A weekend in the life of a Garmin competition winner

Widget Weekends in Paris don’t have to be romantic – at least not when 145 riders are heading there as the culmination of 21 days hard graft, ticking off the final 143 kilometres remaining from the 3500 they had in front of them 3 weeks ago.

The cyclists were heading to Paris, and after a phone call from Steve at Wiggle on the Monday before, so was I – only mine was going to be a much more comfortable way to get there. It took less than 5 minutes for an old friend to excuse himself from his brother-in-law’s stag do for "business" so he too could enjoy the spectacle.

As promised, Pascal was waiting at Paris’ Gare du Nord to whisk us to our hotel where our contact at Garmin came down to check us into our rooms. Louise is the Logistics and Events Director at Garmin and this weekend was the culmination of her efforts.


We went for a quick stroll before ending up in the Irish Pub opposite the hotel to watch the Time Trial. As a guest of Team Garmin-Chipotle presented by H3O, it was good to see one of our boys Christian Vande Velde clawing back a place in the standings as well as a fine show from David Millar.

Sunday morning and the familiar beeping of my Mobile’s alarm woke me up, but it was the unfamiliar surroundings of a very plush hotel room that reminded me this was going to be a pretty special Sunday. This was no longer a dream. Louise had us organised, we had our VIP passes to get us past Les Gendarmes and into all the cordoned off areas we wanted (and some of those we didn’t, like the Anti Dopage Controle tent) and we had our "Invitations" a piece of card that was our ticket into a Grandstand about 50 metres past the finish line and right in front of a TV screen the size of my house so we weren’t going to miss any of the action.

It all kicked off at 1200 – Lunch, followed by a wander around spotting the various TV presenters who’ve kept me up to speed with events for the last 3 weeks. After finding a couple of seats under the shade of the Tribune Elysee, our home for the afternoon, we watched the publicity caravan trundle through and awaited the riders. Nothing can prepare you for the spectacle as first the cars, then the motorbikes and finally the riders come whizzing past you along the cobbles of the Champs Elysee at frankly a ridiculous speed, but this was it, 8 laps of cat and mouse at break neck speed on a short lap of Paris.

As we watched the big screen to see what was happening in the final few minutes before they’d cross the line for the final time, it was all looking good – David Millar had taken over from Christian VDV and was burying himself on the front for Julian Dean.

Unfortunately his efforts weren’t quite enough and Steegmans pulled away. After a short while, David Millar came in to view again, stopping the width of a car away from us, to show everyone just how much effort he’d put in (as well as what he’d had for breakfast!) 30 minutes and a lot of squash later, we saw him wandering around the tour bus so grabbed a quick chat to give him some pointers on pedalling technique and a photo before moving on to stare longingly at the teams’ bikes.

Everyone was clearly relieved that the tour was over, smiles and champagne everywhere and it was with a heavy heart that we said our goodbyes and walked back to the hotel for our Limo back to the Gare du Nord for the 20:43 Eurostar to London.

This was a truly memorable weekend and huge thanks to the guys at Garmin and, of course, Wiggle who turned an expensive purchase into a priceless memory!