Animalcouriers greatly admires Paul, husband of our vet Diana, for his recent feat – that of completing the ‘etape de tour’ which is an opportunity for cycling enthusiasts to complete a stage of the Tour de France, shortly before the professional competitors come through.

Each month Paul welcomes us into his home, where he puts up with an invasion of visiting dogs and cats as they file through to have their parasite treatments and pet passport updates done. All the while, tantalising smells are coming from the kitchen.

After the paperwork is done, the dogs are walked and all our passengers are settled for the night, we are made welcome with a glass of Kir as Paul shows off his culinary skills, cooking us ‘haute cuisine’, yum!

Over the months that Paul has been training, we’ve watched him disappear before our eyes, as he has become thinner and thinner, looking very much the cyclist. The children have talked non-stop about Dad’s impending bike ride, and Diana has kept an eye on his diet!

In his own words, Paul describes the ‘etape’ experience:

“Dawn comes up over the beautiful city of Pau, where 10,000 cyclists set out on the adventure of a lifetime.

“181 km of Pyrenean mountains lie ahead. After 6 months and several thousand miles of cycle training including mountain climbs, the day has at last arrived to put all that hard work into practice. 60 km in, Marie Blanc, the first of 3 demanding mountain climbs, legs aching but scenery spellbinding. 120km through wonderful valleys and over the 15km 1,400m rise of Soulor to Argeles-Gazost and final refuelling before the climb of Tourmalet.

“Exhausted riders by the roadside dot the mountain. Last 10km and it is the pain of turning the pedals that keeps you going. At 2,115m, too tired to cry but full of elation, the day and challenge of a lifetime. 11 and a half hours of unadulterated hell – would I swap it for anything? – never!”

Etape de tour - Paul

Etape de tour, Pau to Tourmalet, 11 hours 35 mins, 18/07/10