Halfords 'Tour de Francis' vid knits TdF ads together

Wondered what those Halfords ads were all about? Wonder no longer...

by Dave Atkinson   July 5, 2012  

Tour de Francis

If you're like us you've probably been wondering exactly what the storyline is behind those Halfords Tour de France ads on ITV4, whilst also kneeling and thanking the gods of cycling that they're a less annoying than the Chris Boardman ones from last year. Anyway, the full 15-minute video is on the Halfords channel on Youtube, and we've included it below.

The premise, as you may have already guessed, is to take an average Joe on an average bike and stick them onto the Tour parcours to see how they fare. The average Joe in question is Dan Francis, a 29-year-old employee of a pharmaceutical company, and the average bike is, well, probably a bit above average; it's the £999 Carrera Virago which we tested on road.cc not so long ago. "A versatile, comfortable, performance oriented, carbon bike and a real bargain too", was Stuart Kerton's verdict on the bike. Certainly it's one of the best road bikes you have for your cycle-to-work grand.

We meet Dan on the prologue course in Liège, and there's plenty of sunny swoopy shots of him tackling the Tour's sixth road stage from Épernay to Metz, but the real challenges come later in the vid. First he has a go at the 1,993m Col de la Madeleine before tackling the fearsome 2,067, Col de la Croix de Fer. There are hurty legs, triumph, disappointment and tears along the way, plus a cameo from sometime road.cc contributor Phil Gale shouting encouragement from the team car. And to finish it all off Dan tackles the mayhem of the Champs Elysées traffic. Anyway, we won't spoil it for you. Enjoy!

39 user comments

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hat off to the bloke for doing it, put in the same situation i would give it a go. im sure the 'team' car was a massive help. anyone know where i can sign up? Wink haha

posted by titch75 [13 posts]
5th July 2012 - 23:25

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Poor bugger. I hope he got a free bike out of it as well as the holiday because he is being used to annoy lots of us as we wonder whats happening during the ITV ad breaks.

This does nothing for my view of Halfords bikes.

Alex Moulton was always a keen fan of the idea that if you wanted your engineering to be respected then you need to prove it's worth in either competition or adversity. The tour de francis only goes to show that if you offer a bike to a regular dude for a free cycling holiday, he'll take it. I strongly suspect Mr francis would have taken this opportunity regardless of the Brand on offer. Says alot more about free holidays than it does Halfords bikes then doesn't it? Thinking Thinking

posted by mattbibbings [102 posts]
5th July 2012 - 23:25

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It's excruciating. It's contrived, and 'Dan Francis' is an actor. An actor recruited by the ad agency for his ability to appear average Joe-like.

Of course, I could be wrong. I mean, his surname could be Francis. Couldn't it? I mean it's a hell of a gift for the producers that his surname is almost 'France', but it could've happened like that, right?

posted by Silo [1 posts]
5th July 2012 - 23:49

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^^ I'm with Silo I'm afraid. Contrived, annoying and I couldnt even watch it through Yawn

posted by Bigpikle [66 posts]
6th July 2012 - 8:02

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Hmm, fair play to the lad - I'm sure he enjoyed it, but I'm not sure that they're less annoying than the Boardman ones, especially when they keep on repeating the same bits!

I swear if I hear "really, really big climb *gasp*" again, I'm going to nut my TV...

posted by sporran [39 posts]
6th July 2012 - 9:00

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Teee-wat.

Just awful.
Surprise

posted by renko [43 posts]
6th July 2012 - 9:17

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wow, what an inclusive bunch we are, eh? heaven forfend that anyone should turn up to one of 'our' rides on one of 'those' bikes, all bright eyed and enthusiastic for the sport...

Thinking

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posted by Barry Fry-up [187 posts]
6th July 2012 - 9:38

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yeah I enjoyed it… but then I don't shave my legs so I'm not a proper cyclist anyway Wink

Plus of course I haven't caught any of the Tour highlights on TV, I can imagine that endless repetition of bits of it would drive you nuts. You'd think given how long the Tour is they could have done one segment for each stage, without shooting any more footage.

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4121 posts]
6th July 2012 - 9:46

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…we should find out if he's an actor though, would account for the blubbing maybe - trying to show of his full range in case the casting director from Holby City is watching Smile

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4121 posts]
6th July 2012 - 9:48

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Thanks for clearing that up. I have been wondering what they were all about. I'm starting to find them irritating though.

posted by Psycling [49 posts]
6th July 2012 - 10:31

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‘new guys in cycling, new guys in sportives, new guys at races’

I am returning to road cycling after a near 20 year break, I’m 46 – before the break I had a road bike like most of us – then during my break I mountain biked almost every Saturday and mountain bike holidayed in England, Scotland, Wales various places.

