BBC BLOGS - Tom Fordyce
« Previous | Main | Next »

The alternative Tour de France - latest news

Post categories:

Tom Fordyce | 10:30 UK time, Friday, 27 February 2009

Fired by a heady mix of adrenaline and foolishness and accompanied by six stout Wales fans, I spent Thursday and Friday cycling from the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff to the Stade de France in Paris.

A total of 450 kilometres in two days - there are easier ways to get to a Six Nations match.

I've been posting updates and photos throughout on la grande adventure here. Feel free to offer your advice, encouragement and outright scorn down below...

Saturday, 0800 CET Location: darkened hotel room nr Grands Boulevards, Paris. Mood: knackered, yet deeply satisfied.
Gatland's men might have fallen short on Friday night, but Wales can be proud of another group of its sporting sons. The pre-ride odds on Le Grand Cycle being completed successfully were estimated by a cycling expert beforehand as "no more than five per cent" - but this peloton laughs in the face of such pooh-poohing. So what if no-one will be able to sit down for days? So what if everyone can only walk with a weird, hunched-over, John Wayne-style waddle?

Now then. It's Wales v Italy in Rome in a fortnight. We've got the bikes. We've got the outfits. And with 437 kilometres already on the clock, we've made big inroads already. Paris to Rome, across the Alps - how hard could it be?

The boys finally make it to the Stade de France

2010 CET: Km: 437. Location: Le Stade de France! Mood: Ecstatic
We've done it! We've done it!

1845 CET: Km: 414 Location: Pontoise. Punctures: Two. Mood: can't believe we've just had a puncture.
Oh, we did not need that. We did not need that. Paris is in our sights - no more than an hour and 10 minutes to go - and now this? Get the pump out. Rip off that tyre. Pull the spare inner tube from the back pocket. The match kicks off in just over two hours. Gatland - keep them in the dressing-room til we arrive...

1635 CET: Km: 380. Location: Gisors. Mood: tired and emotional.
It's incredible what creams a man will smear on his secret places when he's staring into the abyss. With 65km to go to Le Stade de France, it is all unctions to the pumps. The sun is sinking in this foreign land, and the five weary members of Gatland's red army (plus similarly weary man From Beeb) marshall their resources for the final push.

The boys make friends with the Parisian locals

1515 CET: Km: 351. Location: Ecouis. Mood: hurried
No time to stop - just time to tell you of everyone's sorest spot. Alex M: lips. Tom W: undercarriage. Rob M: the buttocks. Rob A: his wheel-arch. Adam: left buttock cheek and mind. Tom F: neck. And texting thumb.

1330 CET: Km: 325. Location: Bonsecours, a hill east of Rouen. Mood: stoic.
There are times when it all seems a dream - flying along at 28 kph in a flying express train of a peloton, the Seine slinking past on our right, the road zipping under the wheels. Every 15 minutes the drinks monitor-elect shouts, "DRINK!", every 30 minutes the dinner-lady elect shouts "EAT!" Five hours to get to Paris to pick the tickets up in time for kick-off. Allez allez allez!

1125 CET: Km: 285. Location: Caudebec, Normandy. Mood: cautiously optimistic.
It's amazing how the things that took hours to hurt on the first day are throbbing within minutes on the second. Salve comes in the form of the impeccable manners of French drivers, who cannot give you enough room as they pass. Big news is that we've lost our first man. Damian, in bits after Thursday's heroic ride, has pedalled slowly in the direction of the nearest train station. 40km to go to Rouen, 20km more to lunch. The aroma coming from the boulangeries we pass is how heaven must smell.

1000 CET: Km: 257. Location: Tancarville, Normandy. Mood: Loving the smooth, empty French roads.
How hard can it be to leave Le Havre without using the autoroute? It depends if the man reading the map only has one usable eye, on account of losing a contact lens on the overnight ferry.

The boys tuck in ahead of the final push to Paris

Friday 27th Feb, 0730 CET:. Km to Stade de France: about 200. Location: ferry approaching Le Havre. Mood: sleepy.
Yawn. Stretch. Ouch. Try to climb off bunk-bed and find les toilettes. Legs as heavy as car batteries. Reach for cycling shorts and find them crustier than a baguette. We have exactly 12 hours to get to Paris. Right - where's the cafe? And what's French for "porridge"?

