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Sporting faith

'When I was young I used to pray for a bike', quipped the comedian Emo Phillips once. 'Then I realized that God doesn't work that way, so I stole a bike and prayed for forgiveness.'

He might have done so at the Notre Dame des Cyclistes, which again received its annual horde of visitors this summer as the Tour de France whizzed nearby.

Priest Joseph Massie, a cycling enthusiast, founded a pilgrimage site for cyclists in this chapel which, on May 18, 1959, was made a National Sanctuary of Cycling and Cyclists under the protection of the Virgin by Pope John XXIII.

The chapel is a popular stop for pilgrims who cycle through France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, as well as for amateur cyclists and tourists. It is now also a museum housing some 800 jerseys donated by participants of past cycling races along with trophies and memorabilia attracting 15, 000 visitors a year. A stage of the Tour de France cycling race started here in July 1989.

'They shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint ... they shall cycle, and never hit the bonk.'