Tour Hivernal, almost halfway

19.2.2015 10.14.10

Étape / Stage 9 - Champagne

Another quickie! 40 km windy ride along the touristic wine route with lots of bubbly names and views that everyone recognises. The ride ended up to Epernay and small village called Ay near it. 

For the travelling Finns Ay is of course something very dear: AY is the company code for Finnair. And when the Finnair planes bank to final approach to the Helsinki Airport on the eastern side of the runways, they do it above a town called Sipoo, or Sibbo in Swedish. So, it was an honour to ride Sibbo in Ay.


Étape / Stage 10 - From Dijon to Beaune via Nuits-Saint-Georges

Next ride had even more wine as it went along one of the best wine regions in the world. Cote d’Or of Burgungy is known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

But the ride started from Dijon, known for it’s mustard, and the bike needed a new bolt. Cobble stones of Roubaix took their tax and the crank fastening screw was missing already in Champagne, making the ride interesting as the crank needed to be fastened several times. Luckily the capable crew of Valandro bike shop fixed it and charged a horrible price of five euros. Merci!

After leaving Dijon, I rode fast on the main national road to Nuits-Saint-Georges, the hub of the wine area, and then down to Beaune. From there I strolled along the wine route that followed the hill, going from village to another with names that make all wine lovers weak: Vougeot, Vosne-Romanée, Gevrey-Chambertin, Fixin, and so on. I resisted tasting but had some local fermented grape juice with my meal after arriving to a hotel around sunset.


Étape / Stage 11 - Alpe d’Huez

After a long drive to mountains, I found myself in winter wonderland in Bourg-d’Oisans just below a Tour de France classic, ski station of Alpe d’Huez. I changed the winter tires, put the heavy clothes on and started the first real climb of this Tour Hivernal.

It WAS cold, but wasn’t any more after some kilometres of peddling. I had to do twice roadside stripping before I managed to go on without excessive sweating. And it was so beautiful! The whole landscape was bathing in streaking sunshine and the temperature in sunshine was very, very nice. 

Mountain riding in this kind of conditions is pure pleasure!


Étape / Stage 12 - Mont Ventoux

After a classic Tour de France mountain it was a time for another Tour classic, the Giant of Provence, Mont Ventoux.

I have been riding up to this almost two kilometres high mountain many times in summer, spring and autumn, but never in winter. Or in fact when staring the ride up, I wanted really to put the word winter in brackets, because the temperature was over 10°C – meaning that in Finnish scale it was like spring or cold summer day.

This time I knew how to dress for the winter ride up to mountains and had some warm, wind stopping clothes in backpack. 

Anyway, there was a winter up in the mountain. The ski station was open and the last part of the road up to the famous observatory tower of Ventoux was closed. And it was not only impossible to ride with narrow tires, but also strictly forbidden because of the danger of avalanches.

The day was again sunny and nice, and the ride was extremely smooth and good. Up to now, Tour Hivernal has been really lucky with the weather as the only rain day was the first one in Bordeaux. And funny enough during the sunny rides in northern France the south was cold and suffered traffic chaos because of snow - snow that now when I’m here in south remains only in the mountains.


Tour Hivernal update #2

12.2.2015 15.36.04

Étape / Stage 6 - From Livarot to Deauville

Next day begun with the first snowy view: during the night it was cold and some snow came down, but the frozen trees and fields to white wonderland made the morning really memorable. Unfortunately by the noon the warm sunshine melted the white stuff and the ride form Livarot via Lisieux and Pont l’Eveque to  Deauville had only some snow visible in places, where Sun didn’t reach. 

Livarot will be departure town of the stage 7 of Tour de France 2015, and the area was already now decorated with bikes and texts welcoming tour to city that is famous for it’s cheese.

As I was in region of Calvados, I popped in to a Chateau Breuil for some chopping, before stopping in Lisieux for remembering 2011, when I was there following the final sprint (tight race btw Edvald Boasson Hagen, Matthew Goss & Thor Hushovd) of the Tour 2011. It was colder and less crowded now.

And then, finally before the sunset, I reached Deauville, famous beach city of Normandy and summer destination of Parisian jetset. It’s also known for the American Film Festival, but I didn’t see any movie stars there – but the famous beach booths named after the stars and directors.


