Greetings from the Plowman Craven training camp deep in south-west France. It is a part of the country I have not visited before. Come to think of it, it is the only part of the country I have not visited before. Not sure what kept me; it is a cracking good cycling area. Probably a bit late for this year, but if you are tired of Majorca and fancy a change of scenery for your next training camp, you could do a lot worse than Limoux.
Nearby Carcasonne is stunningly beautiful. The 12th century walled city apparently gets rammed with tourists in the summer but was deserted last night. Limoux is a pretty little town with a bizarre festival that runs every weekend for six weeks. Fancy dress costumes, masks and an oompah band that goes on and on and on. Confetti gets rubbed into bystanders hair. The town?s population gathers in the square and loiters for hours on end. Nobody gets drunk ? you can see how difficult it is for an Englishman to understand.
The roads are pleasingly lumpy. You climb for an age without realising it, then glance over your shoulder to see the town far below. The descents can usually be taken at speed, the occasional over-judicious sprinkling of gravel on corners providing the main hazard.
The Plowman Craven boys have been very approachable and friendly, even when we?ve been getting in the way and generally making a nuisance of ourselves. They have been putting in some seriously hard work this week ? motor pacing, lead-outs, time trial efforts ? and coming back buzzing. I got the photographer to get some shots of the riders eating, purely so that we could use the ?Plowmans Lunch? headline. Peurile, I know, but irresistible.
Some of the nicknames take a bit of working out ? Janet, Pigeon, Millie. New signing Alex Higham is a qualified doctor ( he is Doc, obviously). Grumpy, Sleepy and Sneezy have yet to be assigned.
I?m off to the town square for a beer. With any luck, the band will have stopped playing by now?
Coverage of the Plowman Craven camp will be in Cycling Weekly, out on Thursday.