A truly amazing experience for the 4 riders with total distance being almost exactly 1,000 miles and Colin Tomson cycling most of that too! Thanks to everyone who has supported us and donated so far, and particularly to those who came out to Barcelona to celebrate our arrival. A huge thanks from the team to Lynne Tomson for being our invaluable support wagon/physio/accomodation finder and general hero. We've raised an amazing amount for the CF Trust and had an amazing time doing it despite sore knees, the odd fall/crash, a few wrong turns and some exhausting days. Thanks one and all
Sam, Colin, Mike and James
BLOG from the trip
We were eagerly up and out of bed, knowing it was our last day in the saddle on this trip, excited about seeing everyone in Barcelona and looking forward to celebrating with everyone.
Mike and James decided on our morning coffee stop, to take a leaf out of the Tour de France final day and have a quick alcoholic beverage, unfortunately no champagne available so a beer had to do.
We were cycling along the coast today and at one point all of a sudden the city of barcelona appeared on the horizon, which made it all the harder to stop for our final carb fuelled lunch stop when we knew we were so close to our final destination. ASfter we got going for the final time we managed to get a little lost on our way into the city and unfortunately didn't find a 'Barcelona' sign to pose by that we had been dreaming of for 2 weeks.
At 2.30 we pulled into a beautiful liitle square in the centre of the city and our fan club were there- momma Tomson, Emma, Kate, Martin, Oli, Becci waiting to greet us. WE HAD DONE IT! We had an amazing weekend in Barcelona- eating, drinking, partying and enjoying not being on the bike.
Llance to Lloret de Mar
Saddle Time: 5hr 55 mins
So today was the penultimate day and some chat about how this would be the last but one night and morning of waking up bleary eyed and hussling our way out of the door in the early morning light. The morning continued on the hilly theme from last night, but the differences from France kept me going- all the little things like the road and village signs and the appearance of the locals.
After another classic lunch stop found by super advance car mum we set off for a final challenging afternoon. We were slightly unsure of the type of roads we’d find ourselves on, having been experts on finding D roads across France, and not knowing the difference between C, G, A and N roads. Unfortunately we found ourselves on a dual carriageway with very fast moving cars, and then later on a full blown motorway! Cars and big lorries passing at 120km/h a few feet away from you certainly got the adrenalin flowing and our average speed was well up today! Eventually, with a great sigh of relief and 3 sweaty men we got off the motorway.
The other 2 main incidents of the day were the Stone of pain and the P word. The Stone of pain was fired accidentally from under my highly inflated bike tyre at 20km/h, completely inadvertently to the right and made a loud pinging noise on the crash barrier. Unbeknownst to me it had taken a deflection off one of Mike’s child capsules. He had cycled up huge hills down the length of Europe and hadn’t had to stop once out of pain, but a tiny stone left him creased up on the side of the road, much to our amusement and his incredible pain! The P word is a word starting with P and ending in Uncture. And Mike got the first, and hopefully only one, of a combined 5,500km on the road. Fortunately, it was only a few km from the town, so with a quick change we were on our way and arrived into the rather disappointing Lloret de Mar resort, but the rather impressive hotel that had been procured for us. Barcelona awaits us tomorrow and the excitement at completing this challenge and meeting our friends and family there is tangible....
Sam ‘Schleck’ Tomson
Notes from the Road (Lynne)
Day 12 ‘in the big brother house’ as the men refer to it each day. As for me even though I have the car I am never at a loss as there is shopping for the endless bananas and cereal bars (all the croissants and bread for breakfast very early in the trip highlighted a need for more fibre!)
As the intrepids set out each day I know their route and try to follow it, that is if ‘Mabel’(our sat nav) allows. She can’t understand why I don’t want to go on motorways. I have been on 1 motorway the entire trip by mistake so am proud to say 2 euros is the grand sum for my drive across Europe.
Today we enter Spain. On several days it was up to me to find accommodation and it soon became clear that chmbre d’hotes were the best value. With the young ones being very good about sharing different combinations of doubles and single beds. The detritus left in the room each morning is impressive... empty lucozade bottles, sams drugs, old maps etc. Sam did a good job planning the route and a few tweaks here and there have helped each day.