2200: Km: 232. Location: Portsmouth. Mood: Pride tinged with fear.
Heroes, every one of them. Hungry heroes, to be fair, but with the smell of the sea in nostrils and France just a boat away, there can be no room for carping. Damian finally succumbed to his brutal flu in Winchester and jumped on a train for final stretch, bloodied but unbowed, but the remaining members of Gatland's barmy army knocked off the remaining miles with only the occasional dicey moment. And so Day One ends. Will the lads be sensible and retire to cabins to snatch a few precious hours sleep - or is there a thirst for a celebratory something in le bar?

The happy band celebrate their successful arrival

1830: Km: 187. Location: 24-hour petrol station in Winchester. Mood: Whose idea was this?
The news that we have two hours to go is somewhat troubling. Two hours? How can that be? We rendezvoused at the Millennium Stadium 11 hours ago. Right. Let's get the coffees in. And the milkshakes. And the Jaffa Cakes. What do you mean, "other snacks are available"? Where? Let me have them...

Spirits waver as our brave boys face another two hours in the saddle before reaching Portsmouth docks

1700: Km: 169. Location: Halfway up steep hill outside Andover. Mood: phlegmatic.
Now then. It's time to sort out the men from the boys. 65 km to go to the coast, and it's starting to get dark. A growing sense that Hymn Half-Hour might be called for to bolster spirits - nothing like a rendition of Bread Of Heaven to ease the throbbing of a man's most precious areas. Damian claims his knees have gone - will Winchester remain nothing but a dream for him?

1545: Km: 142. Location: Somewhere in middle of Salisbury Plain, near some tanks. Mood: Increasingly sore.
Just passed some tanks. We were going faster - marginally. Thank all the gods in heaven for that Chinese takeaway in Devizes. Don't go there expecting any food later - it was like a plague of locusts had gone through it. What's that cream Tom Williams is applying to his undercarriage?

The lads pose on Salisbury Plain

1400: Km: 122. Location: Devizes. Mood: hungry.
"Some Wales fans arrived in Devizes/ And had lunches of varying sizes/ Some were too small, and no good at all/ But the other ones won several prizes".
The good news: excellent - we're halfway! The bad news: oh no - we're only halfway... Portsmouth lies 120 kilometres to the south-east. It is downhill, isn't it?

The boys settle down for a well-deserved lunch

1200: Km: 77. Location: Yate, somewhere in Glouc. Punctures: 1. Mood: focused.
Farewell Wales, hello the Cotswolds. Memo to self - unwrapping sandwich from cellophane wrapper at 25 kmph leads to substantial steering issues. Revelation of day so far: Adam's dad was the writer/creator/mastermind behind 1980s cartoon SuperTed. Tis indeed an honour to be riding in such company. Now - where's the signpost to Chippenham?

Where are we going again?

1020: Location: Severn Bridge. Km: 51. Mood: probably peaking.
Huge psychological boost as we cross the national border. Average speed picked up on the A48 through Chepstow - surely one of the smoothest roads a man could ever hope to ride. Anecdote of day so far from Damian - unrepeatable but ended in phrase "and all I could smell was my own burning flesh".

Back row (L-R): Alex Meredith, Adam Edwards, Rob Andrew, Rob Meredith. Front row (L-R): Tom Williams, Damian Cottle

0900: Location: Usk Transporter Bridge, Newport. Km: 24. Mood: buoyant.
Uncertain first 10 minutes as party almost gets lost before leaving Cardiff. Picks up as Tom Williams teaches peloton the words to first two lines of the Marseilles. A mere 267 miles to Paris. Allez!

0730: Location: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. Km: 0.4. Mood: officially over-excited.
Le grand depart - six Welshmen in matching Wales tops and Nicole Cooke masks, wading through pains au chocolat provided by the throng of well-wishers. I say throng - there's five of them, but what they lack in numbers, they make up for in cakes. A bloke walking past on his way to work spots the jerseys and looks impressed. "Is that the Welsh team?" he asks, looking thrilled. And then confused. "They're not cycling to Paris for the match, are they?"

