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Two days, six Wales fans, 280 miles

Tom Fordyce | 15:16 GMT, Tuesday, 24 February 2009

I think it was at the World Ubogu Championships that the idea was first mooted: to mark the occasion of this week's France v Wales match, the first Friday night game in Six Nations history, we should cycle from Cardiff to Paris.

How bad could it be? Eight Wales fans in the prime of life, plus one neutral BBC journalist desperately hanging onto his prime with his fingernails - a couple of happy days in the saddle, zipping along through the spring countryside, stopping occasionally for liquid carbohydrates and pain au chocolat, children at the roadside waving handkerchiefs, white horses galloping through fields of corn alongside us, a magnificent match at the end of it all.

At the time it all seemed so simple, so plausible.

It also seemed a very long way off. Now it just seems like a very long way.

The first hint that things might be a little trickier was the way the distance between the Millennium Stadium and the Stade de France kept mysteriously expanding as Tom W and Medz planned the route.

What began as a breezy 120 miles from Cardiff to Portsmouth soon became 130, then 145.

What had definitely been a pleasant 110 from Le Havre to Paris rapidly climbed to 120, then 130. With about 2,400m of climbing thrown in for good measure.

It was almost as if a new tectonic fault-line had been discovered somewhere off the Channel Islands.

Still, we all thought - there's plenty of time for training. It's just a question of getting the mileage in - a few long training rides in December and January and we'll be fine.

It was shortly afterwards that the UK entered a new ice age.

So cold, so icy, so anti-cycling have the last few months been that we're not so much approaching this ride undercooked as raw like sushi.

If I live to be 101, I'll still never forget the agony in my fingers, toes and face after completing the one-day classic that is Brixton-Staines, through heavy snow and wind-chill of -8C, on The Day Britain Froze (™ Daily Express, 11/01/09).

Still, just as Warren Gatland's team will have to smash through the pain barrier to beat France on home soil, so we shall have to push ourselves to similarly Herculean levels.

Two successive days of 12-hour rides, by a group of rugby fans with zero experience of such feats, might sound like the stuff of fantasy - but then again, so did a Wales Grand Slam at the start of last year's Six Nations.

As you'd expect ahead of an adventure of this magnitude, there have been drop-outs. Bones, a man who loves Lee Byrne even more than Mrs Byrne and proprietors of Swansea tanning salons combined, will now be taking the Eurostar out to see his hero after wrecking his knees on a ride from Leamington to Stockwell.

Tom W, meanwhile, has been suffering so much pain in the undercarriage region that he may be forced to strap a mattress to his bike's saddle.

With just hours to go until Thursday morning's dawn departure from the Millennium Stadium, however, there is no turning back. A job lot of long-sleeved cycling jerseys made from the Welsh flag have been secured, with full-facial masks of Nicole Cooke about to roll off Adam's work's photocopier.


The weather, too, looks like being kind - a mere 10% chance of precipitation en route, according to the BBC weather site, with temperatures ranging from 4C to a positively balmy 11C somewhere near Rouen.

Should you wish to follow our progress to Paris, I'll be posting blog updates whenever we make a courtesy break. Should the technology not fail us, photos will be appearing on Scrum V's Flickr page, while that fine programme's radio presenter Phil Steele will be joining us for the Cardiff-St Mellons-Newport leg.

Should you reside or work in any of the towns en route - Chipping Sodbury, Devizes, Winchester, Fareham - and happen to spot a perspiring peloton inching slowly past, do give us an "Allez allez allez!"

Can we really cover 280 miles in two days without recourse to a support car or the SNCF? Will we make it to the Stade de France in time for the 2100 local-time kick-off? And where can we lock up our bikes if we do?

We are about to find out.


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  • 1. At 4:32pm on 24 Feb 2009, Streisand wrote:

    Piece of cake. Could you do us all a favour and take Rick O Shea with you too. p.s. what's wrong with monkey tennis?

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  • 2. At 5:04pm on 24 Feb 2009, mere0208 wrote:

    That'll be the very hard, long cake which takes 48 hours to eat and probably destroys any chance of a family allowance is it Streisand? Mmmmm I'll take two please.

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  • 3. At 6:34pm on 24 Feb 2009, willbutlerwin wrote:

    nice one! what time will u be in newport and devizes?

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  • 4. At 6:49pm on 24 Feb 2009, Tom Fordyce wrote:

    willbutlerwin - according to Day One route-planner Tom Williams, we'll be in Newport around 8-8.30am on Thurs, with a possible luncheon stop in Devizes around the 12.30-1pm mark.

    Fancy setting up a feeding-station?

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  • 5. At 7:23pm on 24 Feb 2009, willbutlerwin wrote:

    maybe, or i fancied joining u guys if u wanted a bigger peloton, however i may wear an england jersey!

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  • 6. At 7:27pm on 24 Feb 2009, gbinwin wrote:

    Winchester to Cardiff- remember to use the old bridge!- is about 135 mi; I've been doing it each year for the last few years to visit the in-laws. Under 10 hours including the pub lunch. Winchester Portsmouth is another 1.5-2 hours. Enjoy

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  • 7. At 8:23pm on 24 Feb 2009, GerrardvsWorld wrote:

    shame, was going into Devizes at 4:00 and was hoping to see you all to wish you luck. will have to do it now, so when your sitting having a nice bit to eat..
    imaging a small boy shouting allez, allez, allez.

    phoar, what an insentive. Good luck!

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  • 8. At 9:58pm on 24 Feb 2009, singinghannahj wrote:

    Flippin' heck. Good luck. Keep the Vaseline handy!

