Day two dawned with us all having an early alarm call in Amboise so we could be on the road in good time for the second leg of the joint Team Tandem Ecosse and Team Yukon adventure – a mere 33 km tandem ride to Tours through the rolling French countryside, taking in the vineyards and a sparkling wine tasting at Vouvray. What could possibly go wrong?!
A triple puncture which resulted in a divine intervention of a rescue from a stranger who is now dubbed Saint Michael – that’s what! It was the kind of day that when things start to unravel, it almost falls totally apart!
It’s a long story and the day started so well with the “old gal” and the “old git” wakening in good spirits, with no ill effects or strains from the first leg of Le Tour de Loire Valley du tandem. But before breakfast, we had to go through the daily ritual of packing up.
A quick word about how we travel here. First of all I have been kitted out with some rather fashionable panniers – top and sides at the back, and a top one at the front. They are used for daily essentials such as cycling jackets, towels, sun creams, snacks and drinks and a full picnic kit.
The good thing about this trip is that the bulk of my dynamic duo’s luggage is transferred from hotel to hotel by the French-based cycle touring company Cyclomundo – leaving us free to concentrate on the tandeming.
But I am still fairly heavy as given my age I am a traditional “old lady” tandem made of steel – none of the modern lightweight aluminium for me! So, with the added weight of the panniers, I am certainly no light thing – as the “old git” and “old gal” will tell you if we hit a hill or even an incline!
However the positive side is that since I am a classic tandem, I am finely balanced, and highly tuned, so that means on the flat I can whiz along without too much effort. Combined with my dynamic duo’s fitness regime, it means I can build up a fair momentum to help us cover the miles, or kilometres since we are abroad!
Leaving Amboise was a little more complicated than it needed to be due to some confusing instructions on the route direction “bible” – which left all four of us scratching our heads. I guess it is all about interpretation – but sometimes the directions don’t appear as clear as they could be.
You can check out the details of our route on the second day of our Tour de Loire Valley du Tandem from Amboise to Tours on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics! (The actual trip was 33 kms however – with some bits missing due to “operator error”!)
But after crossing the bridge over the Loire, and taking a tunnel under the railway line, we were soon pedaling deep into the countryside and tandeming up gentle inclines through the blissful tiny wine hamlets of Vauadeland, La Souchardiere and La Bicetterie.
Here we all enjoyed being in the middle of the picturesque vineyards – with the cycle track going right through the centre, with vines groaning with grapes waiting to be harvested on all sides.
Whisper it, but the “old git” decided to sample the grapes – just for research purposes to get an indication of how good the wine from this year’s harvest would be! And they tasted amazing. So fresh, and sweet. The “old gal” thinks 2016 is going to be an excellent year for the local Vouvray fizz!
As I say it was all going so well! The first sign of the impending problems came when we were coming down a steep hill and the “old git” felt an unusual vibrating feeling. But the “old gal” reassured him that all was well, only to issue the P-word – hated by all cyclists – a few moments later as we went up a hill in front of the classy Chateau de Noizay, now a luxuryhotel.
Yes we had a puncture and my rear wheel was totally flat. But after the usual words which cannot be repeated here on a family blog, the “old gal” quickly took calm control of the situation and moved the “old git” from panic mode into repair mode – as John and Nancy retreated to the village bar!
I was unceremoniously upended in a handy inset off the road and I have to say I was impressed as they quickly edged off my rear tyre, found the hole in the tube and proceeded to repair it, before putting the tyre back on again. The only problem was that in their haste to carry out the puncture repair they forgot to check the inside of the tyre for what may have caused the puncture in the first place. So when the tyre was fully inflated it started to slowly deflate again. Unsure why this was at the time, my dynamic duo decided to apply the bottle of tyre sealant they had with them in the hope that it would seal the leak.
