The club run
Every Sunday, ASM members meet at 8 A.M. on the edge of the Meudon Forest. The club has around 20 routes, which it cycles through in either one direction or the other.
The cyclists divide into three groups, and Group 3 leads out at its habitual pace of 23 km/h (14 mph). We were meant to accompany Group 2, around 50 cyclists rolling at an average of 25 km/h (15.5 mph), but this week most of the regulars are away at the rallye of neighbouring club, Boulogne-Billancourt. So instead we are to join Group 1, made up of around 20 fast cyclos and coursiers who’ve reached the end of their season.
As we get going on the ride – 90 km (56 miles), with a saw-tooth profile – we get to know Christian. He joined the club when trying to get fit again after being hit by a car. Riding with the group helps him push himself, but it also keeps him accountable to getting out of bed in the morning – a motivating factor for a fair number of the members.
After the Côte de la Vacheresse hill, Gille-Antoine tells us about his journey to becoming a member. He’d been looking for people to ride with after getting into cycling while travelling, and Christian had invited him along. Ever since, he makes the trip from Paris every Sunday, and takes pleasure riding fast and without encumbrances. It’s very pleasant riding with a group in which everybody knows each other and knows how to ride together. The strongest wait at the top of hills, but the peloton is pretty uniform. As for the older members, they design an alternative route, away from the steepest hills, that doesn’t take them away from the convivial atmosphere for too long.
Coursiers can be spotted thanks to their deep-section rims. Vincent raced for the club when he was a teenager. Ranked among the best in the region, he quickly became disenchanted when he joined the seniors: the era was not ‘clean’, and the prospect of prize money tempted a few of the local donkeys to use certain ‘products’ to turn themselves into thoroughbreds. Vincent hung up his bike for 20 years, but with the passing of time his desire to ride returned. In the Île-de-France region around Paris there are few pursuits that rival cycling when it comes to getting out of the city and into nature.
We take advantage of a puncture stop to chat to other coursiers, a group of them who will start training again at the start of November and will remain together until racing starts. Meudon is the perfect training ground. Situated next to a ridge it's easy to concoct a weeknight route that takes in thirty or so climbs.
Roland is known to be the only one to “descend in the 11”, and he drags us to the edge of our speed limits. This year, he raced 32 times. He encourages us to give it a try: “Go take a beating in a cat-3 race, you’ll see if it appeals or not. And it’ll give you some pace when you’re doing sportives.”
After a final few bumps, the peloton slowly dissipates. A post-ride drink is not customary, but with a new clubhouse you never know, that might change.