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Le Grand Tour: Day 41 – Chateauneuf-Du-Pape To Montélimar (93km)

Today has seen some of the best cycling of the trip so far. I had, in my mind, relegated the Via Rhôna to a fill-the-gap route that I would have to endure in order to get me from the Mediterranean to the Alps. If today’s cycling is anything to go by, it’s no fill-the-gap route. Far from it… There is real geographical drama in the Rhône valley and I can only see that increasing. I (almost) feel sorry for the hoards of touring cyclists passing me heading south to that roundabout in Sète which has about as much geographical drama as your granny’s pond. I’m heading to the Alps and the drama can only intensify the further north and east I travel. After the relative disappointment of the Canal du Midi, I have embraced – and am loving – the Via Rhôna after just two days. Montélimar? Mmm… Keep reading.

Le Grand Tour: Day 32 – Bordeaux To La Réole (80km)

There’s no mistaking that I have now arrived in the south of France. Not only has it been hot (in fairness, it’s not been in the least but cold since Brittany) but there have been a long list of things that tick the Southern Europe boxes; lavender, a lizard, terracotta roofs, parched fields of crops, hilltop villages, towns that shut down in the heat of the day… No cicadas yet but they will come in the next week I imagine.

Bespoke: A Guide To Cycle-Speak And Saddle Slang

As a linguist and a cyclist, the language of cycling has always been of interest. If you know even a little French or Italian or Spanish – the main languages of the Grand Tours – it certainly helps when trying to understand what’s going on. Indeed such is the influence of these languages that the Tour de Yorkshire – my local race here in northern England, a legacy event following the visit of the Tour de France to the region in 2014 – not only includes the ‘de’ in its name but continues to refer to its more significant climbs using the French word ‘côte’ or ‘hill’ in honour of Le Tour itself. They can sound quite comical – the Côte de Goose Eye or the Côte de Otley Chevin for example – and it must drive the Brexit voters mad that their ‘pure’ English is being ‘corrupted’ by the French. But let’s face it, that all started way back in 1066 (and long may it continue).

Le Grand Tour: Day 49 – Aigle To Sierre (81km)

On one level – the cycling level – it has been a pretty standard day. Dare I say boring? A flat ride, 90% off road on a good quality path beside the Rhône following the route of the EuroVelo 17 or, as it is known locally, national route 1. Sticking to just the cycling for a moment, I say ‘flat ride’… I knew I was heading uphill but couldn’t help feel that I was heading downhill. After the turn to cycle east following my brief pause in Martigny, the wind was behind me so this may have added to the sensation of cycling down a very gentle gradient but I think of more significance is the valley itself. I’ve experienced this before (although not that dubious ‘Electric Bray’ place on the west coast of Scotland where I was singularly unimpressed…) in northern Spain in 2019. There too I was cycling through a valley, knew I was cycling uphill beside a river heading in the opposite direction, but had a distinct feeling of going downhill all day. It’s the brain seeing something – the narrow valley with steep slopes on either side – and convincing the body that it is indeed what the brain sees, despite conclusive evidence to the contrary.

A Look Back At The Last Five Winners Of The Giro d’Italia

Usually the first of the three Grand Tours, the 2020 Giro d’Italia gets underway this month after being rescheduled amidst the coronavirus pandemic. While the startlist is still yet to be confirmed, we do know that last year’s winner Richard Carapaz won’t be defending his title, as the Ineos Grenadiers’ cyclist rode at the recent Tour de France and instead, the British team will be pinning their hopes on Geraint Thomas.