The main theme of the 2016 Tour de Travoy was “To Savoy with Travoy”. Savoy is the region of France south of Lake Geneva and it is the most mountainous region in all of France. At one time, the Duchy of Savoy stretched all the way to the Mediterranean and included part of Italy but the region is much smaller now. Nowadays, this part of France is bordered by both Switzerland and Italy and I planned to go through both these countries on my way to Savoy.
My trip also coincided with Euro 2016 and en route to the Alps, I was hoping to see the Ireland vs Belgium game in Belgium and the Ireland vs Italy game in Italy after watching the Ireland vs Sweden game in Ireland. However, I was offered a lift to London, so ended up watching the Ireland vs Sweden game in the UK before cycling to Belgium and then onto Italy. I had planned to get the train to Dover and then cycle from Calais to Belgium. But due to bad weather that week, I ended up getting the Eurostar to Brussels and a local train to Arlon.
(Part 1) London – Bourg St. Maurice
Ireland had qualified for Euro 2016 in France and were due to play Belgium on June 18th and Italy on June 22nd. Their first game was against Sweden on June 13th and by setting off the day after this game, I should have been able to make it to Belgium in time for the Ireland vs Belgium game and then travel to Italy in time for the Ireland vs Italy game. I was hoping to see the Ireland vs Sweden game in London, the Ireland vs Belgium game in either Arlon or Luxembourg and the Ireland vs Italy game in Aosta. It is 700 km between Arlon and Aosta and with only 3 full days between the 2 games, I am going to have to get a train from Luxembourg to Basle in order to make it to Italy on time. Had there been a week between the games, there would be enough time to cycle the whole way but because I only had a few days, I would have to get a train half the way and cycle the other half. My planned route also meant I would be in Switzerland when they played France on June 19th. I was interested in gauging the mood of each nation before and after each of these games compared to that in Ireland. I also was interested in how the games are covered on TV, what former players are now pundits and how the the build up and analysis differs to that on RTE and TV3.
(Part 2) Bourg Saint Maurice – Beauvais
I had originally intended to cycle the Route des Grandes Alpes to Nice and then cycling the Route Napoleon from Cannes to Grenoble before getting a train to Paris. Most of the cyclists that attempt the Route des Grandes Alpes start in Geneva but I planned to start on the other side of Lake Geneva at the Chateau de Chillon near Montreux. This meant climbing the Grand St Bernard from Switzerland into Italy and then the Petit St Bernard from Italy into France before joining the traditional route at Bourg St Maurice. However, my original plan only allowed less than 3 weeks between between the Italy game on June 22nd and a long ago arranged rendezvous in Paris on July 11th. This schedule was very challenging and it got even tougher after Belgium beat Ireland 3 – 0. For some reason, I thought I had jinxed Ireland by going to Belgium to watch that game so I decided I would watch the Italy game in Switzerland. This seemed to work as Ireland won 1 – 0 but they then drew France in the next round. So, this meant I couldn’t go to France to watch the Round of 16 clash. But despite my best efforts not to jinx them, Ireland were beaten 2 – 1 by France and knocked out of Euro 2016.
All this meant I was 5 days behind an already tough schedule by the time I got to Bourg Saint Maurice in France. To make matters worse, it was very cold on Petit St Bernard and I caught a chill descending the climb. I was really ill that evening and had to book an extra day’s stay at Camping Versoyen in Bourg Saint Maurice just to recover. So I was now almost a week behind schedule and with less than 2 weeks to get to Paris , I decided to postpone the Route des Grandes Alpes until next year and instead just cycle from Bourg Saint Maurice to Paris. I would have had enough time to complete the Route des Grandes Alpes to Nice and then get a train from Nice to Paris but if there was a rail strike that weekend, I would have been totally snookered. The most practical option was to simply cycle from Bourg Saint Maurice to Paris Beauvais and leave the Route des Grandes Alpes and Route Napoleon until next year.
(Tour de Jeep) Beauvais – Aix les Bains – Beauvais
Route of Tour de Jeep from Beauvais to Aix les Bains (left) and from Aix les Bains back to Beauvais (right). Between June 11th – 20th, we hired a Jeep Renegade and we used it to drive about 1800 km from Beauvais to the Alps and back. On the way, we stopped off at to see the Tour de France at Anglefort and at Moirans en Montagne in the Jura mountains.
(Part 3) Bresles-Cherbourg-London-Dublin -Donegal
After spending about 10 days touring around France in a hired Jeep, I set off from Beauvais Airport to cycle back to Ireland on June 21st. The main aim of this part of my trip was to cross the Pont de Normandie and to see the D-day beaches. I had hoped to get a ferry from Cherbourg to Rosslare but the gears got mangled on my bike so decided instead to first go to London to try and get the gears fixed before then going to Ireland.
My name is Ben Doogan and I am from Donegal in Ireland. In 2012, I completed my first Tour cycling 200 km around my home county the day before Donegal played Mayo in the All-Ireland final. I followed that up by cycling to Galway for my brother’s stag weekend and in June 2014, I cycled all the way from London to Donegal after delivering a van and a load of furniture to another brother in Enfield. In 2015, I wanted to go further afield and made the decision to go to France to see the Tour de France again. I had last seen it live in 1992 and wanted to see if it had changed in any way over the last 23 years and maybe report on some of the stages.
For 2016, I hoped to visit some of the countries Ireland was due to play in Euro 2016. I hoped to report from behind enemy lines in both Belgium and Italy and was intrigued to see how the tournament was covered by TV and the media in both those countries. After Ireland got beat 3-0 by Belgium, I thought I might have jinxed them and decided to watch the Ireland – Italy game in Switzerland. This worked as Ireland won 1-0 but as there next game was against France, I couldn’t go to France to see it and instead watched it in Italy. My cunning plan seemed to be working a half-time as Ireland led 1-0 but France then went and scored twice in the second half to knock Ireland out of Euro 2016. But by now, the Tour de France was about to start so I stayed on to see 2 of the stages in the Alps.
Photo of me on Alpe d’Huez after Stage 20 of the 2015 Tour de France. There is so much going on in the photo above that it is all a bit surreal. For a start, there is an Audi car driving past me wearing a a Audi cycle jersey. My jersey has 4 rings on it and is beside another ring on the Opel logo at the same time as 5 ski lift baubles go past above me and these also look like 5 rings. And finally, the number plate on the Opel is roughly the amount of time I spent cycling around France and then writing about it for this website.
Why is this website called Tour de Travoy? Well, Travoy is the name of my trailer, a Burley Travoy and for over 6 weeks between July and August 2015, I tested it to the limit on a 3,000 km tour around France. The Travoy trailer attaches to a bike via the seat-post and is ideal for carbon and other bikes that don’t have holes in the frame for traditional panniers. The upright stance makes it much more visible than most single wheel trailers and the double wheels means the load is evenly balanced. The Travoy is limited to 50 pounds or 27 kg weight but at times, I had over 30 kgs on it and it managed just fine.