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Can We Ride And Survive A Stage Of The 1903 Tour de France?

Can We Ride And Survive A Stage Of The 1903 Tour de France?


(calm music) – [Mark Voiceover] I knew
this was going to be a really, seriously tough ride. But I still underestimated it. This is utterly, indescribably tough. One of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever done on two wheels. – It is without doubt, the
stupidest thing I’ve ever done. 60 km/hr on 100 year old bike. Some going. (relaxing music) – [Mark Voiceover] The original
Tour de France was in 1903 and it was a very, very
different race back then. It comprised of just six stages, rather than the 21 we have today, but they were truly epic. The first stage alone was
from Paris to Lyon, 467 km. That’s double the distance
of the longest stage in the 2019 tour. So at first glance, the original tour may be far less to do
with modern stage racing, and more to do with my
world, ultra endurance. But the question is, just how hard was it back at the start? How does it compare to
cycling around the world? And how does it compare
to being a modern day pro? Well, there’s only one way to find out. (accordion plays) – Well this is where it all started, the Cafe au Reveil Matin, 116 years ago. And I’m going to find out
just how hard the tour was back when it started. – Ah Mark! I’ve always wanted to do-
– I was going to do a solo ride, that was the idea, who’s this guy? – How are you doing?
– Hi. – I’ve always wanted to do
an ultra endurance ride. – Okay. And are you any good at big miles riding? – No. – Okay, well we better get going then. Let’s go!
– Let’s go! (violin music) I’m a fair bit smaller than you, I’m also a lot blonder,
I’ll be Maurice Garin, the winner, of course. Suits me perfectly. – Maurice Garin might have won, his nickname was the
little white chimney sweep. ‘Cause that’s your day job. Or it was before you got into bike racing. – Well nothing can be as
hard as chimney sweeping. – And apparently you’re
60 kilos, is that right? (Mark laughs)
– Give or take. – Okay there was two guys
who got to the end of stage one in a breakaway, and the other guy was an amateur, a complete underdog, Emile Pagie, and he was never expected to do anything, but he stuck with Garin, and to be true to the story we need to get there
in one piece together. Are we going to manage that? – I dunno, I dunno. Well, I am going to try and win but, in this story, I don’t know
if it’s going to play true. (calm music) – Back in 1903 they started
at 16 minutes past 3, the start was delayed because
the riders were complaining about cart tracks and the
terrible road for the first 500m, so, 16 minutes past 3. – And we’re off.
– Are you scared? – I’m terrified, it’s not
an idea now, it’s reality. Are you ready?
– This is one of the most ridiculous rides I’ve ever done. – Look at this bike! Let’s do it.
(Mark laughs) Let’s get it over and done with! (upbeat music) – So this is the speed
that they allegedly did for the first hour. And this is on perfect tarmac,
can you imagine this on dirt? We’ve left the traffic of Paris behind us and it’s beautiful out here. Luckily we’ve got a little
tail wind with us but, these bikes take a bit of getting used to. (accordion plays) – So this is kind of what happens when you ride 100 year old bikes. The bearings are also quite old, so, it seems at though the bottom
bracket is kind of seized, which makes it slightly
difficult to pedal. Especially keeping up
with Mr Mark Beaumont. (sombre music) This is my bike, that yesterday, was picked up from a museum. It’s a 56 size frame, and I know that because
it’s written on the frame. Here, we’ve got a pump
that I haven’t yet tried, we’ve got a leather saddle that’s kind of draped over two iron rods that is rather uncomfortable. Some hand-made handlebars that are made in that racing position, so, it’s quite an aggressive
position for 467 km ride. And a big rake on it there at the front. – Well this is my trusty steed, I feel like I need to touch
my cap when I say that. It’s in British racing
green, which I agree on, even though, of course, there
was no Brits in the 1903 tour. It’s incredibly heavy. I feel like it’s more a
World War II postman’s bike than a racing bike. The rake on the front
makes it very comfortable, but the back brake gives
me no confidence at all. I’ve no idea of the gearing, a quick count is probably about 45, 46, 18, I’m guessing. And, yeah I was clattering
down a hill there on a quick test ride
and the pump fell off, this hits my leg as I pedal along. The saddle, yeah. It’s incredible, it’s beautiful. With wooden handlebars. I mean, it’s a thing of beauty. (smooth guitar music) – It’s really quite hard, this. We’re sitting at 30 km/hr, but this saddle is so uncomfortable. – So we’re over 10% of the way to Lyon. – 10%?
– 10%. – [Hank] How many kilometers is that? – I guess another 3, 4 hours and we’ll go into the night shift. How’s it matching up to expectation? – This is the scariest thing – For right now,
– That I’ve ever done. – Forget what lies ahead,
right now you’re okay? – But I’m enjoying it, yeah.
– The bottom bracket’s okay? – The bottom bracket’s getting better, my wrists are starting to get used to this horrific position. – I think when I came into this, I was so interested in like, what those lads were doing back in 1903, I kind of didn’t give much thought to what it would be actually
like to ride ourselves, it was more thinking “well, “cool to sort of walk in
