Limoux and Le Tour - Skipping About the Continent - CycleBlaze

July 16, 2022 to July 20, 2022

Limoux and Le Tour

One of the most rewarding consequences of posting my journals on Cycle Blaze has been the virtual and real-life interactions with other members of the CycleBlaze Community – a wonderful group of supportive and interesting folk. Thus, I eagerly anticipated my five day visit to Limoux to meet Rich and Robin Frasier, take in some of the Tour de France, and do some cycling through their corner of southwest France. Not to be a spoiler, but the trip far exceeded all expectations. Rich and Robin were delightful, engaging, and hosts extraordinaire - and I left with two more wonderful additions to my growing circle of CycleBlaze friends. Thank you both for a memorable visit.

 Rich had promised a few day-rides around Limoux and though he was optimistic about finding me a bike among his cadre of cycling friends, I decided to take Vivien George. The trip got off to a great start with an early morning ride through the deserted streets of Paris to Gare Austerlitz – it’s about my favorite time of day to cycle in Paris and the cooler six a.m. temperatures were very much appreciated. However, the heat wave continued and I spent an hour layover in Toulouse sweltering while I hauled Vivien George up and down stairs in search of the correct departing platform. But soon I was in Carcassonne where I quickly spotted Rich, instantly recognized by his big smile and ponytail. Robin had also come to meet me and after wrangling Vivien George into the back of their car, we set off on a few “big city” errands before driving the short distance to Limoux where we spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying drinks and easy conversation in their lovely fan-cooled home.

First night dinner on the square with Rich and Robin
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The next three days were filled with bike rides, bike races, and bike aficionados. I’ll not give a blow-by-blow accounting of my time there (mercifully), but will try to capture the days with pictures, captions and somewhat brief comments.

Sunday, July 17

The day started with an early bike ride to beat the heat - a 31 mile route known locally as the Montclar Loop. Despite the heat, I decided to take the bus/train to Carcassonne to watch the finish of Stage 15 of TdF. At the train station, we met Jeff and Nancy, a couple from California visiting friends of Rich and Robin, who were also headed to Carcassonne. 

Limoux sits on the edge of the Pyrenees with a rolling landscape of vineyards, forest, and fields of grain. It is great cycling country - not too steep, not too flat, with lots of wonderful small roads and villages
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First cycling day with Rich and Robin
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The Montclar Loop
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Boarding the early afternoon bus to Carcassonne with Jeff and Nancy. We were in for a hot afternoon - one that Rich and Robin successfully avoided by staying in Limoux
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Just beyond the finish line - about three hours before the riders were due to arrive
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A playground set up for children has an obstacle course to practice bike-handling skills
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Hot was clearly the adjective for the day
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After wandering around the course finishing area and scoping out best view locales, we headed to the town square for shade and smoothies
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We selected this corner about 500 meters from the finishing line, giving us a view of approaching riders and well as the blur as they sprinted past
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The group of sprinters rounding the corner includes Peter Sagan (leading in this photo, he finished fourth) and Wout van Art, in green, who came in second on this stage. In between them is the stage winner, Jasper Philipsen, on the inside, in third place in this shot
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Scott AndersonGreat action shot!
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Jonas Vingegaard in the Maillot Jaune - safely behind the sprint finish, though he did crash earlier in the day
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Monday, July 17

Today was a rest day for the TdF, but not for us. Rich and I met a group of friends at 7:30 sharp for the 35-mile "Magic Ride" - one that started with two initial uphill sections followed by a magical downhill that seemed to far exceed the earlier gain in elevation. It was another delightful ride and we were back home before it got unbearably hot. However, the heat did not stop Rich and I from visiting nearby towns and religious edifices. Robin elected to stay home from both the bike ride and village tour in order to prepare for the lovely dinner party she had planned for that evening – a chance for me to meet some of their American friends who lived full or part-time in Limoux.

