Thursday, 23 July 2009


Stage 12

Beach day

Train station to Arcanon (resort town). Awesome beach. Went for a swim. Relaxed on the sand whilst Adam caught crabs. Tapas and Sangria in water-front restaurant. Train back. Cycle into downtown Bordeaux. Beers in the nice student area. Sleep.

Stage 11

With the disappointment of stage 8 still lingering over us we purposefully rose and aimed our wheels for Bordeaux (a full 190k away). An excellent start along perfect racing roads gave us a real confidence that we could get there and in doing so smash our record of 140k. The new tactic of 'not stopping for lunch' worked well and before we knew it we were 80k in. Surprisingly we have not seen to many other people touring on bikes so when we finally met some we'd destroy them in a race. 'Mark&Adam' 1 - '3 girls & 2 guys' 0.

As the sun came out and the air got hotter the going became much more difficult but we managed to get through this and make it to Bordeaux. The day feels like an achievement because of the distance travelled (around the same as a TDF stage), we did it with panniers and also because our train leaves Tuesday morning and now we have a free day tomorrow.

Stage 10

An uneventful day of pure cycling. Lots of hill climbs followed by quick decents. 90k done.
So instead, a playlist of tracks that have kept the ball rolling:
1. Arcade Fire & David Bowie - Wake Up (Live)
2. DJ Shadow - Giving up the Ghost
3. The Clash - Lost in the Supermarket
4. Beruit - The Gulag Orkestar
5. The Beatles - Long and Winding Road

Stage 9

The weather seemed a lot better this morning. Overcast and cold would do very nicely for expedition team from England. After a couple of little showers (washing and raining) we arrived at a local town on market day. Whilst munching on some Pain a goose escaped from an old market seller who could easily have been in allo'allo. I decided this was the fight for me and spent the next 5 minutes chasing and wrestling a goose with said monsieur. Thanks to international cooperation the bird was returned to its cage. It only occurred to me afterwards that I probably should have helped it escape instead of effectively sealing its death warrant. God, obviously annoyed that I have thwarted a bid for freedom by one of his animal kind decided torrential rain would piss me off. So be it. The next 40 minutes were spent sheltering in a mens fashion shop in which you could buy anything you want as long as it was brown. Some cycling finally happened but the stop start nature of the heavy rain made it impossible to make any real distance. We eventually gave up and found a hotel for the night. Inside the bar lives a tiny dog which Adam described as the ugliest dog he'd ever seen (see picture). If you think the dog looks scared then you should have seen Adam. I felt sorry for the creature because the owner seems to insist on shaving its fur off but also because its scared of absolutely everything (including cameras).

Stage 8

Campanile hotel (Issodoune) to hot hot hell

Due to our lack of mileage yesterday and on the first day 'objective Basque country' is looking dangerously unlikely. Determined to put a good stint in we piled out of the hotel after a disgraceful two man assault on the breakfast buffet. The idea was to do exactly the same route (in reverse but riding the bikes forwards) as the TDF boys had done a day previous. 40k was taken down in record time (20 of that was not even on the stage route and was us getting to the starting line) but so were full bidons due to the intense heat. Lunchtime was a welcome sight and we stopped at a great little road-side restaurant. Steak and salad x 2 please. Not realising that the high salt content of our meal would probably make us even thirstier we tucked in. The cheese desert (brie, stilton and goats) was also a woefully bad idea. Feeling a lot heavier we continued on our quest. Things started to go wrong around 20k afterwards when having finished off the emergency bidon we somehow got lost. So, so, thirsty, like an oven only more hilly. Things got really bad after we had cycled 2k down a country road to be greeted by a dead end, a farm house and the mud-track up a massive hill. Much to the amusement of the farmer I decided to have a lay down in the middle of his road so that I could dream about Orangina fountains. I told Adam to leave me there and to think of himself, he didn't and in a very 'Saharan film' manner we struggled to a nearby village. In a local bar we ordered 3 drinks each (coke, water and beer) and agreed we were done for the day. We knew it was going to be a hard, the stage in the wrong direction goes mostly uphill and it was insanely hot but it still felt like a massive failure. Camping was our punishment.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Stage 7