I am pleased to be part of this expedition and am impressed by the humour even when times are tough and the support James and Mike are for Sam (they carry his drinks, bananas, energy bars etc.) Sam has had tremendous challenges with his knees but hardly ever complains. His Codeine addicion has been curtailed on pharmacists advise – yes I have been to several!! Lets hope the come down does not get any worse!! Over and out Lynne xxx
Fitou to Llanca
Saddle Time: 4hr 34 mins
Espania baby!!!! Yes we have made it across the border in a day spent in the Mediterranean sunshine firstly on flat coastal plains and then in a much tougher afternoon in the foothills of the Pyrenees to cross the border.
With 3 km climbs becoming the norm points of interest for today revolved around Sam. (yes the scenery was beautiful but I’m sure you are tired of us saying that).
Firstly due to French drug laws Sam has been unable to get a refill of the Nurofen / codeine drugs he has been taking for his knee. Today was the day the old drugs ran out which although painful for Sam was quite funny for us as his Codeine dependency was highlighted by a mildly irritable Sam all day. Not quite Phil from Eastenders going cold turkey but not far off!
The second noteable point of the day came at pudding in our first Spanish restaurant. Sam actually managed to finish a whole meal (Spanish Creme Brulle). For the entire trip James and I have relied on Sam not finishing his meal as a top on carbs from our food. However for the first time in 12 days Sam finished a whole course, we think maybe it was a full moon. Don’t worry though he still left some of his chicken for me and James to tuck into.
So 2 days of Spain left to go before Barcelona and the end of our adventure. Seriously this has been tough for James and I but given Sams knees his effort has been brilliant.
Mike the Bike Tourle
Agde to Fitou
Saddle Time:3hr 52 mins
After a rather fortuitous repair of my pony after a few fasle starts the night before, we were all ready for the trek round the French coast towards the border. The day had been planned in as a half day, and we got the benefit of an extra hour and a bit in bed to fire us for the charge towards the border.
Te wond has been very kind to us on this trip, helping us along on few days however mother nature decided our last couple of days in france weren’t going to be straight forward. Heading mostly into the wind for about 50 km in the morning, we traversed thrgouh Bezier and missed the hoards of stricking French communists towards Narbonne. After a quick pit stop in the McD’s for lunch we decided to head over our original scheduled stop point to get ahead of ourselves tomorrow so we can enjoy our border crossing.
Throguhout the trip there has been the constant challenge of posting the fastest spped on our speedos, which myself and mike only take part in due to Sams gammy knee. Tasting victory in our conquest and to exceed my previously posted 70.4km/hr the wind had moved behind us and a large downhill loomed. Doing my best Chris Hoy impression i pumped my legs down the hill chasing the cars, as i got to the bottom a cross wind blasted across the wheels and after a few nervous moments of slowing down without crashing i clocked what i had managed......76.3km/hr which is close to 50mph, pretty unnerving, so i think i won’t be trying to beat that! Another random point out of the blue that we weren’t expecting were the ladies on the side of the road. Originally i shouted that we had some hitch hikers coming up, after passing them we realised that they were looking for a different kind of ride....one that required a few euros.
Anduze to Agde
Saddle Time:5hr 43 mins
Things that we like about cycling in France: the roads are awesomely smooth almost all the time, gites de france (if you haven’t heard of it then google it), steak and chips is served almost everywhere, they love cyclists, the wind has been behind us pretty much all the way and we’ve only had about 1 hour of rain in over 1,200 km. Things we don’t like as much: stuff is closed almost all the time, some French people react to our Calais-Barca chat with an unimpressed shrug of the shoulders and the French are always striking about something leading to closed roads and not having petrol for the support wagon!
Today we really saw the landscape and scenery around us change as we continued through gorges and saw mountains appearing around us. Long gone are the days of sweeping valleys and arable farming- it’s almost wall to wall vineyards and scrubby bushland. The wind continued to sweep us on our way and spirits were high today (even mine as I’ve figured a way of not having constant knee pain!). We wolfed down a few tonnes of pizza for lunch and thirsted for our first sight of the Mediterranean sea, which was granted to us in the late afternoon and was followed by whoops and cheers as we had made it from the north coast of France down to the south. Yee hah!
A good day was tempered somewhat when James discovered as we pulled up to the hotel that his pony (I’ll come back to that in a minute) had a gammy back rim. This was beyond our bicycle repair skills, so as I type this in bed after a warm shower and with Mike tucked up beside me, James, mum and dad are out trying to find a sympathetic bike shop who can do a quick fix.
