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


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

  1. I'm pretty sure there were no freewheels in those days. both would have been fixed gears. Also, racers were self supported – no team cars!

  2. The bikes were new back then and not 100 yrs old BUT there was NO Pavement and on single speeds. Oh my gosh you guys are in shape. Impressive.

  3. 12:32
    Pronounciation is not good at all

    Pronounce it like : Sown (Saône, forget the 'a') ey (et) low war (Loire) in english pronounciation 😉

  4. the thing is… the cyclists in 1903 had nothing to compare it with, they don't know how easy times got with the technological advances to bicycles therefore for them what they did was the norm for their time, so maybe in 100 years from now, cyclists then are going to say the same thing about cyclists in today's age, how hard it "was" for us…. but yeah nonetheless, gruesome cycling!

  5. Cool video! love the subject. But it does NOT even come CLOSE.. the roads back then were INSANE. Tarmac is a bigger improvement on the ride than the BIKE ! And dont forget the HUGE advancements in nutrition. They drank WINE and litterly used salt when they were dehydrated… their diets were SHIT…

  6. Great video!! I only really ride MTB but lately after watching more and more GCN videos I'm getting into road cycling

  7. excellent reportage! avec un détail qui a quand même son importance… les routes n'étaient pas en si bonne état qu'aujourd'hui et les crevaisons était très courante. changement de boyaux, rayons cassé, potence tordu… la mécanique étaient misent à rudes épreuves!

  8. Gentlemen, you are doing a great job, beautiful video this one! And I just want to take my hat off to your filming crew, the cinematography and editing are just top-notch. Beautiful piece of work, thank you!

  9. you guys are fantastic. I imagine how much harder had to be at that times… actually I think that almost everything had to be much harder at that times.

  10. 4:45 I got an old bike bbracket packed with grease form the saddle (yes they remove the saddle and drop a huge amount of shit there ). I realize cos in summer it melted and drain to the floor. It was like an archeologist thing removing all those old layers of grease . Old bikes are very fun to ride,but 400 km + ride it is crazy. I fit some old bikes with new parts and they come to the 21 century in a moment… Very nice video,one of the best I ever seen from GCN.

  11. This is what the Tour de France should be. Much more impressive, and entertaining, than watching someone win a ten-second sprint after leisurely drafting off his teammates for a few hours.

  12. First thought was that the condition of the road must have been very different back then. Adding these stone saddles made this probably a long lasting painstaking exercise.

  13. When is Mark Beaumont going to officially join the GCN family as the official "Why would anyone attempt this ride?" guy?

  14. Hey guys. I just finished my first EROICA GERMANIA race on a 1930 bike. Only 30 km, but with no gears und a saddle hard like a stone. On country roads and farm lanes. It was a really great experience! So I can imagine what a challenge a 400 km trip with that old Equipment is! Absolute respect to both of you!

  15. Thank you for this. I happened upon it by chance after a long, and hard weekend, and feeling myself laugh with joy felt so warm and wonderful. Your piece was wonderfully shot, a beautiful love song to these incredible machines that you woke from ages rest for one last hurrah doing what they loved before their eternal sleep.

    Thank you for the victory lap, tonight.

  16. I cant believe that, really those men was the best, congratulation for your road, and thanks god for born in this year.

  17. I WOULD GIVE 10 THUMBS UP IF I COULD!!
    Well done guys, I was always wondering how it would be like to do this epic ride. Now I know!

  18. I can only imagine what passing drivers thought about two so sharply dressed monsignors riding bicycles apparently stolen from a local museum.

  19. You should try to be more of an example and wear a helmet… Just wear the baret over it, would make it even funnier. But you should set a good example for all the young cyclists watching this. Apart from that class video!

  20. Awesome!!!
    The beautiful landscape, this sunset, your crazy effort, your bikes and clothes, reminding how it probably was back then (I mean in the night without light, without gps system, sweaty ?cotton? clothes and so on)- just incredible!!!
    Thank you!

  21. this should have been made in a full length documentary about the entire ride with preparations, planning, etc… this has so much potential! Great editing, BRAVO!

  22. Seems to me that in order to make this a more accurate experiment, one should have the bikes rebuilt to original specs. Afterall I bet they weren't riding on 100+ year old bearings back then.

    The more I watch these videos, the more I realize that they are meant to be comedic first and informative last.

  23. Nice ! What itinerary were you on? I was surprised that the sun set on the left side behind you when Lyon is on the South East of Paris.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *