­ing gear and carry ri­fles.

Michel, an el­derly man who lives in a ham­let be­yond a line of trees which lines the field, tells me that he comes here most years to watch the race pass by. His wife points out that this is not where the ac­tion of the race is, how­ever. “We don’t see them for more than 30 sec­onds,” she says.

Michel re­tired here af­ter a life­time spent work­ing in agri­cul­ture for a big ce­real pro­ducer near Or­léans. “Life is quiet here,” he ex­plains. “No traffic jams, no pol­lu­tion. Not a lot hap­pens here but there’s a nice lo­cal life, which keeps us busy.

“There’s a lot of hunt­ing, mainly deer and boars, but it’s not all ru­ral work­ers. One of my neigh­bours is a builder, the other works in a bank. It’s a nice place to live, but we’re on the di­vid­ing line here be­tween the oceanic and con­ti­nen­tal weather sys­tems. It can be mi­nus 10 in the win­ter.”

Michel’s fa­ther was a cy­cling coach, but Michel didn’t get the bug. “I didn’t take it up. Farm­ing was tir­ing enough, and I like foot­ball bet­ter,” he says.

When the race comes through there’s a small group of five riders to­gether at the front – Ro­main Com­baud, Michael Goolaerts, Lawrence Nae­sen, Stéphane Poul­hies and Brian van Goethem - Conti and ProConti riders all - who are about five min­utes ahead of the pelo­ton. Shortly af­ter­wards, the bunch ar­rives, although they ap­pear to be in no rush as they tap past, with a Quick-Step rider lead­ing the way.

We’d watched from the start at kilo­me­tre zero as the first at­tack, led by Com­baud, went away. In Cloyes, we were only a third of the way through, but it looked like the pat­tern of the race was al­ready well es­tab­lished.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.