Bikefood customers Paul and Josh Stewart headed off to ride sections of this years Tour de France. Matching Cervelo’s packed and loaded up with Bikefood – here is their story…
What makes this trip pretty special is that Josh has had severe scoliosis that twisted his spine and left him with a hunchback.
Now, thanks to a surgery that implanted two metal rods in his back he’s now able to ride his bike, “Before the surgery, my whole back was curved, my hip was out of place, and breathing was difficult at times. It was quite painful…and there was quite frequent teasing. I didn’t want to live like that for the rest of my life” says Josh.
Just a year after his surgery, Josh has gone to the Tour De France to watch the first 9 stages with his dad Paul and to also ride some of the stages wherever possible. Josh’s story even made it into mainstream American media, see this link
Paul & Josh’s Tour de France trip
“Prior to going to France to Watch the Tour de France I placed an order for the GPM Bike Food bundle. I ordered Bike Food after trying it when I rode with Simon Richardson MBE on part of the Dragon Ride in June. He gave me some of the sachets to try and myself and my son Josh really liked it.
During our trip to watch the Tour we had planned to try and ride some of the stages. The first one was on the 1st July. We chose to ride the last 41kms of stage 1 starting at Mouilleron En Pareds and after a couple of false starts set off for the finish.
I hadn’t really taken much notice of the profile which was a big mistake. The stage was described as flat but as far as I was concerned it was nothing but. We both started the ride with 2 x 500ml bottles. One of Bike Food and the other of an electrolyte drink.
After about 25kms we were struggling with the heat and also running out of drink. We found a supermarket on route and bought 2 litres of water and a banana each. After filling up our one empty bottle we drank the rest of the water and ate the banana and set off for the last section to the finish.
We reached the finishing climb and rode up at a steady pace and rolled over the finishing line. Great to have been able to do that as nobody was stopping any cyclists. After taking a few photos of the podium girls who were practising jersey presentations we then took a photo of each other under the finish. A professional photographer then approached us and said he would take a photo of us with Josh’s camera. The difference was amazing. Spot the difference below.
We then rolled down the hill to the hotel where we spent time looking at the team bikes from Saxo Bank, Leopard and AG2R. It was getting late so we now needed to ride back to the car so we could get back to the campsite before it closed.
The trip back was difficult as we were both running out of energy with Josh really suffering especially on the hills. We stopped at the same supermarket but they were just closing. We still had around 35kms to get back to the car. We both had about 300ml of Bike Food left and I told Josh to have a good drink and also gave him all of the Jelly Beans I had apart from 2 that I ate.
I sat on the front to shelter Josh as much as possible and kept the pace steady. With about 16km to go I gave Josh the rest of my Bike Food as his need was greater than mine. We arrived back at the car thankfully and had ridden a total of 58 miles and climbed 1181 metres. As I said earlier this was supposed to be a flat stage!
• Should have looked at the profile
• Last time we had eaten anything was on the boat at 07:00. We started the ride at around 16:00 without having eaten anything. Remember to eat!
• Two bottles of Bike Food should have been taken and I should have purchased some sachets to take on the bike to replenish the bottles
This was a pretty short ride but even so after the mistakes on the 1st ride we were taking no chances and took 2 bottles of Bike Food each. It was a hot day as we set off for the roundabout in Chaze Giraud to watch stage 2.
We planned to go to a village on route so we could ride a very short part of the route, around 8km. When we got to the route the police blocked us from riding so our only option was to go back to our start point and then go directly to the village.
The race rode through very quickly as it was on a slight downhill after the roundabout, We then rode back to the car.
• Another hot day in France and again Bike Food performed really well. Some other drinks I have tried leave your mouth really sticky. Not so with Bike Food.
• Good idea to take the 2 bottles
Bikes after the ride ready to be loaded back onto the car
This was to be another short ride only riding about the last 12kms of the stage to the Mur de Bretagne. I looked at the profile and knew it would be tough even though it was only a few kms. It was another hot evening with cross winds.
We both took 2 bottles of Bike Food and set off. Straight away we were onto rolling roads with 2 x 10% climbs before we reached the town before the finish. After yet another climb we then saw the Mur for the first time. The start of the climb was after the cross roads and straight away I was struggling.
My Garmin showed 6 % gradient and my speed was slow. I put this down to the fact that I only had a 23 on the back. Josh was now away up the hill making it look easy . I struggled on up the hill on my own seeing a couple of sections of 19% and then about 700m from the finish after it flattened a little I looked at my gears and saw I was still in the 53! Muppet.
