Staff Stories – The Lead Cyclist

A key role on the tour, our Lead Cyclist is responsible for the enjoyment and safety of our cyclists. Gareth Jones has been our Lead Cyclist this year and will be followed by Emily Chappell in 2018. Gareth had this to say as he prepared for the last day of cycling into Paris…

I’ve been involved in the Tour de Force for the last 4 years. As lead cyclist, my day normally starts on the luggage van loading all the main luggage for the late shift to take straight to the next hotel. If it’s a good day, I manage to grab a coffee on my way to the van – today I didn’t manage that but one of the lovely Tour doctor’s brought me a coffee and a croissant for a van picnic.

Once we’ve loaded luggage, put day bags in the feed stop vans and everyone’s had breakfast, it’s time to start cycling and then the fun really starts.

Tour days vary enormously as does the sort of cycling it involves for me… Sometimes I’m up at the front chatting with the faster guys and making sure everything’s okay with the route, sometimes I roll along with one of the small groups that form and enjoy the banter, the perfect tarmac and views – as well as the obvious chat that starts after the first week about how the pros are getting on with the real tour (that’s one of the highlights for me – knowing that we’ve been everywhere they are) and sometimes I cycle towards the back with the slower cyclists, encouraging those who are having tough days or enjoying the chat with those who are doing really well but just have a slower pace – this is definitely not a race: the challenge is to get through each day with a smile on our faces and my job is to help as many people achieve that as possible.

At the end of the stage my tasks are much the same as all cyclists – massage, clean water bottles, eat something, chat about the day and then dinner at 8. During dinner I talk to the group about the next day’s cycling – often to a sea of apprehensive faces but my tour experience means that I know they can all do it even if they don’t know that yet.

Today…

We’re cycling stage 21 into Paris today. It’s a huge highlight for all the Lifers and Semi Lifers and something they’ve worked very hard to achieve – not just over the last 3 weeks but for months before that with training, fundraising and hours of commitment. It’s such a privilege to see them enjoy this moment together. When you watch the Pros cycling in to Paris you can see how much of an achievement it is for them and how they use the last day to soak up the atmosphere and reflect on what they’ve achieved – and it’s no different for us. I’m proud of every single cyclist and will also be reflecting on what a lovely group I’ve cycled with for the last 3 weeks.

Chapeau Gareth! It’s been a blast!