| Andrew Walsh

Diagonales de France


Menton to Dunkerque

Andrew Walsh is about to take on a classic cycling challenge - but one that very few cyclists know about. Next week he will attempt to ride 1 of the 9 Diagonales de France - 1225Km from Menton to Dunkerque in under 100 hours. No support car, no domestiques, just him and his bike. Here, he describes how it came about.

I first learnt of Les Diagonales de France in a cycling book, upon reading the section on randonnées I became interested in the challenge of “Les diagonales”. Born in the 1930's these were epic rides across France, linking 3 cities in the North with 3 cities in the South. My interest had been on ice until summer 2014, when I decided it was time to bite the bullet.

The application process, the digestion of the rules and the spirit of “les diagonales”, are totally unlike the “book in advance, turn up and ride sportives” made so easy today. There is a great deal of planning required prior to submitting your route along with your application to attempt a diagonale. Over the last year I have designed, studied and reconsidered my route until my application was approved by the organisers.
There are 11 Articles or Rules that you must adhere to when undertaking a Diagonale - most of which centre around the need for the ride to be totally self supporting, proving your passage along your chosen route and embracing the spirit of the diagonales.

In preparation for undertaking this ride, I have had to integrate cycling into my life deeper than ever before - meaning riding to work (50Km round trip) 4 days a week and cycling countless 160Km trips. When you have a demanding job and a family to balance cycling with it can be a challenge to find time to get Kilometres under your belt. I have also completed 4 or 5 Audax rides this year in preparation, the longest being 404Km, very good experience for the physical and mental challenge ahead.


More than anything right now, only a few days before my departure, I want to just start riding - all the anxiety that I have been feeling about riding straight through the night, and for 24 hours will subside as soon as I start pedalling away from Menton. Of course the challenge begins then, but at least I will no longer have to concern myself with the consuming logistics of packing, boxing up bikes, writing lists for clothing, tools and ride food. Ensuring GPS maps are loaded, booking travel and accommodation............the list goes on.

If I complete this ride within 100 hours elapsed time I will be only the second person from the UK to do so. Applicants are in the low hundreds each year mainly from France, but these classic rides do not appear to be particularly well known in the UK.

​Thanks to Rule Five CC, Le Col and August Bicycles for the great support and encouragement.


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