2017 Eyewitness

No one tells it better than our riders themselves. Our thanks to Gavin who put this report together after his 2017 Tour.

Twelve months after signing up as a ‘Lifer’ to the Tour De Force 2017, with a heavy training schedule completed and numerous purchases of new cycling kit I found myself in a hotel in Dusseldorf with a bunch of strangers ready to take on all 21 stages of the Tour de France, a 3,500km adventure through Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and France.

I would not describe myself as a cyclist rather a middle aged amateur who bought his first bike 5 years ago and occasionally goes out for a 30 mile jaunt around the country lanes of Somerset.

I had only cycled 200km once in my life and now I was facing five 200km+ rides in the first week and this before we took on the horrors of the Jura Mountains, Pyrenees and Alps.  The next 3 weeks can only be described as the most unbelievable, at times dreadful but ultimately life-enhancing experience I have ever had.

There are countless things that stick in my mind: the stunning waterfalls and pine forests of the French Alps, the sock drenching rain, the heat of the Dordogne, the pain in my Achilles,  the amazing efficiency of the organising team, the hypnotic beauty of the moonscape that is Galibier, the smoothness of French tarmac, the power of the wind coming into Salon de Provence, being wrapped in a blanket after cycling through freezing rain on top of the Massif Central, how much I love brioche, my numb big toes, the relief when the climb markers showed the gradient falling from 15% to only 10%, the humour of the wine drinking masseuses, Ian’s coffee at feed stop 2, the comfort of my own pillow which I took with me, the heart rending stories from the charity workers who came out to join us for a few days, the delight at finding an occasional bath in a hotel, the joy of finding a pair of clean socks, crying with emotion at the top of the last big climb on Izoard, how delicious coke is on a sweltering day and the sheer elation of being hugged by my wife and children as we reached Paris but the best thing about the entire event was my fellow group of adventurers.

The team of riders and Tour de Force helpers was an eclectic bunch held together by a common cause to tackle the world’s most iconic cycling ride. Everyone had their highs and lows but it is amazing how quickly strong bonds were forged and for a sport where you can spend so much time locked in your own personal despair, this really was a huge team effort. We helped each other take the wind in the peloton, encouraged each other uphill, repaired each other’s bikes, shared food, swapped clothing, clapped each other in late at night, stopped for each other and above all laughed and at times cried together. This was camaraderie at its best. And it was this camaraderie that allowed a 49 year old rank amateur to complete every km of the 2017 Tour de France route. Not only that we together raised a huge amount of money for the WWMT charity.

I can’t believe I am saying this but I am already planning when I can do the whole thing all over again.

Gavin White