Once I stopped the sweat poured off me but thankfully I was still hydrated. The ride back was interesting as even though we only rode about 12kms we had to ride back over the same rolling roads.
Red line shows approximate starting point of the ride
Bikes at the top of the Mur de Bretagne
• Learn to use the gears 😉
• Good choice taking 2 bottles of Bike Food
We left our campsite early as we planned to ride part of stage 6 before the race. Prior experience from earlier n the trip said that this could be difficult if the police won’t let us ride. We planned to ride from Brecey to the feed stop at Vire. This would take us over the 3rd cat climb on this stage.
The climb didn’t look too tough but as with all the stages we went to I had to carry a camera that weighed around 3kgs. This was carried in a Camelback and really was a hinderance but allowed us to get some good photos. We actually started from Tirepied and this would mean we would ride 35km each way.
Red line shows approximate starting point of ride
We set off again with 2 full bottles of Bike Food and found the roads quite rolling. We reached the base of the 3rd cat climb and Josh was away. I rode at my own pace and near the top had to pick my path through the many fans looking for their place to watch the race from. As I got near the top I saw Josh taking a photo of me.
At the top of the Cote de Saint-Michel-de-Montjoie
We then rode onto the feed stop. None of the teams had arrived yet and at first we positioned ourselves in the middle of the rubbish zone just prior to the feed zone. We then realised we were in the wrong place so walked with our bikes further along the road.
Shortly after the team cars started to arrive. I asked the Garmin team if I could have a musette. As expected they said no. Shame really as we both had Cervelo bikes, I had a Garmin Edge 500 on the bike, Josh had Mavic wheels and we both had Castelli kit. Hmm pretty much using all of their key products.
About 30 minutes before the race came through the heavens opened and rained pretty hard. The sides of the road turned into rivers and we got soaked. Just before the riders arrived it stopped raining. The race came and went but during the feed 2 idiots were fighting over a bottle thrown by a BMC rider and in the process knocked over an old lady. Crazy.
The ride back was very hard. Into a head wind, raining quite hard some of the time, and hilly. About 14km from the car it rained so hard that I couldn’t see as the rain was running into my eyes. It then stopped and the sun came out. Unfortunately, about 3km from the car it rained again.
• Nothing much to learn from this ride apart from get a lighter camera 😉
This was the last ride and was on stage 8. We decided to ride the cat 2 climb 25km from the finish. We started the ride from Murat Le Quaire which meant a ride of around 15km each way. Because we would ride up the 2nd cat climb of Col de la Croix Saint Robert we chose to take 2 bottles, 1 of water and the other containing Bike Food.
Apart from the 1st couple of kms the ride was all up hill as expected. Before we got to the start of the actual categorised climb we were riding at 4%. In the town of Mont Dore we had to walk as the ride came down a no entry sign and there was police everywhere so we couldn’t ride.
In the end we walked around 200 metres. Once back on the bikes the climb started proper with some 10% pitches. Again Josh was away and pretty much that was the last I would see of him until the top.
This was a great climb that was spoilt by some idiots at the top painting names on the road. I am all for this, don’t get me wrong but painting names on a wet road when it is raining is not the best thing to do. Just before the top I had a rear wheel slide as I rode over a block of wet paint.
Under the marker at the top Josh said we both had white paint on our bikes. This stuff was everywhere and we had to use grass and the water from our bottles to get as much off as possible. Once this was done we rode back to about the halfway point to watch the race.
We watched the race with some other brits and when Ben Swift rode past me and Josh went mad shouting his name even when he was out of sight.
Start of ride at Murat Le Quaire
After the race had passed we rode down the hill in between groups of spectators riding as fast as we could but at the same time being safe. A motorbike tried to overtake me but I was having none of that.
Most of the route back was downhill and we soon arrived back at the car. For us that was the last time we would ride the bikes.
• Look out for white paint on the roads on the mountains and avoid!
As I said that was the last riding we would do on the trip. Bike Food was excellent and provided with the much needed energy and hydration we needed. We used Orange and Berry flavours and had no problems using it at all. It is really easy to mix and does not clump as some other drinks can do. We both found the taste of both flavours to be really great with no after taste at all and would highly recommend this product.”
Many thanks to Paul Stewart for all images and his words.
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