The clock is ticking! The “old git” had a quick look at the calendar and exclaimed that there were “just eight weeks to go!”
Yes the final countdown is on to the Grand Depart for Le Tour de Loire Valley in mid September which will see my dynamic duo having to pedal me nearly 230 miles while through the world-famous vineyards and stunning chateaux of the region.
This will be Team tandem Ecosse’s third annual Tour de France tandem holiday – following in the footsteps of amazing tours of Burgundy in 2014 and Bordeaux in 2015. (If you want to read my Musings of those wonderful trips – just type Burgundy or Bordeaux into the ‘Search Matildas Musings’ box and you will see the postings.)
The two pre-requisites for these tours are that they offer fairly flat cycling – as regular blog readers know we don’t do hills – and some fabulous vineyards – as regular readers know we definitely do do wine!
So after much consideration we chose the Loire Valley for this year’s tour. We chose a French-based company Cyclomundo to book our self-guided tour with as they seem to know the area inside out. The seven day tour we have chosen is called: Fairytale Castles along the Loire River and starts in Blois and finishes in to Angers.
You can see the route map above, and you can check out the the full daily itinerary of the tour by clicking here.
Now as regular readers of my blog will know this year it is not going to be just Team Tandem Ecosse on the tour as we are teaming up with Team Yukon! Yes we are going to be meeting up with friends Nancy and John who we met in Burgundy during our week long tour there in 2014.
As a reminder, we had such a good time when our paths crossed – including a memorable dinner and some lovely wines – that we subsequently decided it would be fun to do the Loire Valley trip together. They don’t have a tandem, but are keen solo cyclists. And they also have a love for good French food and wine and a similar dislike for hills as my dynamic duo – so it should be a good match!
Now why are they known as Team Yukon? Well they happen to live in Whitehorse, which is the capital of the remote Yukon territory in northern Canada – which is a mere 3,930 miles (or 6,319 kilometres) away from Matildas Rest in Perthshire! (You can find out more about Whitehorse and the Yukon here and here.)
Logistically that seems a trifle mad – but with electronic communications the “old git” and the “old gal” say distance doesn’t matter. So all four of us are booked and in September they will fly from Yukon to France and hire bikes (hopefully not e-bikes!) as we drive to France in Matilda Transporter to enjoy the tour together.
This “old lady” of a tandem is certainly looking forward to having company on the trip and I know Nancy and John are really looking forward to it – and to the Scottish-Yukon link up. Here is Nancy’s latest contribution to my blog as to how their training is going:
Greetings from Whitehorse in the Yukon.
An update from Team Yukon, to say we’ve been out riding quite a bit recently to get in shape for the Tour de Loire Valley.
The country that we bike through here in Yukon and Alaska is mostly wilderness, with the occasional bear to liven things up! I like my long rides along the Alaska Highway but must confess that I am looking forward to the bike-friendly, food/wine laden routes that await us in the Loire!
As part of our training for France, John and I did a bike ride from Fraser, BC to Skagway, Alaska. This is an annual tradition of ours, entailing 13 km of uphill – from the Canada customs station to the White Pass summit – followed by 26 km of downhill to tidewater in Skagway, through some pretty amazing country.
We combined this expedition with a ride up first on the scenic White Pass & Yukon Route train. Built to support the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush, this narrow gauge railroad is an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, a designation shared with the Eiffel Tower.
Known as “the railway built of gold” it climbs almost 3000 feet in just 20 miles and features steep grades of up to 3.9%, cliff-hanging turns of 16 degrees, two tunnels and numerous bridges and trestles – which we experienced from vintage rail cars.
That ride was part of our training for the annual Kluane-Chilkat International Bike Relay in June. At a distance of 148 miles, it covers some of the most spectacular countryside anywhere in the world – with mountain valleys, alpine passes and ocean views. You can check out the route profile here.
John and I competed as part of the “Wobbly Wheelers” team. I did Leg 2 this year, which was a 40 km stretch which had lots of headwinds – which I am very much hoping will not be part of the agenda in France!
John successfully rode Leg 6 – which saw him cycle 27 km through the wilderness area. Overall the “Wobbly Wheelers” team was not the fastest by a long shot in our category (Mixed 8) – but not the slowest either. But one of the great things about the relay is the social side of the event – including a beer garden and barbecue at the finishing line – which we both thoroughly enjoyed!
Now that the relay race is behind us we’ll be finding excuses to get out to do a 20-km hill loop to keep in shape for the Loire. Not a hardship in the land of the midnight sun! And the route has the added appeal of ending at the Takhini Hot Springs so we can have a good soak at the end!
The good news is that we are also practicing our wine and cheese consumption, to ensure we will both be in fine fettle for September!
Glad to hear of Team Matilda’s success with training and weight loss … we seem to be trimming up a bit at this end but not to such a degree.
Matilda, you and your crew are obviously in A-number-one shape for the great French adventure – the question is will we even recognize you all?!
We really can’t wait for the Scottish-Yukon link up in September. In the meantime we are getting our thinking caps on to come up with a slogan for those day-glo Tour T-shirts!
Just off to open another bottle of French wine to get in the mood!
Nancy and John (aka Team Yukon)
So look out for more updates from Nancy and John from the Yukon in future blogs, and clearly they will be a big part of my Musings on the tour itself!
In the meantime, the “old git” has managed to get a work colleague who is a graphic designer to adapt that alternative Tour de France logo which he found – which if you look carefully has a wine bottle strategically positioned as the air valve.
It is now changed to Le Tour de Loire Valley and has a few more wine bottles and a couple of glasses within the logo. And hopefully it will now appear as the official logo of this year’s tour on the sleeve of this year’s team t-shirts!
But despite just eight weeks to go, no training ride this weekend as the “old gal” has badly sprained her ankle after a nasty fall on a slippy car park floor, while rushing in heavy rain! And no not a drop of gin was spilled in the incident – because none had been taken! Maybe if it had been, the result wouldn’t have been so painful!
“Oouuuch” is one of the few repeatable phrases that the “old gal” has repeated regularly since the fall. And that means that cycling is off the agenda till the ankle heals.
It is fair to say, however, that the “old git” has actually been giving the “old gal” some sympathy – as her pain is obvious, as is the swelling. And that has not been helped by the fact that the “old gal” is on her feet all day in her role as hair salon owner – quick plug here its Number 57 Hair Salon in Auchterarder if you want to book an appointment!
So painful it has been that the “old gal” had to book a couple of intensive sessions with a physiotherapist – who also suggested regular treatments with a cold compress cuff which wraps around her foot and ankle. The physio also strapped the ankle up with Kinesio tape to help give it some support.
So hopefully a temporary gap in the training programme will allow the ankle to get better and we will be back on the road soon. The next outing is planned for next Sunday when we have a visit scheduled for Loch Katrine – including a Blues Cruise on the loch after we tandem up and down the loch. Fingers crossed for a speedy recovery!
Finally for this post, often people ask the “old git” and the “old gal” why they like to go out tandeming. Well this diagram below outlines just exactly why all three of us who make up Team Matilda love getting out on the open road – added to the fact that, of course, on a tandem it’s always better when you’re together!
Whisper it, but my dynamic duo particularly like number 7 – especially the country pub bit! Those energy bars are so over rated!