That’s a wrap

There is no bag to pack, no breakfast buffet to consume and no day bags to arrange for the stage ahead. It’s 5am on Sunday morning and I am standing in our kitchen trying to make sense of where I am and what I am about to do.

Winter in Sydney is not that harsh but I am soft and I feel the cold

It’s been a week since we rode around Paris and less than 24 hours since we stepped off our flight back from Heathrow. It’s a cold, dark Sydney morning outside. My phone tells me it’s 6c but apparently it feels like 3c. This is as cold as it will get during our winter and I am dressed in in my full “winter gear”. What I would have given for this on stage 8 when we spent the day being cold and wet.

I have no compelling reason to get on my bike this morning, nothing to train for, no events in my calendar and riding 3,637km over 21 stages could have earned me a few weeks off. But I was awake and old habits are hard to break. I am back in a familiar routine and it’s hard to believe what has happened and what we have achieved over the last few weeks.

Robyn has stayed in bed, she was all set to ride the Rapha Women’s 100 this morning but a test ride last night was the proof she needed that she was still carrying an injury. The fact she was able to ride into Paris at all was due to the remarkable efforts put in by the medical team of Dr.Fiona and Dr.Tony. What she thought was a saddle sore was in fact an abscess (she loves the fact I am sharing this) and both Dr’s were amazed she could sit let alone ride her bike. But she wanted to ride so they did everything possible to allow her to. Proof of the exceptional services and attitude that all the TDF team on tour displayed.

So over the course of my ride I use the time to think about what has just happened and what we have experienced in France. A quick check in with Robyn when I get back and I can share the learning’s and insights form our tour experience.

Remember To Look Up

Robyn at the end of her fist day, a big stage in the mountains

There were times on tour when getting through the stage is the priority, this can be driven by the distance you need to cover, how you may be feeling or the weather. This is OK but if you spent the whole tour just staring at the wheel in front of you, then you have missed what France is all about. Every stage took you through a part of France that had something to offer. I now have a greater understanding of the variety of the landscape across France. It would also seem that rural France is shut, we passed lots of houses and villages with very little sign of life.This was great as it created a real sense of peace as we travelled through some of the remote roads that the tour takes.

Our personal highlight was Stage 12 and riding up to Peyragudes on Robyn’s first day. We shared a magical moment as the sun was setting on the mountains and after a huge day we both felt emotional and also very appreciative of being able to make the time to do something we love.

Meet The Locals

Maybe because we live so far away from Europe and don’t get to spend much time on foreign soil but we just loved being in France and going native. We don’t speak any French, all be it the odd word and phrase, but it didn’t stop us having a conversation in a bar with the locals as we watched the final 10 minutes of the Lions v NZ rugby decider, ordering 10 large beers to the bemused looks of the barman or trying to buy lip balm from a pharmacist who didn’t understand a word of what I was saying.

Wet but still smiling after meeting the locals

The highlight was our encounter with a gruff French bar owner on the stage 15 as we made our way to Le Puy-En-Velay to meet our family for the rest day. It was cold and wet and I needed the loo. So we stopped at a very small bar. It was Sunday lunchtime and clearly things were set up for the locals and a long lunch. We were soaking wet and as we greeted the proprietor he whipped out two old tea towels for us to stand on. He was chuntering away but we didn’t understand a word, we did get the impression that he would be quite pleased if we left. However needs must, but being too polite just to drip all over his bar and use the loo we ordered 2 espresso’s first.

He asked if we were English, “No, Je suis Australian”, Robyn proudly announced. Though his demeanor didn’t change he did become animated. I think he asked us if we ate kangaroo and when we replied no he said that we should as he likes to eat horse! I could have got this wrong as I needed the toilet quite badly by then.

I managed to get him to point out the toilets and took off my cycling shoes so not to clatter through the bar. As I exited stage left this bought another round on gesticulation and animation as he pointed out to Robyn the wet mess I was making all over his floor. On my return a mop had appeared and we made a hasty exit back into the rain. We laughed all the way to the next food stop, a bit of a touch and go moment in many ways.