their footsteps, and kind of, “understand their story better”, but, even modern standards with a
beautifully tarmacked road, this is a major, major ride. I mean this is,
– Oh, it’s tough. – And I mean, okay we’re not hanging around but, race pace, if you were
actually trying to win this, you can understand why they
took three days off between each stage on the tour,
because this is so tough. – Right, we’ve ridden for
3 hours and 45 minutes, how far have we gone? – That’s 100 clicks. And considering it was such a bad start, A, all the traffic, B, your slightly bust bottom
bracket, we’re cruising now. – We’re getting into a
good rhythm aren’t we? – Yeah, it’s going to be
dark in about an hour, and, don’t even think about
how far we’ve got to go. I think we’re about 1/5 of the way there. So, no sleep tonight. – Definitely no sleep. (slow dramatic music) – [Mark] It’s worth glancing back, mate, look at that sunset. – Oh! That is stunning! That is absolutely stunning. – So the sun’s going to be
over the horizon in the next 10-15 minutes. And we’ll settle in to the night shift. Helps with it being early July. It’s never going to
get pitch, pitch black, but the night shift is
always tough because, you know, your body clock’s
trying to send you to sleep and you got to keep riding the bike. – I’m nervous. – Amazing thing, what it would
have been like 116 years ago. (soft piano music) Well it’s coming on to
11 o’clock at night, and I have to admit, we’re
not on 1903 pace. (laughs) – Definitely not. – Which, all the more respect
for what those boys did. But, it’s cooled down a lot, the turtleneck’s going to
come into it’s own, Hank. – Yes it is, sleeves are coming down. – Looking sharp. I’m excited about the night shift, but, yeah, we’ve got some quiet
hours, contemplation, – I’m nervous.
– Aim for dawn. Let’s do it.
– Let’s do it. Ah, this saddle hasn’t
got any comfier, oh! – I can’t even find the words to describe what this would be like
without massive modern lights, and we’re on tarmac.
– Yeah. We’re on a fairly rolling
road through this wood, but it’s just keeping this bike moving, weighs about 20 kilos, so, keeping on the pedals. (slow dramatic music) – I don’t like that
squeak from the pedals, I’m trying not to crank it too much. Early on in the, the stage, there was a couple of flying checkpoints, and again, like, when
you read story you think “oh yeah, that totally makes sense.” But now that you’re out here
in the middle of the night, the idea of that on dirt roads. So, they have a number hanging off their bike and they had to shout
their number (laughs) at like the stewards at
the side of the road. – 35!
(Mark laughs) (dramatic drum music) – Well it’s not 4 am,
we’re soldiering through, I’m hoping that Hank’s bike’s
going to hold it together. – Me too! – Ride smoothly, my friend, ride smoothly. And, yeah, couple of hours
’til we see dawn, can’t wait. Tell you what, that first
boulangerie that we see open, I’m going to do a grab and run.
(Hank laughs) (epic music) – [Mark Voiceover] At around 5 am, Garin and Pagie were about
80 km, 50 miles from Lyon. And ahead, lay the biggest
test of the entire stage, the Saone-et-Loire hills,
with the (speaks French) and the leg-sapping, 10 km
ascent of the (speaks French). After 425 km riding, we start the proper climbs. We’ve got two of them, the
first one translates as something to do with a hospital. Which, yeah, bodes well. (dramatic music) If it’s not abundantly clear, I am broken. I’m going as slow as I can because the way the vision is and a little bit of nausea hitting me, so, just need to get to the top really gently and find some shade and get some recovery. – This is without doubt, the
hardest thing I’ve ever done. (piano music) – Well we’ve taken 5,
10 minutes to cool off, my head felt like it was about to explode. – I think I was exploding. – And we’ve checked the route and, we’re at the highest point here. 700 m and I felt every meter of that. Big concern now is the descent because neither of us have got – [Together] Brakes.
(Mark laughs) – That work. (laughs) – Not really. I mean, mine give a little bit of drag, but nothing to write home about. So, we’re going to take
a view on the descent, if we have to walk sections we will. (sighs) You know, we’re so close now, we’re not going to hurt ourselves. – No, we’re going to get there. – [Mark Voiceover] I can’t
compare it to the entire planet, getting around in 80 days, but, here’s safe thing to say. That is, by far, my
toughest single ride, ever. – But we made it there! Couldn’t be more happy to see a city. – [Mark Voiceover] As
they approached Lyon, a trumpeter signaled their finish. But, there was a bit of
controversy 200 m from the line, with a couple of farmers
carts blocking the route, and Garin jumped off,
threw his bike over it, and raced for the finish
with a 55 second lead. – Here’s the cafe. – Wow, we did it mate. – Pretty ridiculous. – My brakes don’t work that well. – I’m not sure I want to give
you a hug, but you deserve it. – Oh mate, what a journey, what a journey. – So that’s, a good bit longer than I
thought it would take us. 25 hours since leaving Paris? 305 miles. We did go slightly further
than the 1903 route, but, I cannot even compare. Those men, in my opinion, are gladiators. Utter gladiators.
– Absolute warriors. – It’s hard to imagine how
hard that would have been. Full stop. – Yeah, if you enjoyed
watching us suffer like dogs then make sure you give
this video a big thumbs up, and for more epic rides,
why don’t you click on Mark Beaumont?