Étape / Stage 7 - Le Havre and Étretat

The ride on the next day started with a friendly greeting to Aki Kaurismäki, Finnish director who did some years ago a beautiful movie in the city that game also a name to this film: Le Havre. In the Kaurismäki world the people are lonely and landscapes realistic, empty and quiet. So the ride started from the port of Le Havre and continued along the coast to Étretat, small village famous for the cliffs like on the other side of the Channel.

Weather was now cloudy with occasional rain, hail and snow – just like it has to be in Kaurismäki movies. Therefore the ride was memorable - especially when I ended down to beach under the cliffs near a German bunker from the 2nd World War.


Étape / Stage 8 - Roubaix

A classic: Paris-Roubaix with the cobble stones. It has to be included in the Tour Hivernal, also because the stages 3 and 4 of this year’s Tour de France will run on the small country roads that shake the fillings our from your teeth. 

No, cobble stones are not nice to ride. No, it wasn’t very clean riding. Yes, it was still worth of riding and I’d like to do it again. And yes, I was really muddy - like the bike - after the 80 km touring in cold winter weather with sunshine and snow showers. 

By the way, long streaks of the traditional Paris-Roubaix route is clearly marked and the area has also other nice cycling routes for short and long rides. Only disadvantage is that signs, usually clear and frequent, miss in some vital places and therefore it’s better to carry a map (or smartphone).


Tour Hivernal is on

12.2.2015 14.09.35

Étape / Stage 1 - Bordeaux

It was a wet start for the Tour Hivernal! After weeks of sunny days in Bordeaux, the sky was grey and water came down almost continuously during the ride from Bordeaux city centre to Sauveterre de Guyane about 50 km away.

An old train line from the sea to the wine area up on the hills has been turned into a bike road, wonderful to ride uphill passing the ancient train stations that serve now as tourist offices, bars or private houses. 

Luckily some holes in clouds gave a little bit of sunshine. The ride ended slightly prematurely because the bike path was being renovated - and even with cyclo-cross capable Sibbo, it was impossible to go on. 

Anyway, the nice ride ended to the Cyvea bike shop - a local Pelago dealer - for the last adjustments to the bike before the tour ”really” started.


Étape / Stage 2 - Ile de Ré

In the summer this island reaching to the Atlantic ocean from La Rochelle is a paradise for the cyclists: nice roads, flat country, sunshine, beaches, little villages and distance up to 30 km from the light house in the furthermost point of the island to the bridge connecting mainland. 

During the winter the island was empty and only some locals were visible with few tourists possibly coming from La Rochelle. But as the roads were all mine and weather was very nice (but quite cold and windy), Ile de Ré can be a very attractive destination also now in February.


Étape / Stage 3 - From Vannes to Plumelec

Next summer the Tour’s first team time trial (stage 8) will take place in Brittany from the city of Vannes to Plumelec, a small village about 30 km uphill from the coast. 

I rode the stage in freezing wind and sunshine, and found out that it is just perfect for time trialing: first the road goes up, then swings up and down, left and right, until it ends with quite long ascent to the finish line. It will be fast and wonderful to follow either on TV or on site.


Étape / Stage 4 - Carnac 

On the 2nd of February, I did two short rides in two Brittany’s top tourist attractions. First was Carnac, prehistoric site with about 3500 stones, menhirs, placed in fields spreading out in the forest for the total length of about four kilometres.

In the summer the fields are closed and stones are visible only from the dedicated observation points, but now I could wander (and ride) around and in the middle of stones almost alone. Amazing, really amazing!

Étape / Stage 5 - Mont Saint-Michel

Mont St-Michel is active also in winter, but much less than in summer. Therefore around the road running from the mainland to the old monastery island was under works, but it was possible to ride along it. It was a low tide and the sea was far away, but it didn’t really matter as now the access road is open also during the high tide. 

I have never been to Mont St-Michel, and even if I was expecting a tourist trap, it was a Disneyland full of Japanese tourists. I did an U-turn and came back. 

By the way, even if it's possible to ride to the island to see very unique views, riding or carrying a bike in the city is very hard. The city has small inclined roads (full of people) and stairs. So, it’s better to lock the bike and leave it outside in the dedicated parking places.