The French Summer Olympics

18 Aug

By Guest Blogger, Stuart Elliott

It’s a mystery why the French do not perform better at the summer Olympics. On our drive from Piedmont in north east Italy to the small French alpine village of Venosc we participated in, or witnessed, the lot.

High up on the border between Italy and France they were holding a week-long cycling festival. They were doing it all; road cycling at break neck speed down mountain passes through ski villages, (it was all we could do to keep up with them in our car), mountain biking amongst gently undulating scenery and most impressive of all, downhill biking where ski lifts and ski pistes are used by people who look like they do Martian landings in their spare time. The trails are all graded as they are in winter with green being easy and black the most technical/terrifying.

The ski lifts are open for the summer season of six weeks and cost only a fraction of the winter forfait but then there are only a limited number operating. The bikes swing off the back of the chair lifts. Looks great fun – anybody interested?

All the ski trails are available for walking, and although I would never have said this 10 years ago, hiking up the mountain on a glorious summer day for a picnic lunch by a mountain stream is almost as enjoyable as skiing itself. Well not really, but most enjoyable and rewarding.

I hear the next summer Olympics includes golf. Many of the French alpine resorts have this covered too, provided you don’t mind slogging around fairly undulating terrain, or should that be fairways.

We stopped for our picnic lunch, which featured a nice Rose de Provence, our latest summertime drink of preference, at Montgenevre, where we first skied together a number of decades ago (that number being greater than 3). On our descent from our picnic spot at nearly 2000 metres we were invited to participate in swimming activities, as well as the more recent Olympic event of tennis.

Down the valley, on our way to the real man’s, or should that be person’s, resort of La Grave, where they don’t do groomed ski trails, only off piste stuff mainly in the glacier straight up from the village, and where in summer you’re persona non grata if you don’t parade around in climbing boots and a rope swung jauntily over your shoulder, we passed people horse riding, white water rafting, kayaking, parapenting and sailing. And if you are really desperate you can summer ski on the ever receding glacier, but I digress from the summer Olympics….

As for running well that’s all a bit like hard work for too little reward for the French but there’s plenty of throwing in the form of boules, and if ever there is a disagreement, possibly after consuming one too many Pernods, I guess you might see some boxing or other form of martial arts.

So with all events covered on their doorstep why don’t the French dominate the summer Olympics? Perhaps they’re just too busy enjoying life. Puts me in mind of Dylan Moran’s take on the French which portrays them smoking, drinking, painting and making love most of the time.

Next time around I’ll put in a request to be born French. Who knows, if I don’t drink too much Rose I might turn the fortunes of the French Olympic team around and win them a few medals.

PS Stuart omitted the strangest of all the sports we witnessed. Cycling on a trail by the stream in Allemont we were held up by a temporary barrier. A very fit woman came running towards us shouting ‘Can you see them coming?’.

We hadn’t a clue who was coming! Next minute we heard barking and several children tied to their pet dogs sprinted past. We’d stumbled into canicross championship!

It was all very serious stuff. Bringing up the rear were a father and limping, distressed son. Apparently another dog had had a go at his dog during the race and the boy was pulled over, hurting his leg. Can’t see canicross making it into the Olympics can you? But since women’s boxing got in anything is possible!

Special shout out to our wonderful second time hosts, team Chalet Michelle. They are the blue and white cycling duo of Michelle and Bryan, photographed here before their successful ascents and descents of Cols Lauteret and Galibier!

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