Does the tour make the people or do the people make the tour?

Lots of smiles and laughter throughout the 3 weeks

I have been asked if I would do it all again. My instinctive answer is absolutely yes. My only reservation is if you could ever recreate the same sense of camaraderie. They say that each year the tour has its own flavour and I’m sure all previous participants may feel the same thing about their tour and their experience. My challenge would be that the last 3 weeks has been so much fun off the bike I am struggling to see how it could get any better. It would seem the “Le Loop” appeals to a certain type of rider. Yes they can ride a bike but don’t take themselves or what they are doing too seriously. This sense of humour and a genuine interest to help each other out to achieve the goals that we are set each day is major part of the tour experience. Whether it’s a social beer before we even reach the hotel at the end of the stage, a late night trip to McDonalds to let Jeff (the eldest lifer at 63) experience its culinary delights for the first time ever, or just the merriment that accompanied the dinners and many drinks, we laughed a lot.

Spin, Spin, Spin

All the training was about to pay off, before our first day on tour

I have also been asked if I found the cycling hard. The answer is yes, at times it was bloody hard. But these times were actually far and few between. We are not professionals, so completing each stage and doing this over a number of consecutive days is an achievement in itself. Sure there were some riders capable of racing around and everybody at some stage would have given it an extra nudge when on the front of the peloton or up a hill, but this was about endurance not speed. You learn to ride at a tempo that allows you to ride all day, as this is what you are required to do. To be able to do this you needed to have put the training and the KM’s in your legs beforehand.

The body is a remarkable thing and it can achieve things beyond what our mind tells us we are capable of. You can force it for a day or 2 but after that things can go awry. If you haven’t put the hours in spinning away and getting your body used to it then the niggles and pains begin to creep in. Everybody at some stage would have dealt with some issue but the more you prepare the more you know what to expect and the more your body is capable of dealing with it. As a wise person once told me, “The event is the reward for all the training you put in”. Mine just happened to be a 21 day reward!

Making A Difference

The charity aspect of the tour had more of an impact on me than I thought it would. I had looked into William Wates Memorial Trust and the projects it supports beforehand so I had some idea about what we were raising money for. It wasn’t until we got to hear from some of the charities and the people that benefited from the support that I really understood how the money raised does make a difference. On tour we got to meet people from a couple of the charities and when you hear about the challenges and hardships that people encounter it made me feel rather disconnected from the reality that many people face in their daily lives.

What we were able to do was for pure pleasure and, let’s face it was incredibly self-indulgent. These stories and insight were a reality check and a wake up call. I am glad we could raise the money we did, I am left wondering what else I can do. I can continue to donate money to good causes but I think there is more that I can be doing. I am not sure what it is but I have come back from the tour with an intent to find local projects and charities that I can someway help and support. Maybe it’s offering my time or maybe I can leverage some of the skills I have in my business, either way the tour opened my eyes to a world beyond my comfortable existence.

What next?

I honestly don’t know, I’ll still ride my bike as the other morning showed. But without the pressure of any immediate event there is a life to resurrect, school runs to make and clients to see.

Maybe I just need to take a few weeks to reflect on what we did, enjoy the photos and memories that go with them and let the next adventure find me.

Can I still donate?

Of course you can and when you make your donation send us an email with your address to and we will pop an exclusive Rather Be Riding My Bike tea towel in the post to you. We have covered the costs for the tea towels and will pay for the postage so all your money goes to help out those that need it.

To donate click here:





Stage 21 – Just can’t get enough

The rhythm of tour life provides you with a very warm security blanket. I haven’t had to think for myself for three weeks. Just follow the instructions, make sure you know when mealtimes are and be ready to ride at the right time. On the “outside” this would drive me mad, being in the tour bubble this structure has been the enabler for a fabulous holiday. Riding your bike every day is made easier when you don’t have to think about what happens when you are off it.