0600 GMT: Location: Cardiff. Km done: 0.
And so it begins. A pre-dawn breakfast of porridge, two hard-boiled eggs and two slices of toast, cooked by a man named Dogger in a flat behind the train station. Is this how Lance does it?

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Firstly, very embarassed I can't spell my username.... Uncanny how 7 blokes can all be the spitting image our our Nicole. God speed gents and look forward to the updates....

    P.S Dogger is the best chef i know.

  • Comment number 2.

    What an emotional send off... coffees and cakes being handed out by the boys' school PE teacher. The strangest part of the morning was a text from LePosisson in Sydney saying Tom Williams is running late. Good call Fishy. Good luck gents, I'll try not to lose the bags on the way over.

    PS - lies, Dogger has nothing.

  • Comment number 3.

    I feel sorry for Bones, seems that he has already been forgotten.

    Good luck boys, give me a call when you stop for lunch.

  • Comment number 4.

    I had a Posisson whilst on the continent... a sausage made with fish. Needless to say it was minging.

  • Comment number 5.

    Allez les Poireaux - je reve de votre retour longue apres une grande farce par les blues - Allez Les Blues
    ...and I'm English!

  • Comment number 6.

    Great work boys.
    Bones i haven't forgotten you...at least until you give me my prize rosette.
    Has Damo got the legs? Has Edwards got the beef? Has Dogger got the tickets??
    Not as good as Neighbours but fantastic drama non the less

  • Comment number 7.

    The photo is making me hungry. Thank God it's lunchtime.

    Good luck with it all boys. I will be following tirelessly today though tomorrow, it will be more snatched visits to the interweb from an all day meeting.

    I'll be thinking of you tomorrow when I shop in the Welsh market in London and settle in front of the big screen at my not-so-local to watch the match. Not even buckets of broken glass with which I could cut my hand (as happened last time) will keep me away!

  • Comment number 8.

    The whole Welsh team could come on bikes. Given the (supposed) state of fatigue of the French players after last weekend's Top 14 matches, they are not up to much. That and an untried "charnière" (scrum half/fly half) without going into Sylvain Marconnet's return in the front row after an unconvincing game against Toulon. Or is this some French ploy ?

  • Comment number 9.

    I was wondering what your route might be so tried the route planner on a well known map site (walking route - it only understands car or walk). It doesn't know you can cross the old Severn Bridge on foot (or a bike)!

    Good luck with the rest of the journey.

  • Comment number 10.

    You guys are bonkers, and I respect that. Cymru am byth! Have a safe journey, and enjoy watching our boys beating our French friends.

  • Comment number 11.

    Good luck, it looks like you'll need it! I assume you'll be doing a sprint up the Champs Elysées before you finish?

  • Comment number 12.

    best of luck guys, fingers crossed for the game!

  • Comment number 13.

    GirlieRyderFan - Just wondering whether you respect me as well?

    It was my brainwave some months ago to do this ride and got the boys on board, as it is, I'm really enjoying the coverage from my desk at work, having waved goodbye to them at 7 this morning.

    I'll enjoy even more the journey to Paris tomorrow morning though, with a cheeky Bouteille de Beaujolais, a whole camamebert and some freshly baked baguettes.

  • Comment number 14.

    Please could you find out SuperTed's secret magic word? I've been waiting 20 years to find out...

  • Comment number 15.

    DeeOhDoubleGee - if only you'd turned this into some Jeremy Clarkson vs Hamster affair. I can picture you rolling up to the Stade Francais in a Bugatti Veyron havnig left Cardiff merely three minutes before, being settled down with a nice beer just as the match kicks off and the boys stagger into their seats...

  • Comment number 16.

    To DeeohDoubleGee. If you're Welsh, and you had this brainwave, but THEN had the sense to journey in the morning with a cheeky Beaujolais etc, then RESPECT is unswervingly forthcoming. And I don't need to wait till the morning to know if I still respect you... we are not worthy.

  • Comment number 17.

    Two things.

    Err, Tom, how are you getting back from Paris? You never told anybody in the office...

    And, @14, SewerSide, I heard that Superted's actual secret magic word was "Superted".
    No disrespect to Adam's dad, but I think that was a 5-to-5 Friday afternoon special.