So in the sense of the road club I joined two months ago, I’m a new guy!... but I’m not a new guy to cycling? Maybe those other new guys aren't so new either?

I appreciate if someone has been there doing this for years and a whole bunch of unknown faces turn up, changes initially takes us all out of our comfort zone.
New guys don’t know how it works, don’t know how the weekend club run peloton type thing works, but isn’t this were the older wiser members of the club should embrace the new guys!

New members breathe life into the club otherwise club funds dry up, average ages go up & then that club may be viewed as elitist or out of touch!

Existing members have an amazing amount to offer, there is one guy in my club – 65 years old (he’s not the oldest by far!), an incredibly strong cyclist who still races, has taken the time during the runs to chat to me, explain to me how it works, be my wing man when I was going to the front for the first few times,
I admire & respect this man so much and enjoy his knowledge, he doesn’t know it but I look upon him as my mentor, yeh, at 46 years old I’ve adopted a mentor, lol.

Would you not like to think you could be seen as a mentor?

All your years of being there regularly rain hail sleet sh@t.. Experience that is almost impossible to value & certainly impossible to buy!
Yet we all know how we feel when we can pass on our knowledge to someone younger, someone less experienced, we do it every day with our children.

Rather than see the people, the new guys as a bit of an awkward intrusion, why not consider helping them, teaching them mentoring them…
Trust me they will view you with a greater light than you can realize yourself, see you as a friendly approachable individual, as a guiding member of a club they have taken pride in joining
they will tell others about their new club that they love, their sport they love, they will tell others about one person in particular in that club, the one who has unselfishly taught them so much.

Yeah, that one person – their mentor?

posted by bfslxo [109 posts]
6th July 2012 - 10:45

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Silo wrote:
It's excruciating. It's contrived, and 'Dan Francis' is an actor. An actor recruited by the ad agency for his ability to appear average Joe-like.

Of course, I could be wrong. I mean, his surname could be Francis. Couldn't it? I mean it's a hell of a gift for the producers that his surname is almost 'France', but it could've happened like that, right?

well, apparently he is an amateur cyclist, the ad agency put out a call for average Joes to appear in a series of ads, i remember seeing a tweet about it actually, he is called Dan Francis outside of ad breaks, this could all be a deeply contrived back-story though
Thinking

posted by VecchioJo [729 posts]
6th July 2012 - 10:55

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He isn't an actor - the 'tour de francis' name was decided before the auditions, and having Francis in your name was a condition for getting an audition as i understand it. As for smashing it up and down by the river...yeah it is a touch annoying now Smile

But i guess he had to give the interviews and sound bites, and the production co/Halford decided what to use. I think anyone given the opportunity would want to do this though, a few days cycling around with a full support crew, would just be amazing

posted by md6 [145 posts]
6th July 2012 - 10:57

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He's no average cyclist, those mountains are hard.

It might make the kind of people who tune in to the TDF and have a passing interest in cycling choose a halfords bike.

They have improved in recent years.

posted by italiafirenze [68 posts]
6th July 2012 - 11:33

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mattbibbings wrote:
Poor bugger. I hope he got a free bike out of it as well as the holiday because he is being used to annoy lots of us as we wonder whats happening during the ITV ad breaks.

This does nothing for my view of Halfords bikes.

Alex Moulton was always a keen fan of the idea that if you wanted your engineering to be respected then you need to prove it's worth in either competition or adversity. The tour de francis only goes to show that if you offer a bike to a regular dude for a free cycling holiday, he'll take it. I strongly suspect Mr francis would have taken this opportunity regardless of the Brand on offer. Says alot more about free holidays than it does Halfords bikes then doesn't it? Thinking Thinking

Yes but how many of us can say we actually ride bikes that have been tested in the hardest competitions?

Cervelos are used right off the shelf, but I don't know of another.

posted by italiafirenze [68 posts]
6th July 2012 - 11:36

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IIRC the person they recruited was from a cycling forum, I certainly saw it mentioned on the lfgss forum, needed to offer up a week. A typical actor wouldn't be up for the longer flat stages

An interview with Dan
http://www.bikeradar.com/routes/article/interview-dan-francis-halfords-t...

Plenty more about this in the retail and marketing press.

