Road cycling and racing in Languedoc, south France
Avid cycler and cycling expert Helen Bevis races through the road racing opportunities available to cyclers in Languedoc.
Fame costs, and this is where you start paying in sweat… or so the saying goes. Cycling on the road in Languedoc, south France is hugely different to road cycling. One is a means of getting from A to B the other means getting from A to B as fast as possible and without any breaks for mortal needs such as food. The Tour de France inspires French cyclists in their thousands; it’s a passion. It’s well known that in Languedoc, south France, young and old will wait patiently at the roadside for Le Tour to whiz past. At first there will be the sponsors caravan throwing out titbits to please the crowd and then in a blur of superhuman stamina the cyclists themselves will zoom by. Only in Languedoc's mountains do you get a chance to see the faces of the cyclists as they force their bodies and bikes up those inclines.
For serious cyclists among tourists to Languedoc and Languedoc residents, there is no better way to train and enjoy road cycling racing than by joining a local club. You’ll get access to details of bike races, FFC insurance and you may even find that this helps you integrate into French life. You can find your nearest road racing club in Languedoc by contacting the local mairie for details of the associations, or have a look at www.ffc.fr and search under clubs.
Throughout Languedoc Roussillion there are cyclosportif events that you can enter to test yourselves against other amateur cyclists and these are also open to non-residents. Be warned though, an average speed of 20km is rather slow for this kind of event; you and your bike should be in tip top shape. Having said that, the atmosphere of these events in Languedoc is wonderful. Being cheered by cycle fans at the side at the road is a wonderful boost, to even the most flagging leg muscles. A popular race at the start of the season is La Roger Pingeon, based in Gignac but there are plenty to tempt your legs through the year.
Most races will give a choice of distances i.e a 87km or 137 route (parcours) and will include refreshment points. This isn’t where you stop for a cup of tea but rather a point to be handed a fuelling snack and some water. In the Languedoc there is a growing movement against cyclist’s rubbish – those shiny sachets of power gel flung aside once their contents have been squirted into a tired athlete. The Montpellier based club www.sudvelo.com are active campaigners for responsible cycling as well as being a popular association.
The 101st Tour de France - 2014
Unfortunatelty the Tour de France doesn't feature the Languedoc this year, however but you can still catch some of the action in Carcassonne where the race will recommence on 22/7 after a day of rest.
For full details, have a look at www.letour.fr
If you’re into road cycling and racing, then the Languedoc is the place for you!
- www.ffc.fr Federation Français Cyclisme. This is an excellent website that will give you details of all types of cycling, links to events and details of VTT/FFC parks.
- www.ffclr.com – Federation Francaise Cyclisme Languedoc-Roussillion
Glossary of bike terms:
- VTT – Vélo tout terrain. Mountain bike for rough trails.
- VTC – Vélos tous chemins. Hybrid bikes suitable for roads and trails.
- Helen Bevis