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  • 9. At 00:14am on 25 Feb 2009, minidamo56 wrote:

    You lot are nuts...although I think the hardest thing will be to repel the natural draw to the bar on the ferry...and remember to leave the duty free shopping until the return trip - nothing like a bottle of scotch and 200 fags to scupper the event!

    I sincerely hope you do it...but as a bitter Englishman I cannot extend my cordiality to the game itself. My prediction? France to win 28-12 and Fordyce et al to watch the game standing up.

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  • 10. At 06:50am on 25 Feb 2009, timhenmanrumourmill wrote:

    May I be among the first to wish Tom "the bonk" Fordyce and his band of misfits the best of British in their epic ride to St Denis. I'll be there at the Stadium to wave you off and there at the Stade with pastis a-plenty. Someone has to console Bones. Come on Tim! DC

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  • 11. At 09:22am on 25 Feb 2009, GosportWelshman wrote:

    when are you in fareham?

    could jack up some pasta scran for fellow welshmen cycling.

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  • 12. At 11:57am on 25 Feb 2009, Tom Fordyce wrote:

    minidamo56 - spot-on about the bar on the ferry. It is there that our dreams of making it to Paris would surely die. Although pleasurably.

    timhenmanrumourmill - we should just explain to non-cyclists that the bonk to which you refer has nothing to do with bedroom gymnastics, and everything to do with running out of fuel. People will talk...

    GosportWelshman - I reckon we'll be there about 6pm-ish - what a tea-time offer that could be. Keep an eye on the blog for updates on progress, and if the cooking urge does strike, let us know where to find you in Fareham (arrabiata with extra olives and tuna for me, s'il vous plait).

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  • 13. At 1:04pm on 25 Feb 2009, Ten_Thousand_Fists wrote:

    It will take you less then 16 hours to cover the mileage if you average 18mph, easy!

    You'll have to report if the French drivers are more courteous to cyclists then the British.

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  • 14. At 1:32pm on 25 Feb 2009, hackerjack wrote:

    You'll have to report if the French drivers are more courteous to cyclists then the British.

    Or indeed if while in France you have the same urge to run red lights as 90% of cyclists in South Wales seem to have.


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  • 15. At 2:11pm on 25 Feb 2009, Kubali wrote:

    As you could'nt sponge a caravan off the beeb this time or hitch a lift, you have to cycle this time? Credit crunch finally hits the bbc?!

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  • 16. At 3:25pm on 25 Feb 2009, Corkit wrote:

    You will find the French drivers much more curteous than British ones. They give you plenty of room, and are much less likely to miss you when they are coming onto a mian road, just watch out at round-a-bouts they are still relatively new in France, and a lot of French people still haven't got the hang of them. And don't forget that due to the subsidies the Communes get from central govenrment for improving road safety there are lots of speed bumps in every small town!

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  • 17. At 4:33pm on 25 Feb 2009, Nomis1961 wrote:

    Just read yr blog Tom. Good luck! Hope you are able to make it. By the way, how are you getting home? Straight back on the bike after the final whistle?

    Thought not!

    Did it the other way around a few years ago, albeit to London over 4 days. Typical Englishman ... looking to slow the game down!

    Enjoy the game. Although Friday and 6 Nations does seem strange! Enjoy the celebrations after too, you will have earned it.

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  • 18. At 5:40pm on 25 Feb 2009, rugboyo wrote:

    Watch out when cycling in Paris. Its hard enough being a pedestrian but i should think for cyclists it is worse.

    What time are you aiming to arrive in Paris?

    Head down to metro grands boulevards if you are arriving a bit before the game.

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  • 19. At 6:29pm on 25 Feb 2009, neyster wrote:

    Tom, have a good one out there. I'll be looking forward to some good video footage of you having a good one in the saddle and in the bars.

    I'm yet to hear anything from that reprobate Dirs about meeting up in Dublin over the weekend. I can only assume he's had a better offer from a travelling troupe of female Swedish cheerleaders...

    Here's to another great round of matches.


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  • 20. At 7:02pm on 25 Feb 2009, Tom Fordyce wrote:

    Right - 12 hours until departure, and I've just eaten a bucket of pasta so large I had to cook it in my bathtub.

    Feel a little bit sick, to be honest.

    (Dr Nightmare - Dirs been off skiing. Goes down a hill fast, that boy, but he'll be in Dubs alright.)

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  • 21. At 9:38pm on 25 Feb 2009, Ron666 wrote:

    Bit of a problem for the English here. Who do they hate most, us or the French?

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  • 22. At 9:45pm on 25 Feb 2009, oldtoneye wrote:

    Are you utterly mad? Why not jump off the M4 bridge while you're at it and swim the Channel? I know what I'm talking about having been a cycling pro in my youth and ridden the Tour de France. For a bunch of neophytes there's no such thing as a nice 280 miles bike ride, especially if you haven't done much preparation, like starting at riding 20 miles and taking six months to extend that distance up to 140 x 2. It's like taking the dog for a walk in the park as training for a marathon. You are insulting your bodies and the serious sport of cycling by attempting something for which you aren't prepared. You'll wreck your immune systems at best and at worst will end up in hospital on a drip suffering from utter exhaustion. What's the point (a quoi bon)?

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  • 23. At 01:41am on 26 Feb 2009, willbutlerwin wrote:

    oldtoneye, calm down, i'm thinking of riding down to devizes to give hese guys some bananas, wasn't sure bout doing it as it nearly 2 and its a far way there and back form oxford. + i dont have any more punture repair kits left and i'm skint, but your negativity has me decided, i will go.

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