Published by Lyn on 28 December 2014
The Anjou Fête du Vélo take place every June in the heart of the Loire Valley.
This one comes via a dispatch that landed in my email box from Merle Drury, who lives in Doué la Fontaine, about 15km west of Saumur and the Loire river. Merle originally wrote in to ask about taking trailers on French trains but ended up volunteering much more information than she received in return. (For the record, all reports indicate that taking trailers on TER trains in the Loire isn't a problem, but let us know if you've ever run into difficulties.)
Anyway, Merle says the annual Fête du vélo en Anjou (Anjou Festival of Cycling) – to be held on Sunday, June 14 in 2015 – is well worth checking out.
"For one Sunday in June every year, the Conseil Générale of Maine-et-Loire closes the roads bordering the Loire to traffic (except for residents' access, so there are still some vehicles) between the towns of Montsoreau (east of Saumur) and Notre Dame du Marellais (just west of St Florent le Vieil, which is well west of Angers)," writes Merle.
"This is a distance of something over 140km, with the Angers-Saumur part being cyclable both sides of the Loire. This circuit is about 100km in total if you do the full round trip from, say, Saumur (good parking) to Angers, and back. We've done that several times and always had a blast (including the time I fell off 35km out and broke my wrist but still continued as there was no way I was going to spoil the day. It was damn sore the next day. Finally made it to the hospital on the Tuesday and got plastered – literally.)
Now *that's* dedication.
This festival usually starts around at 8am and runs through until early evening (officially 6pm) – during which time more than 20,000 cyclists take to the roads and towpaths of the Loire.
"Just rock up and enjoy," says Merle. "The day attracts thousands of cyclists from tiny ones on Pink Pony peddlers with stabilisers to old ladies on pre-war bikes – one of whom I remember seeing being towed along in a trailer, her leg in plaster. It's such fun – people bring their picnics (and tables), wear fancy dress, decorate their bikes – whatever takes your fancy. The towns along the way open up and have music, barbecues, food stalls, exhibitions, strawberries in wine – you're never far from something to eat or drink."
Vintage bikes on the Loire
The Fête du Vélo has since 2011 run in conjunction with a retro bike festival, the Anjou Vélo Vintage, at Saumur. It features vintage bike displays and community bike rides over two days.
And to help you enjoy the weekend ...
See our bike hire listings for bike rental options in Pays de la Loire.
For accommodation ideas, see our Where to stay section or browse the map below.
For more on the river itself, see John Higginson's overview of cycling the river Loire. John's followed the river from its source to the sea and covered it for us in three installments: from Gerbier de Jonc to Le Puy en Velay; Le Puy en Velay to Sancerre; and from Sancerre to St Nazaire. See also our guide to the top 10 Loire chateaux to see by bike.
On the guidebook front, see John Higginson's Cycling the River Loire: The Way of St Martin, published by Cicerone. For more general tourist information on the Loire, see the DK travel guide to the Loire, the Loire Valley Footprint guide, or the Cadogan equivalent. See also Michelin's Tourist Guide Chateaux of the Loire (there's also a map).
Michelin's Indre-et-Loire, Maine-et-Loire local map covers the festival area, as does the IGN equivalent; both Michelin and IGN have a Pays de la Loire regional map.