  • Comment number 18.

    Excellent wheeze. I'm in Paris but sans billets unfortunately, will be watching the match in an Irish pub in the 11th (unless anyone knows of a welsh pub in Paris?). Good luck to you all, suggest you try the local cider on your way through Normandy, not really wine country up there..

  • Comment number 19.

    Richard @17 - obviously, they're continuing the trip from Paris to Rome. Only a mere 1445.2 km, says a double-lettered route planner, from Stade de France (Rue Jules Rimet, bien sur) to Stadio Flaminio. Their main trouble will be getting back for the Ireland match...

  • Comment number 20.

    Gah! I've spent quite a bit of time today trying to work out the route on Google Maps. I think I've got it now though.

    I guess I'll have to work late now to make up for the time I have (very usefully) spent doing that.

  • Comment number 21.

    @15:45 - I was witness to a conversation last evening, between the Tom's and it involved Tom W. asking Tom F; "if it gets really bad, will you cream me up?"

    After a tactical pause to absorb this brave invitation, Tom F duly agreed, so one can assume that for every km ridden, a stronger bond is developed between the boys.

  • Comment number 22.

    Tedious; Prince William, Ben Foden, and Martin Fowler from Eastenders cycling to France. Is this all you have?

    You know who I feel sorry for in all this - that poor chap Bones.



  • Comment number 23.

    Speaking of Ben Foden, who is dating the hot Irish girl off of the girlband the Saturdays, do you think he introduced himself as the 'versatile Ben Foden'which won her over immediately?

  • Comment number 24.

    That has just made me realise i meant Fogle not Foden.

    Ben Fogle and one of the Saturdays just wasn't making sense.

  • Comment number 25.

    Tom,

    I'm not actually sure I believe you are doing this bikeride.

    Kudos to all the Welsh boyos, but you haven't featured in any of the photos yet.

    Or am I missing something??

  • Comment number 26.

    The 8.15pm from paddington last night, (25/02/2009)

    I a sure two men dressed exactly like you guys with bikes were on their way back to Wales...

    Not casting suspicions here...but

  • Comment number 27.

    Bones4Byrne the Ben Fogle chat has given me an idea - why don't you welsh boys row to Paris in 2 years time? Mind you where is estuary of the seine?

    Tom and the boys - immense respect even to get this far. Keep at it - rely on 'the mental' tomorrow morning!

  • Comment number 28.

    Was Damian's anecdote anything to do with a vasectomy? The smell of my own burning flesh is the most vivid memory of mine.....

  • Comment number 29.

    If it was, Damian wouldn't have had any trouble paying for it...... would you Dame?

    I had a restless sleep wondering how the peloton was getting on. Congrats on finishing 'la premiere etape.' I'm sure a few pints on the boat and some gentle banter with the HGV drivers of the UK on the merits of cyclists on Britain's roads, will leave you fresh for tomorrow's efforts.......

  • Comment number 30.

    Boys bach

    Epic effort so far, keep up the good work.

    But please, spare a thought for me; alarm set for 3.30am, quick shower and last minute packing, taxi picking me up at 4.10am to St Pancras, in Paris at 9.25am local time.

    All this with my knees I hear you say - Yes, I am a martyr...

  • Comment number 31.

    Very proud of you boys bach, I'm sure you're all taking it very easy on the ferry...Rob, how's le zob after all of those kilometers? Maybe this will finally correct the Roberto Carlos?
    Will be watching the game with Poison, Venner and possible Greenup so we'll be keeping our eyes peeled.
    Wishing you all the best pour le deuxieme etape...




  • Comment number 32.

    right fordyce and gang, get yourselfs down to grands boulevards prematch and there will be a pint waiting. If you will arrive after 7.15 then go the stadium. If you arrive before then come to the australian bar. Nearly opposite the irish bar. head for exit musee grevin in the metro.

  • Comment number 33.

    Just listened to the radio interview conducted by the legendary Phil Steele - pure genius. I hope you found that crate of Strongbow.

    And Tom you are not from Crynant, remember - Epsom born and bred!

  • Comment number 34.

