Thursday, 6 September 2007

Strange how cycling weaves itself throughout my life

I suppose that it is just because I look out for other cyclists that I notice them but they do seem to appear everywhere I go! One day in the campsite in France a camper-van appeared and an older English couple got out. They saw Ian changing the tyres on my bike and immediately offered to lend us a track pump. As we cycled off Ian commented that they must know what they were doing with regard to bikes as they had pretty decent touring bikes with them. We thought they might be in their 60s and enjoying their retirement. Later that day we chatted to them, initially about cycling in general and then about bikes, then about where they cycled, racing and then about the Tour de France...I told them that Ian and I had been Marshals at which point they told us that they had been invited as V.I.P. guests to the opening ceremony but had declined as they had been on holiday! They were invited because he had ridden the Tour de France in 1961, when there were national teams. They had both raced with all the big names of that era and were personal friends of the Boardman's, in fact their son had been one of his mechanics. Turned out they were more like 70+ than 60! On a couple of days they road their bikes as far as we did in much less time! When they were talking about the Tour de France I lamented that they must have been riding in the days when the sport was not tainted by drugs. I was soon put right on that one. "Don't you believe it! The sport was full of drugs, everyone was taking it! We (the British riders) were all given something to take if we thought that we were in with a chance of winning although none of us got anywhere near!"

We met other cyclists as well. One of the builders had a trophy on his desk and when we asked him about it he said he had been the road race champion of Aquitane when he was 25, although he had to give it up when he started his business. Ian also spoke with someone who made iron frames (for the barn) who told him that he had been the French champion in the Madison (a strange track race where cyclists race round in pairs and propel each other forward at various stages!)

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