Vélocio, the founder of the cyclotouring movement in France, has long been a great inspiration. Imagine my delight when I suddenly found myself on one of the maître’s favorite roads!
I was riding from the Rhône valley, where I had visited La Tante (the Aunt) just weeks before her 100th birthday, toward Clermont-Ferrand, where I was to meet another friend. As I climbed one of the many hills of the region, I suddenly saw a sign for the Col de Pavezin.
The Col de Pavezin was one of Vélocio’s favorite meeting points, where he met with his friends and readers of his magazine Le Cycliste. Of course, I took the sideroad that led up to the col. I discovered a beautiful road that wound its way up the valley side, shaded by trees. It led past ancient farmhouses that had changed little since Vélocio rode on these roads a century ago.
I could see why Vélocio chose this col on his rides from Saint-Etienne to the Rhône valley and southern France. It was less steep and allowed a better rhythm than many of the other climbs of the region. However, even here it became apparent why Vélocio was one of the first proponents of multiple gears: You really need them in the Massif Central region of France!
It was a moving experience to ride on the same roads as Vélocio. When I reached the col, I stopped at a small cafe and reminisced of the great meetings this place had seen. I recalled how the riders from the Groupe Montagnard Parisien had rode here to meet Vélocio. After the master’s death, the riders from Paris carried on his work. They not only took over the editing of Le Cycliste, but they also organized the Technical Trials that led to the well developed machines of the constructeurs that we admire today. In fact, my own bike owes much to the meetings that took place on the Pavezin.
I tried to find the building where the photo was taken that showed Vélocio with Jacques and Yolande Oudart, who had ridden their tandem from Paris. From memory, it was hard to tell, and I settled for a photo of my bike in front of this wonderful old stone barn.
After a brief stop I continued my way. As I approached Saint-Etienne and the steep hills beyond, I rode on roads that Vélocio had used to test his bikes and develop his ideas more than a century ago.
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