Our very own staff rider Wiggy went over to check out some of the early stages of the Tour de France and take part in the Right to Play charity bike ride, as a Ride Leader. Here's his diary and some video clips of the Prologue in Liege.
Day 1- Friday 29th June
Bags packed and bike packed away into my EVOC bike bag, and the long journey to Maastricht from Rutland Water starts. I am riding as a Ride Leader for this big, well-attended charity ride. 300 miles in 3 days and a visit to the Tour De France Prologue. The bike bag holds up extremely well as I take a main line train and two tubes. I meet 130 riders at Clapham Junction and load the bikes into an artic lorry as we board coaches bound for Maastricht and the start of our ride. Arriving at the hotel at 11pm, it's a quick beer and bed ready for a day trip to the Tour De France Prologue in Liege.
Day 2 - Saturday 30th June
Up early and my Moda Finale DI2 bike has already been taken out of my EVOC bike bag and built by our support team from Specialized. We quickly eat breakfast then head to the train station for a 20 minute journey into Liege. I find myself spending the day with Jim Brammeier the father of Quick Step and Irish National Champ Matt Brammeier, who was supposed to be riding with us but got called up last minute to ride the Tour of Austria. After a busy day of watching, shouting, taking pics and using a GoPro camera to gain some film clips of the tour, it's a rather hot and cramped train ride back to the hotel and a big dinner ready for the next day's ride into Belgium.
Here are a couple of clips including Cavendish on his way to 41st place and one of our cameras getting quite close to the action.
Day 3- Sunday 1st July Maastricht to Gent 117 miles
At 8am, 130 nervous charity riders take to the start line for the 117mile trek to Gent in Belgium. As we get into the ride small groups start to appear and I find myself looking after about 25 riders, sheltering them from the wind, pushing, motivating and changing punctures. The route takes in West Flanders and some of the iconic Tour of Flanders route. We have the pleasure of riding with Neo Pro Andy Fenn of Quick Step and the miles soon tick by. The Moda works well, bouncing off the cobbles and the DI2 makes me smile every time I change gear, working faultlessly every time. Along the route we have 3 feed stops, my guys take on board more fuel and we progress on towards Gent and an evening BBQ and band are put on to keep everyone's spirits high.
Day 4- Monday 2nd July Gent to Calais 105 miles
Again we're up bright and early for breakfast. Lots of tired looking faces as yesterday was spent riding into a stiff head wind the whole day. Today we are joined by Tim Lovejoy, TV and radio presenter. He is on this ride as he had Mark Cavendish on his Saturday morning soccer am programme and as Mark is a patron for the Right to Play Charity he persuaded Tim to ride. Looking nervous but all in high spirits, we head off out of Gent en route to Calais. We plod on smack bang into the same nagging head wind. Lots of pushing people today as the wind never relents. After a good 7hrs riding we finally make our way into Calais and onto the ferry for a hot meal and rest. The Moda Finale is holding up well and what is noticeable from the DI2 gears is that they never fail to work 100%.
Day 5 - Tuesday 3rd July Dover to Greenwich Park 85 miles
Riding off the ferry with 130 riders and other cars was fun. We are welcomed back into the UK with rain, heavy persistent rain. We also know we're in England as the hotel puts out toast for our breakfast. 130 tired and hungry riders and they supply us with toast. Good Effort. Today we have an option of 2 routes, I am lead rider for the 85 miles blast back to Greenwich Park. The other option is a 125 mile ride taking in the infamous climb of Box Hill. By the time we all reach the lunch stop, Specialized has got through 80 inner tubes as all the rain has washed copious amounts of flint and other sharp objects onto the small lanes of southern England. We're all glad to see some hills as it breaks up the flat last 2 days and gives us chance to get out of the saddle and stretch our legs. The DI2 gears seem to be working well in the very wet conditions, still never missing a change. My group and I arrive into Greenwich Park, past the Olympic Equestrian Venue, to be greeted by a welcome party organised by the Right To Play Charity and Specialized. A barbecue and jazz band greet the very tired and wet riders, and we congratulate each other on a job well done. After a good meal and a few beers it's time to pack my Moda Finale back into the Evoc Bike Bag and make the journey back up to the midlands.