BICYCLES are threatening to achieve what the entire German invasion army couldn’t manage throughout the Second World War.
Crossing the English Channel has always been a major stumbling block, but growing ranks of environmentalists, tourism officers and health experts are putting the bicycle at the forefront of efforts encouraging the English to invade Europe.
Gone are the days when any trip abroad took on the appearance of a major operation to move house. Now people travel light….well mostly.
Taking a bicycle trip across to France involves pumping up tyres, putting passport and a few Euros in your pocket and strapping a rucksack to your back with a change of clothing in it. Then you’re off.
It’s that simple, but once you arrive on the shores of La Belle France things can get a bit fraught.
The man in front of you has sneering superciliousness down almost to an art form yet an aloof cafe waiter could be among the first Frenchmen you meet if you become a European cyclist.
We are all being encouraged to sample three new cycleways — including the cross-Channel Petit Tour de Manche cycle route — Weymouth being at the centre of two of them.
So what might the budding bicyclette rider expect in the land of champagne and frogs’ legs?
Well they do a nice line in garlic over there and a good bottle of plonk is an obvious attraction, but I’ve always felt that claims about Frenchmen being the world’s greatest lovers are a little too hyped up.
Still, British men would clearly be at a disadvantage against their French counterparts if they had to compete for female attention at the end of a hard day’s pedalling.
Imagine the scenario. Sweat is pouring down his face as he and his pretty partner pull over and dismount outside a little estaminet.
She coyly suggests going upstairs for a bit of canoodling because it’s their first romantic night in France, but he says he has other ideas centred on a much needed sit down and a large ice-cold beer. This doesn’t go down too well as she glares at him and storms off to the room they’ve booked on her own.
Actually this isn’t the Englishman abroad being dead to romance which only a Frenchman knows how to give a woman.
It is a realistic assessment of his physical state after pedalling 100km…and him with that dodgy saddle which had rubbed him raw as well.
The fact that at this particular instant she fancies him while he fancies recharging his batteries is neither here nor there and certainly not an invitation by him for her to throw herself at the first beret which comes in sight because “the French do it better”.
All he wants is a chance at a few Stellas and he’ll be more than prepared for a bit of “Oh oui! Oui!.”
No wonder the first entry in the new French phrasebook for cyclists being drawn up by Weymouth tourist chiefs is: “Pas se soir Josephine!”
But if you can survive any delicate romantic situations then cycling in France offers a rich blend of scenery and chateaux, delicious cheese and wine and an assortment of opportunities to work on a spectacular hangover.
And there is also one priceless new experience the English cyclist abroad can look forward to.
After Bradley Wiggins’ win in the Tour de France, any cyclist with sideburns has got to be good for a sloppy French kiss!