Tour de France 2019: long, with lots of hills.

Tour launch2 2018

Some famous cyclists surrounded by a lot of other people

One of the great traditions of the Tour de France is the ceremony where they present the route for the following year. It’s a little bit prom, a little bit academy awards, and a whole lot of excitement as cycling fans the world over wait to see what treats (or horrors) await the riders for the Tour the following year. The only difference this year was that I managed to sneak in, score a seat up in the nose bleeds, and watch one of the wonderful spectacles of the modern cycling calendar unfold. Continue reading

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Track cycling is awesome

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In the alternative reality where I’m 20 years younger, fearless, and fantastic at everything I would definitely be racing track. But clearly I’m not any of those things, and so my experience of top-level track cycling is has been limited to watching it on the telly.   I’d never seen top-level track racing in real life, but after spending an evening behind the scenes with the NZ track team at the Paris round of the UCI Track World Cup over the weekend, I can say it really is brilliant. It’s like all most of the best bits of cycling wrapped into one package of tradition, athleticism, and cutting edge technology. What’s not to like? Continue reading

Interesting things I’ve discovered biking around Paris #1: The Suresnes Open-Air School

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As you know, I seem to spend more time talking about biking around in Paris than I actually spend biking around in Paris. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because it means that my approach to cycling here is a bit like how I imagine a goldfish might do it; going around and in around in very similar circles, always in the same place but always discovering something new.  It has a lot to recommend it.

In the hope that my short-term-memory-ism isn’t tragically recurrent, I figured I should share a bit of some of the interesting things that I come across. Partly so that I can verify that my sense of déjà vu isn’t completely misplaced. But also because some of this stuff is actually interesting and, because I’m biking to it, can be off the normal tourist track. So here’s the first instalment. Continue reading

French paradox(es) #3: La liberté a besoin de règles! (or, Freedom needs rules!)

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The longer we live here, the less I understand about Paris. It’s not helped by the fact that my French is vestigial at best, and eroding by the day.  Despite what we might all wish to be true, you don’t actually pick up language by osmosis.  Or by cheese, despite my best efforts. Living and working in an Anglophone bubble means that my time and ability to speak French is basically zero, and so my French now is worse than when we got here (if you don’t believe me listen to this).  Day to day I have pretty much no idea of what’s going on around me. Continue reading

Traditions matter: The last French Derny race

 

Derny winner

Tradition is a beautiful thing. It can be an excuse for getting stuck in the mud, for pigeon-holing us into thinking the ‘old ways’ are somehow better and more worthy.  But it can, from time to time, open a window on a way of doing things that’s just a bit unexpected. Tradition can give you a link to the past, and a yardstick to measure the present. It can bind people together, and give a sense of comfort and belonging.  It can also be impractical, weird, and inexplicable. So it is with the post-Tour Criteriums. Continue reading

Sometimes cycling favours the suburban

There are some things about cycling that get a bit suburban.  You might think I mean  that pejoratively, and I’d forgive you a bit for that what with whole MAMIL/pain-cave culture that people of a particular demographic are into. I mean, I barely can find time to ride on the actual road, let alone pretend to ride on a pretend one in my garage. For starters, I’d need an actual garage to do that in. Continue reading

Austria is awesome for cycling. You should all go there right now.

Austria lake and mountainOne of the great things about living in a big European city is getting out of it (the city, that is – although I’m sure that if you’re into “getting out of it” in the other sense, big European cities are great for that too. I have no idea.) This year, as part of the greatness of getting out of the city that we live in, we all headed to Austria for a week or so, and it was great! Continue reading

Vive le Tour! (or, the day I met Eddy Merckx)

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Winners are grinners. Le Tour gets a thumbs up from Geraint Thomas, beer in hand. Champion.

Yep, we survived the Tour for another year. From the armchair, it was easy. Gotta say, watching the Tour in France (in French) gives it an immediacy that’s pretty hard to beat. The stages unfold as the Tour rolls around France, and the timing usually works pretty well so that you can catch the last kilometres of each stage just before you knock off work for the day – a great excuse for a bit of “team building” over a beer or two as France slows down for the summer. Continue reading

The Tour de France: where it all began

At the startline

The birthplace of the Tour

The Tour is well underway again (woo hoo!), and once again four kiwis are doing us proud.  A couple of weeks before the Tour rolled out I ticked something off my bucket list and rode from the start to the end of the very first Tour.  It was epic*. I wrote it up for the NZ Herald, and they published a cut-down version on their website.  You can read my ‘directors cut’ version here.

*I cheated a little bit. Continue reading

Will Chris Froome bring the Tour crashing down?

Chris Auld Rain crash

One of my favourite photos of all time, by Chris Auld.  Great blog post here about how he got it.

So, the Tour gets underway this weekend.  It’ll be great (c’mon, it always is), and I’ve already got some interesting things in the pipeline.  One of which may involve you buying a copy of the Herald this weekend.  But the Big News that’s drawing everyone’s focus this week is the decision by the UCI not to sanction four-time winner Chris Froome for following an “adverse analytical finding” at a race last year, thus clearing the way for his participation in the Tour. Everyone has an opinion on this one.  Here’s mine. Continue reading

Vélib. Requiem for a dream

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“This station is under construction.  Here, you cannot take or leave the Velib.”  Mate, it’s not just this station…

The Paris Vélib bike-share scheme changed my life. I went from feeling a little on the outside of Paris – on the wrong side of a barrier of language, culture, and inconvenient commuting – to feeling a welcome part of a wonderful, diverse, and liveable city. Paris has great public transport, but Vélib was by far the fastest way to get around town. It made my life happy and healthier,  changed the way I thought about cycling, and encouraged an approach to living here that was a little more human-centred, improvised and, dare I say it, fun. It even helped my swearing. A genuine win-win.

 

But that is all coming to a grinding halt, and as I watch the scheme suffer a lingering and painful decline, slipping day-by-day closer to death, I can’t help but grieve a little over what has an entirely preventable catastrophe. Continue reading

This is why I love cycling.

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This is one of my favourite cycling photos ever.  From Kristof Ramon

 

This photo sums up so much of what I love about cycling.  It’s from the brutally mountainous 19th stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia  – what cyclingnews.com called “one of the most sensational days in Grand Tour history” – and photographer Kristof Ramon has captured in one image so much of the passion, pathos, and culture that makes cycling such a great sport. Continue reading