Sarah & Max enjoy endurance challenges in the outdoors. Over the past 10 years they have both run over 10 marathons and cycled over 10,000 miles.
Now they are attempting to cycle the entire Tour de France, exactly as the pros do, 2 days ahead of the pro Tour.
Daunted – yes? Ready – maybe?…
Below are a couple of our cycling highlights to date:
The UK classic John O’Groats to Land’s End (JOGLE): a formative trip of >1000 miles – we learned that almost no part of the UK is flat, the quality of road surface in the UK is generally terrible, every gram counts when you’re cycling uphill, you don’t need to pack 6 malt loaves in your pannier (see previous point), don’t rip the valve out of your inner tube when you’re pumping up your tyres leaving you with no spares for 200 miles across the Highlands of Scotland, the Cornish village of Praze-an-beeble is excactly 1000 miles from John O’Groats, but most of all that cycle tours are fanstatic life-enhancing adventures.
London to Paris: a 3 day excursion to Paris left us wanting more, particularly as we arrived the day before the Tour de France finish, and we got our first taste of the drama up close on the Champs Elysees the following day. In fact, as we cycled up to the Arc de Triomphe, we found ourselves being swamped by an entourage of cyclists, photographers on motorbikes etc. We didn’t think we merited this paparazzi…
…And er, we didn’t. It turned out we were finishing at the exact
moment that an amateur cyclist completed the entire Tour alone – he had captured the hearts of the French media as the real Tour got bogged down in the usual array of drug scandals.
Perhaps his personal heroics made more of an impression than we had thought at the time…
Our ~600 mile trip from Paris to Alpe d’Huez was when our concept of a Tour really started coming together: cycle sufficiently hard so as cover a good distance and make time to enjoy the region too – enjoying beautiful surroundings from quiet roads, grand chateaux, overcompensating the calorie deficit with extensive food and wine tasting, not so far from the ideals of promoting France that the founders of the great Tour de France itself had.
And then we caught the bug: arrival in Bourg d’Oisans 2 days before the Tour arrived
in Alpe d’Huez, frenzied activity, gazillions of €-worth of bikes in every direction, we had barely heard of Luxembourg let alone knew what the country’s flag looked like. We ground our way up the hairpins, panniers n’all, an exhilirating experience, and then returned the following day for the equally exhilirating experience of watching how the pros set about the
same challenge, albeit in a speedier way and with hundreds of thousands of mad low country enthusiasts chasing them towards the line.
At that point, we knew we had more hairpins, cols and Touring to explore.
Smitten by cycle touring, we had to complete the length of France (including Corsica of course). We couldn’t resist another Tour legend, Le Mont Ventoux en route, but also plotted our journey with our finely tuned culturo-gastro-enviro-compass including the Roman theatre at Orange, chateauneuf-du-pape, the mind-blowing Gorges du Verdon before crossing by ferry from Nice to rugged Corsica.
Corsica was hot, really hot, so hot that the local animals started doing crazy things:
We were caught by the magic of these epic climbs and by the beauty and serenity of the mountains, so in 2010, we decided to cross the Alps into Italy, descend to the Lakes and then explore some of the classic Giro d’Italia hills.
It’s not until you see a grown man break down in tears of emotion on reaching the summit of the Col du Galibier that you realise how entrenched the Tour de France is in the French psyche, and we enjoyed this momentous atmosphere on several more of the great Tour climbs including La Croix du Fer, Lauteret and Telegraphe.
Once into Italy, your ‘Col’s get replaced by ‘Passo’s, the ‘virage’s become ‘tornante’s, and it’s all about Coppi in the obligatory road painting of your favourite rider’s name.
But before our Italian even got going, as we climbed back up into the Eastern Alps and Dolomite mountains – Mortirolo, Falzarego, Pordoi, Sella, Campolongo (the clue is in the name…wow, that one goes on forever), we were practically in Austria. It was suddenly all lederhosen, feather-in-felt-hat, geranium window boxes and dinner at 7 on the dot at predetermined tables (think reserved sun loungers, except far more serious as food is coming). We never quite got the hang of Italian in an Austrian accent, and to our interlocutors’ surprise Austrian in an Italian accent wasn’t much better.
Fortunately the Dolomites are stunning, and what better way to encapsulate our Tour than emerging out of the endless mountains, cruising downhill for 40 miles (except an inconveniently placed “there’s always time for one more” mountain) into Valdobbiadene, the home of prosecco.
After riding into Venice, we concluded two things: 1) Never cycle into Venice, although if you do, you might as well negotiate to take your bike on a Grand Canal gondola taxi for everyone’s amusement, and 2) Never have one too many glasses of prosecco and start mulling over whether to cycle the whole Tour de France next year…