The day we saw the Tour

The remaining kilometers to Allgony that seemed such a mission yesterday were all too easy today. As we cycled towards our viewing point on the top of a catagory 4 climb we made our way past the roadside masses working up a TDF fever. There excitment was so great that the sight of any sort of cyclist sent them into fits of wild appreciation (mostly in the form of clapping). It was like the return of a village hero and we lapped it up. One family spotted my Rapha jersey which has the national colours across the chest and almost exploded with joy, waving there massive flag as if it were on fire. Once our spot was found the wait for the peleton began with the prologue being the sponsers parade. This is a strange effort which involves vans driving past the fans whilst throwing free things out of the windows. We got hats mostly. After a couple of hours it was show-time and a breakaway of a Saxo-bank and Lampre rider kicked things off. 4 minutes later the peleton. In all it took only around 5 minutes but it was well worth it. We rounded off the day by doing pretty much bugger all else.

Random photos...

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Stage 6

Having made a bit of cock-up with the TDF schedule it was decided to race the race. We would try to do tomorrows (15th Juiliet) TDF stage a day early and in reverse to try and catch the finish of the actaul days stage. This was a really good idea and we were both fired up for it (40k done in record time) until we checked out how far we'd actually have to cycle. At least 170k including short-cuts. A certain ammount of giving up started to happen from then on. A quick stop to see Ronaldo? let me explain.. Something that has come as a bit of a suppise to us so far is the importance of McDonalds to our touring. The French don't get on all that well with the internet and seem to avoid it whenever they can. Good old Ronaldo's is different though, it is somewhere that we can count on to always get free Wi-Fi' and hence this blog. Add, free use of plugs and food with high levels of calories (very important). Its a shock winner. So if you are wondering why there has not been an update for a while (thats you Aga) then its because we have not found a McDonalds in a while. We casually cycled into the sweetly named Donzy and were pleased to find that despite some serious counter evidence, cycling in France is not dead. A road race of at least 100 8-13 year olds was taking place which restored some faith. Onwards. After some diversions and massive hills we found ourselves a good 25k of our intended night spot (Allgony) but chanced apon a wonderful restuarant with a garden area. Bikes parked and bodies dumped we began to refuel. Adam had the Chicken and I had the Beef. After the food and wine we gave up on Allgony and rolled down the road to a campsite by a lake.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Stage 5

140k to Mazilile

After giving poor old Gina (or Gina-Poor-Sod) some serious abuse during our adventures in Paris she came up top trumps on Stage 5. Roads of such quality it made the 140k easy (still very hard). We raced into Mazilile but were abruptly stopped at a bar with a racing bike attached to the roof. Bikes parked, bar entered, 2 beers and any chance of a sandwich? The owner, a kind old lady from Tunisia, kindly oblijed with a Pate treat. We would later go on to call her Madamme but not in a kinky way. We sipped our beers as we heard all about Madamme's interesting life through her english speaking son and his english teacher who had nipped in with a massive labrador for a coffee. She has 5 children (1 adopted), 17 grand children and used to run a foster home. She can obviously spot children in need so told us that we could camp in her garden and use her garage to store the bikes. Great news because rain was on way, the thunder was a bonus. Status: Knackered.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Stage 4

A great nights sleep is a magical thing. Feeling ready to take on the world we were presented with weather that can only be described as crap. A rain of not even biblical proportions can clean Paris, so the drizzle we had today did nothing. With default pictures done we rolled out (after enjoying some more crazy Gina action, which is nowhere near as fun as it sounds). The towns/villages to south of Paris are mostly very nice and seem a lot less bleak than the ones to the north. After an easy 75k we found a great campsite by the river Sina. There are loads of Dutch people here which would explain all the caravans. They love caravans, fact. Current status: Outside, typing, with beer, in sun, happy.

