Any cyclist who finds themselves in Paris, with a bike, has to try out a few laps round the much loved Longchamp circuit.
The Hippodrome de Longchamp, or simply Longchamp to the regulars, is a system of cycle paths and closed roads that create a loop around the famous home of French horse racing.
Situated just outside the périférique, which encircles Paris, in the western suburb of Bois de Boulogne the circuit lies at the heart of French cycling. The first ever bicycle race took place in 1868 just over the river in the park at Saint Cloud when Englishman James Moore won the 1200m event.
Also from the area is the Athletic Club Boulogne-Billancourt, one time stepping stone to the pro ranks and specifically the Peugeot team. Back in the 70s and 80s ACBB was the temporary home for many English speaking riders as the club became the first to recognize the talents from the 'new worlds' as they welcomed Robert Miller, Phil Anderson, Stephen Roche and Sean Yates, amongst many others.
Many champions from France also passed through ACBB, most notably Bernard Thévenet and the great Anquetil.
These days the circuit is home to weekend worriers, lunch time keep fitters as well as the occasional pro team. The most popular times seem to be Tuesday and Thursday evening, when groups can reach 100 riders, but at pretty much anytime you can see riders at the circuit.
Not only a Parisian sanctuary for cyclists but you'll also see plenty of runners, triathletes (doing a bit of both) and crazy dudes on roller blades. These guys can stay with the big groups of cyclists up until the speed gets really hot. I've been with them at 40+ kph and not much slower on the uphill sections.
One of the delights of Longchamp, to me, is the wonderful pedestrian footbridge that takes you high above the noise and bustle of the city roads to the edge of the circuit from the Saint Cloud side of the river.
|All sorts ride at Longchamp|
|The starting gates of the race course|
|Views of La Defence|