Chasing the Tour - Prologue

July 02, 2019 7 min read

Chasing the Tour - Prologue

Join Jamie and Gary who will be following the 2019 Tour de France with a series of blogs written exclusively for Prendas. The #ChasingTheTour prologue is a fun introduction on what's to come as well as some tips if you will be following the race in July.

 

Prologue

I bet you have read up on the greatest sporting race from every angle….except mine.

I thought I would open with a photo of Sir Bradley Wiggins and I in Paris after the 2011 edition of the Tour. That's right, he is smoking a cigar!  What you cannot see, behind my Mum who took the photo, is an impatient David Millar sitting in a taxi with a 6 pack of Kronenbourg on his lap.

This blog is all about following the TdF from my perspective, a slightly chubby, below average 3rd Cat with ambitions greater than ability. I am following the whole race for the first time, all 21 stages from Brussels to Paris via the Vosges, the Central Massif, Pyrenees and Alps. If you are wanting to read Press Room statements, team-sanctioned quotes or staged photos, you won’t find them here. After my intro are some highlights from 2018 and this will give you a sense of what to expect from me over the coming weeks. You can follow me on Twitter for daily updates.

I am from Bournemouth and one of my favourite moments was seeing my ‘local’ pro-Dan Lloyd finish the Tour, it is such an achievement. 

I began my love affair with cycling as a youngster. I joined the Bournemouth Arrow when I was around 10 years old. Even at an early age you could sense I was a trend setter……The photo on there right is of me in my very first race. Check the lycra out.

My first Tour de France trip was the 1993 edition, below are some of my photos from the start of the TTT stage in Dinan. When not following the TdF with my father I raced as a Juvenile, beating Andy & Barney Storey was a weekly occurrence at the Poole Track League, (I bet Andy cuts that bit out….ha ha) [Ed: That's not exactly how I remember it!]  and I remember racing Mick Tarrant at Barnsfield Heath when I reached the Junior category, Mick was not a Junior, it would have been a Jun/3/Vet cat race. He was the Steve Cummings of the day, the classy tail gunner of the bunch.

I had a break from cycling when I was in the Royal Navy, by coincidence this was during the same period as the Lance Armstrong era, I basically have no memory of those TdF years. I began cycling again when I left the RN and my return TdF was the 2007 race. Since that edition, I have followed it each year, with each trip increasing in length by a day or two. One must have a very understanding partner to build up to following the TdF from start to finish. Below is a photo from my return tour, the Prologue in London, Ludovic Turpin spent his whole pro-career with the same team, 13 seasons.

That is all about me, you are probably wondering if I do this on my own? Ladies and Gentleman, please can I introduce you to Gary. No, not the ITV Gary, but Gary @twowheelsnlegs. We both served in the RN, when we met on a Kingston Wheeler club run we discovered our shared love of cycling, beer and the navy.

 

 

As we look forward to the 2019 race, let me give you a quick update as to how my 2018 TdF went. Gary and I did a couple of weeks of the 2018 Tour. One particular highlight was the Rest Day ride with Cofidis.

Bizarrely they used cycles lanes but were a bit more carefree with roundabouts. Pro-teams have no idea where they are going, there was lots of stopping and looking at maps on phones.

One tip for following the Tour is always stop and have a chat with the staff on the teams - it may come in handy.

This openness of the teams operating where the fans also stay allows us to see team’s inner workings. Like how does a mechanic know which bike is where on the roof?

Or what bidon to hand out and what is it really like inside a team bus? My rule is don’t ask, don’t get. So, I ask a lot.

After one stage I rode back to our hotel in the company of Steven Kruijswijk and Primoz Roglic. It gave me 15 mins to chat with someone who was battling for a podium of the TdF. I asked Kruijswijk what his favourite films was, ‘how often do you shave your legs?’ and how to beat Team Sky? Lotto Jumbo were the friendliest team at the 2018 Tour. If Jumbo Visma get a podium, they will make lots of friends getting there and it will be a very popular achievement.

