I have made references before to the fact that most of my contacts with French people have involved a discussion about the Tour de France and that virtually all of the builders and other 'artisans' that we have hired have had some connection with cycling. On our most recent trip we met with our builder's father-in-law, Jean Martinez. Jean has been drafted in from his retirement to assist with some project management tasks (something our builder is not so good at). He is a sprightly looking man of 70+; much fitter than his son-in-law. He commented immediately on my 2004 Tour de France cap and pointed out that his Skoda sun hat was also a Tour souvenir (Skoda being one of the official sponsors). He was a keen cyclist and a member of a club and the following day was off on a 100km ride somewhere so needed to take it easy that day. He lamented the fact that his son-in-law no longer cycled and when I told him that in my younger days I had cycled from Bordeaux to Barcelona in two weeks he said that members of his club would do the trip in three days!
On our visits to France it is common to see one or two fairly portly men, clad in ill fitting Lycra, out for a 'spin' on the country roads. This is also a common sight in England but you can tell the French cyclists as many seem to have bikes that don't quite fit them and look a little awkward.
This year stage 17 of the Tour is a long mountain stage finishing in Le Grand Bornand, where my brother has his chalet. Stage 18 is a time trial in nearby Annecy. It is a Tour de France follower's dream and we have been invited to go (although we are not sure whether we will be able to fit it in with all the house building projects!