Tag Archives: France

It’s all thanks to l’Équipe

The Tour was started to sell copies for l’Auto newspaper and this publication became l’Equipe,

In 2005 I was a football fan with little interest in cycling- I had mountain biked a lot as a teenager but fallen out of the habit of cycling after university. Back then, skinny tyres were always for the ‘roadie scum‘ anyway!

I married a Frenchwoman and during summer holidays, to practice my French reading I’d get l’Equipe in the hope of discovering who the next Thierry Henry was. But to my disappointment the paper was full of cycling and the Tour.


By 2007, I sat up and took notice. We were in the Pyrenees on holiday and the race was passing by. I was determined to watch it, but didn’t have a clue. We tried to drive up one of the climbs in the morning, not knowing that the road is closed hours and hours in advance. We got a spot in between cols at St-Beat, the riders swept through- not the best way to watch a mountain stage. I still got some great photos though.

The Leaders
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Riding in Ille-et-Vilaine, Brittany

I have been in France on holiday and while the blog is predominantly Scottish in outlook, I like to do some local French stuff once a year too.

Staying with my inlaws means I have had more time to ride, read and write than normal, with no daily grind and plenty of family members champing at the bit to look after our kids – even dinner and bath time is a pleasure for aunties and cousins.

Back road in Brittany
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Anyone can ride the Tour

A quick post to say ‘hats off’ to David Waddell who is riding the Tour de Force, where amateur riders can do the entire route of the Tour, a few days ahead of the race itself.

Here he is a couple of days ago, atop the first Hors Categorie climb, with many more to go. Good luck to David and all the other participants.

The participants have plenty of backup, with food, mechanics, masseurs and medical support but even with all that, it’s a massive achievement. Some days they have been riding until 9pm at night!

It struck me the other day, while watching a sprinter’s stage, that even a flat 200km would take a lot out of my legs. So massive respect is due to all the people taking part in the Tour de Force.

It’s not only an athletic challenge- huge amounts of money are raised for charity- one participant bringing in over £25,000 on his own.

Follow David on twitter @traceheating

Touring in France: les Diagonales

On a recent trip to Brittany I rode with a local touring club and learnt about The Diagonales de France– like a multi-stage equivalent of Lands End to John-O-Groats.

The challenge involves 9 randonnées based around 6 cities at the apex of the ‘hexagone’ of France: Brest in the West of Brittany, Dunkerque in Normandy, Strasbourg in the East bordering Germany, Menton on the Mediterranean border with Italy, Perpignan in the South and Hendaye, bordering the Spanish Basque country.

Between these 6 cities are 9 routes. You must complete them all, to be able can call yourself a diagonaliste and apply the badge below to your bike. Routes between the adjacent cities are not part of the diagonales.
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French amateur racing- Trophées de Brocéliande Montfort

A local race that I watch during my stay in Brittany was the Montfort round of the Trophées de Brocéliande series on Saturday 2nd July.

IMG_1874.JPGMore, and better photos to follow

It was the final of a regional series for 3rd category racers affiliated to the FFC – France’s equivalent to British Cycling. Juniors will also be competing. I gather FFC racers start at cat.3- the racing was pretty fast and competitive, and as a BC Cat.4, I wouldn’t expect to last the pace.

The race was run over 16 or 17 laps of a 6km course, that passes through the town of Montfort-sur-Meu. The start/finish passes the local junior school, the course was flattish, with one long very gradual drag.

Strung out on the drag
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French club cycling vocab

There are lots of guides to French cycling vocab out there, with the familiar phrases such as grimpeur, rouleur, pédaler avec les oreilles, etc. There are lots of guides to vocab that you see relating to the Tour or racing, but less that is used in everyday situations. I’ve been trying to infiltrate the local club scene in Brittany, where I spend my summer holidays every year, and even with good French it can be tricky.

I’ve found that local road clubs tend to fall into one of two types, the ‘Vélo Club’ type, which seems to be more race oriented, and the ‘Cyclo Club’, a touring/road riding club more oriented to sportives and leisure riding. I haven’t got in with any race clubs as yet but I’ll post a bit more in due course.

Cyclo Club St Méen club hut
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Jean Bobet cycling book, Tomorrow We Ride

Jean Bobet’s book, Tomorrow We Ride

Jean Bobet’s book, Tomorrow We Ride is written by the brother of three-time (1953-55) Tour de France winner Louison Bobet.

A very strong cyclist in his own right, Jean hesitated before pursuing a professional career as a bike rider. With good school grades and a degree in English (during which time he won the student world championships) he went on to spend time teaching French at Robert Gordon College in Aberdeen in Scotland.

I went cycling – for I had packed my bike all the same – in the superb Highland countryside with the Aberdeen Wheelers, who made my life difficult: not because of their cycling potential, but because of their fearsome local accent.

Written with dry humour and subtle wit, I found it an entertaining read, far from a formulaic blow-by-blow account of the more famous brother’s career. Jean’s own story as faithful domestique to his brother is interesting, and it’s rare to get a view from inside the peloton that is as well written as this.

One of the most revealing insights for me was the examination of race-fixing that was par for the course in the lucrative professional post-Tour criteriums, but also de rigeur in many amateur races at the time.

I can recommend this book if you are interested in cycling history, but equally Bobet’s eye for little details that will chime with anyone who has trained hard and raced a bike, can still give the reader pleasure today. Find Jean Bobet’s book, Tomorrow We Ride on amazon.

Jean Bobet book, Tomorrow We Ride

Further reading
excellent review by twmp
Aberdeen Wheelers cycling club

Drumming up in Brittany

OK, so I’m not actually lighting a fire in the Foret de Broceliande and brewing a pot of tea, but since I am in Brittany I thought it’d be interesting to do some cycling posts from the area.

Normally being on one’s holiday’s would be the time to disconnect the online life and relax. However, I’ve been almost too busy to write any blog posts lately, so it’s actually an ideal moment to write a few pieces and catch up with other rare pleasures such as reading.

Ile et Vilaine
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Endura Racing in Finistère

Scottish-based UCI Pro Continental Team Endura Racing are off to Finistère for a tough weekend of racing.

THIBAUT PINOTAlexandre Blain digging in hard in Tour de Finistère 2010

Tour de Finistère, a 186km race, is on Saturday and on Sunday there is the Tro-Bro-Leon at 206km. It’s going to be a hard weekend for the likes of Maarten de Jonge, Alex Wetterhall and Jack Bauer. Full teams for each race on the Endura Racing website.
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Legends of Cycling podcasts

Narrated by Graham Jones, former elite road racer and currently race director of the Tour of Britiain, Legends of Cycling is more of a mini radio documentary series than a podcast.

[edit 29/01/2012: it wasn’t the Graham Jones I was thinking of… please check comments to see who the real author and presenter of these podcasts was… apologies!]

The shows start at the very beginning of cycling, with episode 1 spanning the period of tremendous innovation in the 1800s and episode 2 covering the role the bicycle played a major role in breaking down late Victorian barriers of gender, class and race. While interesting, I liken these shows to the early chapters of a biography that you skip over to get to the good bit. I listened to them once though, and they are short enough (less than 10 minutes) to be an interesting “bite size listen”.

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