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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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