And it seemed to work – so after gathering all the tools together again and repacking them – my dynamic duo were set to pedal off when the “old git” asked the “old gal” where the plastic map holder was. It was nowhere to be seen – which was a tad worrying as it contained the route maps for the rest of the week!
The “old gal” searched before looking over the adjoining wall to see in horror that it had been blown over the wall from where it had been left as the puncture was repaired. Only problem was that it had fallen down an almost vertical drop of about 60 metres into a garden – with no way of climbing down the wall to get it back as it was so such a steep drop.
The only solution was for the “old git” to walk down the hill and round a long route to the road at the front of the properties to try and identify which house he had to go into to find the maps. After about a half mile detour he found the correct garden guided by the “old gal” who waited with me to direct him via his walkie-talkie earpiece!
The “old gal” took a photo for posterity to show just how steep the drop was as the “old git” retrieved the map holder. Then it was a half mile walk back up the hill to where we were parked.
To lighten the mood on the walk back, my dynamic duo were laughing about the bizarre scenario on their walkie-talkies and decided to make their own video impersonating Chris Froome in this year’s Tour de France when he memorably started to run up a hill, following a crash, without his bike. You can watch the video by hitting the play button below. (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)
We headed down the hill to find John and Nancy at the Noizay bar – which interestingly also doubled as the village post office – for a welcome coffee. But as we arrived the tyre was starting to go soft again. Zut alors!
So after a coffee it was time for another attempt at a puncture repair – while we also discovered that there was a bike shop about four miles away . But the second repair didn’t seem to seal the tube, so the rest of the sealer was used. Just as it seemed that it was holding, we got back on board only for it to go flat for the third time.
My dynamic duo had a spare tube in my panniers for my back wheel – but that involved removing my rear wheel which they freely admit is beyond their mechanical ability given the gears and more importantly the connections for my drum brake.
Panic was now setting in, but clearly the gods were looking down on us. As a van towing a trailer of lawnmowers and gardening equipment arrived in the car park the “old gal” gamely tried to engage the driver in conversation. Her idea was to try to hitch a lift the four miles to the bike shop. But instead we encountered what we are now describing as the divine intervention of ‘Saint Michael’, who saved the day.
Essentially a very friendly Frenchman, who we now know is called Michael, took pity on our dejected faces and although he spoke very little English – tried to understand what the problem was. He urged us to “come” – and I was pushed to his nearby workshop just a few hundred yards away.
At this stage, Michael thought that we just needed a pneumatic pump to fill the tyre with air – and switched on the generator and put air into the tyre. Almost immediately it went flat again. He said “ah puncture” with a thick French accent – which made it sound almost romantic!
But a puncture is a puncture in any language. We brought out the spare tube at this stage and he immediately grabbed a spanner and started attacking my back wheel. Now as I have said before, my rear end is quite a complicated set up – but this didn’t phase him a bit.
The “old git” and the “old gal” were having palpitations by this stage – but they were reassured when they noticed an old racing bike in the corner of the workshop. On pointing this out Michael signalled that he was a cyclist. Quelle relief as we now realised we were in the hands of an expert!
Expert really is an understatement as Michael showed his engineering skills and had the wheel off in seconds – despite the complications of the drum brake set up. However he then wanted to repair rather than replace the tube – “reparer, reparer” he kept repeating before the “old git” managed to get the message across that we wanted to put the new tube on so there would be no more punctures. Fortunately he agreed and the new tube was on within what seemed like a minute and Michael checked the inside of the tyre for any debris before replacing it and reinstating my wheel.
And miraculously when it was blown up, the tube held. What a feeling – and the “old gal” almost hugged Michael with delight. But our ‘Saint’ wasn’t finished yet as he demanded to repair the other tube – pointing out no less than three punctures in a small area.
With time ticking on we were keen to get back on the road but Michael was meticulous in his work and was one of those people for which time didn’t matter. But the tube was duly repaired using the old fashioned patches – none of these new fangled self-adhesive patches for him!
