Follow the 2nd part of Maximilian’s challenge: bikepacking the Tour de France


My friend Florian has been following me on this Backpacking Tour de France for 21 days. He decided to use his vacation days to come with me on this second chapter of my adventure: cycling the Three Grand Tours (Giro D'Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España) as well as the transitions in the same allotted time as the professionals.

We're on the 21st day of the challenge, the next-to-last stage, the time trial of Saint Émilion is complete and we're on the transition from Saint Émilion to Chatou, the starting point for the last stage of the Tour de France 2021. A 550 km transition that the pros breeze through by plane in a matter of 1.5 hours. For us, a day-and-a-half long hell, wind in our faces, pavement in deplorable condition. I'm at the end of my rope, and I tell Florian to leave without me, to ride into Paris on his own. His voice shakes: "think about the rain in Brittany, the climbs in the Alps, and the four infernal days in the Pyrenees, think about the Giro. You didn't do all that just to stop here". I cry for no reason, my legs don't want to do anything any more. The sleep debt I've built up over the last few weeks is eating at me. But I know that Florian is right.

My glasses hide my tears. His hand pushes against my back to lighten the weight of my bags and the headwind that is worming its way into them. My eyes sting, I want to go to sleep. I'm unable to move faster than 18 km/h. The horrible pavement on the road is just making the chafing from my saddle even worse. Florian has been riding with me for over 5000 km. I have no right to stop just 400 km from the finish line. And yet, the number on my cyclometer only goes down painfully as I pedal. I'm glued to the road.

From time to time, he yells at me, tells me it's good, that the pace is good. I know that's false. We're not cycling at this ridiculous pace, we're surviving, moving forward metre by metre. His encouragements make me cry. The Beauce remains to be crossed tomorrow, and the simple idea of it makes me shed some tears again. 

photo Mickael Gagne



The Forest of Dourdan appears, the flats finally disappear and make way for the more rolling geography of the Chevreuse valley. The monoculture fields make way for forests, sheltering us from the wind. The sheet of grey clouds makes way for blue sky and sunshine. 120 km to go. The pleasure of cycling returns as we attack the last stage and enter Paris, and I manage to make the most of the last 6 hours of our Bikepacking Tour de France, after the 30 infernal hours of the last two days. Possibly the hardest kilometres in my career as a bike adventurer.

Because yes, I'm an adventurer, not a cyclist. Let's be clear on one thing that pumped me up with energy on this Tour de France: I tip my hat to Lachlan Morton, the professional cyclist who had the same idea as me for the Tour de France, but who finished in 18 days, not 23. His performance was mind-boggling. Now, there's no sense in making comparisons. What we're doing isn't the same. His bike weighed less than half of mine. His communication was guaranteed by a specialised team who followed him by car (from afar, of course). His bike cost 5 times the price of mine, it was a perfected product; mine is an assembly intended to be tested for Triban. We're working towards sport for all. A normal guy (me) on a normal product (the bike) to achieve an extraordinary challenge (completing the three grand tours as autonomously as possible). Lachlan raises money for charity and rides at Longchamp with experienced cyclists from the Parisian circle, who wear Rapha and ride on bikes worth more than my annual salary (€6,000). He shares, but doesn't reply to messages. As for me, I do it for myself, while sharing and trying to inspire others with the idea that anyone with the will can achieve their wildest dreams. I reply to every message I receive, even sacrificing my own sleep, and I share my route with anyone who wants to do a bit of it.

There's no judgement in what I write. The facts state simply that Lachlan is a great athlete, a role model, and just accomplished an astounding feat. As for me, I'm an adventurer, I love the life I lead and I try to live it and share it.


This Tour de France will have been the "social tour" of my challenge. Accompanied by two friends at the start, and having shared the route with Donnons des Elles for multiple stages, I ended up not having a single moment to myself for 3 weeks. Among my meetings, there were also Haka and Jean Luc on their tandem bike, Julien who rides for cystic fibrosis, and Yann for children's cancer. The Tour de France is a parade of cycling enthusiasts and plans built around its media coverage.

