by Tommy Campbell
Want to go cycling? Well, Irish Cycling News went in search of none other than Pat McQuaid of international cycling fame. We were reliably informed that there would a welcome at his latest acquisition in the South of France. Normally, our paths would cross at the training camp of the AN POST/Sean Kelly camp in Calpe.
So, you have started training for your upcoming cycling season, be it to win major races, to ride as many Sportives as possible or just to be able to hammer your colleagues out on a weekend spin!
You have to force yourself out with those extra layers, gloves and overshoes as this indeterminable winter of wind and rain which has been over the top this last couple of months. It is difficult to keep focus on the days and weeks ahead.
Many cyclists these days jump on a plane and head to sunnier climes for a week or two to get some solid miles in! Looking for that little advantage, be it Spain, Italy, France and the Canary Islands.
IrishCyclingNews recently spoke to none other than Pat McQuaid, a man who reached the very top in world cycling.
About cycling in Provence, the south of France and what it has to offer. Pat lives in a little French village in Provence called Correns, known for the fact that it was the first Bio village in France and also for the fact that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie own a €60m winery just outside the village ! (Nice to have neighbours!)
ICN. So what brought you here ?
PM. Well following my hectic life as a cycling administrator, in particular the stressful years and worldwide travel as UCI President. I wanted to find somewhere interesting to live where life is very relaxed with a slow pace and which was suitable for me to go out regularly on my bike, with of course a guarantee of sunshine.
Along with my wife Aileen, we spent a year searching for something suitable all across the south of France and eventually decided on Provence Vert, which translates to Green Provence.
Unlike the Luberon in western Provence which is very open and covered in sun burnt land Provence Vert is covered in trees and forests which shade the land from the hot summer sun. Where we are is also known as the ‘Arriere Pays’ or ‘back country’ as it is inland from the coast. The glitzy resorts of Cannes and St Tropez on the Mediterranean coast are only an hour away. However being inland means we are free from the heavy summer tourist traffic which the coast gets.
ICN. And is your area good for cycling.
Absolutely. When you go for a spin here, you travel through forest, vines or olive groves. The roads are undulating with no major climbs. If you wanted to find a major climb Mont Ventoux is a 90 minute drive away. However around here, it is possible to do short, medium and long spins on roads which are never flat and at the end of your day you know you have been out on your bike. There are also lots of interesting sleepy towns and villages for the obligatory stop for food or just coffee. So it really suits all sorts of cyclists from the tourist to the competitive.
ICN. Is there much competition in the region.
Yes there is a full calendar of events in this region. In particular in the early part of the year as many French professional teams and indeed foreign clubs come here for training camps a very full calendar of events takes place. On the Pro side it begins with the Tour de la Provence Feb.8th-11th followed by Tour du Haut Var Feb.17th-18th, now in its 50th year. At club level we have a week of racing starting with 2 one day races, Brignoles and Carces Feb.10th & 11th followed immediately by the 3 day Les Boucles du Haut Var. So February is quite an active period, taking advantage of all the cyclists in the area.
ICN. And the weather ?
February is variable and can be anything between 12 to 18 degrees. It starts warming up in March and from then to late June, as well as September and October, are probably the best for cycling in the region. Most of that time it is shorts and 2 layers.
ICN. So! Tell us what is your offering ?
PM. We bought a sprawling property called La Bastide de Correns which we renovated to include not alone our own residence but also a 2 bedroomed, fully furnished Gite which has its own kitchen, lounge, sun terraces etc along with two adjoining studios, each with 2 bedrooms. It is located just 800 metres from the village in a haven of peace and tranquility. Whilst it is self-catering if there was a requirement for meals to be provided this can be organised. There is also a good restaurant in the village plus many in the hinterland.
ICN. And to get there ?
PM. we are more or less equally divided by Nice and Marseille airport, both of which are about 90 minutes away
ICN So you are keeping yourself busy !
PM Well the months of June, July and August are practically booked out, as they were last year. The whole of the south of France is a tourist mecca and in the high season you can see from the registrations of the vehicles on the road that the visitors are truly international – Belgian, Dutch, Scandinavian, British and even Irish. Add to that those from all other parts of the world who fly to the area and hire cars and you can see it is truly international. You can also understand why not just the heat but also the traffic circulation can make cycling unpleasant in those months. However by getting out early you can get a good spin in and enjoy the warm temperatures.
So to answer your question – yes I am keeping myself busy.
ICN. So how can you be contacted for further information.
PM. We are on Facebook – La Bastide de Correns or,
by email direct:- [email protected]
ICN. Thank you very much Pat. It’s good to see you are still at the service of Irish cycling !