The Grand Depart Classic 2016

What is the Grand Départ Classic?

The Grand Depart Classic is your opportunity to cycle the first stage of the 2018 Tour de France ahead of the pros.

Taking place in the Vendée region of western France, this four day event (one day riding) is your opportunity to cycle on roads freshly paved for the pros, two weeks ahead of the Tour. Prove your prowess in the peleton and on the fundraising leader board and make a real difference to the lives of men with prostate cancer.

Fully signposted and supported, with all travel and accommodation included, you’ll be free to breeze through this coastal stage and enjoy some spectacular views of the Atlantic.

Places are selling fast!

With 210 places having already been filled, spots in the peloton are filling up very quickly indeed. There's only 40 remaining so book your place ASAP to take advantage of our £25 discount on your registration fee. Use promo code GDC25 at the checkout for your discount. 

Book your place

Are you up for the challenge?

On Friday 24 June, 75 cyclists completed the first stage of the 2016 Tour de France from Mont Saint Michel to Utah Beach, just eight days before the pros. It was the adventure of a lifetime, with cyclists coming from all walks of life: young and not so young, seasoned veterans and some who'd picked up a bike for the first time since childhood to take on the challenge.

Many had been inspired by the Tour de France, many had had their lives touched by prostate cancer and all had their personal reasons for taking part. To date, over £160,000 has been raised to help stop men dying of prostate cancer.

Probably the most amazing thing I've ever done!!! What a buzz, lovely to meet so many genuinely amazing people and can't wait till next Saturday to see it on TV...

- Andrew Kydd, 2016 rider

The 2018 route

The first stage of the 2018 Tour de France is a flat one, totalling 195km. The Passage du Gois is one of the rare road paths to be entirely covered by the sea at high tide… but that tide is nice enough to move away and welcome, from time to time, the riders of the Tour.

View the route map here.

View the route on Strava.

In 2011, the start of the race had taken place on the passage and appeared to have inspired Belgian Philippe Gilbert on his way to his first and only stage win on the Tour. The 2018 edition will take that same direction for a first part of the stage by the sea, going through Saint-Jean-de-Monts and Les Sables-d’Olonne, before finishing in Fontenay-le-Comte.

Quite possibly one of the best experiences of my life so far. Met some lovely people. See you in Dusseldorf!

- James Harvey, 2016 rider


Book your place

What's the plan?

grand depart champagne

We'll take care of all the logistics, from booking accommodation to getting you and your bike out to France and back again. All you'll need to do is focus on the road ahead.

Thursday 21 June 2018: Meet at the Portsmouth Ferry Docks for an overnight ferry trip to Saint-Malo. Your bikes will be checked into a support van, and you’ll have the chance to meet the other riders.

Friday 22 June 2018: Arrive in Saint-Malo, coach to Nantes, arrival at lunchtime at a leisurely evening with a pre-ride team meal. 

Saturday 23 June 2018: Ride Day. Early breakfast followed by a 90 minute coach trip to the official start of the 2018 Tour de France. The ride will begin at 7am, and you’ll have until 7pm to cycle the full route, finishing in Fontenay-le-Comte. After you cross the finish line, there’ll be a coach journey back to the hotel in Nantes for your recovery and a celebration meal.

Sunday 24 June 2018: Return journey back to Portsmouth via a coach to Cherbourg and then a ferry.

I don't think I speak for just myself when I try to express what a truly incredible few days we've had! The experience was more fantastic than I'd even started to imagine!

- Joshua Smith, 2016 rider


Register your interest


What do I need to do to take part?

There are two ways to take part:

Option 1: Minimum sponsorship

Pay a £149 non-refundable registration fee and then pledge to raise a minimum of £1,000 in sponsorship (excluding Gift Aid).

Option 2: Self-funder

Pay a £149 non-refundable registration fee and then pay a further £541 by 20 April to cover your full event costs. We'd then ask you to raise as much as you can with a recommended minimum of £250.

Jersey competition

In the spirit of the Tour de France's four jerseys, we've been inspired to create our very own Grand Depart Classic jersey competition.

