From Perpignan, it's a 13-hour journey back home. Just too long for me to ride in 1x, especially after the 170 kilometers of the 66 Degr Sud in my legs. Just below the half way point, (5 hours from Perpignan and 8 hours from my home) lies Langieu. A small, beautifully situated town between Lyon and Geneva. Nice and free directly on the highway and the starting point of the gran fondp Raid du Bugey! The ideal 'resting place' therefore.
Since I really like to ride small, local sportives, I also want to have a look at a small and unknown gran fondo of a local organizer. The Raid du Bugey completely fits that profile, because neither this gran fondo nor Langieu I have ever heard of. 125 kilometers is also not too crazy much and the 2200 meters of climbing never get really steep.
A plus is that the revenues go entirely to charity (cancer research in this case). Arriving at the start it appears that my expectations are immediately in the trash. I had honestly thought of an atmosphere and level as say the Amstel Gold Race. But that is not at all the case, there are cycling clubs from every village in the area present. Soigneurs, equipment vans, participants already warming up on the rollers and the others are fanatically warming up on the straight road in front of me.
Not surprising after all, when I ask CycloWorld founder and France expert Rob Thierig:
"In France, gran fondos are serious competitions. Also the smaller or lesser known events to us."
Our new admin Pieter has the same experience: "In all the smaller French gran fondos, there is hard racing. But those are actually the best, also organizationally. Last year we rode La Bisou from Bourg-en-Bresse, it was also super organized."
The second mistake I made was - after collecting my starting documents - not to take the warm-ups around me as a hint, but to find a nice spot in the sun. Although it promised to be a beautiful day, it was simply cold in the wind and shade. In the starting area, I was able to wake up out of the wind and in the sun. I would use the first mountain as a warm-up.
My mistake was quickly proven after the start. The first 1.5 kilometers we rode neutralized to the foot of the climb (12 kilometers at 5.3% average). Once at the front of the bunch, the gap with the first 30 riders was already growing. I never saw them again. After a furious descent directly followed by the 2nd big climb of the day (actually a collection of climbs with a total of 17.5 km at an average of 3%) I was in the second big group. I spent the rest of the ride happily drifting along in this group. I was able to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. The really good organization. The sometimes hilarious team play that the local associations tried to play, also for place 45. And I had enough left over to escape on the last climb of the day (just over 4 kilometers at just over 4%) with two very old local Frenchmen.
I was very satisfied and finished 49th out of 182 participants. There was also a smaller loop with over 100 participants. All together to eat in the sports hall (excellent recovery meal!), music, prize ceremony and a wonderful amount of money raised for charity. Really a great morning! So if you're on vacation in France, then it is more than worth it to calender just look at the map if there is not a cycle to do ... more than worth it!