    Hello Guys, i saw you at the service staition in winchester, at approx 18:00
    well done, but if you were on your way to pompey you still had a good 2 + hours to go.

    i thought you were on an audax at first, but realised it was a week day, so i knew it wasn't that.
    good luck for the rest of the ride.

  • Comment number 35.

    Excellent work chaps.
    Bones, remember the Pastis in Marseilles?

    We don't want to find you in the Nord being adopted by the local tramps when we get in.

    Damo don't pile in now, think of the glory!

    The support crew are on route....see you at the Stade with some refreshing cheese and Bow!

  • Comment number 36.

    Allez Allez Allez. Glad you made it to France OK. Hopefully just riding in France will give you a boost. Has your seat in the stadium has a cushion? :-)

    Well done lads, inspired to take this ride on myself (but from Twickenham perhaps!)

  • Comment number 37.

    Good luck boys! Keep up the good work.

    I am slightly disappointed you crossed the channel on a ferry though...pedalos anyone?

  • Comment number 38.

    Brilliant. Your commitment to your country and your sport is truly inspirational, chaps. Best of luck!

  • Comment number 39.

    I have a Welsh boss who loves rugby and cycling and would very much like one of your tops. Where did you get such stylish garments?

  • Comment number 40.

    Tommy
    Bitterly disappointed benders isn't with you on this one.

    And where's yer tweets from the handlebars? Such as Eeek just missed a truck while writing this tweet.
    Best

  • Comment number 41.

    Why did you gain a "huge psychological boost" on leaving Wales ?

    - it's not really *so* bad there is it ? ;-)


    No, seriously boys, very natty jerseys, if I were Welsh myself I'd be wanting one and asking where you got them from.

    Good luck.

  • Comment number 42.

    stevieblunder

    Do a search for foska and you'll see Wales cycling kit amongst others.

  • Comment number 43.

    Thank you so much ian540

  • Comment number 44.

    Well done chaps! Impressive effort.

    Don't let Tom get hold of any facepaint in Paris. Definitely don't let him paint on your forehead.

    Allez les rouge!!

  • Comment number 45.

    Respeth to you all great stuff

  • Comment number 46.

    Good luck with the final bit of your journey. Hope it goes well.

    Thought you might be interested in the following site:

    www.paris2london.com

    My friend is running the Paris Marathon, then running from Paris to London followed by spending a week at university before running the London Marathon, all for Cancer Research.

    I am sure, after your efforts, you will be able to understand some of his pain!

    Matt

  • Comment number 47.

    Fantastic effort, well done, hope the match lives up to your achievements, you all deserve it. Not quite sure though how you got through Portsmouth without at least one bike going missing!

  • Comment number 48.

    ian540 I think you might have started something there...I'm up for the twickenham to paris jaunt next year if you are!

  • Comment number 49.

    More! More! We can't stand the suspense.

  • Comment number 50.

    Excellent, excellent, excellent. Very happy to see the support for the boys. 8 schooners, now on my way to bed. And for the important matter of the game, will be up at silly o'clock, am confindent our intrepid cyclists will make it for the anthems.

    Too true micromognol, beware the face paints and the bow challenge!

  • Comment number 51.

    I knows that Adam's dad was from Barry - not Barry Island, but Barry proper like. A cracking place which makes Superted a cracking superhero who won't let you down.
    What's occurring in Paris? - a big Wales win to celebrate your efforts!!

    Keep on Rockin on!

    Wales, Wales, Wales, Wales, Wales, Wales!!

  • Comment number 52.

    Sorry flyingmelon62 but Adam's dad not born in Barry. Unfortunately Tom is mixing me up with Mike Young who is often credited with lots of Superted stuff. Adam's Dad made the TV shows.
    I have the utmost admiration for those brave stalwarts as they pedal their way towards Paris - as like you I watch this blog for their progress.
    They seem to have a long way still to go, it will be touch and go! Fear not brave ones I am standing by with the magic word :)

  • Comment number 53.

    Boys Bach, I want to hear about the three Ps on the way into Paris, Pace, Power and Panache.

    Allez, allez, allez.

  • Comment number 54.

    Keep going boys. Just looked on the map - ouch! it looks a long way to go, and Paris traffic on a Friday night!!!!!!!!! Heroes all of you.

