If I were to compose a welcome note to Lourdes, it would read something like this: Welcome to Lourdes, site of religious miracles and downhill mountain biking. BEWARE: Slippery when wet. And watch out for the pissed–up priests.
Words: James McKnight Photos: Seb Schieck
Like a scene out of Father Ted, the evening before a frankly outrageously early start ended with 100-odd religious workers dancing on tables, throwing back pints and having a right-old holy singsong. I should have been ready for it really – our first visit in 2014 was along the same lines: rowdy religious folk, harsh mornings and a brutally unforgiving downhill track. In two years the place still hasn’t lost its wow factor.
From atop the Pic du Jer – Lourdes’ funicular-accessed centre of extraordinarily slippery downhilling – the hills around town bore evidence of a blustery night with temperatures dropped from shorts-and-T to brass monkeys overnight. The track that spoke to the world in 2015 with its high-speed rock gardens and heavy metal hucks reduced to slime and deathly slippery rocks in a matter of snowflakes.