Category Archives: What’s On

If Carlsberg did cycling events…

Well, maybe it wasn’t that good, but for me, getting out on my bike to ride an event I’ve had my eye on since we came on holiday here 4 years ago, it was great!

The event was the VTT Ronde 3 Quilles, an annual event with three routes of 15km, 30k, or 45km, in the hills and fields around the town of Quillan in the Aude region of France. This place really is a haven for anyone who loves cross-country mountain biking and also benefits from being only a stones-throw from some world-class downhill trails too, such as those at Axe-les-Thermes and others at Font Romeu.

Since leaving the UK my mountain bike hasn’t had much trail love. Actually, that’s been true for the best part of 5 years, pretty much since DD arrived. I’ve had a few rides here and there and, if I was still in the UK I’d like to think I was back out hanging with my bike buddies again, at least for the odd ride, but those friends were built up over time and at a time when I had nothing else to do but ride. In a new country making new friends takes time of course, so mostly it’s just me.

Anyway, on the day of the ride DS woke at 6am, his new regular wake-up time, after a busy day and a late night the day before (we’d been to visit friends on the coast so were out all day and only got in at 9.30) I was tired and feeling rough. I’d been planning this ride for a while though (4 years, I suppose) and as I was sitting there with DS, trying to keep him entertained and quiet, I decided just to look up the registration time and see how feasible it was for everyone to come along, as planned. The whole idea was that we’d all go to the lake then I’d go off on the ride for as long as it took while James hung about in the park with DS and DD. That way there was no rushing around.

I checked the schedule online. This being a French event it took me nearly half an hour to find these useful details, which meant that if I was going to get there when registration opened I only had another 30 minutes. Was I, wasn’t I? Fuck it – yes, I was.

I called up the stairs to announce that I needed to leave in 20 minutes for the ride and that I assumed everyone would be staying put. Yes, James confirmed (still in bed, you see) , they wouldn’t be coming along. After a mad dash to get ready, ignoring James’s passive-aggressive appeals to make me stay (he had a cold), my bike was loaded into the car and I was off. Brilliant! I probably could have stayed a while longer and left in less of a rush but this was the first event I’d ridden in France and I wasn’t sure how it worked, with registration, start times, etc and I didn’t want to be late!

Arriving at the park it was very exciting to see that the car park was already full. Obviously lots of people had already set off! I headed to the registration tent clutching my fee (11 euros), excited about the whole thing. Registration was easy enough – just my name, address, age, etc. – then I was handed the laminated event card (it wasn’t a race, so no numbers) and some cable ties for my bike and two tokens: one for my free beaker and another for food. I wasn’t really sure what to do with that so just put it safely away.

Mountain bikers getting ready for to ride at Lake Bertrand in Quillan
Me & DB (my bike) ready for the 15km loop

The start times were staggered so that those riding the longest distances set off first. The ride I was on, 15km, was the shortest and therefore the last lot to set off before the route was signed over to the walkers. There were lots of people, mostly blokes, riding big full sussers with body armour on. What was I letting myself in for? Apparently nothing because as it turned out the average age for the riders on the 15km loop was about 15.

I waited a while, helped myself to a couple of free coffees (very civilised), smiled at a few of the women who were also hanging around, so I assumed were also waiting for the 15km start time, then, after seeing a group riders set off in the direction of the short route, decided to set off too.

Uphill, of course. After a while I caught up with a group of what looked to be club riders; two adults with a group of young kids, mostly boys. I think there was one girl amongst them. They were regrouping at the top of a climb so I “bonjoured” them and then carried on past. Next I caught up with another group: two women riding with three boys, I presume their sons. One was at the top of a descent, looking down it, and said, I think, “attention” to the other woman, which was cue for me to let go of the brakes and fly down as fast as I could. Pure fun.

On the other side the two older boys caught me up and overtook. And that’s pretty much how the rest of the ride went. It was one long dosie-do between me and these two kids. The only people to overtake me for the rest of the ride were two adults on ebikes, which really pissed me off. I get it, but they’d better not be on Strava because I overtook them on a descent (they were mincing down on foot while I bombed down by the seat of my pants) then they came gliding by on a climb shortly after. Fuck that.

