This Rocamadour photograph, showing the Porte du Figuier in the foreground was the inspiration for a key scene in Peloton of Two. It was taken during a holiday in the Dordogne in the early 2000s.
Picture curation in the pre-digital era was, for me, a more haphazard business than it is today and the print lay forgotten in a shoebox for several years. I found it during the planning for the novel and Rocamadour immediately went onto the list of locations that the tandem team would have to visit as they made their way around France.
In Peloton of Two, Catherine Pringle arrives with her tandem partner at the Porte du Figuier after a long afternoon of cycling in the valley of the Alzou. It’s late afternoon in midsummer and the road leading to the Porte du Figuier is heavy with tour buses and pedestrians. It’s so busy that Catherine immediately suggests delaying the visit to Rocamadour until the next morning.
The tandem continues up the cliffside road (behind the spot where picture was taken). On the plateau at the top of the climb, they find directions to the nearest campground. The scene at the campground and the return to Rocamadour the next morning are important moments in the Peloton of Two story.
The Rocamadour photograph was taken in the morning before the crowds of tourists begin to build at the site. In Peloton of Two, it’s never this quiet, but in other details the scene is exactly as shown. With pedestrians already pouring through the Porte du Figuier, Catherine and her partner dismount and push the tandem along the cobbles of the narrow streets. Shortly after this, as they climb the 200 steps of the Grand Escalier towards the ecclesiastical sanctuary, Catherine takes a phone call that makes her realise the importance of what she did the night before.
There’s more about the research behind Peloton of Two here.