We made it

I was asked to describe my tour experience in a single word. I fumbled around before I had a moment of clarity – FUN. On the bike and off the bike it has been constant fun. Whilst we are all on tour to ride our bikes and to complete whatever stages we have signed on for, the thing that will stay with me is the sheer enjoyment and laughter that we have had along the way. Without having to try there is an intimacy and bond that is created when you spend this much time with people sharing a common goal.

The complete obsurdity and hilarity of having a tour doctor examine your backside whilst you stand on the side of the road with your Lycra shorts down near your ankles is only fully realised afterwards when the story is retold in the bar. At the time it was just another problem that needed to be fixed so the pedals could be kept turning. Goodness knows what the passing motorists thought of the roadside diagnosis that was taking place.

So on our final day and a last spin into Paris the laughter and enjoyment continued. As we rode through the outskirts of Paris into Versailles there was a genuine end of term feel in the peloton. Then as we made our way through a surprisingly quiet Paris we seemed to magically arrive at the Eiffel Tower. Friends and family greeted many riders and Robyn and I took a moment to appreciate what we had been able to achieve and to send a photograph to our girls back in the UK.

Heroic pose from Robyn

Once we had regrouped we set off to do a lap of the Champs-Élysées. More laughter as we made our way across the cobbles, weaving and racing through the traffic to get to the Arc de Triomphe. The smiles gave way to a few tears as we bounced along the rode and the enormity of what we had done hit home. Circumnavigating the Arc, through the waves of cars coming from all directions, refocused our attention and we set off down the Champs-Élysées agin to complete our lap. Racing between traffic lights, heading down through the tunnel that many of us are familiar with from watching the tour on TV and back around the Louvre, we fought for position amongst ourselves and the traffic. Back upto the Arc, a right turn and a few KM later and we were at our hotel. We parked the bikes ready for transportation back to the UK, hugs all around and into the bar to continue the merriment.

Signing the route to the bar

We spent our final evening on a boat on the Seine taking in the sights of Paris with our fellow riders and their friends and family, all sharing in one more magical evening. What was meant to be a final beer back at the hotel turned into a singalong and some dancing for the final few revellers who clearly had not had enough when at 3am Depeche Mode blasted out of the sound system.

The lifers on tour

Stage 19 and 20 – Are we there yet?

Stage 19 was on Bastille Day so we put on the stripes to celebrate


Stage 19 was the longest stage of the tour, we rode 236km, and I say we because Robyn’s bike was fixed overnight and she was rearing to go.

We rode from Emburn to Salon-de-Provence, from the Alps down to near Marseille, through Provence. It was hot and windy and given it was the last proper ride of the tour it was suitably challenging. A headwind had us slowly pedalling our way through some beautiful scenery that was frankly wasted on us given the focus we had to get to the end of the stage.

There have been times on tour when the scenery and surroundings have been lost to the challenge and the distance that each stage has offered up. This is what has made the last 3 weeks such an engaging thing to do. Seeing as much of France as we have, doing it with a group of people who have bonded together and also testing ourselves against the elements and some challenging terrain needs a bit of focus and determination at times.

It seemed that my cycle computer had stoped working as the KM’s just didn’t accumulate as they had done so on other stages. But we just kept on going, knowing there would be some relief from a brief decent or change in the wind at some stage.

The final approach to the end of the stage was a wild ride, a strong head wind gusting into a cross wind, had us riding sideways across the road and holding on to the handlebars for dear life. Then we turned a corner and had a tailwind that blew us home like we were sitting in the pro peloton.

This was our last big stage of the tour. Today, stage 20, was a brief spin around Marseille because it is a time trial for the pros. From rural France to being in the middle of a town and cruising along the Med took a bit of adjusting. In all we covered only 22km along the seafront and with a brief but steep climb up to the Notre-Dame de la Grade. Stage 20 and the final stage will be the only stages I will get to see when we are back in Sydney. It will be strange watching it in the middle of the night and actually knowing that I have ridden the exact same roads.

