Three Tour de France journalists, three bikes. Folding bikes. Beautiful, lightweight folding bikes supplied for our enjoyment and logistical needs by Dahon.
We’d caught the bug at BikeRadar Live in June, or more precisely in the Dahon Folding Bike Championship of the Universe held on the Donington Park motor-racing circuit. One of us, Richard Moore, had even finished second. But the only outcome that mattered was the childish delight that radiated from our cheeks as we crossed the finish-line.
Fast forward three weeks. To the fourth stage of the Tour de France. To Montpellier and the team time trial. The perfect opportunity to give our beauties their first outing, or at least their first non-competitive test after our prologue time trial earlier in the day. Yes, you did hear me say a prologue time trial. And did I mention that the venue was an underground carpark? An underground carpark with CCTV cameras, a steady flow of lunchtime traffic and an attendant midway through his lunchtime collections from the meters at the two entrances.
No-one got arrested, no-one got hurt and the standings at the end of our subterranean tomfoolery were as follows: first Procycling deputy ed Ellis Bacon, second yours truly, third and the first lanterne rouge of the Tour Dahon, Rich “Reverse Midas” Moore.
But the real fun was still to come. That’s if you call taking two hours to cover the three kilometres between the TTT startline on the Montpellier Esplanade and the Herault Rugby stadium “fun”. And believe it or not, it really was. Never has getting catastrophically lost been more enjoyable in fact. From the moment, about half an hour into our floundering odyssey that we spied and overtook the Silence-Lotto team on a parallel carriageway to the moment we finally arrived … at the wrong stadium.
“Those look like football goalposts” was, I seem to recall, my pertinent remark.
“Why don’t we just get out my IPhone and use Google Earth?” was Reverse Midas’s belated reply.
The journey time between stadia was around twenty minutes. Parched yet still beaming like three big kids back from an epic adventure, which is essentially what we were, we drew alongside the finishing straight just in time to see Silence-Lotto shambling towards the line. We then parked up alongside an ice-cream van, gorged ourselves on Coca Cola and Orangina and began concocting alibis for our late arrival in the press room.
“Let’s tell everyone we’ve ridden the whole course,” was one idea. “We’ll say we got an exclusive with someone really famous. Say, Barack Obama…” was another.
Of course, in the end, we just told the truth, namely that we were idiots, albeit three very happy ones.
Follow Friebe’s Twittering here everyday during the Tour and thereafter.