|The River Lot|
There’s a lot of hills in the Lot
Bikes were loaded onto the roof of the car, caravan hitched on the back and we were off to visit friends who have a wonderful campsite (www.campingcoursavy.com) on the banks of the river Lot near Conques. As is usually the case with rivers, they are located at the bottom of a valley. This river is no exception! It is, of course, possible to follow the course of the river but to venture elsewhere requires a climb. The local climb or “the hill” as we call it is a 10 km, not very steep, uphill. I might mention at this point that it has been ridden in 24 minutes from bottom to top. (He was only 23 and a club cyclist!) Reverse those figures and it will give you an idea of my time! And now, without the comfort and assurance of granny gear, this was to be the introduction to a few weeks of cycling. All that hard won confidence trickled away. It felt like beginning all over again. But……….panting in 30 degrees of heat, the summit arrived in… ta rah…. 38 minutes. A careful descent on roads which had just had a layer of gravel chucked over wet tar, saw us return to river level feeling a tad more positive. We then spent the next hour or so scraping tar and gravel from the tyres and diligently cleaning the gears. Whoever thought that this method of resurfacing roads was a good idea needs a good smack. In some instances the gravel lurking on the edges of the road was several centimetres thick which meant the only safe place to ride was well into the centre. Great ‘til one meets “white van man” who drives with equal lack of care and courtesy in every country we have visited.
An added bonus of living on the banks of the river is the availability of cold moving water in which to bathe and cool down. The volume of water is regulated upstream and can provide a current of “not a lot” to a “lot.” “A lot “requires some concentration on the exit point or a very long swim followed by a very long walk back, is the inevitable result. But, as temperatures remained in the 30 for most of the month, the river was a blessed addition at the end of a day of dripping sweat.
I omitted to mention that our host and friend at the campsite is also a keen cyclist and ten years younger and fitter than we are. Thus his recommended circuits (Oh, the climbing is not too bad!) did, on occasions, result in some unrefined and unrepeatable expletives. This is, however, a fabulous area for cycling. Most of the long climbs end on the plateau surrounding the rider with glorious views which stretch for miles. Do not, however, be fooled by the word “plateau the definition of which is “elevated tract of comparatively flat or level land”. This plateau is intersected by ancient water courses and in places does not, in any way, fit this description. Nonetheless with almost traffic free roads, and nature in all her finery, it would be hard to find fault. We did a lot of climbing which “is not too bad” and never had to push the bikes, although I cannot pretend that we took no rests on the steepest of them there hills. Alan’s super dooper bike computer informed us of the extent of our efforts and it was encouraging to note that the steepest stretch of a climb was 16% (not for long) and height gained was between 2000 to 3000 feet on each sortie except on the occasions that we tootled along the river. Recovery day, you understand!