you know you've always wanted to do it. if only the employer was happy to give three weeks holiday in july (along with a spare bike, a masseur, a mechanic, a following car etc., etc.), we'd all happily take off to france every year and cycle round the same roads as lance and his buddies. or would we? or could we?
paul howard did, and, as luck would have it, he's a journalist anyway and rather used to writing things down for a living, though normally things related to the construction industry. and though he didn't have the entourage listed above, he did have his dad following in the family car, or at least going on ahead to scope out suitable bakeries and find the hotels they would be staying in that night.
as to the bike, mr howard was very fortunate to receive the loan of a giant tcr carbon with ultegra from the giant bicycle company, so at least he had some similarity to the real thing.
surprisingly, the difficult part of cycling the entire route of the 2003 tour de france appears not to have been the actual mileage, though that's not to say that didn't play its part, but getting to the end of the stage before the gendarmes closed everything down. aside from one stage that he failed to start due to illness, he failed to finish three other stages, entirely due to police interference.
this 'police interference' seems to have been one of the least consistent pats of the whole affair. it was often possible simply to dismount, walk past the gendarme before re-mounting and carrying on. other situations were less simple, and stop meant stop, hence the letters dnf in his results.
the author often took around twice as long to complete the stages as the tour de france riders, completing the whole ride in 117 hrs 40 minutes 36 seconds, compared to lance armstrong winning in a time of 83 hours 41 minutes and 12 seconds. bear in mind however, that lance covered a total of 3427.5km while the author 'only' covered 2910km. so maybe the professionals are a bit better than the rest of us.
granted, mr howard was unable to stay in hotels of a similar standard to those of the professional teams (well, with one or two exceptions), had to set off in the early mornings while it was still dark, and didn't get a massage every evening. and he was also unable to persuade any of the team mechanics to give his bike the once over. but still, the boy done good.
that said, however, this sort of thing has been done before, and in fact was being done by several others during paul howard's attempt. plus there are endless luxury guided trips that allow us mortals to cycle stages of the tour, while looking forward to a good meal, a comfy bed and luggage transported from start to finish every day. so while pedalling such a distance and over the route of the tour is not an achievement to be sneezed at, i'm not awfully sure that it merits a book. and in hardback, not a particularly cheap book.
maybe mainstream should have learned from tim moore and graeme obree and published in paperback, where there might be more cyclists willing to part with around a tenner. and having mentioned tim moore, his book from last year about doing much the same thing only about a month prior to the 2002 tour was far more entertaining. mr howard may well be an experienced and credible author, even entertaining, but he would really need the humour of moore or early bill bryson to give this book a bit more pizazz.
and considering that he was accompanied along the route at least part of the way by a companion (paul grogan) who seems to have taken endless photographs, we are only provided with a sample of sixteen of those. and those are not particularly large (he's no graeme watson, that's for sure) nor entirely relevant - a photograph of tents in a field, one of the author washing his face and even one of the author drinking tea. considering the wealth of scenery one has become used to while watching the tour, one could have hoped for better.
so, all in all, there's nothing really amiss from this book. it is well written, interesting in parts, and i certainly admire the guy for undertaking such a trip, but at the end of it all, having reached page 237, there is an underwhelming feeling of 'so?' however, i doubt paul howard will be the last to undertake cycling the tour route, nor the last to write about it, but we live in hope.
this website got its name because scotland's graeme obree built his championship winning 'old faithful' using bits from a defunct washing machine.
on a slightly different note, my regular reader will have noted the addition of a 'colnago c40' rollover to the left. this contains a reprint of a recent article featured in cycle sport magazine, which they were very kind to let me present here (because i'm a colnago geek) i have also found an excellent review of the colnago c40hp here
i have been asked to add the following link to the post by wheelygoodcause. they're a cycling club dedicated to arranging epic rides for charity and do not charge charities for the pleasure. They ride because they want to. here's the link.
Remember, you can still read the review of 'the dancing chain' the utterly excellent book on the history of the derailleur bicycle by clicking here
any of the books reviewed on the washing machine post can probably be purchased from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com
as always, if you have any comments on this nonsense, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.
this column almost never appears in the dead tree version of the ileach but appears, regular as clockwork on this website every two weeks. (ok so i lied) sometimes there are bits added in between times, but it all adds to the excitement.
on a completely unrelated topic, ie nothing to do with bicycles, every aspect of the washing machine post was created on apple macintosh powerbook g4, and imac computers, using adobe golive 6 and adobe photoshop 7. needless to say it is also best viewed on an apple macintosh computer.