Thursday, 5th July 2018
Thursday, 5th July 2018

Back on the Champs

Back in France, and back in Paris. Feeling refreshed after a couple of weeks trundling around Switzerland (and with a week on the tools covering the Tour de Suisse), the time had come, once again, for me to kick off the wildest three weeks of the year: Le Tour.

It's always great to see a familiar face in a foreign place, especially in the sea of people that is Paris’ notorious Gare du Nord . I hadn’t seen Don Álvaro since he dropped me off at the airport in Madrid after La Vuelta last year, and after a couple of weeks solo traveling, it was nice to have some company. We caught up over steak frites and a beer before going to pick up the Skoda Kodiaq that had been lent to us for the Tour.

The underground car park beneath the Champs-Élysées was a fitting way to kick off our adventure. After all, we’d be back here in three week’s time – with only 3,351 kilometres, 21 stages, and a truckie’s idea of a good night’s sleep (every night) standing in our way.

Navigating out of Paris the next morning was something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Buzzed by maxi scooters and squeezed out by suicidal delivery trucks on all sides, our red-blooded Madrileño nonetheless kept his calm, while I looked on nervously as the proximity sensors beeped like disturbed crickets. Car and limbs intact, we eventually made it safely out of the city.

Our early departure had a purpose: I’d picked up a job shooting the Mitchelton-Scott team at their hotel near Cholet, over 400 km from Paris. Located in the Vendée department – which will play host to stages 1 through 3 – the area is also the home of team Direct Energie (or, the artist formerly known as Europcar).

With the Autoroute conquered, we arrived way too early as the riders were still out doing a recon of the 35 km team time trial course coming up on stage 3. Parked up in the shade, we easily snoozed away an hour before the team arrived and we joined them for lunch. Unfortunately I can't really share the photos with you (secret Beardy business) except for one of Adam Yates and yours truly, which Álvaro snapped on his phone.


As one of the world’s gastronomic hotspots, the idea of France instantly conjures up images of coq-au-vin, Camembert and crusty baguettes. Not so on Beardy’s Caravan.

More often than not, dinner on the Caravan can only be described as dire. With this in mind, and the fact that we were staying in a luxurious 2-bedroom BnB for the evening, inspiration struck and I cooked up a batch of Australia's favourite meal: spaghetti bolognese.

It was a gorgeous evening so we sat outside in the garden to eat our feast. Even though it was just me and Álvaro, it felt a bit like the Last Supper – with weeks of meals wolfed down in front of the computer, or scraped together from meagre press room leftovers, stretching out ahead of us. But tonight we were kings, so I topped up my wine and cracked another beer for the Don.

Sneaky kays

My Swiss fitness was not going to slip away without a fight. Even after a long day of driving, shooting and Masterchef-ing, I set myself an early alarm for the following morning, to squeeze a quick ride in before the team presentation.

The landscape around La Roche-sur-Yon bears little resemblance to the mountainous Swiss Alps that I’d acclimatised to, but I was just happy to be out riding – even if it was pancake flat.

The badger bares his teeth

For me, the team presentation was as much a reunion with fellow photographers as it was an event for presenting the riders. After missing the Giro this year, there was a host of people that I hadn't seen since last season.

A building-sized poster of the Badger Bernard Hinault that adorned the town square was a controversial statement considering his recent comments about Chris Froome. Presented on stage, Team Sky received a very mixed reception of boos and cheers from the crowd in La Roche-sur-Yon – would this set the tone for the coming weeks?

It’s hard to say, but with the presentations wrapped up, I did know one thing: I was hungry again.

Time for bolognese round two.
Stage 1: Noirmoutier-en-l'Île > Fontenay-le-Comte
Stage 2: Mouilleron-Saint-Germain > La Roche-sur-Yon
Stage 3, Team Time Trial: Cholet > Cholet
Stage 4: La Baule > Sarzeau
Stage 5: Lorient > Quimper
Stage 6: Brest > Mûr-de-Bretagne Guerlédan


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A Cycling Journal

Join Beardy McBeard and his caravan as he chases some of cycling’s biggest races around the world. Get a new perspective on this beautiful sport through Beardy's iconic photos and the stories behind them. You can also purchase the prints!

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