Stage 3

Forest to Paris 80K

Out the forest, round the corner, down the hill, up the hill, into another deserted village. Shops of any description (that are open) are often hard to find in rural France. On the morn of stage 3 this became all too clear. After what seemed like hours we finally got our 'Pain' fix in a perfect patisserie. South. The problem with sleeping outside in a forest is that its very hard to charge electronic equipment so we stopped at a friendly Cafe after about 20K. In this place we found out how the Tour was getting on and about gambling obsession. 10 men watching what seemed to be an endless Lottery screen. Strange.

To navigate we have been using Adam's GPS on his phone and have been fondly calling her Gina. She has a womans voice and tells Adam where to go in Polish, he then relays this information on to me. However she has become increasingly erratic. Her fondness for taking us the wrong way down one way streets and directing us onto motorways has earnt her the name 'Gina Piece'o'Shit. The actual Journey into Paris was not that eventful apart from one spectacular crash. After a Gina inspired off-road session in which my panniers became a bit loose we were comming at speed onto a 'round-about', cue pannier getting caught in rear spokes and a me flying over the handlebars. Minors cuts and bruises only, score.

Once is Paris: Nearest hotel, showering is brilliant, TDF on TV, into the centre, food, actual pints (in pint glasses!), random sight-seeing, underground, sleep.

Stage 2

We rode into the centre of Arrus with only one desire and a really basic one at that. Food. Unfortunately despite thier supposed love of the stuff nowhere would supply us with a substantial breakfast. Tea in a Cafe (Wi-Fi) and some Pain au Chocolate sustained us until a friendly baguette man delivered the goods. I did get a chance to write the Stage 1 nonsense though.

Feeling bad about the measly 60k we did yesterday we decided it was business time and to try and get as close to Paris as possible. In the end we did around 115-120Km which is not bad (although it is about 80K short of a normal TDF stage). Lots of poncing (which the TDF riders don't get to do apparently) was done. Corbais is nice, massive church blah bla, Baguette. During stage 1 we found a well kept first world war memorial and I decided that if we should see any more we should definitely stop at them to pay our international respects. This however is not a practical habit to have in the 100k south of Arras because there are absolutely s**t loads. What is war good for?... slowing us down. I'm only going to stop at the 2nd world war ones from now on.

Realising that we'd both done an idiotic amount of cycling we stopped in a small place called Nueville. Bidons filled, Kronenberg sipped, another baguette (Adam only) scoffed. Thoughts turned to sleeping arrangements. We brought a tent so we might as well use it. A nearby forest looked good but the only problem was the massive corn field in the way, no problem says Adam the eternal optimist (Bidon half full) and ploughs through it. I followed but in the process lost the French to English dictionary (attached to the pannier) and the power to bluff basic shopping. Nuts.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Stage 1

Welcome to the real tour de france. Stage 1 began at a time commonly defined as silly'o'clock and with a relitively easy trip across the channel to Lille. Unfortunatly our bikes (packed on the night-train the day before) made the even easier trip to Paris, obviously they wanted to skip the first 3 stages. Lazy bikes. Speaking to Gaz on Wednesday night I joked 'I guess the only thing worse than British Rail network organisation is British Rail organisation in conjuction with French'. Yep. Anyway, this gave us the oportunity to check out Lille which is nice although it seems to have a facination with modern shopping centres therefore making it the french Telford.

After the delay we finally go going and proceeded to ride like the wind (i.e. in short bursts and sometimes in the wrong direction). 60K was acheieved easily and we stopped in a small village outside of Arrus for the night. The hotel was woeful but it didn't matter. Neither of us could be bothered with dinner so a quick beer, some figs rolls and sleep was the subsitute.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

The recipe

1 Shropshire lad
1 Polish lad
2 80's road racing bikes with panniers
1 GPS system (Gina)
1 Tour de France schedule

Method: Mix all together, garnish with confusion and leave to settle for 12 days in France.

Notes for the bemused:
Its Adam's blog, but I (Mark) write the content.
TDF - Tour de France
Bidon - Large water bottle