Next month, the Tour de France will be zipping through Carcassonne. In fact, race fans, Stage 11 of this cycling extravaganza will start here the morning of July 13 as the 22 teams of nine riders each set off on that day’s goal city of Montpellier on the Mediterranean Sea, about 100 miles away. As if that event itself won’t be celebration enough, our town had a Tour Festival this Saturday in preparation.
We live about a 10-minute walk from Place General Charles de Gaulle, just outside the city’s one remaining medieval gate, where Saturday’s activities were centered. Most of the 500 cyclists who were going to participate in the ride around the city were already in place by the time we got there. After the sound of the starter’s shout of allez, it didn’t take long for the sea of blue, white, red, yellow, and green jerseys to disappear around the bend in the road to cross the river and be on their way up the hillside to the towering castle above.
Although the racers had left the Place, we were far from not having bicycles around us. Local merchants and area clubs had booths where you could find out about doing your own repairs, going on tours, finding scenic routes, and making the most of your bike. The city sponsored a workshop on safety which was an interesting contrast to the “free-style” acrobatics demonstrated by some especially talented and fit riders. There was also a rather impressive game of polo where bicycles replaced the ponies, being played at one end of the parking lot.
For quite a while Bill’s been looking at bikes and has had his eye on one in particular; an electric. When you live in a valley between a river and a canal you expect the landscape to be pretty flat, and it is; however, the surrounding mountains are definitely not, hence the need for a bit of assistance from the rechargeable battery. If you happen to own an electric car, you’ll know that they aren’t cheap and that same trait has been passed along to their two-wheeled counterparts. With prices around 2000 euro, those trails labeled “walking” sound pretty attractive to me.