Rich and I were scheduled to meet Daphne at 7:30 sharp for the early morning, beat-the-heat ride. Other local riders were invited to join, and we were a group of nine by the time we left – local ex-pats as well as friends in town for the TdF. We're stopped here for a brief rest after the first long climb up from the valley
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We found a little shade at the top of the second climb, the highest point of the day
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The Magic Ride
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Interior courtyard of the Saint-Hilaire Abbey, a fortified Benedictine Abbey whose history dates back to the 8th century. Rich and I had a wonderful time, finding respite from the heat in exploring the interior rooms and wine cellar, ruminating on a range of topics from Cathars to Carl Jung.
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Saint-Hilaire Abbey
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Saint-Hilaire Abbey
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The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Marceille in Limoux, a Catholic Church dedicated to Mary
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In addition to the statue of Mary on the church door, there is a small Black Madonna chapel on inside of the Basicila
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Tuesday, July 20

Limoux was on the route of the 16th stage of the TdF, and there was much discussion among Rich, Robin, and their friends as to the best place to catch the action. The original idea had been for the local group to bike out to the Cat 3 hill near Saint-Hilaire, where the pace of the ride would be slowed a bit by the climb. At last night's party, however, there was little enthusiasm for a mid-day ride followed by hours in the sun, waiting for riders to pass by. Nor was there consensus on the best place in town for optimal TdF viewing. The route passed through Rich and Robin's neighborhood, so the three of us chose a shady spot around the corner to "watch from home." 

The day started with a short morning ride, after which we lined up for the Caravan, a parade of promotional vehicles tossing out goodies as they passed by.  After raking in a fairly sizable haul, we went back home for lunch and then lined up for the big event. It was all over in a flash - a couple of lead groups and then the peloton. Back at the house, Robin set up the Frasier's brand new, first ever TV set and we watched the end of Stage 16, something made more special by the fact we had all been a part of the day's event. It certainly was exciting for me!

On our morning bike ride, we arrived at an intersection with the TdF route where a group of fans had set up camp - this was about 9 am, about 4 hours before the riders were due to pass by. You might be able to spot Rich and Robin on the right, by the red barrier
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A little tough starting a tandem at the crest of a hill
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But a big smile heading downhill
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The small village of Donazac is a "circulades", a village whose streets and houses are arranged in a circular pattern that provided inhabitants with a form of self-defense
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Vineyards outside of Limoux. The area is well known for Limoux blanquette, a sparkling wine
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Smoke from fires in Spain and/or Southwest France hang over the Pyrenees
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Taking a spin on the TdF route through Limoux
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Limoux Loop
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Here come's the Caravan - reach out for some swag
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What could be better than spending the day in a bowl of Béarnaise sauce?
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Showing off some of our swag
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The morning swag haul - I'd say we did pretty well!
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Here they come - the pursuing group chasing the two riders out front (not seen).
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And the main peloton, led by Team Jumbo Visna, followed closely by a group from Ineos and the Maillot Jaune
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And we made it onto Eurosport TV!
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Rachael AndersonWow! You’re celebrities!
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We finished off the day at the Tuesday night market in the Limoux town square – a somewhat rollicking event with market stalls, crowded restaurants, a street band, and friends conversing by the town fountain. I bid another round of farewells to the ex-Pats I’d met the past few days and was introduced to a few more of Rich and Robin’s community of friends. The easy camaraderie within the ex-Pat community was reminiscent of my previous trips with Carla to her house in Noyers, a smaller French village that is also home to a group of ex-Pats from the UK and the States. Together, these towns provided a glimpse of what life might be like living in France for an extended period, especially if I were to ever locate myself in a place other than Paris. But that is a topic for another day - I was bound for Paris and ready to discover more of France and Europe by bike.

The sun sets on a memorable visit to Limoux
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Today's ride: 90 miles (145 km)
Total: 1,862 miles (2,997 km)

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Suzanne GibsonLooks like you had a wonderful time with the Frasiers! Isn't the CycleBlaze community amazing!
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2 weeks ago
Rachael AndersonWow! What a great time you had. I look forward to seeing Limoux sometime.
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2 weeks ago
Rich FrasierWow, we’re famous!! :)

We had a great time. Thanks for being the best guest ever!!
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2 weeks ago
Susan CarpenterTo Suzanne GibsonYes, Suzanne - the Cycle Blaze community is amazing and I’ve so enjoyed meeting fellow CBers like you and Janos over the past year. Hoping we might get together again before I return to US in November
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2 weeks ago
Keith KleinHi,
It’s been almost twenty years since I visited Limoux. Looks like I should go again some time.
Cheers,
Keith
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2 weeks ago