No one appreciates stubborn grit more than a cyclist, but some things have limits. The Catholic Saint Laurent was sentenced to death in the 3rd century AD by the Roman emperor. Considered a protector of the poor and down on their luck, he is also the unofficial patron of gallows humor. As he was burned alive he is famous for having yelled “Turn me over, I’m done!” In the south of France, local villages have been celebrating his patronage since the middle ages, always on the 10th of August.
In the last few years, Chalet has made a habit of visiting one of these villages, staying with an old friend. We were immediate fans of the festival, which has everything you need in a party: toe curling wine, fresh baked pizza and a bunch of french dudes arguing with little kids over Petanque. There is also a “tournament” on the much loved but extremely precarious mountain-slope soccer field and a late night dance party featuring a 1980s cover band and some extremely limber French grandparents. The village happens to sit in the path of some of the most famous alpine climbs the Tour De France has to offer. Two years back, Chalet suggested to some of the younger members of the village that the festival might be missing a bike race - thus the “Tour de Saint Laurent” was born.
While professional races bring the strongest cyclists in the world to these same roads and climbs, our “tour” is an entirely different animal. The closest thing to pre race training over the last week had involved several boxes of wine. Our would-be racers show up on old steel bikes and the rag tag group of diehards leave the village with little knowledge of the course other than a well founded assumption that it is likely to be entirely too ambitious, which it always is.
When someone asked us for photos of the race we responded “That would ruin its purity”. Complete bullshit. The truth is, after two weeks of extra servings of pate, sausage and cheese no one is brave enough to bear the extra weight of a wallet let alone a camera.
We returned for the second edition of the race this year, and were happy to see that not much had changed. We rode through cobblestone villages, puked at the top of the Col d’Eze and wobbled down a scrotum shrinking descent back to the old wooden bridge that marks the finish. There isn’t a podium for the winner, but there is pizza… and the fact that we don’t have to do that again for a whole year.