NOSTALGIA FOR LE BALAI IN LAPALUD
In large parts of Europe you have had the miles under your wheels. When you take stock, there are still a number of tours/events that stand out. It is often not in the big, but it can also be the little that has stuck. We take you to the French village of Lapalud, right along the Route du Soleil (exit 19 Bollène).
We are writing the year 2000. During the vacation season, I planned a tour from the Fédération Française de Cyclotourisme (FFCT) calendar for every Saturday and Sunday. A great way to explore a region. Lapalud is hosting the 21st Rallye des Balais on June 3. The name comes from a local factory that makes brooms, among other things.
Every cycling fan knows the word “balai” from the car with the broom that rides in the back of the race. At the registration table it is of course immediately obvious that I am an étranger. If they can’t tell from my French, they can tell from my clothes. I immediately start talking to the organizers about how I ended up in their village. The foreign presence is appreciated. Before the start, I am offered a Coke. It will be a tour of 60 kilometers. Along the way, I joined a group. By now I have learned that the French maintain a single pace. It doesn’t matter if it is flat or slightly uphill. There is no shifting. Along the way, in the shade of the plane trees, there is un ravitaillement et des rafraîchissements. In my diary notes I read that there was sandwiched baguette, fruit with an abundance of apricots, chocolate, cola and water. It couldn’t be beat!
Upon return, a surprise awaits each participant. Not a medal, water bottle or a pennant but a broom! But how do you take such a thing home, when you came to the start by bike. But the French are inventive. A piece of string or wire around the handle and top bar and everything is taken care of. It’s no problem for me either. Our campsite is only a few hundred meters from the start/finish. Then we are invited to the awards ceremony at the end of the afternoon. There are cups for the youngest and oldest participant, the largest club but also for the most outstanding. There can only be one! Afterwards there is a convivial apéritif A few days later, the group photo appears in the local news of Lapalud in the “Le Dauphiné Libéré”.
Until now, the broom is in use with me to sweep the floor of the garage. The traces of age can be seen by now. But who knows, maybe I will take it to Lapalud again because every year the Rallye des Balais is still organized. So anyone who wants a new broom and is in the area, drive the lap in Lapalud! It’s a unique keepsake and will last for years!
Text and image: © Teus Korporaal