Category Archives: Tour de France Stages

21 Stages of the Tour de France and 21 Random Observations

Between 27 June and 19 July 2015, I rode every stage of the 2015 version of the Tour de France.  That is 21 Stages (Etapes) in total, so I thought that I would make 21 random observations about my journey.

1.  The Tour de Force is a brilliant organisation.  From the beginning of the whole journey right through to the end, all the staff go that extra mile to make the whole Tour de France experience a wonderful one and I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Sarah Perry, one of the most talented logisticians in the world. There is literally nothing that she cannot do!
Sarah Perry, one of the most talented logisticians in the world. There is literally nothing that she cannot do!

2.  Food rules the world when cycling.  I consumed in excess of 43,000 calories during the Tour, with no associated weight gain or loss.  I usually needed a bit more than the average French hotel evening meal to satisfy me!

Typical evening meal in a French hotel
Typical evening meal in a French hotel

3.  Sunflowers are an integral part of Le Tour.

The sunflower shot!
The sunflower shot!

4.  Life is simple with direction.  I followed these black arrows on yellow backgrounds around the whole of the route for 3 weeks.  No issues.  I am, however, finding it a bit tough to readjust to a life without arrows – I even got lost on my commute to work on my first day back!

Good directions!
Good directions!

5.  There is a lot of climbing in a 3 week Tour de France route.  During this year’s route, we rode 59,000 metres of vertical ascent.  That is the equivalent of 6.7 ascents of Mt Everest.

Col d'Allos, the highest point of this year's Tour
Col d’Allos, the highest point of this year’s Tour
Col de la Croix de Fer - also quite high
Col de la Croix de Fer – also quite high

6.  Cobbles – why would you want to race over them on a road bike?  No, seriously, I don’t get it.  On a mountain bike, maybe.  But on a road bike no.  They are just dusty farmers tracks.

Why put your road bike through this?
Why put your road bike through this?
One of the sectors
One of the sectors

7.  A clean bike is a fast bike.  My bike wasn’t the most aero, or most expensive, but it was one of the cleanest in the peleton.  I even wrote a post about cleaning your chain.  Bottom line is “keep your bike clean” and it will go faster.

A clean bike is a fast bike
FACT – A clean bike is a fast bike

8.  It is possible to ride the Tour drug free, but coke helps.

A can of coke can work wonders.
A can of coke can work wonders.

9.  Tour mania.  If the Tour comes to town, it is an excuse to get that rusty bike out of the shed, paint it up and put it on the roadside.

One of the thousands of painted bikes at the roadside.
One of the thousands of painted bikes at the roadside.

10.  Cycling can be a dangerous sport.  Broken bikes, broken legs, broken collarbones and lots of gravel rash.  This all happened during Le Tour.

11.  Mitigating risks.  The risks above can be mitigated somewhat by riding with people you know and trust and who communicate well.  That is why I rode with my two trusted Tour buddies and we made it to Paris without incident.

And me with riding buddies.
Me and my riding buddies.  (Peter on the left and Sylvain on the right).

12.  Money doesn’t grow on trees, but apparently bikes do!

The Bike Tree
The Bike Tree.

13.  France has some seriously beautiful countryside.  Particular highlights for me were the Pyrenees, the Gorges du Tarn and the Alps.

The Pyrenees
The Pyrenees
Gorges du Tarn
Gorges du Tarn
The Alps.
The Alps.

14.  Tour life isn’t that glamorous.  It’s not all podium girls and champagne.

Podium girls
Podium girls
And celebrations...
And celebrations…

In fact, it is quite the opposite.  Different hotels every night, washing kit, cleaning bikes and eating.  I wrote a post on the daily routine whilst on Tour here.

15.  Support from family, friends, colleagues and local business makes a real difference.  I got loads of support from all the above throughout the whole event and it made a massive difference.  Nineteen of my family and friends turned up in Paris to welcome me to the finish line.  An ex boss turned up at Alpe d’Huez to support me on the way up (probably one of the reasons I was able to do a 51 minute ascent of the hill).  My colleagues at work followed and supported me via social media whilst I was away.  The local opticians, in a random act of kindness, provided me with an awesome pair of Oakley Radarlocks and ran a collection tin for me.  It all meant so much and was fantastic.

Support from work colleagues.
Support from work colleagues.
Support from an ex boss on Alpe d'Huez
Support from an ex boss on Alpe d’Huez
Support from my family. This is my daughter and me in Paris.
Support from my family. This is my daughter and me in Paris.

