We typically share rooms on Tour so the day usually starts around 5.30am by fumbling around to turn off the alarm clock and removing the anti-snore ear plugs. It's then a time trial to get lycra on and chamois cream applied, main luggage packed and day bags prepared before breakfast at 6.30am. This process usually starts earlier if we have to coach transfer from our hotel to the day's stage's starting point. The aim is always to be riding by 7.30am.
The unsung heroes of the Tour are our mechanics and soigneurs. They are up at 4.30am each day driving our bikes ahead to start points or getting bikes lined up in hotel car parks ready to ride. It is a wonderful feeling each morning to have your bike primed and ready to roll with the minimum of effort. A special mention must also go to the signing team who are out on the road before sunrise signing the route so we never have to consult the map. In high viz arrows we trust.
Our first 40km each day is ridden as a warm up and the group is encouraged to ride with different people and socialise. This approach not only helps the legs spin out the previous day's soreness but has also fostered an inclusive non-clique Tour group. This is particularly important when we have new people joining the Tour for different stages and it is our responsibility as "lifers" to make them welcome and integrated ASAP.
After 40km we have the first feedstop or second breakfast. On average, I'm burning 7000-10000 calories a day so you can imagine that we all want to eat whenever we get the chance. For the rest of the day we break down into our riding groups, making your selection based on pace, with food/water stops and sign ins every 40km. The Tour support team do a great job at these stops with providing decent nutrition and plenty of motivational chat and music.
Towards the front of the peleton and the end of the stage, there is a palpable upping of the tempo as we run into the finish. The excitement of finishing another day and reaching the hotel fuels the pedalling. Usually, we start attacking off the front within the last 5km and everything goes crazy. The most memorable example of this was following a flat and tedious stage to St Malo. About 40 riders were amassing at the front with the pace being wound up and up. About 10km from the finish we hit a quaint French fishing town which had a horrible hill to get up and out. The peleton went ballistic up this ramp, everyone fighting to get to the front and into the break with riders being spat out the back one by one. The locals were in shock as these locusts in lycra swarmed their town. A lot of fun and on these occasions our peleton mimics the professional ranks.
Once at the day's hotel, the mechanics and soigneurs are set up already and waiting. Bikes are taken instantly and worked on if required before being safely stored and I am usually straight onto the massage table. This is then followed by recovery drinks and a careful process of disinfecting the days water bottles, helmet, shoes and gloves, showering, laundry and then elevating the legs wrapped in compression tights to aid recovery. The recovery process is almost as important as the ride itself. Dinner is always at 8pm, with the next day's briefing and the awards for the day presented. Lights out are usually 10pm.
Then we do it all again.
Some snaps as usual: life on tour - another day and another hotel to settle into, knackered riders on a 6am transit bus somewhere in France and to show it is not all Ibis stopovers - a night at the chateau for rest day 1. Vive le tour!