Tour De France start to finish Unsupported! Again..
For around seven years we have taken it upon ourselves to get on bikes and cycle from the start line of the Tour De France to the end. We do it completely unsupported and carry our bags from bike to bed to bike. We have no control of terrain and very little over mileage. We simply get to the start line and ride to Paris. We have done many rides over the years including Leeds to Paris, Utrecht to Paris and many more. The last one took us through four or five countries if I remember correctly.
This year we will ride a thousand miles from Nice to Paris. To save us being an annual nuisance we no longer collect sponsorship but we will of course generally point you in the direction of our favourite charity.
Wood Street Mission in Manchester. They would welcome your donations, especially stationary equipment. They are here https://www.woodstreetmission.org.uk/
We went partially live on instagram during the ride but for our blog I thought I’d combine some key moments from the captains log and some unseen and less flattering footage.
Day one starts at 5am with a cold dark and very wet bike ride to Vir to catch a train to Paris where we catch another to Nice.
The regulations on French trains say that bikes have to be packed. So here’s our first problem, we need bags for the train journey but we are cycling to the station 22 miles away? Also we can’t bring them home with us because we are cycling home from Paris.
So we needed disposable bike bags!
The only solution was to make a disposable bike bag that we could carry on our backs, pack the bikes at the station and dump the bags in Nice. Tarpaulins and @gorrillatape do the job perfectly. net cost 6 quid each.
This mornings ride was very wet and cold. Once on the train we have a 12 hour journey in wet clothes, shivering on the train. No buffet car meant no coffee or refreshments. We have not started our cycle ride yet, that’s tomorrow. Our change was ironically in Paris, the place we would be cycling back too. Still by around 9am we had hot black coffee and we came to life. Another 8 hour journey awaits as we head South to Nice. An overnight stay and a relatively late start. We don’t have to leave till eight.
Our first day heading to Paris.
Nice to Les Cannet De Maures. Although we finally clocked a modest 65 miles it felt like double. We were ill prepared for 2,500 feet of mountain climbing which battered us for the final 30 miles. Instagram tells a very different story which as always contains an element of truth. Yes we had lunch on the beach at Cannes, and yes Katie cut the top off a water bottle to make a wine glass, but our dinner was on the driveway of an abandoned house sat on an electrical box.
Supper was the scraps we pulled together because in general the French still do weekends. Sunday is Sunday, almost no restaurants, shops or bars.
Tomorrow is a similar mileage but without the mountains and it should involve less pain. We hope. We were seriously caught out by the mountain pass, we carry our own bags and have no support so it was agonisingly slow progress.
Day two finds us in Marseille.
The 69 miles seemed less than yesterday. Starting with a saunter through vineyards (vente vin) before hitting some very busy towns. Miles of twisting downhill mountain roads with cliffs to the right and Maserati’s to the left. Very intense and bad for the shoulders.
Katie was kind enough to puncture within a mile of the hotel. Like a pair of naive tourists we had no option but to push bikes past knife wielding youths. (Not a joke) but made it in one piece.
The great news is it’s a Best Western so you just take the bike up to your room and repair it there. We repaired the puncture whilst eating kebab and chips and drinking beer from tins. (me not Katie)
Similar miles tomorrow, more climbs so we plan a very early start.
The reward? We are staying on a gorgeous boat tomorrow and plan to eat dinner off a plate with metal implements wearing civilian clothes for the first time since we left home, result.
The daily toil of cycling the equivalent of Manchester to Birmingham for best part of a week has taken its toll. If it was possible to exchange body parts we’d have enough to make one good person.
I’m not a physiotherapist but I can say my left knee seems to have come undone and my right knee kind of twangs.
There are bug bites, sore backs and backsides, cuts and oil tattoos (where it stays on the skin for a few weeks)
We are staying in Lyon for two nights which means we have some recovery time before heading off to Paris again
We finally had a rest day in France’s second biggest city, Lyon.
I big place to see in a day and we can be forgiven for not cycling. Instead we ran around the town giggling on electric scooters. We enjoyed an amazing lunch and dinner in France’s food capital. The whole day feels so extravagant. Tomorrow is an early start as we are back on the road and heading to Paris.
We love doing the Tour every year regardless of the challenges.
Huge thanks to @golala for spotting and supporting wood street mission. Awesome peeps indeed.
A brilliant sunny break in Lyon and early this morning we were back on the road to Paris. We had ten miles under our belt before the coffee shops had even got the chairs out. A very professional looking cyclist being lifted into an ambulance was a stark reminder of the realities, bike lanes three foot wide on 90km roads. In the main it’s been very quiet traffic wise as we meandered into Loire.
Another 60 miles or so done today with a huge mountain finish. On the other side we were rewarded with a 10 mile downhill into town.
