Stage 4: Saumur – Limoges
Stage 4: Saumur – Limoges
Tuesday, 5th July 2016
Tuesday, 5th July 2016

The hospitality we have experienced thus far on the Caravan, it must be said, has been quite extraordinary. Our hosts are always eager for us to enjoy our stay - and it is getting harder and harder for us to tear ourselves away from the lap of cultural luxury we consistently find ourselves in - and head out on the road. Still, this isn’t Antiques Roadshow, this is Le Tour de Beard, and Stage 4 promised to be another cracker...

But before we get onto all that - let me elaborate. Last night, after Stage 3, we enjoyed a lovely stay at a very old bed-and-breakfast in the tiny town of Fontevraud l’Abbaye - complete with original timber beams, trinket-filled dining room-slash-Caravan HQ, and resident cats. We were warned to keep the felines out of the room, as they made a habit of invading guest’s beds. All this plus amazing hand-cooked food and seemingly endless glasses of wine as we toiled into the wee-hours. You can see why we might want to stay.

Back at the team paddock, we’ve developed a nice little routine. We cruise around, seeking out two-wheeled celebrities, but not before we’ve raided the Senseo coffee cart - sometimes even nicking cups off a tray destined for a sponsor.

Great minds think alike, apparently, and fools seldom differ. I’ll let you take from that what you will. However, once again our mate Kai appeared at our first spot - a small walkway above the road, next to the Chateau Saumur. Some unruly vegetation blocked my shot so once again I hoisted my camera aloft on a pole to clear the mess. I think it might be time to invest in a step-ladder... or some hedge trimmers.

After feeling a little claustrophobic from all the small town vibes, we decided to seek out some wide open spaces. During my research I had spotted a windmill in the middle of some random wheatfields which looked ideal. However, the problem was that it was so close to the previous shot - would we be able to make it in time? We did - and it got us all pumped up. So much so that we set ourselves a challenge - to see how many shots we could get in a day.

In a manner which would do the Dukes of Hazzard boys proud, we peeled out of the gravel, past the Gendarmes and back onto the course for our next shot. Luck was on our side - there was reserved parking right where we needed it. It might have said ‘VIP’ but we read ‘Beardy’ and no-one seemed to mind (or at least no-one said anything). It turns out the crowd could see the beauty in the shot also and old-mate had already reserved his perch on the bridge wall. He had latched on like a barnacle. In broken English/French we came to an agreement and both got our shot.

We now had three shots in the bag, but could we make it 4 before the finish line shot? We ran the calculations and figured we’d make it, based on the following sound arguments - a) we didn’t actually have a location to shoot this 4th shot and b) the Gendarmes would almost certainly ensure that we stopped at some point anyway. Logic be damned, this is Beardy’s Caravan. Wagons ho!

We stopped just after the intermediate sprint point and wandered through the town. Nothing immediately caught my eye until I spotted some guys at the top of a water tower. I waved at them, they waved back. I gestured ‘up’ to them... they waved back. I took that as an invitation.

Once inside the base, we were faced with a very high, very steep and very rusty ladder to climb. Bracing myself for the prospect of being airlifted back down, I ventured upwards and was rewarded with a clear, 360-degree view of the region. The race passed, we thanked our new mates, and made our way down the ladder - making sure we didn’t look down.

With the extra shot and travel time, it was now a race between the peloton and ourselves to the finish. With the finish line just a couple of kilometres away, the Curse of the Caravan struck again and we were blocked in. What else do you do in such a state of early-onset roadside panic? We did the only thing we could and made a ‘pavement pour-over’, AKA a ‘concrete coffee’, AKA a ‘bitumen brew’, AKA an ‘expressway espresso’. Whatever you call it - it got me to the finish with three minutes to spare for another nail-biting sprint finish.

See beardy’s coverage of previous stages below.
Stage 21: Chantilly - Paris Champs Élysées
Stage 17: Berne - Finhaut-Emosson


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Join Beardy McBeard and his caravan as he chases some of cycling’s biggest races around the world. Get a new perspective on this beautiful sport through Beardy's iconic photos and the stories behind them. You can also purchase the prints!

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