This week instead of talking about myself, I would give an insight into what it is actually like living in France. It’s not just all velo, velo, velo…
The English saying of ‘France is great, until you meet the people’ has actually been very wrong. Everyone we’ve met has been incredibly accommodating, kind and always willing to help you out – and not just in the cycling world. One thing I have noticed is the French are very ritualistic. All the bonjour’s, the ca va’s, the endless handshakes and kisses on the cheek at every meeting, if you decided to stick to your stubbornness of being English you could easily become sick of it all and ignore all the pleasantries – which of course would be considered very rude and you would quickly become ostracised.
Despite all the niceties, it is still painfully obvious that the French do not speak English at all, at least not in this region! I have been making a serious effort to speak French as much and as often as I can, although what you learn at school can only help you so far, you have to be around the language to gain a grasp of real French. I can see why many English riders who have tried to make it over here have become lonely and disillusioned – you really have to the make the effort in order to get by.
Aside from that, the stereotype that the French always eat bread, cheese and wine is… definitely true. Although when one of our local friends told us she didn’t like cheese I couldn’t help but laugh! Having at last got out of our somewhat (too) quiet village into the local city Clermont-Ferrand, we discovered that even in a industrial zone you can retain a great deal of vive de la francaise. Beautiful cathedrals, quaint cobbled streets, ancient architecture - even the industry sector it’s still incredibly euro - The Metro, Michelin tyres gift shop (no, really!) and magasins de mode. Oh, and of course the beautiful French women taking in the sunshine.
Back on the bike, last weekend was both good and bad. My teammate Gregg was involved in a bad crash that left him needing stitches, he’s gone home for a week leaving me on my own but he’ll be back. On the plus side I was in la tete de la course all day, finishing off with a solo break in the final 2km. I was caught in the last 200m which was disappointing, but the 8th place was my best result so far. At least I know how to make that front break and will be there much more often in the upcoming races.
Next week I’ll be talking about what happens inside an Elite French race, how it works and the differences to back home, hope it's of interest to you all.