Cycling with a Tour de France winner

It’s not every day you get the chance to cycle with a former Tour de France winner but on the day of Tuesday May 9th in London at the Adobe Digital Marketing Conference I got just that chance!

Me and Cadel Evans pre-ride

Me and Cadel Evans pre-ride

The opportunity came about thanks to Adobe Cycling arranging a handful of bike rides from the ExCel centre in East London as part of the conference’s networking event. I found out about it quite late on via Twitter, signed up as quick as I could but initially ended up on the reserve list. A reserve list to cycle with the 2011 Tour de France winner – Cadel Evans.

Shortly after my initial application some good news came through, I was riding, but not on the supplied BMC bikes but on whatever I could get to London for 7:30 am. That being my Brompton fold-up bike as it’s not easy to get anything full-size on the trains into London at that time of day!

As it happened a bike with my name on it had been set up, albeit was a bit too big for me, but nethertheless, I was now riding and wouldn’t look out of place trying to keep up on a folding bike. Although Cadel did jibe that I was the only one wearing trainers (I didn’t think I’d need my SPDs) and that I was sporting a very retro, circa mid 1990s Banesto top … before swapping to a better looking L’Alpe d’Huez one. Having cycled up Alpe d’Huez with my girlfriend last September it was fresh in my mind, so I asked him whether he’d ever cycled up it! Doh! Being a seasoned Tour de France rider the answer from Cadel was an unsurprising “Err – yes I have.” lol

Preparing to leave the ExCel Centre

Preparing to leave the ExCel Centre. Photo Ben Rabner

Once everybody had arrived, had tried out their bikes and supped a cup of wake-up coffee we were all set to go and headed off into the East London commuter traffic. After a few detours due to the group getting split up at various traffic lights we took a route down some graffitted canalpaths, close to the notoriously dangerous Bow roundabout. Here we decided wisely to hop off our bikes and use the pedestrian crossing.

Soon after we arrived safely at the Olympic Park. It was just before this, sandwiched between the pavement and the stationary traffic that a young lad on his road bike pulled up alongside us. Wanting to “share the wealth” I acknowledged that it looked like he was a cycling fan, and that he should see if he could recognise the guy in front of us. He instantly said “Cadel Evans?” and so I gestured for him to roll over and say a quick “hello”, which he did, so I hope that made his day that morning too.

Even Tour de France winners have to wait at red lights

Even Tour de France winners have to wait at red lights

Riding behind Cadel Evans along a towpath in East London

Riding behind Cadel Evans along a towpath in East London

Our group was on the small side so we each had the opportunity to ride alongside Cadel and chat away with him. As I was behind Cadel Evans on the narrow camel path section it was at me that he directed “rider up” (cyclist coming towards us) and “pole” (which errr meant there was a pole in the ground!). I probably took more than my fair share of his time but also chatted to who I thought was just another conference attendeee when in fact it was the CEO of BMC bikes who was riding the latest piece of BMC road bike porn.

Following the BMC and Adobe colleagues

Following the BMC and Adobe colleagues

At the Olympic Park we headed to the velodrome to have a quick look round. I’d been fortunate enough to witness Bradley Wiggins’ 1hr time-trial record there as well as having a “taster” session on the track itself just one year before so it was good to be back. For a lot of the riders in the group it was their first time! Shame we couldn’t go for a quick spin 😉

Leaving the Lee Valley velopark arfter quickly checking out the track

Leaving the Lee Valley velopark arfter quickly checking out the track

I didn’t need to worry about keeping up during the ride as although most ot the other attendees looked like seasoned enthusiasts the idea was to have a gentle ride, and anyway racing through the streets of London isn’t really an option at that time in the morning.

So all in all it was a great (but very early) fun morning bike ride that only came about through a work conference and a chance tweet from @AdobeCycling pointed out to me by a colleague. If someone had said back in 2011 while watching the “Tour” on the tele that I’d be out riding with that year’s winner 6 years later I’d have thought they were a bit barmy! Cadel was perfectly friendly and happy to answer a lot of my inane questions. “Take the opportunity of a lifetime during the lifetime of the opportunity” and all that 🙂

Taking a corner in the Olympic Park. Cadel leading!

Taking a corner in the Olympic Park. Cadel leading!

Me and Cadel mid ride

Me and Cadel mid ride

Thanks to Ben Rabner and @Adobe Cycling for organising it all!

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? 🙂