100 comments on “Can We Ride And Survive A Stage Of The 1903 Tour de France?

  1. Superb vid this! Great effort from the lads. The production quality is just brilliant I think. Amazing session on a bike from both. Genius.

  2. I almost cried watching this. Thanks for such inspiring videos. And yes, a big thanks for all the free content.

  3. Athens Georgia to Jacksonville Florida, 297 miles in 30 hours, slightly farther than 467km and slightly shorter than your ride, occurs every year… http://ugabcm.org/ride-for-christ, I will be riding in it this year as I feel I am a perfect fit for the ride as I will be screaming "Jesus H Christ" every mile on the mile. And Yes, I am mad enough to take on the challenge.

  4. I know it has nothing to do with the subject but in a time when you often hear name calling, I can’t help to feel how culturally close we are with british people.

  5. Biggest take away for me is that the only difference between an englishman and a frenchman is a moustache and an accent.
    Every time I look at them I expect french to come out and it's english lol
    Love from Canada!
    xoxo

  6. How about a little perspective, from an old cyclist? I'm 54. In my teen years, I rode a traditional Dutch style bike (my father is from Holland 🇳🇱). 5 speed Raleigh.

    In my 20s I bought my first real road bike, a Centurion with downtube shifters. Put over 120,000 km on that bike. Mavic hubs and wheels.

    Years later I bought a custom bike, a Tallerico, hand made Columbus steel with Capagnolo Record 9 set, also with Mavic wheels. What a difference! Put 22000km per year on this machine.

    Cycling is in the blood, man! Each year I take the day to cycle out, here in California, to meet the Tour of California peloton mid-course. Each event I put more miles in my ride than the days stage, rain or shine.

    Yeah, rather than simply watch the peloton ride past, I like to experience the weather, and the grind, just as they do.

