Taming the Beast

I wasn’t planning to post again until after I reached Scotland, but I had a great few days (only lacking great weather) and wanted to write it down so I can be sure not to forget them.

After going over the Pyrenees one of my first thoughts was “I wonder if I still have time to get the Mont Ventoux?”  I mapped it out, counted the days and decided that I could make it if I rode ~120km a day, rain or shine. So, I found a place to stay for one night just west of Toulouse in the Gers region of France for the first stop on the way to Ventoux.

The Gers is part of what historically was considered Gascogne. It’s an agricultural area primarily, and is rather sparsely populated. The hills and valleys are verdant green with hints of golden brown as the wheat starts to turn. The roads are narrow with no lane markings, but in good condition and very lightly travelled. There are a few small vinyards here and there, but Gers isn’t reeeally “wine country”. Areas in the north, east and west of Gascogne certainly are wine regions, and they are delicious, but where I set myself down isn’t.


The wheat is just starting to turn golden.

Within a few moments of arriving; Jane, one of the couple that owns the gites, greeted me with a warm smile and showed me to my place. She had set out (or put in the fridge) an assortment of fruit, crackers, cheese, bread, butter, eggs, milk, coffee, and most important of all a BEER. A wonderful thirst quenching and appetite raising beer. She also invited me to dinner and offered to drive me to the village to go to a supermarket if I’d like. I accepted the offer for dinner but declined the supermarket for the day. After that she left me to do as I please until dinner time.

By the time I had eaten a snack, had a coffee, showered, took a short walk and had the beer I had already decided that I wanted to stay longer. The gite had a small kitchen with a gas stove and oven and I was dying to cook real food for the first time in nearly 2 months.

The gite and surrounding property was such a relaxing place where I immediately felt comfortable. Every thought of Mont Ventoux disappeared that evening as I enjoyed dinner with Jane and Murray. I concluded the evening by asking about staying there for 2 more nights which they were happy to allow.

My little gite is just to the left of this pic. On it’s own, not part of the big house.

The next morning Murray drove me to a market and we chatted about what brought an Australian first to London where he met Jane, and then to France. After we returned I took a short ride to Mirande and spent a lazy evening cooking and doing nothing.

My final day there was even more lazy as I sat inside reading and watching Deadpool. In the evening Murray and I sat outside and had a few beers while we talked for a few hours and settled the bill. Then I went to bed one last time in the little gite. I hope to see them again. I had a spectacular stay.

The next morning, as I rode along the quiet little roads heading north through Auch, then cutting across to go through Condom (because, you know…it’s funny in a childish way), and on towards Agen I was thinking about why my decision to skip Mont Ventoux didn’t upset me even a little. The answer was all around me. I realized that as it turns out, for many,  myself included, the dream is really just to be in France riding a bike along tranquil roads that are made famous year after year by the Tour. Ventoux is definitely something I would like to do, but let’s be honest, in the end it’s just another big mountain to climb. Historically important to cycling? Yes. But, I’ve climbed big mountains. I’ve climbed historically important mountains. There is no doubt in my mind that I’d make it up Ventoux like I’ve done with every mountain I’ve attempted. It would just be another checkmark on the list of things I could brag about having done. However, spending time with Jane and Murray in the solitude of Lagarde-Hachan and feeling just that little bit more calm and peaceful now than I did before is something that made a true difference to me and can’t be found on any checklist in the world.


“Beaux Village” is right! The chateau is incredible and the surrounding area is just stunning.

Three more things:
1) Jane and Murray are lucky enough to be less than 6 km from the KOM point for the final stage (a circuit race) of the Route du Sud. That’s a warmup race used by the GC for the Tour de France (Quintana will be there…). The start/finish town is a mere 8 km from their front door… June 19th. Wonder if I can make it back for that? If you are in the area at that time, look up Aou Carde on the internet or booking.com. It’s the perfect place to be and Murray loves cycling.


The gite I was in is just off the bottom of the picture on the road going south out of Moncassin.


Clermont-Pouyguilles is a pretty little town near my gite which will host a stage of the Route du Sud. The KOM is just up the hills to the left of the picture at Moncassin.

2) By going to Agen I happened to stumble onto a portion of a popular Atlantic-to-Mediterranean bike path. I rode the first 65 km of today’s ride along a dead flat canal away from any traffic. If you are interested, you can ride from Bordeaux to Toulouse and then pick up another path to the Mediterranean coast more or less without ever going on any busy roads. You can also do it by boat through the locks… like the weenies do.


The bike path follows this canal, Canal lateral a la Garrone, more or less to Bordeaux. In reality I think you have to pick up another bike path to go to Bordeaux, but this is close to a 200km bike path. Not shabby.

3) By picking a quiet place to stay in the middle-of-nowhere France for tonight I got to ride through the Dordogne wine region, as well as many others, and happened to come across a few wineries that were open for tastings. I stopped 😉

Also, one of the men at dinner tonight, at this place in the middle of nowhere (B&B La Ferme Aux Fleurs), has been a driver for the Tour de France 6 times. He had some good stories, even though I was getting them through the ever helpful translation of our hosts.

Good times come from the most random decisions.

Vive la France!


Published by: Andrew Monfort

I am a former engineer who decided to follow my dreams. After 9 years of working as a process engineer in the oil & gas production and refining industries, I decided to follow my passions (cycling and travel) to see where they lead.


2 thoughts on “Taming the Beast”

  1. Sounds great Andrew. I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself. I just recently took a vacation to the lake and come back dissappointed because I didnt take the time to try something new. Oh well, Lord willing, there will be many more opportunities and I shall try new things!


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