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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.