So now we are heading to Paris, we are traveling on the TGV at 300 KMH, retracing some of the 3,480km that we have covered whilst on tour. Tomorrow we have our final ride into Paris, another casual affair to celebrate what we have achieved and to take some final pictures of our 3 week holiday in France.

Stage 18 – Bittersweet

Today I climbed the last big mountain of the the tour, the Col d’Isoard, topping out at 2,360 meters. I did it without Robyn, so as enjoyable as it was to get up there, it was actually very unfulfilling. After yesterday’s dramas Robyn’s bike couldn’t be fully fixed, she still had enough gears to ride the day and as a bonus woke up feeling good and ready to go.

To go down them you must first climb them

We set off and descended for the first hour or so covering over 30km. When you add this to the 35km we did the day before to get to our hotel we had descended over 65km. To do that you need to have climbed up that far, which bought home the enormity of what we have been doing. When you spend all day pedalling the distance covered and the meters climbed start to lose a bit of meaning. All you are concerned about is the gradient of any hill you are on, this dictates how hard you have to work,  and how far to the next feedstop.

Robyn had her groove back and we made good time to the first feedstop of the day and then around a beautiful lake and into feedstop 2. We had covered 80km without trying and felt good. Then as we hit about the 100km mark Robyn’s gears failed completely. We rang Sarah who is the backbone of the tour and organises everything and within 10 minutes a van had turned up to try and fix it. Robyn’s bike could not be fixed on the road so she had to jump in the van and go to the next foodstop to see what could be done.

Ian making great coffee at the feedstops

I rode down and was able to ride with Eric, he is a Dutch guy who has been riding the tour route like we have on his own with support from his dad in a car. We have seen him every day, as he normally passes us at top speed,  today we rode along and chatted about the experience. He is a great guy and we were chatting away so much I flew past the feedstop and he had to point it out. Apprantley he is going to see us all in Paris so we will get a photo of him.

Robyn still taking it to the mountains on a spare bike

At the feedstop a spare bike had been arranged for Robyn. Not ideal but at least she could keep riding. The challenge is that on a spare bike the fit can be a little out and that can play havoc with your muscles. When you think how far Robyn has ridden, and up how many climbs, her body was pretty fatigued already. Now sitting in a different position she began to cramp and her knee became very sore. She soildered on up the first big climb of the day but the going was slow as she had to stop and stretch. I felt terrible for her, there is not a lot either of us could do but she just kept grinding away.

Half way up the climb a support van had stopped to help some other cyclists with a puncture. Robyn stopped at the van to get some water and we assessed the situation. I could see how desparetly she wanted to continue but the risk was that she could do some damage that may stop her riding tomorrow and then into Paris at the weekend. Also at the pace we were able to go,  time may have beaten us and we may not have made it up the final climb.

Top of the final climb

She then made the toughest call of our adventure, she put the bike and herself in the van and told me to ride on and enjoy myself. It was the most selfless act she could have done, after 3 weeks of riding and getting so close to the finnish I was desperate to complete the stage. So with mixed feeling I headed off up the rest of the climb to catch up with some other riders. That is how I found myself on top of a stunning mountain feeling a mixture of satisfaction and disappointment.

When I returned to the hotel Robyn had been back a while and had taken care of everything, I walked straight back into a massage and then to dinner. I know she is terribly disappointed to have not completed what she set out to do and what she is more than capable of doing. Hopefully her bike will be fixed for tomorrow’s 220km stage and then the final 2 rides into Paris. The TDF team work tirelessly to keep everybody on the road so let’s see what miracles they can perform overnight. We will find a solution to get her riding somewhow.

Happy people at the start of the day

Stage 17 – Toughest day ever

Robyn declared that today was her toughest day on her bike ever! Big call given some of the one day rides she has done but she puts it down to sheer mental fatigue as much as anything. I did ask if this had anything to do with me but she assured me it was just the intensity of the riding.

The body was willing but the mind can play some funny tricks. She still rode well up some challenging climbs but I could see she was suffering more than usual. In total we rode 203 KM and climbed around 4,600 meters. The enthusiasm that she has shown for the rides so far just wasn’t there today. But she kept her poker face on and just ground out the KM’s.