Of course it’s Sunday so food is scarce. Cold pizza for lunch and Turkish takeaway for tea. An absolute godsend.
We have been shown into a hotel and left alone for the night by the owners. We were instructed to leave the door unlocked and the key on the table when we leave. It’s black as pitch outside and deathly quiet except for an owl providing the Hollywood sound effects. Katie is fast asleep, I think I heard....
We’re having a great time in a perverse way as we cycle from Nice to Paris. Whilst doing so we’re constantly banging on about Wood Street Mission. An amazing charity that’s been helping out Manchester families for 150 years. We’ll probably do the same tomorrow night.
A chilly start before the sun was fully up. Google maps sent us down a private farm lane where we were attacked by a couple of farm dogs. We cycle faster than dogs and once they cleared their borders they were happy enough to send us on our way.
The rest of the day was textbook tour cycling, and turned into the ride we had in mind when we planned this caper. Rolling through the Loire in the summer sunshine, photos just cannot do justice to the landscape. An amazing day where we stopped by the river for lunch and took time to explore an abandoned building.
We arrived at our hotel in good time and all that remains is a trip to a local Chinese for dinner. Tomorrow is another early start as we plan to take another big bite out of our remaining miles with a 70 mile day, yes it will be 80 but lets dream.
A gorgeous ride today across the rolling hills of Loire. More of what we expected when we signed up for this caper. The roads were really good and we covered 70 miles today. We find ourselves in a town called ‘Never’
We gorged on supermarket lunches and enjoyed the same at our accommodation.
With around 5 miles to go the gears started grinding on my bike and I am now down to 2. It feels like the bikes are as tired as us, we stripped Katie’s down this morning to stop the squeaking seat post but this feels a bit more serious. So close to the hotel we decided it will have to be dealt with tomorrow.
After all our efforts we hope this is the last big mileage day. That gives us time for a bike shop in the morning to get us going again.
For now all we can think of is sleep. Thank you so much for your encouragement and support it’s just golden.
The unforeseen benefit of the broken gears is that the bike shop opens at nine. That means a lay in by last weeks standards and a hotel breakfast.
Using my engineering skills I managed to get the bike running normally on all gears this morning. Now we were ready for the mountainous climbs that never came. Most of the ride today was flat all the way up the Loire.
Stopped at a 500 year old cafe for coffee but completely missed lunch. You don’t just turn up at 2:30 for lunch in France. Instead we managed some bread and cheese in between meals.
We were hit again at the hotel as there’s no food, instead they suggested a local frittery.
I won’t name it or say the place was bad but we had to sneak the entire meal to the dog. It was pretty wretched but the dog enjoyed it.
Paris looms closer as we close in on the last couple of hundred miles. Both bikes and bodies up to hundred percent fitness in the main, given a few creaks. High hopes for tomorrow as we ride a mere forty miles.
Today we passed a thousand kilometres and have a couple of days left to ride into Paris.
We are feeling fit and the bikes are clanking more than we are. We have decided to change our plans and ride to Paris tomorrow which will mean a big day with an early start but the reward is a full day in Paris and mission accomplished.
The 2020 Tour de France start to finish, unsupported. Let’s see what tomorrow brings. The French are getting closer to another lockdown as the pandemic takes hold again. It’s unfortunate that we can clearly see why as we have observed very little social distancing or measures across France.
The Copenhagen roll out has been pushed back a year and so 2021 will be a local affair. For now we have breakfast at six thirty and head to Paris. Thanks to all the awesome people who have pushed us along. The journey has been epic and not finished yet, but we can see the finish line.
We had decided to put in the extra miles to Paris yesterday to benefit from a full days rest today. It was a good and bad decision.
The last ten miles of the journey were indescribably difficult and felt like a thousand miles in themselves.
We crawled to the Eiffel Tower, smiled for a photo and then literally fell into our hotel three miles later. We slept soundly for 14 hours, only broken by a full leg cramp, that brought tears to the eyes of a grown man.
The next morning we could only say “We did it” which didn’t really sink in and still hasn’t. We haven’t reconciled the Km but it may be 1200 or more.
Only now can we stop and sum it all up.
None of it makes any sense if we don’t acknowledge the patience of our customers, suppliers and friends who supported us and put up with a reduced service along the road.
Tomorrow we pack the bikes in home made bags again and travel in reverse. We catch a train to Flers before our final 30 mile ride home.
Then there’s time to reflect and enjoy the experience from afar with a romantic edge that only passing time and fading pain can provide. We’ll manage to convince ourselves it was all great fun. We once said these trips were like having a baby, you just forget how painful it was. We had an amazing meal in Paris this evening and I admitted that there would be an air of disappointment if it was too easy.
Although we love doing this we pass it off as a ride to support the amazing work of www.woodstreetmission.org.uk
Check out the amazing stuff they do.