Union des Audax Francais – 200km Audax, Paris March 2012

Having bagged the Union des Audax Francais (UAF) 1000km Centenaire du Tourmalet and a Belgian 300km brevet in 2010 and ridden the Raymond Poulidor 400 and PBP Audax 1200 last year, a L’aigle d’Or Cycliste is within reach. The top UAF cycling award also needs 200 and 600km UAF brevets, along with a second 1000+km brevet. With the prospect of riding the UAF Paris-Londres 1100 brevet in August to celebrate the Olympics and Paralympics, we were only a couple of brevets short of reaching it. Therefore, me and Dave the Bike Butler decided to nip over to France to chase down the missing UAF super series brevets prior to the Olympique ride.

Gerard Maurice was organising a UAF 200km from St Remy les Chevreuse (SW edge of Paris) at the end of March. We knew Gerard from previous UAF brevets and it seemed the ideal ride to head for. Particularly as getting there and back was as simple as hopping the Eurostar to Paris Nord Friday evening after work, then RER to where the brevet started on the Saturday morning.

A little before the depart of 7am, riders were congregating in the station car park and exchanging euros for a brevet card, a route sheet and a seat at lunch. As the number of riders swelled to about 30, we met up with many friends from our previous UAF rides, including Bruno Danielzik, the UAF president.

The peloton set off two by two into a cold and misty dawn. Gerard drove our lead car, defining the route we were to follow at 22.5kph and complying with French road rules that requires a peloton of this size to have a lead car as a safety measure. The first scheduled stop was at Gambais after 56km. After 30 minutes as per the schedule, the peloton formed again with a new set of lead riders and headed for our pre-booked lunch stop at Gilles, 47km along gently undulating roads. On our arrival, our hosts at the restaurant welcomed us and started serving our four course meal, including rose and red wine. Flinging back a quick espresso, the peloton reformed for the next 28km over to Jumeauville. This was a hilly section with the peloton being at the mercy of a large piece of elastic as we climbed. Each time the group spread out too much over a climb and blocked too much traffic, Gerard would stop the peloton in a safe spot so cars could pass and we could regroup.

After a 30 minute stop at Jumeauville, we then rode 47km to the penultimate stop at Cernay. From Cernay it was, for some, a relaxing 21km to St Remy les Chevreuse. For tired members of the peloton it was a little more testing, but with the help and encouragement of stronger riders, everyone made it to the arrivee at 7pm on the dot. It was then time for goodbyes and, for some of us, a chat and drink in a local bar before hopping the RER back to central Paris.

For Dave and I, there followed a relaxing Saturday evening meal in Paris. Sunday morning was easily taken care of by checking out the local eateries, including a traditional French breakfast of coffee and croissants before our Eurostar back to London

Traveling to Paris and back via Eurostar was stress-free as both bikes, my S&S Roberts and Dave’s Moulton both separated and packed into bike bags in well under 20 minutes with their wheels mudguards left on. The lightweight bags folded small enough to easily carry on the bikes. My bike had the added advantage of Wellgo plug in SPD pedals, making packing even quicker.

For anyone who hasn’t ridden a UAF brevet, it is something worth doing, at any distance. Riding in a French peloton is worthwhile, either with the simplest support as in this short brevet or the full-on support of Paris-Brest-Paris Audax with lead and follow cars plus the l’ANEC motards giving the ride a real Tour de France feel. The welcome from the riders and organisers is always warm and even if your French is ‘un petite peu’, entertaining and interesting conversations are soon struck.

For more photos, go to Flickr

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