Follow the penguin

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Penguins aren’t something you expect to find in Normandy. But there it was. On the road.

And then another, and another…

On a 25km ride around the local lanes, we encountered maybe five or six of these little beasts.

Why? Hard to say.

My guess is that it might have something to do with a cycle race. It’s summer, which means it’s peloton season.

It’s very common, particularly at weekends, and always when you’re desperate to get somewhere, to find your route through a village blocked. A man, dangerously ennobled with a sash or a clipboard or perhaps a radio, will wave you down in that bored yet prepared-to-kill-if-necessary manner that tells you something more important than your journey is taking place here.

You’ll sit impatiently for at least five minutes – maybe 30, maybe an hour, who can tell? – until, out of nowhere, a gaggle of very earnest cyclists, dressed in the latest organ-squeezing sportswear littered with logos, pump their way past.

They are herd animals, moving almost as one organism that has evolved a Lycra hide and overactive sweat glands.

And in a flash, they are gone. All over in five seconds.

But can you move now? No. Because a few seconds later come the stragglers, red-faced and with an expression of existential doom as they face the realisation that they will never catch up, and yet they have no way of stopping.

And the reason they can’t stop is that, hard behind them are the support vehicles. Car after car – at least one per rider – spare bikes strapped to their roofs like weird antennae. I swear we have seen races where the cars outnumber the riders: perhaps they seek out races in the hope of hunting down a rider for their sponsors.

Finally, and with a derisive wave, you are allowed to pass.

It’ll be this way for at least a couple of months now. You just need to be patient.

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