16.  I am actually quite a good cyclist.  All my training paid off and I completed the Tour comfortably.  I have added a couple of Strava screenshots to reinforce my claim that I am quite good.

Note my name at the KOM slot at the top. Then see barguil warren at the bottom. Warren Barguil is the chap who knocked Geraint Thomas off his bike on the descent of Col de Manse on Stage 16 of the Tour de France.
Note my name at the KOM slot at the top. Then see barguil warren at the bottom. Warren Barguil is the chap who knocked Geraint Thomas off his bike on the descent of Col de Manse on Stage 16 of the Tour de France 2015.
Note the names directly above and below me. Jeremy Roy, pro cyclist with FDJ and Alex Dowsett, pro cyclist with Movistar and hour record holder before Bradley Wiggins took it off him.
Note the names directly above and below me. Jeremy Roy, pro cyclist with FDJ and Alex Dowsett, pro cyclist with Movistar and hour record holder before Bradley Wiggins took it off him.

I also managed a sub hour ascent of Alpe d’Huez, which is apparently a respectable time.  I did it in 51 minutes with 20 stages and about 3400km already in the legs, so not too shabby.

17.  P20 suncream is awesome.  One application pre-breakfast and no further suncream faff required, which is pretty impressive, especially when you consider that the mercury touched 42 degrees Celsius (107 degrees Fahrenheit) on occasions.

18.  Hydration becomes an obsession.  Riding long distances every day, in some pretty hot temperatures (42 degrees Celsius or 107 degrees Fahrenheit on a couple of occasions) makes you become obsessive about your hydration state.  I was probably drinking around 5 litres a day on the bike and another 5 litres a day off the bike.  Needless to say, I never made it through the night without a visit to the bathroom (but at least that it meant that I was properly hydrated).

19.  Continental Grand Prix 4 Season Tyres are the best.  Period.  I rode 3427km on them, over every conceivable road surface, including cobbles and gravel, and did not get one single puncture.

If Heineken made tyres.
If Heineken made tyres.

20.  Fundraising is fun.  Raising money for the William Wates Memorial Trust has been very satisfying, especially when you know that the money you raise is going to have a significant positive impact on the life of a disadvantaged young person in the UK.  To date I have raised about £4062, which really will make a difference.  My donation page is still live at this link.

21.  My last observation is about PMA (Positive Mental Attitude).  The mind is a wonderful thing.  I woke up each morning excited about being able to ride my bike all day.  (I love riding my bike, so this was a real treat for me).  This positive outlook make the whole experience really enjoyable and I honestly believe that my positive mindset make the whole journey so much easier.

Thanks for reading my post.

 

 

 

Numbers and statistics from my 2015 Tour

Garmin readout after 21 Stages of Le Tour
Garmin readout after 21 Stages of Le Tour
My Strava distances for TdF
My Strava distances for TdF

Total saddle time – 134 hours

Total distance covered during my 21 stages – 3427km (2130 miles)

Calories consumed –  43883   (with no associated weight gain or loss)

Vertical ascent completed – 59,000 metres (equivalent of 6 and a bit ascents up Mt Everest)

Numbers of punctures or mechanical issues – Nil

Average speed for whole Tour – 25.2kph (that would have been enough to win the Tour de France in 1926).

Number of pedal revolutions – 643,200

Total amount raised for the William Wates Memorial Trust – £4062

Stage 21 – The Final Push to Paris

Day 21 stats

 

In Paris!
In Paris!

Saddle time for today – 2 hours 15 minutes

Saddle time cumulative – 134 hours

Total distance covered since start in Utrecht on 27 June – 3427km (2130 miles)

Wow, it’s all over and I have made it safely to Paris.  It was so lovely to be greeted by family and friends on my arrival into Paris.  There were 19 in total, which is a most impressive support team – thanks everyone.  An evening cruise, eating and drinking on the River Seine with some of my family and all my fellow cyclists was a lovely ending to a wonderful tour.

Peter and me at the end
Peter and me at the end
Me and the Untypical Athletes
Me and the Untypical Athletes
Reunited with my lovely daughter
Reunited with my lovely daughter
And reunited with my lovely wife
And reunited with my lovely wife

Amount raised for William Wates Memorial Trust so far:  £3736.  Thank you to the following for the latest donations:  Mervyn Davidson, Aunty Gillian, Glen Batty and Katharine & Suria Perera.  If anyone else would like to increase this total amount raised so far, please use this link to my charity page.  I will personally thank you in the next post.

