It is the week end of the three-day bicycling event which has grown from an idea by a vélomane from St Félicien, a village just six miles from les Sarziers, into a three day event bringing together 15.000 cyclists in this, its 20th year.
What makes the Ardéchoise unusual is that it offers a choice of routes through our area, varying from 64km to nearly 200km and that it welcomes both cyclosportifs and cyclotouristes depending on whether the athletes prefer to pit themselves against the other participants to complete the course in the best time or would rather take their time and enjoy the stunning and varied scenery. The really unique part is that all the towns, villages and tiny hamlets through which the cyclists pass make the most fantastic effort to decorate their commune to welcome them. Even sleepy old Arlebosc has put waving figurines in the window of the chateau!
Every dot on the map makes an effort, with the local primary school kids lined up to sing, folk dance groups performing, giant balloons and bunting everywhere in the (slightly garish) colours of the event, yellow and purple!!
We have a couple of participants staying with us and they tell us that for many people, the friendly reception they receive and the general excitement makes for a really special event.
And we should not of course forget the food! This is France after all! Quite apart from the literally tons of ravioles, picodons, apricots and so on provided at base camp in St Fé, each village has stands of free food for the valiant athletes, who are pressed to sample local saucisson, patisseries made with chestnut purée, fresh local fruit juices, cherries by the bucket load and un petit noir pour la route (black coffee). Our guests said that some of their friends took 12 hours last year to complete a route estimated at 5 because they could not resist stopping at every stand in every outpost.
This is Mag and her husband who run a great café in the centre of Lamastre, all dressed up to welcome the Ardéchoise.