Cannondale CAAD10, Condor Terra-X and an orange Brompton.
Ride for East London Velo

zzgavin's picture

posted by zzgavin [197 posts]
6th July 2012 - 12:09

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Can't believe some of the sniping on here. If Halfords offered you a week of riding in France, expenses paid, fully supported, taking in some great climbs, and the conditions were that you rode their own carbon bike equipped with 105 (covered by a pro mechanic remember!) and they filmed you and played it back ad nauseum during TDF coverage, would you:

a. Grab the opportunity with both hands
b. Turn up your nose and tell them to shove their £1000 bike where the sun doesn't shine
c. Anticipate that the sight of you at every ad break would be too much for the nation's TDF viewers and politely decline?

I'll be honest, I'm jealous of the guy. I read the Bikeradar interview and he mentions that one or two of the support crew were ex-pros', so some of it turned into a mammoth coaching session and he was persuaded to repeat sections several times at different intensities etc. Sounds nothing short of a phenomenal experience.

Apparently the crying was carefully orchestrated, but not by him. The crew waited until he was absolutely burying himself, then the second he reached the mountaintop handed him a phone with his missus on the other end, and got in his face with the camera hoping for a bit of emotion, which they got.

Dodging the saccadic masking

posted by notfastenough [2732 posts]
6th July 2012 - 13:10

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MercuryOne wrote:
They're irritating. I'm sick of the 'new lads' in cycling. Sick of them at sportives. Sick of them thinking they can then race after never riding at speed in a group and sick of them giving me their opinion on the T D effin F when I've been following it since Merckx and they've only picked it up since Armstrong won 5.

And that's why I do Audaxes.
And shout a lot on club runs!

Gravity - it won't let you down.

bigmel's picture

posted by bigmel [63 posts]
6th July 2012 - 13:54

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italiafirenze wrote:
He's no average cyclist, those mountains are hard.

It might make the kind of people who tune in to the TDF and have a passing interest in cycling choose a halfords bike.

They have improved in recent years.


Yeah I saw somewhere (might have been that Bikeradar interview) that he'd done an Ironman, so he's not exactly just your guy cycling down to the pub on his mountain bike.

I'd definitely have taken the chance if it was offered aswell, doesn't stop those adverts being bloody annoying though!

posted by sporran [39 posts]
6th July 2012 - 14:18

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MercuryOne wrote:
They're irritating. I'm sick of the 'new lads' in cycling. Sick of them at sportives. Sick of them thinking they can then race after never riding at speed in a group and sick of them giving me their opinion on the T D effin F when I've been following it since Merckx and they've only picked it up since Armstrong won 5.

Opinions are like arseholes, we've all got one. Why is yours so much better? Does everyone else have to serve a grovelling apprenticeship before having something to say? Armstrong won his fifth in 2004, that's 8 effin' years ago. A lots has happened since then.

It's the prospect of arsey people like you that deter me from doing group rides and organised events. There's nothing worse than an snob who tell us all how to tie our shoelaces (well, there is, but jaded teachers are way off-topic).

bigmel wrote:
And that's why I do Audaxes.
And shout a lot on club runs!

At least shouting on club runs is educational. If people don't know how to ride in a group then it's the responsibility of those leading it / experienced participants to explain. If the recipient of the advice is unresponsive then I'm sure there are ways to get the message through.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1825 posts]
6th July 2012 - 15:36

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italiafirenze wrote:
mattbibbings wrote:
Poor bugger. I hope he got a free bike out of it as well as the holiday because he is being used to annoy lots of us as we wonder whats happening during the ITV ad breaks.

This does nothing for my view of Halfords bikes.

Alex Moulton was always a keen fan of the idea that if you wanted your engineering to be respected then you need to prove it's worth in either competition or adversity. The tour de francis only goes to show that if you offer a bike to a regular dude for a free cycling holiday, he'll take it. I strongly suspect Mr francis would have taken this opportunity regardless of the Brand on offer. Says alot more about free holidays than it does Halfords bikes then doesn't it? Thinking Thinking

Yes but how many of us can say we actually ride bikes that have been tested in the hardest competitions?

Cervelos are used right off the shelf, but I don't know of another.

Indeed, but how many other bike companys out there attempt to shove the idea down your throat that their bikes are tested under the harshest conditions when the slightest of inquiry shows that they were ridden around France for a few days with a spare and a mechanic in tow! By those standards all my bikes i've ever owned must be better than a Generic carbon framed Carrera. Come to think of it, they are.

It's patronising and annoying advertising.

posted by mattbibbings [102 posts]
6th July 2012 - 18:39

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It's likely that if you know what you're looking for in a bike you probably won't go to Halfords.

However for the kind of people that Halfords sell bikes to knowing that one of their brands is capable of conquering the TdF is actually a big selling point so the sense behind the adverts is clear. The TdF attracts a much wider base of viewers than most cycling coverage so they can pepper the ad-breaks with sales pitches to those who don't know a Carrera from a Canyon.