Ian a tour mechanic working wonders to get Robyn back on the road

We also had an interesting mechanical to deal with at Feedstop 3. This was at about 143 km into the day with one big climb ahead of us. Robyn was a bit concerned about her brakes and gears so asked Ian, one of the mechanics, to have a look at it. When he removed the wheel the rear derailleur fell off, the derailleur hanger had broken. Poor Ian was devastated as he thought he may have done it but it had just cracked. Fortunately Robyn was carrying a spare so very calmly just produced a new one for him to fit. He was amazed at how calm she was and also that she had a spare with her. There was still some problems with changing gears once the bike had been assembled as we could only seem to get into 8 out of the 11 available working. Some more expert attention and the mechanics were at least able to get 8 of the easier gears working so Robyn could ride up the last climb.

We lost an hour getting the bike fixed so we were now chasing the day. We set off for the final HC climb of the day The Col du Galibier, a mere 17.7km at an average gradient of 6.9%. This is a bit deceptive as it starts of flat and gets progressively harder. We were on the climb about 6.30pm and spent a couple of hours making our way up it. One of the benefits of being a little latter was at least we had very little traffic. We reached the summit and the final food stop to be greeted by magnificent views and a hot cup of coffee.

We rugged up and descended the final 30km of the day back down to our hotel. We set off at 7.20am and arrived at the hotel around 8.45pm. By this time Robyn was feeling more upbeat and so she should after battling through what everybody agreed was a big day.

To cap it all off she was also awarded The Arrow, an award from the TDF organisers for people who demonstrate the right spirit on tour, for being so calm during her mechanical crises and also for being as tough as nails.

A quick dinner, a shower and we are ready for Stgae 18, our final mountain stage tomorrow. All’s well, that ends well.

Stage 16 – On the road again

Having the family in town for the rest day certainly burst the tour bubble. Riding long distances day after day with a group becomes a very insular affair. With the benefit of modern technology the outside world is not completely shut out but your focus becomes the ride ahead or your next task, normally eating, sleeping or preparing to ride.

Family time

Stepping away from the tour and into holiday and family mode and all of a sudden we had to think for ourselves. Even choosing what to have for lunch was a challenge. We were in a very nice restaurant and were faced with a French menu and a choice. I have been in a routine of eating what is put in front of me or taking one of everything from the buffet, so I almost abdicated responsibility. I approached it like riding a climb, I took my time, surveyed what was in front of me and slowely peddaled through 4 courses and matching wines. Bliss.

My girls

The family were there to wave us off in the morning and as we rode away it was strange that part of our trip we had looked forward to for so long was now being left behind. Two weeks down one more to go.

The ride today was a short one, just 165km. Tom an old school friend of mine and the person who introduced me to the whole TDF, has joined the tour for the next 4 stages. He proudly proclaimed at dinner last night that he had never ridden in the rain whilst on tour, and he has done some stages for the last 6 years.


So sure enough after 10 minutes of leaving, the rain started falling and continued for the first hour. By the time we reached the first feed stop the sun had come out and we had started to dry out. What followed was a glourious day of riding as we made our way down some long decents into he Rhone Valley. A quick lunch stop and then we had a final 50km on the flat to the end of the stage. We took turns on the front protecting Robyn from the wind, so she didn’t have to put in any extra effort. This means she is in peak condition for the Alps tomorrow and another big day in the mountains.

Group photo before today’s roll out

How to dry your socks on the road…


Stage 15 and rest day update

The joy of a rest day means we can catch up on everything. Despite the opportunity to have a lie in, we were awake early so we have managed to cobble a vlog together, then it’s a massage, laundry and a long lunch with the family who have flown in to support us.






