I take my hat off to anyone who rides the route of the Tour de France. I only know of one rider referenced as having ridden it on his own, with no support. It was in Paul Howard’s book, “Riding High”. At least, I presume this rider finished it. He was actually doing it the really hard way; camping.
My problem was attempting to ride it on my own. Getting to the next stage start from the previous stage finish. If I had ridden it on my Fondriest, with all logistical planning taken care of, I know I would have done it. I’m not that disappointed. Stage 1 was Saturday, it’s now Tuesday and I’m writing this in the comfort of my own home on the South coast. I’ve had plenty of time to think about what I’ve done. I now know the French system for taking bikes on trains, including the TGV, I’m the fittest I’ve ever been as a result and I’ve only been away from my family for just under a week instead of the planned month.
If anyone is considering doing something like this, I wish you luck. The equipment I picked was up to the task. The gearing could have been lower. Carrying all that extra weight, I think that a triple chainset is a must. The compact chainset I had was fine for the climbs I encountered but had I managed to last the distance, I would have really struggled in the mountains. Two weeks previously, I’d taken my Fondriest to France and ridden a 2nd category climb without any problems on a compact chainset, but obviously without any extra weight.
The panniers were brilliant. They claim to be waterproof, which I can definitely vouch for. On the Thursday, riding from Saint Malo to Chateaubriant, was a distance of 136 kms. It rained for about 80 kms and the contents of both panniers and the bar bag stayed dry.
One word of advice though, when booking hotels. Book them through the Internet and not over the phone. My reservation with a little hotel at the end of Stage 1 was totally messed up. That’s how I ended up staying at a camp site. Later that day, I phoned to cancel the booking for the end of stage 2 and was told that there wasn’t a reservation for me. Again, this was a small hotel where the booking was done over the phone. On both these occasions, I had email confirmations of the bookings.
The Garmin turned out to be the best bit of kit I had. For the two day trip to the Vendée from St Malo, I had planned the route on http://www.ridewithgps.com. What I hadn’t realised was that although the route I had planned was a reasonably direct route, it did use some dual carriageways, some of which didn’t have a hard shoulder. After a while, I decided to use the Garmin as a conventional SatNav and enter the address of the hotel. From then on, I was directed by the Garmin onto small roads with barely a car in sight, riding through small towns and villages. This was much more enjoyable. For the rest of the trip, I used it in this way, other than riding Stage 1 itself.
Stage 1 turned out to be quite a mix of roads. The majority were very scenic and quiet but the section coming out of the Sables d’Olonne on the coast turned out to be a fast single carriageway. Obviously, this isn’t a problem for the peloton as the roads were closed but I must admit, I did feel a bit vulnerable, with my wide load.
Another good piece of kit was my unlocked Android Smartphone with unlimited internet access through an Orange France Mobicard.
Anyway, I planned it and tried it and it didn’t work out. In the last 4 days, I’d cycled 568kms, half of which was into a headwind and a quarter, in the rain. My new Personal Best for a single day’s ride is now 232kms. I do hope that, if anyone else wants to do this, they have better luck (strength) than I had. I don’t regret having given it a go though.
To all those who left comments on the blog, I thank you all for your support and good wishes.