The route itself was nice but definitely mostly uphill. It used some waymarked VTT trails as well as some tracks through private land, which is why I can’t share the GPS trace, unfortunately. There were a few nice decents (3?) and one quite hairy one that will be rideable now I’ve had chance to get a good look at it. The nice thing was it ended with a long, swooping descent on some single track all the way from the hill overlooking the lake to the bottom, with a couple of drop offs. It’s shame that that section is one of the ones on private land though, so unlikely rideable outside of this event.

After the ride, well, the registration tent had been transformed into a buffet station. Awesome. I tried to hand in my token, thinking that was needed for the food but no, that was for the sausages sarnies and beer, that they were just getting ready. I tucked into fruit, cheese, bread, pate (all the usual French nibbles!) had a good guzzle of some squash and another coffee then headed back. I had been gone nearly three hours so my time was up.

Unfortunately, because it was a head down and ride type of ride and I was on my own I didn’t stop for pictures, so there’s only the one from the start.

Next year I’ll be riding the 30km and making sure that James and Co. meet me afterwards so I don’t have to squander my beer & food token. It was a really well-organised event!

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Another Side Project: What’s On?

It’s Easter. In the UK this means a long 4-day weekend and the start of the school holidays. In France it means a long weekend (3-day) and the start of many activities, with the school holidays coming later.

There really is an awakening this weekend. There are so many activities on but as myself and others have noticed, finding out about any of them is near on impossible unless you either know someone who is going and who passes the information onto you or you happen upon a poster pinned on a tree, a post, or outside a local mairie’s office. And so the side project is to set up a Facebook group and website that will enable us to share information about the many great family-friendly activities in the area. I have a couple of motivated friends so now all we need is to carve out time to make it happen. Watch this space!

Until that’s up and running I wanted to make sure the full list of everything going on this Easter weekend (that I know about anyway) is all in one place. So here’s a post about it.

Friday 30th March / Vendredi 30éme Mars

16h-20h Mask-making Workshop / Atelier Masques – Puivert 11230

In advance of the Bal Mâsque event tomorrow, the second mask-making workshop is on in the afternoon. Everything supplied free of charge. See below (Samedi 31eme á 16h) for the details. See also pics of the 2016 event on the MJC website.

Saturday 31st March / Samedi 31éme Mars 

10h “Vibes” info here – Chez Adeline & Yoan, Puivert 11230

10h á 17h Big Air Session – Monts d’Olmes, Montferrier 09300

For bigger kids who like chucking themselves around in the snow, there’s an airbag up at Monts D’Olmes all day. Free of charge – just pay for your lift pass (it looks like it’s in the park so not accessible from the lower slopes. More info on the Monts D’Olmes website.

15h Fundraiser for the Twilight Dog’s Home – Moulin de L’evêque, Rivel 11230

There’s nothing on their Facebook or web pages but the signs are on the streets and I know a few people are going along, so it’s definitely on.

18h á 22h Bal Masqué, salle de la Mairie – Puivert 11230

Sunday April 1st (Easter Sunday) / Dimânche 1ere Avril (Jour de Pâques)

14h a 18h Easter Carnival / Kermesse Déguisée de Pâques – Quillan 11500

Date/time info (and description, in French) on the Facebook page.

Monday April 2nd (Easter Monday) / Lundi 2éme Avril (Lundi de Pâques)

11h Easter Egg Hunt / Pâques chasse aux oeufs gratuit – Les arpents verts Km 14, Belvèze-du-Razès 11240

An Easter egg hunt, followed by petanque competition – buvette on site. Advertised as a family event.

See the full event details on Facebook.

12h Omelette de Pâques – au Lac á Puivert 11230

Details of this one are to be confirmed (keep an eye on the MJC Facebook page) but it’s a French tradition to meet on the Monday, a public holiday, and cook/share omelettes. No chocolate eggs here!

Other Events

27th March to 2nd April / 27éme Mars á 2éme Avril – Escale á Sete 34200

Further afield (Sete) but it looks like a very nice event for anyone into boats! Info on the Escale á Sete website.

And that’s not all. I’ll update this post when I have more info.