Cycling, Clugnat and a Café in Crisis

It hasn’t been a very cycling-friendly start to the year weather-wise. It’s been either too cold, too wet or too windy, and sometimes all three together!

We had a 50km round trip to Aigurande in January, but our next bike outing wasn’t until about ten days ago when we did a quick cobweb-clearing short, local circuit. That was quickly followed by a different cycling experience – we went to watch the Paris-Nice race go by just the other side of Montluçon. We did a spot of hardware shopping and then found a good spot on the D39 to watch the race go by. We probably got there a bit early as we had about an hour and a half to wait, but I passed the time waving to any race-related vehicles that went by. We also had a packed lunch with hot chocolate from a flask.


The race zoomed by and we didn’t pick out any famous faces in the peloton. However, we came home with swag. A Team Lotto-Jumbo water bottle, discarded by its owner who was possibly Dylan Groenewegen who had won the second stage of the race. I got a very quick glimpse of him so I’m not sure. But we have our bottle!

Paris-Nice bottle

Then today, with the return of the sun, we made time for a 33km ride, taking in Clugnat on the way back. We’d seen deviation (detour) signs up around locally to avoid Clugnat where roadworks are taking place, so it seemed a good idea to go for a nose. Merely keeping up to date. And the place certainly is being dug up. Work started mid February and is scheduled to continue until 13 July. It looks as though it’s work on drainage pipes below the road, but also some road improvement going on too. However, it seems overly drastic. Traffic can’t get through the village on the D11, but you can walk, although it’s not very pleasant next to huge, noisy machinery. We went to the bakery for buns, which we ate in the sunshine in the square, and then headed to the café, the Bar des Amis, for a caffeine hit to get us home (it’s mainly uphill from there).

The bar owner is a pleasant, chatty woman of our sort of age, possibly a little older. She likes trying out her English so we had one of those odd conversations where we were speaking each other’s language! She told us how the roadworks are proving to be a disaster for her business. She’s highly sceptical that work will be finished in the summer, and predicts it will go on well into the autumn. She’s currently so disillusioned that she’s talking of retiring.

Clugnat road

For Clugnat to lose its bar it will be a terrible blow. So many small businesses are disappearing one by one. Tercillat has lost its bar in the last couple of years and here in Nouzerines our bakery has now gone. The auberge is also for sale so who knows if that will continue as a hotel into the future. The owner of Bar des Amis told us how she’s pointed out to the Maire that it’s all very well having a postcard-pretty village, which Clugnat will be once the road improvements are done, but it will also be a dead village. There’s a small bakery next to the bar which presumably is suffering the same loss of custom as the bar. She mentioned subventions – grants – coming to the village, perhaps as compensation, but it would appear that the businesses being adversely affected by the major roadworks and other renovations going on aren’t being compensated.

I hope she’ll be able to hang on. She was saying today that if she does survive, it will be thanks the English! There are quite a few expats in the area who must be regulars and others, like ourselves, who pop in from time to time. It’s nice to be appreciated.