Stage 20 – summit finish on the iconic Alpe d’Huez

Day 20 stats

 

Xicon, the bike and me at the top of Alpe d'Huez
Xicon, the bike and me at the top of Alpe d’Huez

Saddle time for today – 4 hours and 55 minutes

Saddle time cumulative – 131 hours and 50 minutes

Actual distance covered to date – 3373km

Three weeks of riding and this was the last hurdle before the finish in Paris.  Only 110km, how hard can that be?  Well quite hard when you factor in 3 weeks of riding and then the infamous climbs of the Col de la Croix de Fer (this time from the other side) and the mighty Alpe d’Huez.

Many have climbed the famous Alpe d’Huez, but none as fast as Marco Pantani in 1997.  Helmetless, with that famous earring in place, Pantani exploded into action on the lower slopes at the end of Stage 13.  He took Jan Ullrich and Richard Virenque with him.  First Virenque cracked and then Ullrich.  Pantani took his second solo victory on the Alpe in three years.  Even with what we now know about this era, it remains visceral, thrilling viewing. It is worth a watch on YouTube, and the Italian commentary makes it even more atmospheric!

I actually really enjoyed the stage and am really pleased to have got this far safely and still feeling strong.  In fact, I even managed to do a sub 1 hour ascent of Alpe d’Huez (51 minutes actually) which is meant to be pretty good, especially when I consider that this is at the end of 3 weeks of riding and with more than 3000km in the legs.  So, yes, I am rather pleased with myself.

Burning some matches on Alpe d'Huez
Burning some matches on Alpe d’Huez

I was also rather pleased to see my old boss, from my seismic days, John O’Connor turn up to support me (or hurl abuse at me), from his van all the way up Alpe d’Huez.  Support from family and friends on the roadside really does make you ride faster – FACT!

John O'Connor (ex boss) and me at top of Alpe d'Huez
John O’Connor (ex boss) and me at top of Alpe d’Huez

Amount raised for William Wates Memorial Trust so far:  £3586.  If you would like to increase this amount, please use this link to my charity page.  I will personally thank you in the next post.

Stage 19 of TdF – the penultimate Alpine Stage

Another beautiful day in the Alps.  Took in the Col du Chaussy, the Col de la Croix Fer (so up the Col du Glandon the way we came down yesterday, then hang a left up to the top of the summit), Col du Mollard and a summit finish in La Toussuire.  The road up to the finish is where Chris Froome put Bradley Wiggins in trouble on the 2012 edition of the Tour, when Wiggins was in the Yellow Jersey.

As always, rode with my buddies, Sylain and Peter.  They have been great company throughout the Tour and I very much value their friendship.  Just a shame that I let the team down riding a Litespeed as opposed to the Pinarellos that they both ride!  And my lack of Assos shorts probably upset them too!

So only 110km of Alpine roads left tomorrow and then a quick spin around Paris on Sunday and the job is done.

As always, a few random  summit shots of Xicon, the bike and anything else that caught my eye.

Xicon, the bike, on the Col du Mollard.
Xicon, the bike, on the Col du Mollard.
Xicon, the bike, on summit of Col de la Croix de Fer.
Xicon, the bike, on summit of Col de la Croix de Fer.
Random polka dot decorated bike in some Alpine village.
Random polka dot decorated bike in some Alpine village.

Statistics:

Ride time – 7 hours and 15 minutes for 143km

4300 metres of ascent

Total ride time since Utrecht – 126 hours and 55 minutes

Total distance covered so far – 3258km

Stage 18 – Gap to Saint Jean de Maurienne

Another big day in the Alps, with over 4000 metres of vertical ascent.  Took in the 22km climb of the Col du Glandon, which proved to be a great photo opportunity for Xicon, the bike.

Xicon, the bike, at the top of the Col du Glandon on Stage 18 of Le Tour
Xicon, the bike, at the top of the Col du Glandon on Stage 18 of Le Tour

Ride time today – 8 hours

Distance covered today – 190km with 4095 metres of vertical ascent (a big day).

Distance covered since start in Utrecht – 3115km

Total saddle time so far – 119 hours and 35 minutes.

Well that’s all for today.  Another couple of big days in the Alps to look forward to, then Paris and family reunion – I am uber excited about seeing my family again.

 

Stage 17 – Pra Loup finish

Day 17 stats

Col d'Allos and Pra Loup.
Col d’Allos and Pra Loup.