  • Comment number 55.

    yes I've been looking at the map too and it does look such a loooooooong way still to go :(

    What time do they need to get to the Stade De France - anyone know for sure?

    I know the games at 9:0 local time.

  • Comment number 56.

    Having bumped into Rob A at Billy Elliott last week I thought in this hour of need, he might want to look back at some lyrics from the show for inspiration:

    Solidarity solidarity
    Solidarity forever
    All for one and one for all
    Solidarity forever

    Good luck and Cymru am byth!!

  • Comment number 57.

    65km in 3.5 hours. It's going to be tight at the pace you're going!

  • Comment number 58.

    I hope the game is half as exciting and entertaining as this wonderfully mad dash to the stadium. I'm not Welsh (and better yet, not French either), but you lot deserve a medal, a truck load of beers and a big bag of ice to sit on! Great stuff.

  • Comment number 59.

    Strange feeling to this Friday night buildup I'm normally nervous the night before but it hasn't even kicked in yet and there are only two hours to go.

    Hope the boys are being boosted by all the signs showing those Kms ticking down. Sure they will make it on time although I wouldn't like to be in the seats next to them after they have been cycling in lycra for two days.

  • Comment number 60.

    nearly there guys. I reckon only c 15k to go. Hope you find somewhere to put the bikes!

  • Comment number 61.

    go on lads not far now! the whole nation is behind you! quite literally...

  • Comment number 62.

    Hey there boys,

    Travelling home from a long day celebrating St. david's at school I was listening to the fantastic 'MrT' being interviewed on Radio 1 and I thought I would draw on his wise words "you crazy fools" ......are nearly there!

    Keep going and I don't think I need to tell you to "get some nuts!" .......you obviously all have plenty of them even if they are now very saddle sore!
    Well done all from adam's very proud mrs!

  • Comment number 63.

    Well done lads, you must be nearly there by now!!! A sterling effort...........lets hope for a Welsh win! Well done all of you - Adam's Ma!!!

  • Comment number 64.

    Whooopppeee!!! You have arrived! Beer on me folks (just ask Adam!!!).....
    Fantastic achievement!

  • Comment number 65.

    Absolutely top effort lads. That was a tough tough thing to do. Congratulations! Time for a drink now.

  • Comment number 66.

    Oh! All that sweat and effort from you and then they lose...I can't bear it....such a thin line between triumph and diasaster!

  • Comment number 67.

    So we lost the game, but we are now in les trois canards with Adam, Medz (x2), Damian, Rob and those that bottled iit like me and took the train.Adam is just getting out of the lycra and talc-ing up b4 he gets the drinks in on MumEdwards.

    They were treated like heroes at the stade with lots of love and photos, great effort, amazing journey, lets get on it!!!!

    ps - PARIS METRO IS HOPELESS, CLOSED AT MIDNIGHT, LESS THAN AN HOUR AFTER GAME 10,000 STRANDED - THE BOYS GOT BACK ON THEIR BIKES!!

  • Comment number 68.

    I reckon you'd be mad not to push on to Rome. I hear it's lovely this time of year. Might need some snow chains for your bikes, but other than that - no worries.
    Maybe you should keep riding to matches until you see Wales win one... just like those sportsmen that don't shave until they win. Instead, you'll just be the spectators that can't walk until their team wins!!

  • Comment number 69.

    A wee tip for more comfort on the route to Rome instead of Chamois Cream place some French Sirlion Steak in the shorts instead. by the time you get to rome the steak will be nice and tender.

    Good luck and happy pedalling

  • Comment number 70.

    All seemed a tad self-indulgent to me.

    How is this of interest if you're not taking part/ don't know anyone taking part?

    Highlighted when you look at who's made comments...

  • Comment number 71.

    You climbed Bonsecours without worshipping at the monument to the great Jean Robic? (google him). Then you continued to Paris to watch Wales lose? And now you'll be knackered for three weeks? I'm inclined to agree with comment 70

  • Comment number 72.

    junior cycling sensation oldtoneye accusing the brave peleton of self-indulgence?

    if oldtoneye and akatommySmith can manage to find a couple of mates I think there is good scope for a race to Rome here...

  • Comment number 73.

    "peloton" is the word.

 

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.