The Pony Bit. So, having spent 10 days in each other’s company the in-jokes are now flying pretty thick and fast and the banter is well and truly out of the top drawer I can tell you, the very top drawer. Our 4 expensive road bikes are now ponies, and from time to time often rear up and whinny, at which point the jockey (one of us) will whisper into the ponies ear (somewhere around the handlebars) something like ‘easy there girl, easy girl’. Really a site to behold for the rather bemused locals when we stop/start in their tiny towns as we make horse noises and talk and stroke our bikes!
Sam ‘Schleck’ Tomson
Route- Valence to Anduze
Distance: 151 km
Saddle Time: 6hr 40mins
A morning close to heaven followed by and afternoon of hell sums this day up. The morning after an initial shower of rain was 65km of smooth flat going with the wind at our backs along the west bank of the Rhone. Being a Sunday in France did pose the problem that almost everything is shut so we took and early lunch.
With lunch taken the time had come to head west towards Spain and across a much more challenging piece of the route. Not only was the terrain very hilly with the first 10km after lunch a straight climb up the Ardeche valley but it also meant the wind came into play!! Coming round some uphill corners in the strength of the wind could halve your speed which meant for heavy going.
Most of the afternoon was spent climbing out of valleys and then falling down cold descents to be faced with yet another climb. We eventually made in to our B&B and had definitely earned our steak and vin rouge! The scenery was beautiful but it made us work!!! Med tomorrow.............
Mike ‘The Bike’ Tourle
Route: Crapponne - Valence
Saddle Time: 5hr 30mins
Another cold morning, which started at about 5 degrees Celsius, before you we headed downhill on the first street of the morning to chill us even further! The first 25km of the day was covered with not much difficulty with a great descent into a town called Givois, which from a speed perspective was great but from a body temperature perspective was almost debilitating!
We made our first stop of the day in a cafe at the bottom of the hill, which like a few cafes took the optional view to the no smoking in doors. Just before we departed myself and Sam went to use the facilities and found a new low in French toilet hygiene, suffice to say that the toilet door had been replaced by a curtain and the toilet with a grate, i’ll leave the rest to your imaginations!!! Straight from leaving the cafe we found that our route alterations meant that we had 10km ahead of us that was all up-hill, wonderful!
In the afternoon this was made up for by the fact that the wind kindly blew us along a very smooth road for about 70km to take us to a small town just north of Valence. Hopefully the weather will be a little better tomorrow however i don’t hold out much hope!
James ‘Cav’ Cathcart
Uzichy to Crapponne ( just west of Lyon )
You have no idea how cold your bits get on a chilly morning with a northerly wind when biking. Neither gloves nor double socks work, and by the time we reach the first pit stop in a local cafe we are dribbling wrecks. Inside they are already on the wine and beer by 10 15 and it is tough to restart after a choco chaud. And my neck hurts.
Nice things that happen – we find a road ( the D933 ) that flows down the line of the Autoroute de Soleil and is mostly flat and well surfaced. Lunch time Cafe has fab Moules Frites and is literally cheap as chips. Lynne chats up a street sweeper who calls the mayor and finds a bed when all else is booked. I find a rare sweet spot and enjoy leading the pack at 20 mph ( tho not for long )
Other stuff that happens - road designers build a cycle lane that ends where a middle safety feature forces trucks and cars to either cut you up or brake unsafely ( who did the Hazop study ??? )
Every B+B gives more bread than himself needed and no fruit. Poor old Sam now has 2 dodgy knees and all his CF drugs and challenges to cope with.
It’s hard to believe that we are now half way to Barca, and great that we should soon hit the real sun – though current forecasts are for a poor patch first. Please use your influence if you can to encourage a following wind.
Have now done Champagne, Bourgogne, almost Beaujolais, Rhone and Languedoc Roussillion to come. Wish us well.
Colin ( Contador ) Tomson
Route: Meursault - Uzichy
Saddle Time: 3hr 18mins
Today was planned in as a half day to allow for a few hours extra sleep and to give the body a bit of a day off. That said we ‘only’ did 70km and powered most of it out before lunch which was taken in Tournus, after a morning cafe in a gay friendly bar in Chalon where 4 men in lycra felt right at home! A typical day (not today) consists of: Alarm at 7.30, breakfast provided by our host at 7.45 (mostly bread based), leave by 8.30 and power out a good morning of around 70km and lunch by 1.30. Lunch is as carb heavy as possible with copious amounts of Coke and water. The afternoon is powered by bananas and cereal bars and stops for stretching in the sunshine. Mum will be scouting out our B&B and the town for dinner and we’ll normally be rolling in by 6, with more stretching, another quick cereal bar, a round of showers and washing of cycling clothes. We’ll then rock up to a restaurant in the local town and eat and drink them out of all their supplies, before we hit the hay by 10 (rock and roll I know!).