Stage 14 – Dude where’s my bike

Lions rugby and a coffee

Every morning there is a wonderfull ritual that takes place on tour. Wherever we start from, the bikes are set out for us. You have to wander around and find your bike and get ready to ride it. When the tour is at full capacity you have 100+ bleary eyed riders trying to locate their pride and joy. Fatigue can play a part and it can be easy to walk right passed it. When you do find it you need to prepare yourself for the day ahead. Today I didn’t have my shoes on as I left the hotel so when I located my bike I sat down to put them on only to find I didn’t have any socks. I raced back to get some out of one of my day bags and was relieved to find a spare pair. When I returned to my bike and shoes,  somebody had put my original socks back inside my shoes. I asked Robyn if she was messing around and she just ignored me. As I say fatigue can play strange tricks on you.

Apart from the start today’s, the  riding was a casual affair.  There  was cloud cover and not too hot and the first part of today’s 180km was flat. We even stopped for a coffee and were delighted to catch the last 10 minutes of the British Lions Rugby on the cafe TV. Watching it with the locals who were very interested in who we were and what we were doing was great.

Beer o’clock on a Saturday afternoon

We spent the rest of the day riding some quiet roads and enjoying the fact we had no big mountains to climb. About 5 km from the finnish we were even shouted a beer by another group on tour who had stopped as it was Saturday afternoon and beer o’clock. The proper way to do it.

Tomorrow is another challenging day but the reward is a rest day. We also have our family coming out to see us and we will spend the rest day together which will motivate us to get through whatever the stage dictates.

French town

Stage 13 – The shortest stage in tour history

Today we rode what will be the shortest stage in tour history. A mere 104 km but we still climed 2,200 meters over 3 category 1 climbs. To put today into perspective a ride like this was a big weekend ride before we started training for the tour.

After 13 days I’m still smiling

Being on tour is all about perspective. If you don’t step back and appreciate where you are and what is going on you can get caught up in the detail of the daily tour life. Bike problems, kit malfunctions, whatever it is that you personally find irksome can detract from what you are here to do. I am here to enjoy myself, spend some quality time with Robyn and test myself physically and mentally.

Today was hot, we also had 2 coach transfers one at the begining and the other at the end of the stage. Factor in that after yesterday’s long stage we didn’t eat until 10pm and only got to bed after 11.30pm, and it would have been easy to just put your head down and get through today.

We made it up another mountain pass

But when you stop, step back and appreciate that you are spending a Friday pedalling your bike around the beautiful Pyrenees it changes things completely. Even the challenging climbs become in a strange way enjoyable as you struggle to get up them. The memories will last forever any pain or frustration you endure is just temporary.

Rider briefing of what the day ahead will be like in a cafe before we set off

Not a bad view from the desk

Stage 12 – Up, up and away

Robyn’s first tour experience was a 218 km ride, climbing 4,464 meters. If you have ever been skiing think about the car or bus trip up to the resort, today we climbed a couple of them and a few other hills as well.

It was a huge day and we did exceptionally well. There will always be times during any day when it gets really tough. On one earlier climb it was hot and the switchbacks were 12-13% in gradient. I could see Robyn was working hard, but she just kept going. Once we reached the summit she ate and drank as if her life depended on it, it could well have done, and then took everything else in her stride.

We finnished our day riding up to the ski resort of Peyresourde and after eleven and a half hours of riding we were greeted by the most fantastic sunset and marvelous mountain views. We arrived at just after 9pm after setting off at 7.20am, a long day indeed.

There were people on tour who were not able to complete today and others who came in well after dark, that’s how tough it was.

As we climbed up the final road to the chalet we are staying in we both said how thankful we are for being able to spend our time doing something that we love. Yes it is bloody hard but once you step off the bike and have a shower and get something to eat with your fellow travellers all the pain disappears.

As an added bonus we are going to sleep in bunk beds tonight, we can’t be bothered to make the double sofa bed up.


Stage 11 – All change

My tour changed today. Robyn has arrived to ride the final 10 stages.

Hot today so we stopped for an ice cream

I spent all of today’s 200km ride looking forward to seeing her. After spending so much time training together to spend the last few weeks apart has been odd.

When I arrived at the hotel she hadn’t arrived so I had a massage, did my washing and even checked her bike out so she is already to ride tomorrow.