I ride long distances in a peloton, out of the wind, hoping to save my energy. But in reality, loaded down as I am, I wear myself out: each bridge, each hill requires considerable energy to keep up with the pack. That's the effort I pay for on the final days of the Tour de France, where the lack of sleep catches up with me, and my legs are on their last reserves.

photo Mickael Gagne


The days are brightened by meeting new people who come to ride with us, and reunions with our companions. The hours of flat stages fly by. The transitions are made easier too, it's a relief to be able to take turns with my two friends.

At the same time, it's exhausting. We're constantly adapting to the pace of the group and the breaks imposed by the majority. At every break, we wait for others to be ready to go. We introduce ourselves, chat, talk about our project, constantly answer the same questions. Basically, we socialise, and even though that's cool, it takes energy!

photo Mickael Gagne



Brittany had already tanked my mood, with its litres of rain and November-like temperatures. I leave Brittany with the feeling of having relived a second Giro. With the sense that the planet is totally disregulated. In February, I was shirtless in the Dolomites, at 20°C going through passes at altitudes of over 2,000 m. In late June, the thermometer barely passed 13°C, and it rained every day. The seasons are scrambled. Nature is out of control.

A few days of sun comfort me and give me some hope that summer has truly begun: in two days, we'll be crossing France from west to east, via Tours and the Morvan. I've been travelling by bike for almost 5 years, and I'm still surprised every day by the efficiency of cycling. The distances you can cover on this tool with just the strength of your legs are crazy, if you have the willpower and patience.

Arriving in the Alps is automatically calming, and I'm forced to travel in spurts to avoid the rain.

The athletic side of it is anything but gentle: the double climb of Mont Ventoux breaks my legs. My body overheats and I ride at a walking pace, so slow that I'm simply trying to keep balanced on the bike.



After two "transition stages", the Pyrenees lie ahead. Although the first two days go well, the last two are a struggle against cold and rain. Again and again. Luz Ardiden is the "last challenge" on the Tour de France. That's true for the pros. For me, I'm starting to race against the clock. I have to cross France from the Pyrenees to Paris in 3 days to get to the Champs-Elysées before the pros. "At least it's flat", that's the kind of thing I've been hearing for weeks. But I still need to ride them, those 900 "flat" kilometres, in such a short time after having already covered 4,500 over the last 20 days.

Thanks to Florian's patience and willpower, I get to the edge of Paris. The emotions and images of the last 23 days all crowd my mind. I just completed the second third of my challenge, the Tour de France is in the bag. I spend one last evening with our riding companions from Donnons des Elles, then I sleep for 20 hours.

I now have to go back across what I just rode 72 hours ago: the Vuelta, by far the toughest of the three tours, awaits! A doubt crosses my mind: how am I supposed to complete the Vuelta if I've already had so much trouble on the Tour de France? There are a number of things that make me optimistic.

I arrived at the start of the Tour de France already tired from a wedding a few days prior, and by work to complete for my clients. It's a mistake that I don't plan to repeat, to be fresh for my attack of the final episode of the trilogy! I'll ride at my own pace starting on day one, rather than trying to keep up with a road cyclist's pace, which isn't made for a bikepacker. I'll spend less time stuck in the rain, cold, and social interactions - that is, time that I could be spending gaining ground on my bike, or resting to avoid reaching this degree of exhaustion on the Vuelta.

At the same time as I'm calmly approaching the Spanish border, putting in days that aren't too intense to recover from, I'm attentively following the Race Across France and the North Cape 4000 with the same saddening observation: favourite riders quitting. Playing to win, or not playing at all. You'd think that the joy is no longer in the sport, but in success. That success means victory, and not in personal accomplishment. Ultra cycling - or at least its elite - isn't ultimately that different from professional cycling. I also hate the philosophy of being "unassisted", when more and more participants turn over management of their social networks to friends and family during the race. For everyone who's still surprised that I don't register for races, here are a few parts of my answer. I'm a purist, from the design of my challenges to carrying them out. I'm an adventurer, not a cyclist. That being said, I'll close the loop.

As tough as the Vuelta will be, I'll give it my all, believe me! Thanks so much for your support on this Tour, even if I haven't always had the time to respond! And thanks in advance for your support on the Vuelta - it'll be precious!


Tour de France

5,579 kilometres

68,850 m elevation gain

252 hours in the saddle


232 kilometres per day

2,870 m altitude gained per day

22.1 km/h average speed

Bikepacking the Three Grand Tours

16,500 kilometres

178,000 m elevation gain

765 hours in the saddle

100 days