To kick off our Sim’s Greatest Rides section, we have gone to the Loire valley in France.
I was up in Central France recently for a couple races. The weather was nice and sunny, and the day following the race I decided to go out for a little “discovery” ride. Leaving the town of Chateauroux I headed out North on a relatively big road. Chateauroux is right in the center of France in the Indre department, and is also the finish of stage 5 of the 2008 Tour de France.
The Monday I did this ride was a national holiday here in France, so the roads were quiet as I meandered through the lush green countryside in the direction of Levroux. The immediate area around Chateauroux is pretty flat. Belgium is probably flatter, but Chateauroux ranks up there among some of the flattest places I have ridden.
Now I must admit, I’m not a big fan of flat areas. In fact I can think of nothing more boring than riding around on a billiard table. However the agricultural area of Chateauroux and its quaint little villages offer some much appreciated distractions. In all fairness, it really isn’t very long before you get into some beautiful rolling terrain that is great for riders of all levels and abilities. One advantage of the generally flat countryside is that you can see the top of the chateaus and church steeples on the horizon long before riding past them.
As the road undulated past bright yellow fields of rape seed crops and past sleepy tractors chugging away working the land, the Collegiale Saint Sylvain church in Levroux beckoned from the slowly approaching horizon. As you enter the town of Levroux and zip through it’s peaceful narrow roads, what actually grabs your attention more than the church are the ruins of the Chateaux des Seigneurs de Levroux, which sits in demolished pride atop a local hillock (probably considered a mountain by the locals).
The road takes you past the base of the Chateaux des Seigneurs de Levroux and rises uphill out of the town and through a small wooded area. Country lanes and tracks disappear into the trees, no doubt heading to one of the area’s many lakes where families pick-nick or spend the day peacefully fishing. Carry on a little further (22km further to be exact) down this pleasant rolling road and you end up face to face with the stunning Chateau de Valencay, one of THE Chateaux de la Loire.
Having had a good look around the humungous 16th century construction, I headed back in the general direction of Chateauroux. As I was rolling down the road, I suddenly saw a tourist sign announcing “Circuit Chateaux et Pyramides” pointing right. I saw the sign at the last minute, and without hesitation I lent the bike over and shot off onto the tiny country road.
I had absolutely no idea where I was going, but I couldn’t say no to seeing more Chateaus now could I? And to be honest, I was pretty curious to find out what the heck these so called “Pyramids” were all about. Besides, lets face it, getting lost is one of the beauties of cycling; one of the fundamental pleasure associated with a bike… it’s all about freedom. What better way to spend a day but riding around an unknown part of the world, with no preset destination or time restraint? What better way to spend your life is than getting totally lost on the bike and discovering places you would never come across normally?
Our man Sim strikes a suitable self portrait with a typical backdrop.
This tiny road took me up some much appreciated hills, through tiny hamlets, through the middle of wide open and deafeningly quiet farm-yards and over hills with stunning rolling views of the entire area. As the road nipped in and out of small local woodlands, the mixed yellows and greens of the local crops filled my eyes with rich, saturated natural color. I’m glad there was no one around to see me ride past these quiet and mostly unknown little chateaus as I’m pretty sure I was riding along with the stupidest grin you have seen outside of a bad comedy sketch. In my entire 25 odd kilometers following the Circuit Chateaux et Pyramides, I saw a total of… lets see… ZERO cars!
I rode past endless chateaus, some of which I wasn’t too sure if they were really chateaus or just old tumbled down farm houses. The better maintained one were either chateaus or big luxurious houses. What did stump me a little however, was the lack of Pyramids. You’d think a Pyramid would stick out like a saw thumb in the middle of the flatlands of the Indre department of France. Yet I failed to see anything even vaguely Pyramid-like.
I figured they must have been a little further along the Circuit than I was prepared to go on the day. Oh well, maybe another time. Once I came to the town of Villegongis, having no idea where that was in relation to Chateauroux, I figured it was about time I headed left and hoped I’d come across a sign pointing me back in the direction of home. It wasn’t long before I was on the main road I had come out on earlier in the day. And before I knew it I was back home with a pleasant 100km in the legs and I ready to sit down to a good French lunch!
But before any kind of lunch could be prepared, there was still one very pressing matter to sort out. What on earth is the story with these illusive Pyramids in the middle of France. A little research eventually told me I was actually much closer to them than I realized. My stomach was actually more in the know than I.
As my stomach grumbled for its much anticipated lunch, my eyes finally came across the info I was looking for online… Pyramids! The Pyramids are actually a local speciality; a goat’s cheese in the shape of a pyramid. I should have known! After all we are in France, and what in France is more important than food? Wine, you say? The sport of cycling? Although they are very close seconds, food is still “numero un”!
So, if you ever find yourself in the Indre department of France, why not tuck-in to a Circuit des Chateaux et Pyramides?
A la prochaine, et bonne apetit!