The first thing you do when you are on tour is attend a rider briefing where the logistics and how everything runs is explained. This reminded me of our first briefing all those days ago in Düsseldorf, and the apprehension and nervousness I felt. I asked Robyn how she was feeling and she said it was a mixture of excitement and nerves, which is the same for everybody.

Tomorrow is a big day in the Pyrenees Mountains. My strategy of riding within yourself, minimise times at feedstop and remembering to enjoy yourself is still in play. We will just ride to Robyn’s pace ad make sure we induct her into tour life safely.

Cold lemon drinks also got us through today


Stage 10 – A day in the life

Before the start of the day, I was going for sartorial elegance, apparently I looked more like a sailor, and not a straight one!

I still maintain this is a holiday, it is also part endurance challenge and a lesson in time management. We spend all our days riding, it’s what goes on when we are not sat in the saddle that keeps us on tour. Here is a day in the life of the tour.

6.20am – Alarm, this is late today as we don’t have to start the day with a bus transfer before we set off. Stand up, sit down as legs collapse. Repeat then chuck on some Lycra for the day and go to breakfast.

6.30am – Breakfast is a buffet and plenty of it, stuff face as full as I can with anything you fancy. Talk about coming day to other bleary eyed riders.

6.45am – Return to the room tidy oneself up for the day. Pack bag and drop it down to the van for transfer to the next hotel.

7.30am – Prepare to ride, bikes are normally at the front of the hotel so a bit of bike faf and make sure that day bags, bags that go to the feed stops with any extra kit you made need on the road during the day, are in the right vans. There are 2 vans, feedstop 1 & 3 and feedstop 2 and 4.

8.00am – Peloton rides out together to the first feedstop. It’s about 40 km and we ride at a comfortable pace allowing people to chat and meet different folk

Sign in sheet

Feedstop 1 – 40km ish. When you arrive at feedstop one you wait for all the riders to get there. There is no point in racing as you will stand around. The routine at all the stops is to sign in so organisation knows where you are, clean hands and eat something.

Feedstop 2 – 80 km ish. The sun is shining and we are making good time today, another chance to grab some food and have a breather

Feedstop  3 – 120km ish. This is the lunchstop so there is rice or pasta to eat. Beautiful scenery today so have to stop for a photo or 2.

Feedstop 4 – last feedstop of the day, my favourite as it is a sugar fest, chocolate, fizzy drink and crisps to get you home.

Arrive at the hotel, we have covered 191km in 6 hours 26 minute. Tonight this is the best hotel by far. Shower, hand wash kit and turn the room into a laundry, get everything ready for an early start tomorrow then go to the bar for a quick drink before dinner

Best hotel of the tour so far, dinner in a nice barn

8pm – Dinner is a social affair with everybody on tour eating together. Lots of banter and plenty of food then a briefing on what to expect tomorrow. There are also a couple of awards to hand out, the Chapeau for the rider who has done something good during the day and the duck for somebody who has committed a crime against the peloton.

9.30 – Back to the room for a final prep for the next day then it’s bed.

Repeat for another 13 stages!

Very excited Robyn arrives tomorrow.

Paul Jukes has been looking after me until Robyn arrives


Stage 9 – Sunday Spin

There was a lot of chatter about Stage 9 right from the start of the tour. On paper it looks like the toughest stage of the tour this year. Lots of climbing and roads hitting 22% gradient.

We had a transfer from the hotel and as we made our way to the start the weather had not cleared up from yesterday. The prospect of another cold wet day and all the climbing we had ahead of us did have me wondering if it was going to be possible. It was not the bike riding but the cold and the impact this has on energy levels that was making me nervous. We set out into the drizzle and started climbing straight away. On top of the first hill I was already shivering. As we began to descend the clouds cleared and I got my first view of the vistas that may have been there the day before but were shrouded in mist.

My spirits began to lift and when we arrived at the first feedstop to regroup it was actually in a cafe. Hot coffee and some lovely pastries, a quick chat to Robyn who is now if the UK getting ready to come out on Wednesday, and the rest of the day started to feel manageable.