Finally to Paris and at the hotel bar with some folk you might recognise. I went to the hotel that Movistar and Sky were staying in. Riders go to the lobby bar in the ill-fitting jeans and shirts, (Dan Lloyd first photo) to have a few drinks before heading out for a team dinner. Here ends the 2018 Tour and we begin the search for the 2019 Tour Champion.

The 2019 Tour, who will win? I think Bardet, I would be very happy to see a Frenchman win in Paris. (Disclaimer - This will be the only race prediction you read from me as subsequent blogs will be published retrospectively).

I am writing this at home with a few days of preparation left. I drive when following the race, take the bike in the car and stay in hotels of varying quality. Gary goes in his Minnebago and parks in campsites near my hotel or in the hotel’s car park if the owners are OK with that. We then cycle out to see the race or do morning rides before seeing the race near where we are staying. It takes a few planning sessions, in a pub, to work out where we watch each stage.

I like to think that preparing the logistics to follow the TDF as a fan are as complicated as a team, you need to get civvies sorted, cycling kit sorted, bike sorted and tool kit/spares prepped. We then need to book work off, let the partner know, tell friends and family that you will be absent from all family events in July, book hotels, work out the cost - always over-egg this particular pudding, you don’t want to be skint with 3 days remaining until Paris.

Top 10 tips for following Le Tour

Planning is the theme that I will begin my ’Top 10’. Each week I will try to pass on a little bit of knowledge that I have gained from spending quite a bit of money and many weeks following the Tour.

  1. Get an Emovi Tag so you do not need to stop at the French toll booths - nothing shouts VIP more than cruising through the heavily congested toll booth outside of Lyon without queuing.
  2. Book Campanile hotels or other chain hotels. These are the (very) standard fare for teams, the Caravan and the press. These hotels are usually found in the industrial zone parts of the town, but we aren’t there for the scenery, right?
  3. Start planning as soon as the route is announced. Work from the start, think logically and do not over complicate commitments. Follow INRNG for updates, this is the best pro-cycling blog there is. (I believe Prendas supply the caps - it is a very, very informative blog).
  4. Try to book hotels for long periods - for example I always stay in Pau when race is in the Pyrenees and find a base in the Alps too, Albertville is the base this year.
  5. When planning remember stage starts are quite corporate, do one but no more. Please don’t expect to gain the same access as you would a stage finish which are free for alls.
  6. Always go with your first thoughts for a trip, they are always the best which is why you thought of them first.
  7. Following the race will snowball, so you may tell your significant other you are popping over for two stages, but once you have booked, paid for hotels and Eurotunnel, you will be following the race for a week at least. Be generous with your time, you’d only be watching on tv anyway.
  8. Take what you need and what you think you may need, but remember the UK is not alone with having bike shops, online shopping and towns. France has them too.
  9. Take all your different seasonal cycling kit with you - in the mountains the weather can go from sunny to freezing or dry to wet in the blink of an eye. Better to be over-prepared than under-dressed.
  10. Join Twitter and follow as many riders and team managers as possible. Do this before you leave and then as the race progresses, you’ll learn little nuggets that will inform your race. My fave ‘go to pro’ for questions and who always answers, no pressure, is Koen de Kort.
  11. Prepare and book as much as you can before you leave. You won’t have the time, or mobile signal in places, to be faffing around and stressing once on the road.

 

That's all for the prologue.

My subsequent blogs will follow a stage-by-stage diary format, (I promise not to include too many selfies). Please do ask questions, comment and get in touch using the hashtag #chasingthetour on social media.

You can also follow Gary and I on Twitter for a daily dose on how our trip is progressing with comments, photos and videos or if you are at the race and fancy meeting up!

Enjoy the first week’s racing and catch up soon.

 

Video from the 2018 Tour

Jamie created this Youtube video for Yahoo Sport last year featuring content from Stage 6 onwards. 



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