Cycling through paradise, an Autumn odyssey
We concluded our penultimate cycling tour of 2019 with an absolute gem of a mid-September spectacular. Autumn is my favourite time to cycle in Normandy and if the weather is with you, road riders can hope for nothing finer. Cycling in the September sunshine, up and down the rolling undulations of the Norman Peninsula is always a treat. Come September and with the cycling gods smiling on you with some sun – then, there is nowhere else I would rather be.
This year was the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Landings and it was fitting that our group kicked off their long weekend at Pegasus Bridge where over 3/4s of a century ago a group of young men made their famous contribution to the beginning of the end of the second world war. From here the group cycled along the coast and through the beaches of Sword, Juno and Gold which have all secured their place in history. Onto Bayeux for a brief coffee stop and a walk around the cathedral, we negotiated the cobbled streets of the medieval town before putting in some good miles on the road to St. Lo. We left the main drag and travelled through the 2,000-hectare nature reserve that is the Forêt de Cerisy and put the foot to the pedal in some truly beautiful countryside – a small detour of 15 km or so through the rural woodland of La Manche.
With the sun at our backs, we reached our destination for the evening, the little hamlet of Dangy for some calorie replacement and stay for the night. Those who have not cycled on Normandy’s roads will doubtless be surprised by how smooth and unpitted they are, even when you are seemingly miles from nowhere. Furthermore, they gently undulate and are seldom completely flat, providing riders with a little challenge along the way. But it is the light here that particularly catches the eye and it was easy to see why Claude Monet and other fellow impressionists of the 19th century were so taken with the Norman landscape.
Framed in a bright autumnal glow our riders were blessed with the sights and sounds of endless coastal roads and un-busy roads as we made our way through and past numerous historical points of reference. The really good thing about cycling in September is that there is even less traffic and people at this time of year. Once you throw a little sunshine in you have a cycling paradise that will envelop the soul.
"It was as spectacular a cycle ride as I can remember and I have toured all over the world." Tom from Bishops Stortford
Memorable lunchtime pit stops in the resort towns of Agon-Coutainville, Hermanville, Port-en-Bessin and Ravenoville were the perfect way to bi-sect each day and provided our riders with the motivation and energy to get back in the saddle and onto the evening's accommodation and plenty more local fare.
Road cyclists who like wide, untroubled roads to cycle in stunning conditions should always consider Normandy in the Autumn – particularly when recent Septembers have provided such a staggeringly beautiful backdrop.