The stage had 3 HC categorised climbs. We set off up the first, the Col de la Biche and the sun came out. This spurred me on and my legs felt good. It took me an hour to climb up to the top and the next feed station. My strategy was to minimise the time at stops and to keep going.

After taking off all my warm weather gear at the bottom of the climb, now I had to put it back on for the decent. I descended with a few others and soon enough we were on the second HC climb of the day, the Grand Colombier. Of the 3 hard climbs, this was the hardest. There was a 900m stretch half way up that was around 20%. All you can do is stand on the pedals and keep spinining. I did think about stopping but something kept me going, probably the thought of not being able to get back on. As I got to the top of the mountain things became more manageable and after another hour or so of climbing I reached the summit. I had ridden into the clouds again, there were no views to enjoy,  so it was time to rug up and hit another decent.

The ride down the valley to the start of the third and final climb of the day was stunning. I spent my Sunday afternoon riding through vineyards on quiet roads with the sun on my back. I was riding with a few folk who I hadn’t spent much time with and we chatted away as we made our way to the foot of the final challenge.

The Mount du Chat is another solid climb, 10km at an average of 10%. After 145km of cycling and 3,500m of climbing I found myself alone on the mountain. It was now 6pm on Sunday evening as I plodded on. There were KM markers on the side of the road to let me know that I was progressing. Another solid hour of climbing and I hit the last km marker. The cloud was getting thicker and I managed to get one last view of the valley before arriving at the top on the mist. The place was deserted, so after spending all week surrounded by people, I had been able to ride the last climb of the day lost in my own thoughts. A perfect way to cap off the first part of the tour.

All alone on top of a col

A final 25km decent to the hotel and the day was complete. I had made good time and as the others made their way in the clock ticked on. The last riders arrived at the hotel, in the dark,  around 11pm. Each of them got a resounding cheer as we celebrated with a few drinks in the bar.

We have a rest day to enjoy today, then another couple of stages before Robyn arrives and the Tour will take on a different perspective.


Stages 7 & 8 – Let’s Stick Together

Most of us on tour have not ridden this far in a week. We have been on tour for 8 days and covered 1,450km.

Stage 7 was another tough day. We rode most of the day into a headwind with the occasional downpour punctuating the drizzle. It was tough but the tour spirit shone through with people working together in groups to complete the day.

One of the main reasons I enjoy riding my bike is for the solitude, the time to be in my own and to get away from everything. In the last week I have really come to appreciate the value of being part of something. The encouragement and support that you are given and can offer is absolutely what makes something like this so special.

On the flatter stages working as a group really helps. As the roads head up into the mountains, and then down, the group dynamic changes. People tend to climb at different paces so the trick is to find the folk that are similar to you. This means you are riding in smaller numbers but still have others to share the load when required.

The weather made stage 8 even more challenging than the 190km and the 3,300m of climbing should have been. It was wet and cold all day,  not so much of a challenge when climbing but when descending. The first priority is to stay upright, then descending is about bike handling skills and “bottle”. I am a conservative descender at best and in the wet I back right off. The challenge can be it takes you longer to get down and also you can get cold. Wet, cold and tired is not necessarily a good combination when you are doing 60km down a hill and for me this is the toughest part of any day in the mountains. Having the wheels of confident descenders to follow makes things a whole lot easier, another benefit of being part of a group.

Today I wore every bit of cycling kit I bought with me, 2 jackets, 2 sets of arm warmers, overshoes and knee warmers and I was still cold at times. The group I was riding with stuck together up and down the hills, and when we finally arrived at our hotel tired and relieved there was a real sense of achievement.

I have a few aches and pains but nothing that will stop me tackiling one of this years most challenging stages.Stgae 9 has 3 big mountain climbs and 180km to cover,  the threat of rain agin means I will be looking for folk to work with and to stick by.

Cold, wet and satisfied. The end of a long hard day riding with the 2 Paul’s and Jeff.