It is tough going and I tend to wake up tired, go to bed tired and be tired most of the day. With 2 dodgy knees I’m on a constant course of Nurofen and paracetemol and am lucky to get any windows of cycling where neither knee is hurting and I don’t hold up the rest of the team on uphills. Having said that, I’m still enjoying the cycling, the views, the route planning, accommodation discussions, the banter and the experience, and dream of a day of pain free cycling somewhere in our 14 days...
Sam ‘Schleck’ Tomson
Route: Laignes - Meursault
Saddle Time: 6hs 36mins
So after an eventful day yesterday what could be better than over 1km of vertical climbing!!! Today saw us hit the biggest climbs so far. 3 km climbing at +8% the entire way certainly gets things moving!
Today however was by far the most beautiful spent cycling through river valleys in glorious sunshine along the river Ouche for most of the afternoon after a morning in the forests of the Bourgogne and finishing near Beaune in the most spectacular valley full of vineyards doused in Autumn colours.
Although we finished in 20 degree sunshine today was the day that reminded us it nearly Christmas! Starting in temperatures that meant we could not feel our feet, hands, noses or ears for the first couple of hours caused the beautiful countryside to take a back seat and this coupled with towns that already have xmas decorations up left us feeling very festive.
Climbing in the morning was rewarded with lunch with beautiful views and a hearty French lunch and the final climb which seriously tested the energy reserves which recognised the effort with a 10km decent into beautiful wine country. Obviously all this hard work was rewarded with some delicious wine which we can recommend if you are ever in the region!!!!
Mike “The Bike” Tourle
Route: Past Esternay – Laignes
Saddle Time: 6hs 12mins
The longest day so far! The morning we went back to our finish point the night before to pick up the trail. It was definitely a chilly morning and all were fully layered up, including the temporary leg warmers, which although a little girly proved their weight in gold.
Much of the morning was meandering through French arable farmland on the way to Troyes for lunch, which we’d already predetermined was going to be at the Golden Arches of McDonald, bizarrely thinking this would be good high calorie food, which it was, but also full of crap so one lunch venue not to be repeated! Trying to navigate into the centre of Troyes was a bit challenging as the only obvious route was the dual carriageway, which was something we were not go ing to gamble on with wind in our faces.
After a lunch battling the hordes of school kids we departed as a threesome, Colin enjoying the afternoon with Lynne. Soon we were observing the French national pastime...striking! So after we managed to circumvent the work dodgers we found our route. On the way out of Troyes there was a random French guy out on his bike who decided to join our train for the early afternoon, this was definitely our most interesting encounter. The guy, Patrice, turned out to be a club cycler out on an afternoon training session who said he’d come along for a bit of company. He also knew the roads we needed to take, which actually turned out to be shut and blocked by mounds of gravel but Patrice ushered us along round the blockade and we had a road all to ourselves for a couple of kilometres. As it turned out Patrice had us absolutely sprinting around france, upping our average speed from 22km/hr to over 30km/hr up and down hills, he definitely had some game! After an hour he left us with a final sprint up a hill, when he came past me i tried to keep pace, but at 50km/hr up a hill he was pulling away, and my legs were screaming for rest, not bad for a 40+ yr old guy!
In the second half of the afternoon we entered the Champagne region and the first vineyards of our trip. We made a brief stop in Les Riceys to have a quick tasting session and then we were back on the bikes for the final 20km to our Gite (B&B). The Gites that we stopped in was definitely the most entertaining and eventful so far of the trip. The host was a guy called Jean-Pierre (early 50’s) and his Japanese partner Akiko whi turned out to be 23 years younger, internet brides obviously do get delivered to rural france! She prepared us a meal of sushi and roast chicken which was nice but when asked, gave sam a dissing of his beard which due to her average french and English took about 10 minutes, so it was abuse in slow motion!
All in all a good day but not looking forward to the day of death tomorrow, a long day with some monster climbs!
James “Cav” Cathcart
Route Villers - Cotterets to Esternay plus a bit
Colin....98 kms for me - 106 for the Trois Musquetaires, as I diverted to try to find our excellent Gites de France, a lovely farmhouse with flowers, animals of all types and friendly owners. I can reveal that James talks to cows as well as taking endless Iphone pictures while riding.