We've created four jerseys and they will each be awarded on the eve of next year's event.

grand depart classic jersey competition winners

  • The Yellow Jersey will be awarded to the overall top fundraiser at midday on Thursday 21 June.
  • The Polka Jersey will be awarded to the leading fundraiser at midday on Sunday 1 April.
  • The Green Jersey will be awarded to the first person to raise over £1,000 in sponsorship.
  • The White Jersey will be awarded to the top fundraiser at midday on Thursday 21 June who is under the age of 36.

Check out the Jersey competition from the 2017 ride.

Check out the Jersey competition for the 2018 ride.

Book your place

Any questions?

  • What's included?  

    We'll look after you and your bike throughout the event, from the moment you arrive on Thursday afternoon at Portsmouth Ferry Docks, to the moment you say farewell on the Sunday. The support we provide includes:

    • Three nights accommodation
    • All meals from Thursday evening through to Sunday morning
    • Return ferry and coach transfers between Portsmouth and France, and then from the finish back to Portsmouth (including bike transfer)
    • Fully signed route, with feed stations, mechanical and medical support
    • Finishers Medal
    • Your own Men United cycle jersey
    • Professional rider numbers to wear and keep, confirming your unique entry
  • What about the ride itself?  

    How tough is it to cycle a stage of the Tour de France?

    We've deliberately chosen a stage that is relatively flat and suitable to complete for the 'average' cyclist, as long as you put in the training. Many of our 2017 riders started cycling again for the first time since their childhood and successfully completed the ride. If you are concerned about its difficulty, give Jermayne, Jon or Andy from the Sporting Events team a call on 0203 310 7034. They both completed this year's event, and can tell you want to expect in 2018.

    How fast will I have to cycle?

    You'll need to cycle at a minimum speed of 12 mph to successfully complete the stage. Riders will begin the stage at approximately 7am, and have until around 7pm to cross the finish line.

    What support will I get to help me prepare?

    We work alongside renowned coaching company RunningWithUs to provide you with expert training plans and advice on a wide range of topics from getting started, ride kit, bike handling, group riding, strength and conditioning, nutrition and more. You'll also be able to speak to the coaches at RunningWithUs throughout your training to ensure you are fully fit on ride day.

    What type of bike will I need?

    We recommend using a road bike to help with speed, style and efficiency.

  • How many people are taking part?  

    We are aiming to recruit 150 riders to the event and raise over £200,000 to help beat prostate cancer.

  • How old do I need to be?  

    You must be 18 or over to take part.

  • What do I need to sign up?  

    You'll need to pay the £149 non-refundable registration fee to confirm your place. When booking your place you'll need to have your passport details to hand. There are two options:

    Option 1: Minimum sponsorship

    Pay a £149 non-refundable registration fee and then pledge to raise a minimum of £1,000 in sponsorship (excluding Gift Aid).

    Option 2: Self-funder

    Pay a £149 non-refundable registration fee and then pay a further £541 by 20 April to cover your full event costs. We'd then ask you to raise as much as you can with a recommended minimum of £250.

  • What happens after I sign up?  

    You'll get a call from someone in the Sporting Events team to welcome you on board, followed by an email to confirm your place, together with a pack in the post which includes your Men United jersey to wear with pride throughout your preparations.

  • How can I meet others taking part?  

    Once you sign up, we'll invite you to the event's Facebook group so that you can say hello to the other riders taking part and share your preparations with everyone.

  • Where does the event start?  

    The event begins on the Thursday afternoon at the Ferry Docks in Portsmouth. The finer details will be confirmed nearer the time.

  • Can I bring my family and friends along with me?  

    We can provide you with all the travel and accommodation details so your family and friends can make their own plans to see you during the event.

  • Can I extend my stay after the event?  

    Yes, you can. Please just let us know in advance and ensure you keep hold of your bike or arrange for someone to collect it back in Portsmouth when the event finishes.

  • I'd like to ask something else  

    Contact Jermayne, Jon or Andy from the Sporting Events team online, or give them a call on 0203 310 7034.