  7. Not to harp on the banal, but that is a slick carbide lamp. I know its in adequate by todays standard but it would have been nice to see it operate. Assuming that you could have opend it up, it would have been nice to see it lit. The light isnt much but is got a nice quality to it.

  8. In reality this would hurt so much between your legs, especially as an unexperienced driver, on top of that, you would be so tired you would literally fall asleep right at the spot. I'm sorry, but I have the feeling you guys have been cheating at least a little bit.

  9. Respect! About the saddles- would have been interesting to see if the steak down your shorts would have helped?!

  10. Wow, this was one of the best vids I ever saw! Please please share the gpx file, I will ride this one myself too one day!

  11. That's cool. I always like early racing bicycles. A few years ago i built my path racer style bicycle, to ride it on local tweed run, but it was based on 70's road frame with a shorter wheelbase: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ye806OnutUc&t=9s

  12. But!!! Like another commenter wrote, you could flesh it out. You have to eat ( and use the WC) on the journey. My mind and body die if I don’t hydrate or fuel properly. A quick death. Opportunity to do more…. y’all are already filmmaking…. right.

  13. The most epic ride i’ve done was 12 years ago in southern Chile. It started in Puerto Octay and ended in Ensenada which was only about 40 miles, but included a side leg up Vulcan Osorno which i’m pretty sure would have been considered a category 1 climb. Plus 2/3 of the distance was over gravel roads and half of that was loose gravel. I rember the climb up I was in the lowest gear on a triple chainring set up and felt like I could have gotten off the bike and walked up faster. Still it was nothing compared to this ride.

  14. Good work lads. But we all know the first Tour de France was done by Asterix and Obelix more than 2000 years ago. 🙂

  15. This was a great video but the racers didn’t ride 100 year old bikes 100 years ago. Although it would be nearly impossible for anyone to complete it wouldn’t have been because their bottom bracket was a hundred years old

  16. Awesome video. Better even than Si and the Scottish Coast, and that was brilliant too. Loved the old bikes and the comparison to those days. That made it special. Please do another one and make it a longer video

  17. That was just stunning. We knew Mark could ride, but learned that he's a great presenter. And we knew Hank could present, but had no idea he could ride like Mark. To do that distance on rutted dirt and gravel really would have been grueling, and would have required three days to recover. Great video, all.

  18. I love the period dress and period bikes. Thanks. You guys could have some girlfriends meet you dressed in the same style…. maybe on their bikes?

  19. I would have preferred a modern helmet when descending without brakes! :-b
    Funny tour anyway! Must have been really hard!

  20. Some lovely piece of footage and well done. I like the mix of history and your journey combined. More of this please 👍

  21. also, i think bikes didn’t have « free wheel » at that time, so going down a hill was really not as fun as today

  22. Can I find the link to your core workout videos. I just start to ride a bike from the 70's and I want to survive for a few km's 😂.

  23. The quality of these GCN videos just keeps getting better – they've always been informative, but they're almost at Top Gear levels of production now. Chapeau Messieurs

  24. A very fine video showing the brutal manner bicycle racing was created. Amazing those bikes stood up that well. Kudos Gentlemen and GCN !

  25. This is a great film I love true recreations. It makes you realise just how TOUGH those early TdF riders were! Amazing

  26. Still ride my 1959 Carlton Super Python regularly but it's an absolute mile away from these bikes and much closer to a modern day carbon bike despite a wider difference in years to a 2019 bike. The Python is still very much usable as a daily if need be, I wouldn't but it'd certainly be able to withstand the daily grind. Half the weight of the bikes here, lightweight 27" hookless clinchers, narrow Michelin's the original Williams 56/44 chainset replaced with a Stronglight super compact (48/28) and I would have been happy with the centre pulls but replaced with some dual pivots just to make sure descending/hard braking for the usual numpties was taken care of, so makes it very much able to get up and down some of the steeper stuff.

    To do what these guys did is superb, well done, to the combatants of the early years of the tours and any sporting cyclists of the times, I tip my cap.

  27. The 1903 TdF started on July 1st and ended July 19th (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1903_Tour_de_France). I think this interesting and maybe planned: https://www.calendar-12.com/moon_calendar/1903/july

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