A Lo­cal's View

Af­ter leav­ing a stress­ful Lon­don life be­hind, Teresa Harte en­joys run­ning a cy­cling hol­i­day com­pany

Living France - - WHERE TO LIVE - velover­cors.com

How did you come to set­tle in St-Jean-en-Roy­ans?

Roger, my late hus­band, fin­ished the last two years of his in­ter­na­tional cy­cling ca­reer with a French team called Vélo Club Ro­manais Peageois, based in Ro­mans-surIsère, back in 1989 and im­me­di­ately fell in love with the area. I joined him in 1990 and hav­ing bor­rowed an old shop­ping bike from the di­recteur sportif of his team, set off to ex­plore the re­gion while he was out train­ing. I felt lib­er­ated and couldn’t get enough of the quiet, pothole-free roads and I found the huge diversity of ter­rain so ex­cit­ing. We con­sid­ered stay­ing in France af­ter he fin­ished his con­tract, but at the age of 24 I felt I needed to get back to Lon­don and ‘get a real job’. It wasn’t un­til 2007 that we de­cided to move to France hav­ing had enough of the stresses of Lon­don life.

What at­tracted you to the Vercors?

We knew it was an undis­cov­ered gem for cy­clists with its spec­tac­u­lar land­scape, routes, quiet roads and cle­ment cli­mate.

Did you find it easy to find a prop­erty?

We set our sights on St-Jean-en-Roy­ans as we had some good Aus­tralian friends who spent three months ev­ery year there. We con­tacted Monique Clé­ment ( see our in­ter­view on page 26), a lo­cal es­tate agent in St-Jean and set a date to view some prop­er­ties. The prop­erty we bought was the sec­ond prop­erty we viewed and the mo­ment I vis­ited the for­mer wood mill, I knew I would be very happy to live here. The fact that the prop­erty had three gîtes was a bonus and gave us the idea to set up a spe­cial­ist cy­cling hol­i­day base. Over the years we’ve added B&B rooms, an out­side barn for guests to re­lax and eat, and de­signed a won­der­ful gar­den and potager.

What led you to set up Vélo Vercors?

As an ex-in­ter­na­tional rider with 13 years of rid­ing in Europe and rep­re­sent­ing GB as a top am­a­teur, Roger knew what makes a great cy­cling hol­i­day. He was also pas­sion­ate about the Vercors and wanted to make it a cy­cling des­ti­na­tion for cy­clists from all around the world. I had the mar­ket­ing and PR skills (prior to mov­ing to France I was mar­ket­ing man­ager at Vir­gin Records), so we com­ple­mented each other very well. How­ever, there was no strate­gic plan and Vélo Vercors was born out of an or­ganic process, year-on-year con­tin­u­ally ren­o­vat­ing the old wood mill, con­vert­ing the caves into B&B rooms and con­tin­u­ally ad­dress­ing the needs of our guests. The 10th an­niver­sary of Vélo Vercors is in 2018 and we have achieved our goal of mak­ing the Vercors a ‘des­ti­na­tion’ for cy­clists.

De­scribe your lo­cal land­scape – what makes it so en­joy­able to cy­cle there?

The Vercors is home to some of the most im­pres­sive roads in France with spec­tac­u­lar scenery from soaring lime­stone cliffs, ver­tig­i­nous drops to the valleys below, gorges, canyons, rivers and grassy plateaux. Within a very short dis­tance, the ter­rain changes from Alpine cols, to the rolling hills of the Drôme, to the flat­ter Isère val­ley roads, and the choice of routes is huge. Roads are very quiet with only lo­cal traf­fic, no pot­holes and a smooth tar­mac fin­ish. The Tour de France has vis­ited the re­gion on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions and there are many lo­cal cy­cling events to en­joy.

What do you most en­joy about liv­ing in the Vercors?

There are so many things I love about this area: the spec­tac­u­lar scenery, the tran­quil roads, the weather, the fact that it’s a work­ing French re­gion in­hab­ited by mainly French na­tion­als. I love the fact that our friends meet up to make things like wild boar sausages and pâté.

Is there a spe­cial place in the Vercors that you par­tic­u­larly like to visit?

Any bike ride in the Vercors is spe­cial but the de­scent down the Combe Laval gorge is spec­tac­u­lar and ex­hil­a­rat­ing and it was my hus­band’s favourite. In his mem­ory, the com­mu­nity of St-Jean-en-Roy­ans have erected a bench in a beau­ti­ful spot where for­mer guests can stop to pause for a lit­tle while and re­mem­ber him, so it’s even more spe­cial now.

Teresa Harte ( sec­ond from left) with the Vélo Vercors team, who or­gan­ise tours for cy­clists of all lev­els

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