Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tour du Poitou Charentes #TPC2016

French Village Diaries Tour du Poitou Charentes #TPC2016
King of the Mountain in Boutiers-St-Trojan

Today was the first day of the 2016 Tour du Poitou-Charentes, a four-day, five stage professional cycling tour that just happens to be (almost) on our doorstep.

French Village Diaries Tour du Poitou Charentes #TPC2016
The #TPC2016 cow car

We had planned a morning drive to Angouleme, the town hosting the depart, and were looking forward to a coffee before watching the action; the team coaches arriving, the crowds gathering, the cyclists alighting, chatting and signing autographs before cycling off to the team presentations. We have done it before and it is great fun. However, while Angouleme is lovely, the ‘Grand Depart’ was being held out of town, tucked away by a lycée, a college and a supermarket and nowhere near the Angouleme we know and love. Parking looked to be impossible, coffee probably non-existent and stress levels were rising.

Over a coffee at home we decided our best bet would be to catch some action along the route towards La Rochelle, as the race passed through the Cognac vineyards, somewhere we love cycling in summer. We picked the top of the second hill climb of the stage, by the church in Boutiers-St-Trojan. A half-hour drive from home, followed by an 18km cycle ride and we were in place at the top of the ‘mountain’. To make it more authentic we had cycled up too and although it is quite short it’s certainly sharp (300m at 8%) and in 38 degrees it took some effort. Thankfully we had time to refuel on a spicy vegetable and chickpea pasta salad before cheering on the riders.

French Village Diaries Tour du Poitou Charentes #TPC2016
The breakaway at the top of the hill climb

The great thing about catching them climbing is that they are slightly slower (although no one looked as red in the face as I was) so it’s easier to spot team colours and even individual riders. It was worth the effort and even in the heat our little 38km tour of the vineyards was a lovely ride.

French Village Diaries Tour du Poitou Charentes #TPC2016
Team Sky and the peloton

If you are in the area and want to see some live cycling this week you can find out more at the Tour duPoitou-Charentes website. Tomorrow they will leave from La Rochelle at about midday and make their way inland, through the lovely Marais Poitevin, to finish in Niort around about 16h30.

French Village Diaries Tour du Poitou Charentes #TPC2016
Cognac vineyards in summer