It’s time for a new adventure for the energetic team from Paris-Saclay Tourist Office! Damien and I decided to take on the Tour Paris-Saclay!
The Tour Paris-Saclay is the destination’s unmissable sporting event and it is an opportunity for fans of MTB to get together and go exploring the most beautiful landscapes across the area.
Ella took on the challenge
Director of the Paris Saclay Destination Tourist Office
"Cycling around the Paris-Saclay urban area is a great way to explore the destination"
This is not a timed event, the idea is to go at your own pace! We had four distances to choose from: family (8km), leisure (20km), sporty (40km) and expert (60km). We chose to take on the 20 km! Just like a departure village for the Tour de France, there was lots going on in Chevry that Sunday morning. A stream of cars arrived, carrying bicycles on the roof racks. Everyone was checking the air in their tyres. With a bottle full of water and a cereal bar in my backpack and my helmet firmly on, I went to meet up with Damien at the Château de Belleville for our departure.
Every year, the local council of Paris-Saclay together with the OC Gif VTT cycling club organise the Tour Paris-Saclay. The event is accessible to all and attracts more than 800 participants!
Participants exchanged top tips before setting off. At 8.30 am it was time to go! We know the area very well so we knew that there would be some uphill sections (388 m positive incline). We rode at a good pace and very quickly reached the dirt tracks. Even though it was a sunny day, we were taken aback by the cool air as we entered Gif-sur-Yvette forest. We weren't going to let that dampen our spirits though!
When we arrived at the viewpoint, we admired the vast stretch of greenery before us. Paris-Saclay never ceases to amaze us! We came across the first unlucky cyclists who had a flat tyre. Luckily everyone looks out for each other during this event, so other cyclists had already stopped off to help them. The downhill section into the valley was easy and we zig-zagged around any roots or rocks that tried to get in our way. All necessary safety measures were in place. There were people standing at every intersection showing us the way.
Just after Coupières lake, we knew that we were getting close to our first uphill section near Rougemont cemetery. It was a steep and sandy track. A lot of us tried to ride up it but this section was so challenging that a lot of people had to get off and walk. It was fine, we pushed our bikes up and took advantage of the break to have a drink. Then we went through Aigrefoin woods along tracks known as 'singles*'.
We had a view of the colourful Mérantaise Valley all around us with an array of yellow and green shades. It was so quiet there, we could only hear the sound of our wheels along the track. We had one last uphill section to reach Saclay Plateau. It was really challenging. Our legs were burning. It was almost like the climb up Mont Ventoux in the Tour de France! I heard other participants urging each other on: “Come on, you can do it!” I wouldn't be in with a chance of winning the spotted jersey because I had to get off my bike for the last few metres. A lot of cyclists stopped for a break at the top to catch their breath and have a drink, before then carrying on towards Saint-Aubin channel.
*a narrow and technical track where it's only possible to ride in single file
We felt like we were in the countryside. We were surrounded by nature, with the forest on one side and the fields on the other. And we were still only a few kilometres from Paris! To get back down towards the valley, we crossed through Guyonnerie woods. We were riding along the trail-running tracks so we ran into a few runners along the way who were running up to the plateau.
When we got down to the valley, we rode along the banks of the Mérantaise before arriving in the town centre of Gif-sur-Yvette. There was so much going on in the town centre for a Sunday morning. There was already a queue at the bakery, there was a rugby match going on at the sports stadium, and there were a lot of walkers out on the banks of the Yvette. The indoor market was also in full swing.
At Bures-sur-Yvette lake and reservoir, we were riding alongside around a hundred people jogging for a charity. It was definitely a sporty Sunday for Paris-Saclay! The Grande Maison park was really quiet though. We stopped off for a break there to recharge our batteries. We started to feel tired so we set off again quickly.
We went up several steep sections and then reached the 'coulée verte' urban greenway which would lead us through Montjay tunnel and then under Fauvettes Viaduct which was really impressive. It is a popular place for climbing enthusiasts. We could already see a few climbers up on the pillars. Unfortunately, we weren't concentrated on where we were going and we didn't see the sign telling us to change direction. We weren't the only ones. We went back along the same path and asked other cyclists which way to go (a top tip: it's always better to come equipped with a map of the GPX trail).
Then there was a quick succession of uphill and downhill sections. We kept a close eye on the number of kilometres we had left. All the routes had merged and there were more of us on this part of the trail. We overtook families with young children who were still a bit wobbly on their bikes or who sometimes needed help on the uphill parts. The adults were encouraging the little ones. The atmosphere was very family friendly. Finally, we came away from the tracks and we were on the cycle path that would lead us to the finish line! There was a great, festive atmosphere at the Château de Belleville. Participants were welcomed to music. We went to the refreshments table. Then we sat down on the grass and watched various demonstrations as we enjoyed the cookies that were provided by La Miam Locale.
The 20 km route wasn't an easy one due to the uphill climbs, but it was an amazing experience. The rural landscapes provide a welcome change of scenery and this route is suitable with friends or family. It's a different way of exploring Paris-Saclay!
How would you like to do the 40 km route with us next year?