9 tips to painting the road at the Tour de France

The Tour de France rolls into town in a few weeks’ time and once again you’ll see those magnificent men on their cycling machines taking on the best the mountains can throw at them. There’s no Mont Ventoux on the route this year but back in 2009 there was … and we painted a big Union Flag across the road near the top of it! And you could too!

Our Union Flag and WIGGO on Mont Ventoux

Our Union Flag and WIGGO on Mont Ventoux

We’d always planned to visit the penultimate stage of the Tour that year (Montélimar to Mont Ventoux), flying into Marseille and driving up the mountain before heading straight to the final stage along the Champs Élysée. I hadn’t planned to paint a flag in the early hours of the morning, but maybe my friend Al maybe had. So at the base of the mountain he suggested we buy some red and blue gloss paint, some white emulsion, a roller and a paint tray before heading on up the course.

Getting our paint supplies from Mr Bricolage

Getting our paint supplies from Mr Bricolage

The three of us overnighted in our Fiat Punto hire car but not before our artwork had been laid down on the tarmac just below Chalet Reynard.

In the end it was just me and Al who had the commitment to stay awake and put “paint to tarmac” and so it was just before midnight that we began. Admittedly the English flag might have been easier to replicate, rather than the unexpectedly intricate Union Flag, what with it’s thinner and thicker white edges. We had a cloth Union Flag with us so that was laid out on the floor for us to gauge how and where we should roll out our design. Our head torches serving extremely useful in the dark, mountainous night.

1am in the morning and applying the finishing touches

1am in the morning and applying the finishing touches

Halfway through creating our masterpiece we were interuppted by some French Gendarmerie approaching in their blue police car. We instantly assumed the game was up, or worse, but they simply wanted to know which side of the road to drive on to cause least damage to the drying paint. Now that was rather nice of them! So don’t worry! Painting the road is perfectly allowable during “the Tour” in France.

However I did make a rash decision to slop some thicker white emulsion on the first ‘G’ of ‘WIGGO’ out of sheer laziness which lead to a car leaving a tyre print off the bottom edge of the flag but I’ll let myself off for that.

Adding to our enjoyment was subsequently finding out that Phil Liggett had mentioned our artwork on ITV4 as the live TV helicopter flew overhead.

“As the flag of the United Kingdom is on the road there and they’re there for Bradley Wiggins and he’s right here”

Mentioned on ITV4. The yellow jersey (Lance Armstrong) in the bottom of the pic!!

Mentioned on ITV4. The yellow jersey (Lance Armstrong) in the bottom of the pic!!

Ventoux just below Chalet Reynard on race day!

Ventoux just below Chalet Reynard on race day!

Even better than the ITV4 mention was it consequently appearing on Google Maps! Using the history function (which shows the same stretch of road over the years) we could even see how long it took for the flag to disappear. About 4 years in this case, with the red and blue gloss paint lasting longer than the white emulsion.

Google Maps - our Union Flag just 2 months on - September 2009

Google Maps – our Union Flag just 2 months on – September 2009

Google Maps - our Union Flag 10 months later - May 2010

Google Maps – our Union Flag 10 months later – May 2010

Google Maps - our Union Flag 5 years on - May 2014

Google Maps – our Union Flag 5 years on – May 2014

Google Maps - our Union Flag 5 years on, pretty much gone! - July 2015

Google Maps – our Union Flag 5 years on, pretty much gone! – July 2015

Top Tips

  1. Take a head torch
  2. Take an actual flag with you if that will help you with your design
  3. Buy the paint when you arrive
  4. Use gloss paint to make your image last that little bit longer
  5. Don’t worry about the Gendarmerie stopping you
  6. Paint your design later at night when less cars are driving backwards and forwards
  7. Enjoy watching lots of people taking photos with your artwork the next day
  8. See if it appears live on the TV or in the highlights package
  9. Check out Google Maps a few months later to see if it’s still there

Anybody else ever done a spot of road painting? 🙂

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World Naked Bike Ride – London

What experiences are still on your “things to do” list? Ever wanted to cycle naked? Ever wanted to cycle naked around London? Ever wanted to cycle naked around London with lots of other naked people in front of thousands of tourists? Well on Saturday 10th June you have that chance as the ‘World Naked Bike Ride’ rolls into town!

I first heard about the naked bike ride when I arrived at King’s Cross station with the intention of meeting my travel blogger friend Sarah near Oxford Street. A tall chap outside the station entrance asked if I was here for the “naked bike ride”. Intrigued I said “yes” and proceeded to cycle up King’s Boulevard to Granary Square to see what was going on.

Some people were semi-naked while others covered up all their bits

Some people were semi-naked while others covered up all their bits

What was going on was hordes of cyclists congregating and one-by-one getting naked! Some reluctantly at first but others with gusto, revealing body paint, slogans and generally a lot of bare flesh. Certain faces and “bits” starred out in the photos below to protect peoples’ modesty.

Not wanting to look too interested in partaking I hung back, while not wanting to look too interested either, i.e. a pervert. However an organiser was keen to shepherd people into position so before I knew it I was stripped down down to my black Calvin Klein boxers (I stripped myself down and wasn’t aided in this process) and I was part of the gathered procession.

Unbeknown to me at the time my friend was just 50m ahead and had actually planned to take part. I only found he was there too later that week. So there I was, on my 1980s childhood BMX cycling along with lots and lots of naked people!

A light traffic jam as we head towards Piccadilly

A light traffic jam as we head towards Piccadilly

I’d arrived at King’s Cross alone so didn’t feel overly conspicuous but groups of mixed sex friends seemed slightly awkward, especially the groups you knew were doing his for the first time together.

Not everyone was naked I might add. Some were in their underwear, some were topless, and of course many were completely starkers. Bizarrely those who wore full underwear or bikinis looked more out of place and noticeable than everybody else. A case of naked safety in numbers I guess!

Naked bike ride London ambling along

Naked bike ride London ambling along

What lead to many cheers enroute was normal, clothed cyclists going about their business simply stopping, stripping and joining in with the ride! One student I met at Russell Square was early for a lunch appointment, asked me what was going on, and then promptly got me to hold her bike while she de-robed and then took part for half an hour or so. I wonder if she ever did tell her friends what she’d just been doing when she arrived at the restaurant?

Lots of people were fully naked

Lots of people were fully naked

I cycled all the way to County Hall by the London Eye before finally whipping off my boxers and … and nobody battered an eyelid! Although it wasn’t the warmest of days might I add! 😉 But it really was the case that being naked felt pretty normal within the gathered masses … and that’s the reason all these people were there in the first place … as well as supporting the ride’s cause against our dependency on oil of course.

Only when riding near Piccadilly did I feel a bit exposed and that was when a bus pulled out separating me from the pack and I became the “lead” lone cyclist as I reached a big group of tourists with no one else to share their initial gazing eyes. But as you’re cycling along at a certain pace any gawping group of bystanders are soon passed by.

You actually stood out more if you weren't naked!

You actually stood out more if you weren’t naked!

Any tips?

  • Take a backpack to put your clothes in
  • Maybe wear sunglasses to hide behind
  • Hope for a warm day!
  • Be weary of hiring ‘Boris Bikes’ the next day as many naked people were hiring them!
  • Ultimately just go for it!

What’s the worse that could happen? … other than possibly meeting a work colleague or a friend casually walking along the pavement enroute.

Anybody taking part this year? If so also check out the WNBR London Facebook page 🙂

There were lots of pauses along the way

There were lots of pauses along the way