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We Rode All Day
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We Rode All Day is my first book, a thrilling insight into how the riders endured the 1919 Tour de France.

Written from the perspective of multiple riders, We Rode All Day became one of the best-selling self-published cycling books of 2019 to be called We Rode All Day.

You can buy it here, if you want.

Other bookstores are available.

Praise for We Rode All Day

There are heaps of cycling books out there that cover the heroic age of cycling. From biographies of the greats like Bartali and Coppi to accounts of some of the early grand tours, there’s plenty of choice for those that want to delve into cycling’s great heritage. Fascinating as they might be, I’ve not come across one that brings the early days of the Tour de France to life as much as Gareth Cartman’s We Rode All day.

Along with Tim Krabbé’s The Racer it should become essential reading for anyone that rides a bike.

Robbie Broughton, RideVelo

I can’t vouch for the factual accuracy of the characterisations but I really enjoyed the stories they told. Cycling histories can prove a little dull, an overload of numbers, dates and places. We Rode All Day is literally a novel approach to the genre that adds an extra dimension, brings the personal suffering, the kindnesses, greed and glories to life.

Suspend your disbelief, hop into the saddle and ride the 1919 Tour with the men who were actually there.

Rolf Rae Hansen

The author has brought this Tour de France alive by telling the story through the eyes of the riders. Awesome. Chapeau!

Someone from Amazon

An Excerpt from We Rode All Day

Firmin Lambot

I… am… not… going… to… make… it…

Ah fuck. No. A shower of mud from Van Daele’s back wheel sprays me direct in the face, my goggles are covered – ah fuck, I can’t see, shit I’m going down. Who’s that in the way now? How can I know – but he’s holding me up. Let me go down, bastard. Let me fall.

Bastard. Shit. Fuck.

Mud tastes the same all over France, by the way. In case you were wondering.

Ah Jesus, this is pain like I’ve never known it. Shit, another pothole, the bike nearly somersaults. I still can’t see.

“Stay straight you fucking Belgian”, shouts someone French.

“Allez Dejo”, shouts a friendlier voice, definitely Leon. I might not have my eyes, but I have my ears.

He has his hand around me, so I can at least wipe my goggles and work out where I am. This is what it must have been like French-side during the war, I guess. Rain, mud, shit flying everywhere, men lying by the side of the road, headlamps lighting up the raindrops in the interminable grey – the never-ending fucking grey – always grey it might as well be home, and the sound of men shouting, most of them in pain.

My legs, I’m not fit. I’m not ready. I can’t go on.

I clench my teeth, where’s Vandaele’s wheel gone? He’s a good one to hang on to. Broad-shouldered and steady. Nobody likes a wheelsucker, but right now, wheelsucking is all you can do in the headwind.

“Dejo, relax,” Leon hollers from two back, “remember your training!”

Ah now yes, thanks Leon, I do remember my fucking training. It was better than this shithole. And OK, I vomited every day for the first week climbing the Cote de Goschenee over and over again, my head was burning with the effort, but how would you be after four years off the bike, eating the scraps the krauts left behind?

This is a party compared to four years’ imprisonment by the Boche. So suck it up, Firmin, ride on. Find that wheel and suck it.

Spit out the grit.

The buildings are shooting up now, where five minutes ago we passed farmsteads and half-dead villages, this is clearly a town, but what hell is this? It must be Amiens. Oh boy. A handful of riders up front – Pelissier’s among them – they hit the pedals hard. I don’t remember any time bonuses up for grabs here, that would be some sad fucking joke to award bonuses for coming through here first. The only reason for sprinting here would be to get through it as quick as you can.

I saw Leuven and what the Germans had done to the library and the town centre – and that sticks with you, so it does. It sticks in your gut and it burns and the taste never leaves you, but Amiens. What have those bastards done? Most of the peloton slows down and gape. The Cathedral – God save them – what were they thinking?

“Head down, Firmin.” It’s Leon again, my guardian Belgian. “Watch your wheel, mate, we don’t need to see this.”

“But look at the people, Paupou – look at their faces.”

“You shouldn’t look, just ride.”

Tommies line the street, a four-year war etched on their faces like twenty years’ of torture, and they’re screaming for us. Women – women everywhere – a hundred times stronger than they ever were, working women, women who are doing men’s jobs, women who’ve grown their hair short and are wearing suits – just women, bellowing their support in the shadows of the ruins. What is this insanity? Why us?

“Jesus wept,” murmurs Leon as he freewheels through the cobbled streets.

Jesus did. And Jesus would have ridden a bike as fast he could. Out of here.

Last year, we were tearing each other apart. What man can do to man, I still cannot comprehend. We’ll never comprehend it. And now we’re riding bikes through the rotting remains of the carnage, and all I can see is the gaps in peoples teeth, like gaps in the buildings. Everything used to be here.

Past Amiens, we pick up the speed and space out a little. Time for some in the peloton to stop for relief. A couple of guys find a café and dash inside. I think about it, but think better of it. And regret the decision, but you can’t turn back.

Why did I choose this race? Why did I let Leon talk me into it? I could have sat it out, like so many did. Only 67 of us turned up at the start line, when over 120 of us turned up at l’Auto’s offices yesterday. I bet only 20 of us will race tomorrow.

Thys pulls alongside. I never liked Thys. That chiselled face, the smooth demeanour, that confidence. Some riders win races and some riders, like Thys, feel like they own them.

“How much are they paying you, Dejo?”

I tut. It’s always money with Thys.

“Same as you, I guess.”

He tuts. We could tut all the way to Paris.

“Don’t you think you’re worth more? You won the mountains last time, Firmin. You should ask for more money.”

I nudge a wheel ahead of him. Cyclist-speak for “I’m done”. He nudges alongside.

“I told Desgrange,” he goes on. “I told him – I won this for you last time, I’m your star man, pay me properly or I walk. That’s what I said, you know what he said? You know what he said? You’re no more important than Nempon to me. Nempon! That peasant boy with a B-licence.”

He’s still talking. “All this A-licence nonsense. Grey shirts, hardly any supplies, I reckon this is the bike I rode the 1913 Tour on, what a load of rubbish, Dejo. And for what? Huh?”

I nod. I’ve heard this before from Thys. I look down at his back wheel.

“46 x 19 is that? Should have gone with 21 today.”

A look of thunder. I ride on. I might not win this stage, or this Tour, but I’ve won that conversation.

Next stop Abbeville for a checkpoint and food. I’ve still got two baguettes left in my back pockets. I take one out – cheese, I reckon – cheese and mud with a casing of grit. I lick the baguette and spit out the flecks of muck. Some of the spit hits an Italian lad who’s panting like a dog to my left. Here, piccolo Fido. Have some more dirt, he doesn’t notice.

I pull over underneath an awning and pull out the stage route as the rain pounds on the shelter above me. Huge thick droplets are pouring off.

I yank out the route map, from here, it’s a windy, sinuous route to the coast at Le Treport, where there’s another checkpoint. If I remember rightly, Le Treport is the town with the coloured buildings, and a long, flat promenade, built for buffeting cyclists with sidewinds. Thys rolls past, glaring at me, glaring at everyone. You get the feeling he’s spoiling for a fight.

At this rate, neither of us will reach the mountains. Henri Desgrange’s shitshow has to go on, though. The only question is, will anyone make it?

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