Saddle time for today – 6 hours 45 minutes

Total ascent – 3311 metres

Saddle time cumulative – 111 hours 30 minutes

This was Stage 5 of the Criterium Dauphine this year and the scene of the epic attack on the descent of Col d’Allos by Romain Bardet.  He took enough time out of peleton on his descent off the col to enable him to keep the chasing group at bay on the final ascent of Pra Loup and take the stage victory.  It was a super impressive display of talent and I wrote about it at the time.  If you want to have a look, click here.  I, however, didn’t come down the Col d’Allos as quickly.  I did enjoy the Col though, both up and down it.  It was also the highest point of this year’s Tour route.  Spectacular views all round.  We then headed up to the summit finish at Pra Loup, which is where Bernard Thevenet ended Eddy Merckx’s reign and took the Yellow Jersey.  This is a photo of the location where he rode away from Merckx in 1975.

On the road up to Pra Loup, the place where the Cannibal's reign came to an end.
On the road up to Pra Loup, the place where the Cannibal’s reign came to an end.
Xicon, the bike, on the Col d'Allos - the highest point of this year's Tour
Xicon, the bike, on the Col d’Allos – the highest point of this year’s Tour

Amount raised for William Wates Memorial Trust so far:  £3586.  If you would like to increase this amount, please use this link to my charity page.  I will personally thank you in the next post.

Rest Day 2 (of 2) – Bastille Day

Rest day 2 stats

Saddle time for today – 0 minutes (unless you count 5 minutes riding around the car park checking over my bike post cleaning).

Saddle time cumulative – 104 hours and 45 minutes

So today is the final rest day in Gap.  Have completed my normal bike cleaning and other faff and am now taking it easy, reflecting on my Tour so far.  All has been good, I have been riding with a couple of lads of a similar standard to me and we have, most importantly, stayed safe so far.  It is good to cycle with wheels that you trust – it makes it a lot less stressful than riding in a big bunch of unknowns.

Looking ahead, we have four Alpine stages that I am really looking forward to, then Paris and family reunions, which I am most excited about.

Anyway, after last night’s supper I think that I might need to go and find some more food, a chicken leg, one potato and some courgettes, irrelevant how delicious it was, it not going to sustain me for 4 hard days in the Alps.

Fuel for the Alps?
Fuel for the Alps?

Amount raised for William Wates Memorial Trust so far:  £3586.  If you would like to increase this amount, please use this link to my charity page.  I will personally thank you in the next post.

 

Stage 16 – To Gap

Day 16 stats

Not quite a mountain stage - but near enough.
Not quite a mountain stage – but near enough.

Saddle time for today – 7 hours 20 minutes

Saddle time cumulative -104 hours and  45 minutes

Today was the last transition stage and we are now in Gap in the foothills of the Alps.  Tomorrow is Rest Day 2, so it is a bit of a luxury lie in tomorrow morning, with a bit of bike cleaning and watching the Tour ride up Pierre St Martin slightly quicker than I did last week.

It was a pleasant ride with my ride buddies, Peter and Sylvain.  The smell of the lavender fields was very pleasant.  The roads were good and we had a couple of nice ascents and descents along the way to keep it interesting.

Me with the Alps in the background
Me with the Alps in the background
Xicon, the bike, with his Pinarello friends.
Xicon, the bike, with his Pinarello friends.
And me with my friends, Sylvain and Peter.
And me with my friends, Sylvain and Peter.

Amount raised for William Wates Memorial Trust so far:  £3586.  If you would like to increase this amount, please use this link to my charity page.  I will personally thank you in the next post.

Stage 15 – Mende to Valence

Day 15 stats

Definitely a day for the sprinters.
Definitely a day for the sprinters.

Saddle time for today – 7 hours 20 minutes

Saddle time cumulative – 97 hours 25 minutes

Today was another hot transition stage towards the Alps.  Fairly uneventful until one of my two ride buddies got a bit too hot near the end of the stage.  I hope he recovers well this evening.  The road was pretty good, lots of Tourmac and some really enjoyable fast descents.

Titanium bikes rock!  Xicon with some friends.
Titanium bikes rock! Xicon with some friends.
Tiffy Laing and Jake French in identical kit and bikes - respect!
Tiffy Laing and Jake French in identical kit and bikes – respect!

Amount raised for William Wates Memorial Trust so far:  £3586.  Thanks to Paul Campbell for the latest donation.  If you would like to increase this amount, please use this link to my charity page.  I will personally thank you in the next post.