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CLIF Blog

Jul. 10, 2013
Tour de France Stage 9 to Saint Malo
Blame an attractive high school French teacher and early exposure to the films of Francois Truffaut for Matt Walsh's francophile tendencies. Then later came bike racing and watching the grandest race of all, the Tour de France. So as a freelance writer, there’s pretty much no place he’d rather be than in France on the race routes of Le Tour. It’s always an adventure that goes full-gas.

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It was a fun day driving to the walled port town of Saint Malo. Once a pirate town, now host to 190 or so really skinny guys in lycra with fast bikes.

tdf stage 9 3

I learned my rudimentary French in Brittany many years ago so I have a fondness for the region. Like the Basques in Spain, the Bretons are tough, hard-working and down to earth. Those character traits served Berhard Hinault well -- he won five Tours de France.

The Bretons are also skilled sailors and they’ve mastered the crepe -- which ranks high on my list of human achievements.

tdf stage 9 1

They’re also huge bike race fans and it felt to me like there were more fans on the road then for any other stage so far. Rolling through Redon and La Gacilly, Saint Malo de Beignon and Dinan, out to the coast to Cancale and finally Saint Malo, the crowds were wonderful and animated. They were rewarded with a dramatic victory by young German sprinter Marcel Kittel of Argos-Shimano.

The stage finished at what looks like a medieval fortress by the sea. Saint Malo has high rampart walls that encircle the original part of the town. You can only drive in through a small number of “portes” or arched entryways through the walls. In French tourist terms, it’s insanely “pittoresque.”

tdf stage 9 2

After the race was over, I tapped in the hotel address into the GPS and began thinking of dinner within those ancient rampart walls. Only trouble was, the GPS said, no, that’s not where your hotel is, it’s outside the walls and down the road two kilometers.

Heart sinking, stomach in disbelief.

Well, that’s the Tour de France -- ups and downs and you just roll with it -- adventures are by definition, adventurous. The hotel Antheus turned out to be a cool little place with a restaurant downstairs. Owners Doreen & Lénaïck Lemaitre made me feel welcome after a long day at Le Tour.

I told Doreen that I’d really wanted to go into the old part of Saint Malo for dinner but it was already nearly 10pm. Her husband Lénaïck is the chef and he prepared a fantastic meal.

Then the unexpected again.

I was polishing off the dessert when Lénaïck introduced himself and offered to drive me into the old section of Saint Malo. We did just that and had a drink outside at one of the open squares.

It was a beautiful night and despite my half broken French, we had a great conversation. Turns out he’s written a novel and is a jazz musician, besides being the chef and running a hotel. The guy has almost as much energy as a professional bike racer.

As exciting as a Tour de France sprint is, what I’ll remember most of my short time in Saint Malo is the generosity of the chef.
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Category:
Team Clif Bar, Tour
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We like getting our heart rates up, taking a big breath of fresh air, savoring delicious food. But we also love telling stories and here's where we type 'em up. (BTW, it works both ways; leave a comment—please and thank you.)

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