The International Tandem Rally 2019

A week in Marciac at the International Tandem Rally

After six nights in Toulouse we loaded up the Pino and headed for the airport. Finding a cycle route to reach it wasn’t the easiest task. We ended up on the wrong side of a motorway and there didn’t seem to be a way across it. Eventually I spotted a crossing on the map – indicating it was a cycle path, but when we got there, there were steps! I had seen a road underpass earlier, so we doubled back and went through there.

Not really feasible with the loaded bike and trailer. We doubled back to an underpass and used that. Not sure if cyclists were allowed through but it seemed the only alternative.

At the airport I left Karon with the bike out of sight of the Avis office. I didn’t want them to see me trying to cram everything into their brand-new Ford Kuga. Once I had the car, I moved it to a spot hidden from the office then went and found Karon and the bike. I dropped the rear seats and covered it all with our tarpaulin then by removing the front boom, we managed to get everything in.

It was only about 50 miles to drive to the ITR campsite but the rolling hills confirmed that hiring the car, and not trying to cycle it was the right decision, especially with the continuing heat.
Our cabin for the week, with the hire car.
Rides through the week took us to Maubourguet, Plaisance, Bassoues and Tillac. The rivers tended to run from south to north, or roughly that way, so riding east-west meant more ridges.
First morning (Sunday) and everyone gathers for a photo before heading out for the day.
Mini the Minx and Desperate Dan with the unburdened Pino, ready for the Sunday ride.
Outside the bakery in Marciac.
Atop the first lump of the day.
At Plaisance there was a festival or fete taking place.
A large group pass. The rides are not led, but people usually team up with friends or meet on the road and stick together.
Approaching the campsite.
Day 2 at the top of another climb. Actually, I think we turned the corner and it went up again…
There were some lovely views over the surrounding countryside.
Heading back towards Marciac. In the evenings, there was the campsite bar to frequent and as well as a welcome drink and introduction we had a quiz night and BBQ.
Marciac Market.
Tillac was very quaint and perfect for sketching. We’d ridden there with another tandem couple but decided to revisit on our own so we could sketch.
On the Wednesday we had a trip to a local vineyard – Saint Mont
Marciac from near the campsite.
Out with another tandem – the all important coffee stop.
Equally important picnic, if there are no nice eateries around.
Karon says hello to D’Artagnan. The fictional character was born in Lupiac. We had decided to drive to some of the outlying villages this day.
In Bassoues, at a recommended lunch stop.
In the hills above Marciac.

At the end of the rally, on the Friday evening, we had a big BBQ party in the outbuilding by the campsite. On the Saturday we all started going our separate ways. Karon and I loaded the car again and drove to the north coast via Bordeaux and a nice little B&B at a place called La Chapelle Saint Laurent. It was out in the sticks and run by an English couple, with the chap being a very good chef. We stopped again at a hotel in Laval then reached the coast at Luc sur Mer, not far from the ferry port. We had about four nights here before our ferry, so the next day I took the Pino in the back of the car to drop the car off at Caen Airport, then I rode the bike back to our hotel. We spend the next few days exploring the coast and heading inland to Caen to see the castle and Bayeux where we went to look at the tapestry.

Chez Jasmin, La Chapelle Saint Laurent.
Karon inspecting a Sherman on the Normandy coast: M4A4(75) Sherman Duplex Drive Juno Beach Memorial tank in Courseulles-sur-Mer, Normandy. This type of Sherman was fitted with a big canvas screen attached to the metal skirt that is visible around the tank, above the tracks. The canvas skirt was supported and allowed the tank to ‘swim’ to the shore from a landing craft by way of two propellers at the rear of the tank. Once ashore the skirt could be dropped and the tank would operate as normal. During the landings, the sea was rough, and many of these tanks were overwhelmed and sank. The British swam from closer in shore and many made it, but the Americans cast off the tanks further out and most were lost. This Sherman DD was used by the Canadian 6th Armoured Regiment but it too sank.
27 years after D-Day, the tank was recovered from the sea.
The Churchill AVRE “One Charlie” on display at Graye-sur-Mer was part of 26 Assault Squadron, 79th Armoured Division. The squadron was commanded by (then) Major Tony Younger and the story of One Charlie can be found in his memoir “Blowing Our Bridges”. The tank was hit as it tried to cross a flooded area behind the dunes, three of the crew (Lance Serjeant Ashton and Sappers Manley en Battson) were killed after bailing out and the surviving two were badly wounded. The tank blocked the beach exit and was pushed into the water, then used to support a girder bridge for other tanks and infantry to cross the waters. The Tommies called this “Pont AVRE”. The tank was buried after D-Day and all but forgotten until it was dug up and restored by French engineers in the 1970”s.
Bayeux. We had some lunch after cycling here then went off to find the tapestry.
The Normandy Beaches near Luc-sur-Mer where we stayed.
“Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers” was a Churchill III or IV tank equipped with the 290 mm Petard Spigot mortar. It’s projectile was nicknamed “Flying dustbin”, because of it’s unaerodynamic characteristics, weighing about 18 kg. The mortar could fire the projectile with its 28 pound high explosive warhead over a distance of around a 100 meters. The weapon was used for the quick leveling and breaching of bunkers and fortifications. The tank was placed here in commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings in June 2009. A 180 of these specially designed AVRE’s tanks took part in the invasion in 1944.
Caen from the castle walls.
Waiting for our late night ferry back to Portsmouth.
Back in England and a coffee stop at Wickham. From here we took the Meon Valley cycle track which got us further north without having to tackle so many hills.
At West Tisted, near our overnight stop.
Crossing the Watercress Line.
Our final lunchtime stop, at the Fox at Ellisfield, not far from Basingstoke.
Home. The grass had grown just a bit. It was just over two months that we had been away.

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