For most travellers it is not uncommon to seek technological guidance on their travels with the use of GPS (Global Positioning System); but as one Cardiff born cyclist reaches the French town of Lourdes, the only voice he is hearing is “Ave, Ave, Ave Maria”. Geraint Thomas and all those taking part in the 2018 Tour de France have reached this miraculous little town at the foot of the Pyrenees as they prepare to take part in the final stage of the legendary cycle race.
The Cardiffian is not alone in this special place as the Archbishop of Cardiff, the Most Rev’d George Stack and the pilgrims of the Welsh National Pilgrimage to Lourdes are also there on their annual pilgrimage to seek the intercession of Our Blessed Mother under the title ‘Our Lady of Lourdes’. As the cyclists prepare for the gruelling final stage of the competition they visited the Grotto where Mary appeared to Bernedette Soubirous to offer prayers for safety and took part in tonight’s ‘Torchlight Procession’. According to the RCADC Tour De France expert (the Archbishop), the “good news” is Geraint Thomas still has the ‘Yellow Jersey’ meaning he continues to be the leader of the race.
It seems that whilst travellers are normally greeted with the words “You have reached your destination” at the end of their journey, Thomas and the rest of the competitors were greeted with chants to Our Lady and dulcet Welsh tones. The final stage of the tour begins tomorrow with Stage 19 taking the cyclists from Lourdes to Laruns, through the hilly terrain of the French Pyrenees.
Geraint Thomas has been reported as saying “We’re expecting the worst, hoping for the best. It’s the last mountain stage and I think guys will try to take every opportunity they can.”
Archbishop George and the Welsh pilgrims will be sure to keep their rosaries out and the “Ave’s” rising as Geraint sets off. Da Lwc Geraint …. and Ave Maria!
Photo: People show support for Tour De France cyclists by bringing bicycles and joining them in prayer at the Grotto. Courtesy of Mrs Mary Taylor, Welsh National Pilgrimage – St. Patrick’s, Grangetown.