>>>Riding back to the 1930s
Photo: Christophe GAGNEUX - Pixim Communication

Riding back to the 1930s

Fine wine, the songs of Edith Piaf and a gentle southerly breeze: We’re undoubtedly in France, But we’re also travelling back in time in the Anjou velo vintage, Europe's top vintage bike race.
hese bikers are militant riders. While they might occasionally flirt with planes or cars, their bikes are their first, and true, loves. And their devotion to their hobby is all too easy to see during the Anjouvelovintage. Celebrated each year in the south of France, the eye-catching event marries a love of cycling with a passion for good wine and then injecting it all with the spirit of the 1930s
Every the year numbers grow as enthusiasts flock from all corners of the world to indulge in a long weekend of retro riding. In 2015, 2,500 gentleman (and lady) riders dressed up and saddled up to ride along four different courses of between 30 and 140 kilometres. All of these routes cut through the beautiful scenery of the Loire Valley, France’s wine capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site just an hour’s drive from Paris.
You can help out as a volunteer to stop, amongst other things, cyclists getting lost in the vineyards.
Photo: PHB.cz (Richard Semik) / Shutterstock

Is your bike of a pre-1987 vintage?

If the answer is in the affirmative, then you’re in luck. 1987 is the cut-off date for bikes being entered in the Anjou velo vintage festival. What’s more, a bike has to have its original handlebars, and no modern accessories are allowed. Replicas are, however, permitted. Raymond Poulidor, Bernard Thévenet, Joop Zoe- temelk and Roger Legeay are among the cycling stars who have taken part in the festival.

The longest of the four races is not for the faint of heart. The Authentic 1868 event sees participants tackle a 130 kilometre course taking then up 120 metres, not just along roads but also rough tracks. Since the rules stipulate that no modern, lightweight bikes may be used, only the fittest and most confident cyclists take part. Everyone else lines the course and watches the action, with an estimated 25,000 people expected to turn out to watch the big highlight of the opening day of the festival, scheduled for Saturday 19 June in 2016. The longest race on Sunday 19th June is the Irène Delaboucle, a 60-kilometre run that passes through the picturesque towns of Rou-Marson, Doué-la-Fontaine, Brossay, and Saumur with its historic castle and the monastery of Saint-Florent.
The two other events making up the festival are the Anatole Laguibole and the Jean-Guy Dondroit. The Anatole Laguibole is a 40-kilometre ride through the Anjou vineyards, home to many of France’s finest wines, and past monuments including the Colegiata Saint-Martin, a leading example of Carolingian architecture, the Plessis-Macé castle, and the imposing monastery at Asnières. The Jean-Guy Dondroit route, meanwhile, is a 30-kilometre run along the banks of the River Loire, offering spectacular views of quaint fishing villages and hidden caves.
By March, with three months still to go to the festival, over 1,000 registrations had been received.
Photo: Christophe GAGNEUX - Pixim Communication

A stroll down down France’s longest river

21 castles stand guard to protect the Loire Valle. The Chateau de Sully affords some of the finest views of the Loire, France’s longest river at 1,013 kilometres from source to sea. It’s a veritable medieval fortress that conserves its original entry and keep, moat and watchtower.

But, it’s not just about the bike. The Anjou velo vintage also seduces through its gastronomic delights. Cycling through the French countryside is hungry – and thirsty – work, so riders take regular breaks to sample the local produce. Right along the riverside routes, participants and spectators are spoilt for choice when it comes to fine dining. Les Banquettes rouges, found next to the church of San Nicolás in Blois, offers traditional dishes, as does Le Grand Vèlum, in Chaumont-sur-Loire, a gourmet restaurant in the old grounds of the city’s castle. La Chancelière in Montbazon is managed by celebrated chef Olivier Arlot and is particularly renowned for its lobster quinoa, cauliflower and coconut curry and its rich tasting menu. Further along the river, the Emmagine Le Bout du Monde is yet another gastronomical wonder, sourcing many of its ingredients, including edible flowers, from its own gardens. Le Vinaillou biscuits and honey are just some of the local specialties worth trying out here.
One of the highlights of the Loire Valley is the Chateau de Sully, though the nearby Germigny Oratory also deserves a visit.
Photo: Viacheslav Lopatin/ Shutterstock
Throughout the weekend, the Anjou velo vintage festival swings and sways to the sounds of the 1930s. Dotted along the cycling routes, numerous bands and artists perform, keeping the crowds entertained and spurring the riders on. What’s more, the old town in Saumur plays host to a vintage market with 90 stalls of recycled accessories, clothes and, of course, bikes for sale. And why not use your time in the Loire Valley to enroll on a short wine appreciation course at one of the many vineyards, or even get a makeover at a vintage hairdressers and beautician.
Nostalgia really has never looked – or tasted – so good.

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