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Tour de France: world’s biggest bicycle race comes to Brittany

Posted by Jonathan Broom on 8 March 2018
Related property: Manoir Du Hilguy
Tour de France: world’s biggest bicycle race comes to Brittany

France has always been friendly to cyclists – and Brittany, in the north-west, is arguably a friendlier region than most. Both walkers and cyclists welcome the fact that the area is relatively flat; the hinterland is rich in wildlife; and there’s a profusion of sandy beaches and rocky coves to visit, by bike or by car – offering fantastic opportunities for surfing, swimming, picnicking or just taking a stroll along the shore.

But lucky cycling fans holidaying at château Le Manoir du Hilguy in early to mid-July and keen to see the best of the best and/or give themselves a mighty inferiority complex are in for a treat: the 105th Tour de France, the world’s blue-riband bicycle race, passes close to Le Manoir on Wednesday 11th July, and indeed the étape (or stage), number 5, finishes in the beautiful small cathedral city of Quimper, just 18 kms away.

One hundred and seventy-six professional cyclists, riding 3,329 kms over 22 days, in all weathers. Gruelling hill climbs. Dangerously fast descents. Intense competition all the way. To complete the Tour de France, surely one of the toughest races on earth, takes a superhuman effort, and it is perhaps little wonder that the event attracts controversy, with competitors seeking to give themselves an edge – by fair means or, occasionally, foul. But that is a cynic’s view; to most fans, the race is a brilliant spectacle – not far short of 200 riders, working for themselves and their teams, a riot of colour and speed.

What’s more, the 203-km Lorient-to-Quimper étape occurs early in the Tour – which means the cyclists will be at their freshest.

Winning the event for the fourth time last year, Britain’s Chris Froome of Team Sky aims to make it a fifth victory in 2018; though there are questions as to his fitness and, for want of a better word, ‘cleanliness’. But so stringent has drug-testing (quite rightly) become that one is tempted to give him the benefit of the doubt; anyone trying to cheat clearly needs his head examined – and Froome seems far from crazy!

To be a professional cyclist, especially in an event as arduous as this one, takes dedication. Once the riders have finished their day’s work they will retire to a healthy (and perhaps teensy bit dull) meal of salad, meat or fish, carbohydrates and fruit, and thence to bed before doing it all again the next day. (Incidentally, the sixth étape, on Thursday 12th July, goes from Brest – not so far from Le Manoir – to Mûr de Bretagne, 181 kms: cycling superfans could get to see the start of that stage, as well as the finish in Quimper the day before.)

But you’re under no such obligation! After you’ve applauded the riders home, Quimper is yours to explore – a job best done on foot; it’s small, but perfectly formed. Admire the mix of modern and medieval architecture. Visit the cathedral. Stroll along the boulevards that run along both banks of the pretty River Odet, and stop in at one – or more – of the many bars and restaurants that line the route. And reflect on an afternoon of high-octane excitement and world-class entertainment.

Jonathan Broom

Jonathan Broom

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