If you live in a small town like ours, you look for excitement where you can. Today, l‘Ariégeoise passed our house. This is a cycle race organised just before the Tour de France every year in our department. Unlike the Tour itself, you can choose which of three races to join. The truly serious do l‘Ariégeoise itself: 160 km, with 3430 metres of climbing to do. The fairly serious do Le Mountagnole, 117.400 km, 2569m climb. And the ones who are frankly playing at it do the Passejade, a mere 68.5 km, with a 745m. climb.
The two first groups were due to cycle through Laroque, and we locals were ready at 10 o’clock, lining the streets to cheer them on. L’Ariégeoise marshals with Stop-Go batons in red and green strutted about importantly, directing the traffic, stopping and diverting cars as necessary.
The first cohort arrived, swished at speed past our house…and was gone.
Seconds later, some of them did a hasty U-turn and cycled back again, turned right across the bridge and picked up speed in a different direction. What could be going on?
It turned out that l’Ariégeoises and the Mountagnoles, who until then had been sharing a route, parted company here. The Mountagnoles had no special marshals, and when the time came, with heads down and intent only on completing their circuit in record time, they followed the l’Ariégeoise pack. And some l’Ariégeoises followed the Mountagnoles pack.
With nothing but their batons and booming voices to help them, l’Ariégeoise marshals tried to sort the sheep from the goats and send everyone on the correct path. But it was hopeless. More and more cyclists went wrong, and the area round the bridge became a clutter of wheeling tumbling bikes and their confused riders. Some of them were amused. Others not. ‘Merde!’, ‘putain!’ and worse coloured the air as they saw their hard-won average speeds taking a turn for the worse.
I recorded some of the juicier moments and uploaded a short video to YouTube. Why don’t you have a look?