If you do know what the difference is then you're probably less likely to buy a Carrera anyway and you're not the target market for the adverts.

All that aside though, what's wrong with a brand that doesn't sponsor a team and doesn't have their bikes endlessly featured in TdF coverage trying to show that their bikes are perfectly capable of standing up to the same tests?

posted by drheaton [3399 posts]
6th July 2012 - 21:32

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Actually just watched it and quite enjoyed it, he seemed a nice chap who was offered a great opportunity and took it. It was inoffensive and obviously is aimed at those with only a passing knowledge of cycling and the TdF but what's wrong with that?

posted by drheaton [3399 posts]
6th July 2012 - 21:58

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MercuryOne wrote:
I'm sick of the 'new lads' in cycling. Sick of them at sportives. Sick of them thinking they can then race after never riding at speed in a group and sick of them giving me their opinion on the T D effin F when I've been following it since Merckx and they've only picked it up since Armstrong won 5.

This is the kind of elitist douche-baggery I've kind of come to expect from cycling forums but normally absent from road.cc (which is why I like it here). Out of interest, can you let me know exactly how many years I need to have watched the TdF before I can express an opinion about it? Seeing as you've been following it so long and all...

posted by jijiandnoah [53 posts]
6th July 2012 - 22:21

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Too many 'up yourself' comments on this topic. Halfords isn't aiming its adverts at people who post on here. It's a mainstream retailer, exploiting an opportunity (TDF) to sell a dream to the masses.

For most of the suggestible people who are drawn in by the Tour de Francis campaign, the Carrera Virago is probably the perfect bike. It's not half bad, can be bought on the cycle to work scheme and it ticks the right spec boxes, with its carbon frame and decent (105) components.

I have lots of people ask for my advice about what bike to buy. For most people, who will cycle occasionally, a good fit is the most important thing and unless they are looking for fine margins in competition, £500 is about as much as they need to spend to get a bike they will enjoy owning and riding.

posted by Campag_10 [153 posts]
6th July 2012 - 23:43

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While they mention in the press-release that Dan works for a Pharmaceutical company in London, what they don't say is Dan is actually a personal trainer at the on-site gym, so at least should be fit enough to attempt the rides. (I also work at said pharma company). A nice bloke though, contrary to some opinions on here, and certainly no actor!

posted by mikeguk [1 posts]
10th July 2012 - 14:08

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I detest these adverts. I like the idea of some chap pitting himself against the rides of the pros, but he comes across as such an idiot.

"Uh, hamstring cramp!" - really? Bonking I can understand, but cramping seems unlikely. These sections are so obviously staged, I doubt it he rode all that much of the climbs. He looks a little fresh for my liking, and doesn't have that slighlty haunted look of someone doing this for real (I know because I've done them). After 14km of climbing 7-9% there's little you can do but try to keep the pedals moving. That said, i cannot be bothered to put myself through 15 minutes if this dross.

All the cheesy sound bites sound exactly like the terrible Boardman sound bites from last year. Needless to say it gives off the vibe 'avoid', 'avoid', 'avoid' to any serious cyclists. I don't care about Francis, I just think the whole advert is awful, by an awful bike company. It's definitely not aimed at me, but that doesn't mean it doesn't annoy the hell out of me, so why shouldn't I criticise it.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1009 posts]
18th July 2012 - 12:31

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Advertisers like Halfords are the price we need to pay to enjoy the TV coverage, that stuff dont come for free, I just flip the channel between Eurosport and ITV4 or go put the coffee on when the ads come on.

And why is cramp unlikley ? Can hit anyone after a few hours hammering away and perhaps not hydrating enough.

I must remember that the forum is full of cycling deitys, silly me.

Je vie dans l'espoir constant

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posted by Strathlubnaig [113 posts]
18th July 2012 - 12:52

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"Calm down dear, it's only a commercial".

If people get worked up about something so innocuous they should get some anger management counselling and FFS get a life!

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1825 posts]
18th July 2012 - 13:36

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Strathlubnaig wrote:
Advertisers like Halfords are the price we need to pay to enjoy the TV coverage, that stuff dont come for free, I just flip the channel between Eurosport and ITV4 or go put the coffee on when the ads come on.

And why is cramp unlikley ? Can hit anyone after a few hours hammering away and perhaps not hydrating enough.

I must remember that the forum is full of cycling deitys, silly me.

+1

Dodging the saccadic masking

posted by notfastenough [2732 posts]
18th July 2012 - 14:34

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