Another bright clean day with the fields full of mad hunters and dogs and several sharp climbs for us on Sams eccentric zig zag route thru France.Much credit to Mike and James who braved the north easterly to tow the Tomsons along in their wake.
On the edge of Champagne Ardennes we hoped for a classy Birthday dinner for Sam.... but Esternay offered not the style we desired. Ended up at the Cafe de Sports with 3 dogs, a climbing cat , bizarre denizens and an owner who evetually cracked open the free Armagnac after we had finished their only wine bottles and wolfed down 5 Menu du Jour super quick.
Slightly worried when he put the blinds down and locked all in at 9.30.... but it was probably just illegal smoking rather than dodgier offences.
Colin ( Contador is innocent )
Route: Doullen – Villers-Cotterets
Saddle Time: Estimate 6hs 10mins
This morning we avoided death milk (had freshly squeezed farm instead) but breakfast consisted of bread, brioche, more bread and croissant, not the most varied or ideal for long distance cycling! But with bloated stomachs we set off on a fresh morning into the rising sun and beautifully clear sky.
Today we entered the Somme region proper. It was a sobering day as we passed by cemetery after cemetery and through small towns which all had monuments to their ‘enfants’ lost in the war. It was generally a flat day and we cruised through towns at a good pace, as the pacemaker mules domestiques (James and Mike) dragged Colin and Sam along!
Super mum in the support wagon found a much appreciated little brasserie for lunch after a long 80km morning. Wolfed down cheese, steaks, pork and more bread prepared us well for a lovely set of vistas as we powered through Compiegne and overtook a few motorbikes and 83 year old bikers before we arrived in our rather upmarket (3 star) hotel for a birthday eve dinner for me!
Sam (Schleck) Tomson
Route: Calais – Doullens
Saddle Time:4hs, 58mins
The day started with milk that tasted like death so no cereal for your intrepid explorers! However after breakfast and PR photos we hit the smooth French roads heading south into a misty dawn. After realising sunglasses and mist don’t work we powered on for 2 hours before hitting a remote cafe where the locals helped us scope out the route.
Big farming areas with a few steeps hills that got the blood pumping and put mud all over the roads which meant grip was a problem on a few scary corners but we survived to make a good French lunch in Fruges, duck and chips nice!!
A lovely afternoon of rolling hills finds us finishing at a farm in Doullens sipping wine and whiskey contemplating our first major climb tomorrow and hoping the legs are not too stiff.
Mike (The Bike) Tourle
After a few months of preparation the last thing you want to hear when you answer the phone 12 hours before you leave for France, “Mate, your bag has been stolen out of my car.” This was promptly followed by, stop taking the p*ss. Alas, unfortunately for me some **** thought it’d be a good idea to unlock mike’s car and steal nothing of immediate value, but maximum annoyance, by taking my bag that’d packed for the two weeks which included ALL my cycling gear and passport amongst all my other clothes!
So needless to say that the whole of Friday was spent running between the post office, passport office and Evans cycles to replace EVERYTHING! Fortunately everything was sorted with mere hours to space to catch the train over to France. Surely that has to be all my bad luck for the 2 weeks?!
James (Cav) Cathcart
What's better than a little ride on a sunny day?! How's about riding from the north coast of France all the way to Barcelona over 1,200 miles in 2 weeks for charity?
The team of Sam, Mike, James and Colin, with the support of transport chief Lynne, will be pounding the pedals from Calais, early on 9th October and will roll into Barcelona by the 23rd. See our rough route in the picture on this page.
We're all riding for the Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Trust which is a very worthy cause that's close to all our hearts, particularly mine. CF is one of the UK's most common life-threatening inherited diseases, to which there is still no cure. It affects over 8,500 people in the UK and only half of people with CF are expected to live over the age of 38. Every week 5 babies are born with CF, and every week 3 young lives are lost to CF. The CF Trust is the only national charity dedicated to all aspects of CF. One of their key roles is funding medical and scientific research to develop a cure and provide effective treatments for CF.
We have set a really stretching target of £10,000, but we know we've got a lot of generous friends, family and colleagues to help us get there. Whatever you can spare we really appreciate and will give us some extra fire in our bellies when we're stretching out those 100+miles every day. Don't forget to add gift aid too!
Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity and make sure Gift Aid is reclaimed on every eligible donation by a UK taxpayer. So it’s the most efficient way to donate - I raise more, whilst saving time and cutting costs for the charity.