So all back together, and after stuffing some euros in his dungaree pockets for his efforts, Michael wanted a picture on his mobile phone to show to his female friend – who the “old gal” had to speak to in her pigeon French during part of the repair.
Finally we thought we were free to go when Michael then demanded we come back inside to the kitchen of the workshop where he brought out a bottle of unlabeled local wine for a friendship toast!
Now before we left home, the “old git” had been doing a bit of research into the Auld Alliance links between Scotland and France and was able to impress Michael with a toast of “Vive la Vieille Alliance” – or long live the Auld Alliance!
I have to say the whole experience moved my dynamic duo and gave them a new belief in the kindness of a total stranger – especially one within the global cycling fraternity.
After exchanging email addresses – and the promise of using the picture and our experience in my blog – we were back on the road. So what better way for my dynamic duo to recover from the trauma of my triple puncture – and wheel removal and replacement – than by heading to a wine tasting! So that’s exactly what we did!
Team Yukon solo cyclists John and Nancy had cycled ahead to look for a bike shop before we received the help of St. Michael. We texted them news of our most welcome personal repair man and they moved on and told us they had booked the English tour at 4pm at the Cave des Producteurs de Vouvray to get an introduction to and sample the sparkling wines of this area of the Loire Valley.
As Team Tandem Ecosse finally left Noizay – singing the praises of our very own Saint Michael – the “old git” looked at his watch and discovered that left us just under an hour to travel 15 kms to the cave. So after some tentative pedalling to test everything was in order – which thankfully it was – he and the “old gal” put in some serious cycling and at exactly 3.57 pm we arrived outside! And that was despite taking two wrong turnings where the “bible” gave confusing directions! But we made it and despite our flustered arrival my dynamic duo enjoyed an informative tour of the facility which is a co-operative of 40 local producers whose wines are sold under the collective Vouvray umbrella – including the underground cellars where the Vouvray is fermented.
Unsurprisingly the tour finished with the opportunity to sample three different variations of Vouvray – providing a perfect antidote to the drama of the punctures! The “old gal” quickly snapped up a bottle to be enjoyed later by way of recuperation.
Back on the road – with the bottle safely in my panniers – we headed towards our base for tonight – Tours old town with its half-timbered houses.
Before we got there however there was further frustration as we somehow managed to lose contact with John and Nancy – which caused my dynamic duo more than a little consternation, especially given how the day had gone.
As they waited and searched in vain, contact was made by mobile phone only to discover they were several kms away at the pedestrian bridge across the Loire into the town. We quickly pedalled on and caught up with them as they had the instructions to our hotel!
Tours is famous for its original medieval district, called le Vieux Tours. Unique to the Old City are its preserved half-timbered buildings, and our base for the night, the Hotel L’Adresse, was bang in the centre of the bustling medieval area. Although, to keep in tune with the day we were having, we only found it after getting directions from a helpful waitress in an Irish pub – as you do!
Slightly alarmingly I had to be left out of the street, before the “old git” persuaded the hotel owners that I would be safer in a quiet downstairs corridor. On getting to their room, my dynamic duo quickly opened the Vouvray and indulged in a couple of glasses to help wipe away the memories of the triple puncture while having a very late – and much needed – bite to eat as today’s picnic lunch was a victim of the technical problems.
Revived and showered the four cyclists headed out into la Place Plumereau, a square with busy pubs and restaurants, whose open-air tables fill the centre of the square for cocktails and dinner.
The food and drink was very welcome, with my dynamic duo reliving today’s comedy of catastrophes – with everyone earnestly hoping that tomorrow’s third stage to Azay-le-Rideau would pass without incident! But we had a few laughs too – it is funny how you can laugh about something – albeit only after the event!
Suitably replenished we returned to the hotel and it was time for lights out and some deep snoring (on the “old git’s” part anyway”!) as tiredeness took over. Let’s just say we dreamed about the remarkable mechanical talents of our Saint Michael!