Journey to the Tour de France Part 3: Leaving the UK

So the big day has arrived. It’s 15th July, 4:15am and the alarm sounds. Fifteen minutes later, I’m ready and it’s time to load the car with all our things, including the bikes. My friend Craig is up, having stayed at mine after travelling from Bristol the night before.

I take the bikes and fit them on to the roof racks, with a frame cover on to protect from the clamp and the wheels tied down tight, with both locks locked – and double checked.

We head off towards my other companion Lee’s house before meeting the whole gang at Ben’s house for 5am, leaving at 5:15am, with all four bikes on. Lee and Dave are in the back, with Craig and myself in the front.

It’s a beautiful sunny morning in July as we leave Kingston, with zero traffic and a clear drive to Folkestone and Le Shuttle. We check in quickly, and now it’s time for a (much needed) coffee and breakfast.

Breakfast consists of coffees all-round, with plenty of bacon, sausage and eggs to go alongside, the morning repasts of elite athletes, naturally (well, we need to keep our energy levels up). At least the minted Tao water went down well (and didn’t add to the calorie count).

With our Euros bought, we are ready for the 8.20 depart, but it was not ready for us, a slight 20min delay but happily we’re all aboard and in single file together.

With friendly chat between us all and questions around who was where in the climbing pecking order and who would be at the front beginning to be thrown around. After much debate, we decide

Daz, Simon, Craig should be at the head of the pack, then the middle group just behind Steve, James and Ben, followed by the rest of us the main peloton (defined by the Oxford English dictionary as the main field or group of cyclists.)

Half an hour later, we leave Le Shuttle, with the sat-nav showing 585 miles to our destination – a small village called Boucy. Our four car convoy made light work of the French Toll dual carriageways, stopping twice to fill up both the cars and their occupants. The €9 meal deal, which included any drink, cake and baguette, the sugar and carbs would be needed.

Astonishingly, at around 5pm, the rounds went eerily quiet – the small matter of France competing in the World Cup Final I suspect – and by about 7:30pm we eventually reached our destination after more than 14 hours on the go. We managed to drive past the house we were staying at twice – with the local roads giving us a great taste of what lay in store for us – and our poor legs – over the coming days, with steep climbs and tight hairpins everywhere.

With all the cars emptied and rooms chosen, we needed to refuel in the manner of the elite athletes that we were pretending to be, so we headed up the mountain to the Boucy Ski Station.

Unsurprisingly, the locals were in a good mood, thanks to their 4:2 victory in the World Cup Final and we settled down in a local pizza café with 13 pizzas and 13 beers ordered. Perfect nutrition for the days ahead.

We make our arrangements for the morning – up at 7:30am, breakfast at 8, leave by 9. But now, it’s midnight and we all need some shut eye.