1. greencustodian said: Hey, My Christian name happens to be Francis, and I ride bikes a fair amount. I'm taking the most awful stick for your Tour de F ads. Please can I have a Tour de Francis shirt to shut up the people who have now spent three weeks jumping up and down on me? I've looked on the site and don't see how to buy one but you must have made more than one. I'll wear it to death. Send me a 'yes' and I'll send the address. Many thanks. Francis

    I honestly don’t have any. Halfords got some more made and are giving them away in a competition here: https://www.facebook.com/HalfordsCycling/app_200103733347528?ref=ts Good luck with the cycling (and the competition).


  2. This is it. What it was all about. A regular bloke - taking on some of the trickier bits of the world’s most prestigious cycling event: the Tour de France. Four stages over 6 days taking in city streets, country roads and mountain passes. And on a bike costing a fraction of the sort of money the pros will be riding. 

    If you haven’t got 15 minutes to spare, check out the trailer - it’s a bit shorter. 

    (Source: halfords.com)



    A quick scan of social media reveals a few questions floating around without answers. So here goes:

    Is he an actor?
    No. He was cast through a sports casting agency who put the word out through cycling forums and contacts. We auditioned around 60 cyclists, called back around 14 for a second audition. From that we chose Dan and had another chap with Francis in his name on standby in case anything went wrong.

    What’s his cycling profile?
    He rides a fixie into work to keep himself in shape. He’s been through a number of road bikes too and of course now he has his trusty Carrera Virago. He does one big event each year - sometimes a triathlon. He used to be a member of a cycling club, but he has enough cycling mates to go out on rides without the need to commit to a club. Before the Tour de Francis, his biggest test had been riding up the Brecon Beacons.

    How many stages was it?
    It was 4. Liege, Champagne, The Alps, Paris. At the time, we only had partial confirmation of the official routes for the 2012 Tour de France, so some planning was down to guesswork and inside information. Some of the more hardcore cycling community are disappointed he didn’t cycle the whole tour, but they’re missing the point. 4 stages is plenty to torture test a £1000 carbon bike and a regular bloke with a day job and family commitments. Halfords isn’t trying to appeal to cyclists who buy £4000 bikes from elsewhere. But if someone with an entry-level bike is contemplating a step up, inspired by the Tour de France/Wiggins/TeamSky and wondered how far they could take their cycling, the Tour de Francis may give them an insight into that world.

    How far did he ride?
    490km we reckon - and a good chunk of that was up steep climbs up to 11%. We did have a Garmin kindly lent to us by the UK office, but someone pressed ‘Lap’ at some point and it messed up all the data. Not Dan’s fault, certainly. 

    Did you cheat?
    No. When you’re filming, it’s very difficult to capture everything without stopping and re-shooting. That just meant that Dan had to ride further than normal, re-tracing his tracks and coming round for another pass. 

    For the climb up Madeleine, we stayed out of his way and the climb was completely uninterrupted until his path was blocked by an avalanche 3km from the top. We combined shooting out of the back of the camera van with driving on ahead, setting up and waiting for him to come into shot.

    For the Croix de Fer, we had a break halfway up with a photo-opp and a couple of passes of Dan riding through the tunnel. Much of the additional mountain footage was shot on the way down, once Dan had done all the hard work getting up there.

    However, Dan did test positive for “a nice bit of frogs legs”…

    What’s with all the crying?
    Our fault, not Dan’s. This was a dream trip for Dan and it meant a lot to him, so being faced with a wall of snow so close to the top of Madeleine was always going to be emotional - plus he was exhausted and freezing.

    At the top of Croix de Fer, we ambushed him with his wife on the phone. We weren’t sure what reaction we’d get. But we got tears. Again very emotional after finally getting a summit under his belt, being away from his family and being physically drained and extremely cold. There’s a clip that gives it away when you see his hands shaking as he’s trying to do up the zip of his top. 

    How many idents are there?
    We cut 24. In theory that sounded a lot. If you watch a lot of coverage of the tour, you’re bound to see them repeat from time to time. That can be annoying for some people, but they last 10 seconds each so hopefully, if they dig deep, they can get through it.


  4. Collecting his thoughts:
    Dan tries to come to terms with the fact that after 2 hours if climbing Madeleine won’t let him go any further.


  5. Dan tells us what it was like to see the Col de Madeleine for the first time. Intimidating to say the least.


  6. No pain, no gain:
    Dan Francis shows the crew how to get the most from an IT band (aka foam roller). It hurts, but that means it’s doing you good.


  7. Into the mist:
    So near to the top but you just wouldn’t know it. How can you pace yourself when you don’t know how far you’ve got to go?


  8. Reaching the top:
    Dan finally gets a summit under his belt - the Croix de Fer. 

    (Source: halfords.com)


  9. Action!
    Nick Mason, the director, looks for the perfect angle in the middle of a wheat field somewhere between Epernay and Metz.

    (Source: halfords.com)


  10. The Alps:
    Looking out over the valley.


  11. 2nd time lucky:
    The team celebrates reaching the Croix de Fer. Where’s Dan Francis? In the car trying to warm up and regain the feeling in his fingers.


  12. A quick rest-stop en route through the Champagne region.


  13. So I sat down to watch the Prologue with my family after a nice BBQ and found myself glued to the box thinking, ‘I was there’.

    With Chris Boardman and the other commentator talking up the stage I couldn’t help but start getting excited - similar to when we first arrived in Liège.

    I watched the first pro rider give an interview and felt like I could relate to ‘trying to pick up my pace out of the roundabouts’ - very surreal.

    I watched Cavendish smash round the course thinking that would be the winning time but Cancello came in 7 SECONDS QUICKER! What are these guys made of?

    — Dan Francis - on watching the Tour de France Prologue on TV.

  14. Some more pics from the shoot.


  15. Here’s a poster to promote the tour. It shows a summary of the route along with Dan looking all retro and heroic. Quite right too.