This summer, my wife and I spent the last weekend of our holiday in France at the lovely town of Saumur on the banks of the River Loire which, incidentally, is the longest river in France. Our aim was to take in the Anjou Vélo Vintage. 2017 was the 7th running of the vintage cycle festival, although we can remember riding in the Sunday traffic-free cycle ride along the Loire some 20 years ago.
The festival just about takes in everything you can cram into a long weekend in typically French style. Added to this is the Saturday market in Saumur which takes over all the streets in the centre of town. There are 3 signposted rides on the Saturday of various length and difficulty. I rode the 120km ‘Authentic’ which is only open to pre-1987 bikes. The ride is noted as 120km, which turned out to be 130km, and includes 30km of gravel tracks. I rode my 1984 Holdsworth fitted with 25mm Schwalbe Durano tyres which were perfecty adequate. Many riders on narrower and lighter rubber suffered punctures! The route was well signposted and on very quiet roads and tracks.
My 32 Euros included a brioche before the start, one drink stop, 2 food stops and an eat-all-you-want dinner at the end in the Town Hall square with musical entertainment, including wine. Typically French, wine was also on tap at the stops! My goody bag included energy bar, wine drink voucher, wine glass as an event memento and also a voucher for a bottle of Saumur sparkling white, especially bottled for the event.
The entertainment on stage and in the streets was fantastic, obviously geared at 40s and 50s dance and jive music. Getting dressed in period was ‘de rigueur’, with plenty of stalls selling food, wine, clothing, bikes and bike bits.
On Sunday – plenty of choice. There were 3 signposted routes on offer plus the chance to ride alongside both banks of the Loire down to Angers, with roads completely closed to traffic. In 2016, we rode the 30km ‘family’ route which was great fun – with SEVEN included stops, all including a glass of wine. The 30km route took us nearly 51/2 hours! The best part of the route was through the underground ‘Caves’, old tunnels into the Tufa limestone, which are now used for storing and maturing the sparkling wines of this region. After that wobbly ride, we decided this year not to register but to make our own way around the closed 30km circuit. In every village around the route, there are bars, barbecues and food stops where you can stop, sit and watch the world on 2 wheels (and one, three or four wheels!) go by.
We camped at the Camping d’Offard which is on an island in the middle of the river. The campsite has it’s own bar, restaurant and swimming pool, although it’s only a 15 minute walk or ride into town. There are other camp sites nearby and I believe decent budget to top standard accommodation is also plentiful. Saumur is 3 -4 hours drive South from Caen, and obviously there are other ports and flight options.
We’re definitely going again in 2018, Pauleen’s already supplementing her wardrobe!, so if anyone’s interested or wants more information please let me know. Check out some of the photos on the attached – you may be able to spot yours truly in ‘l’Authentic’!