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.