Tag Archives: Tour de France

John Kennedy: the Scottish cyclist who rode the 1960 Tour de France

I researched the historical context and background to the early career of John Kennedy in previous posts, looking first at the Belleisle Road Club and then at the first part of his racing career with the elite club that emerged from it, the Velo Club Stella. He was one of Scotland’s best riders, having been a National champion and winning stages and the mountains classification of one of the biggest stage races of the time, the ‘Oats’ amateur tour of Britain.

Kennedy was demobbed from national service in the RAF in around 1953, moved to Belgium and later turned pro. After a great season, the zenith of his career came with a ride for Great Britain in support of Brian Robinson in 1960. He was one of the first Scots to ride the Tour, a little-known achievement that deserves wider recognition. The first British team had entered only 5 years previously, in 1955, under the trade team banner of Hercules. Ian Steel was in that team, the first Scot to ride the Tour.

Kennedy’s pro career included seasons for former world champion Briek Schotte’s Flandria teams, and will have consisted of a Belgian kermesses – long, hard-fought races on several laps of a relatively short circuit on narrow country lanes.

Scotsman Jimmy Rae had also travelled to Kortrijk in 1960 to ride as a pro, with the expectation of riding for the GB team in France in July, but he didn’t get on with the selector and wasn’t picked. Kennedy eventually got a call just three days before the race started, after the team had problems filling the roster. Not ideal preparation but who would turn down a call-up to ride the greatest bike race in the world, something he had dreamed of since leaving school in Glasgow?

1960-06-27 - Miroir des Sports - 804 - 23B

The Great Britain team for the 1960 Tour de France was built around Tom Simpson (above, third from right) and Brian Robinson (fourth from left). Robinson had won the first ever stage by a British rider in 1958.

Kennedy’s last-minute call-up would certainly not have been ideal, especially since his preparation for a three week race with mountainous stages was a diet of Belgian circuit races and semi-classics.

However he had good form: he finished 14th in Fleche-Wallone on 9th May, beating Gastone Necini (who finished 20th that day but won the Yellow Jersey at the Tour that year. The Fleche-Wallone results also included Rik Van Looy and five stage winners from the Tour later that summer: Necini, Louis Proost and Pierre Beuffeuil (who won a single road stage each), Michel Van Aerde (who the 15th medium mountain ,stage) and Jean Graczyk (who won four stages and the points jersey for the second time in his career). This isn’t to say Kennedy was as good as the Tour winner, but it shows the level he was at.

Great Britain team for the Tour de France 1960

Great Britain team for the Tour de France 1960

Tour-racing.co.uk reproduces a piece by Rene Delatour from the Sporting Cyclist of September 1960 summing up that July’s Tour with some views for the British readers. Many big riders did not take the start line that year, but “stars or no stars, the pace was cracking – faster than it had ever been in the days of Koblet, Bobet, Kubler, Gaul – or even the great Fausto himself.”


The route took in Northern France and Belgium, including cobbled sections. before heading west to Brittany and then south to Bordeaux, with six of the first nine stages over 200km.

From Cyclingpassions.eu, – these pages from French newspaper Miror des Sports showed were cobbles on stages 6 and 7. Terrain on which Kennedy excelled and was charged with keeping his team leaders safe.

During the first 9 stages of the 1960 Tour de France, John Kennedy finished well up the field, often in the top 20, and never much lower than the 30s.

Stage 1a, 108km Lille-Brussels: 47th @2:56
Stage 1b: 27.8km Brussels (ITT): 98th @5:16
Stage 2, 206km Brussels-Malo-les-Bains (Dunkerque): 17th @0:44
Stage 3, 209km Malo-les-Bains-Dieppe: 16th @3:07 in a group of favourites
Stage 4: 211km Dieppe-Caen: 28th @6:19 in a group of favourites, finishing on a cinder track on which Simpson crashed.
Stage 5: 189km Caen-St-Malo: 44th @3:35
Stage 6: 191km St. Malo – Lorient: 27th @14.40. 7 riders stayed away, including favourites Nencini and Riviere.
Stage 7: 244km Lorient – Angers: 32nd @3:45 with Nencini and Riviere
Stage 8: 240km Angers – Limoges: 34th @9:10. 27 riders stayed away.
Stage 9: 225km Limoges – Bordeaux: 32nd @4:32. 3 breakaway riders contested the win.
Stage 10: 228km Mont de Parsan – Pau (including Col d’Aubisque): 101st @26:34
Stage 11: 161km Pau – Luchon: (Tourmalet, Aspin, Peyresourde): 87th @22:02 with groups all over the road.
Stage 12: 176km Luchon – Toulouse (col des Ares, col de Portet d’Aspet) retired after falling off the back

Kennedy posted great results before the mountains, given his job was to ride in support of Simpson and Robinson all day, carrying bottles, pacing them back on after punctures, and shepherding them through the bunch. I imagine his expertise on flat and punchy terrain will have seen him near the front in the finale of these stages, keeping the leaders out of trouble.

Writer Rene Delatour highlighted the inequality of 14-man French, Italian, Belgian and Spanish teams, while Great Britain and the others had only eight – even pacing his team leader Simpson back on, Kennedy was at something of a disadvantage. This is the type of riding Kennedy could do well with his experience in Britain and Belgium – he was built for these stages.

Assessing the British team, he praised Simpson and Robinson, the only two to finish, as well as Norman Sheil, but says ‘Kennedy and Andrews were at home on the long flat stages but couldn’t cope with the mountain stages.’

With this inequality in team sizes, the farther the race went, the tougher life became for the smaller teams. Crashes, retirals, or finishing outside time limit reduced the size of teams so that the domestiques in smaller teams would have been subjected to a brutal work load. Larger teams could send several riders to assist their leaders after punctures or crashes, whereas small teams  could only manage a couple of riders for this job, particularly in the later stages of the race.

John Kennedy Tour de France 1960

Dave Meek, a Scot who travelled out to Kortrijk to race in 1963, speaking to Veloveritas in 2007, recalled John telling him that during the tour Simpson and Robinson roomed together, and one evening he was in the room next to them and could hear them chatting through the wall. He had stopped to help Simpson after a puncture during that day. Simpson apparently said to Robinson – “Did you see Kennedy today? He was flying! Got me on after that puncture, when I thought we would never make it.”

With Kennedy’s riding experience, it looks on paper as though he gave out after the first two major mountain stages in the Pyrenees: day 10 over 228km from Mont de Parsan to Pau, with stage 11 a brutal, classic Pyreneen stage of 161km from Pau to Luchon, which saw Norman Shiell and John Andrews both finish outside the time limit by 5 minutes.

He had ridden well on the 11th stage, and the 12th stage was won by Jean Graczyk, who won two Tour points classifications in his career but was not viewed a climber. Also on stage 12 the mountain prime on the Portet d’Aspet was won by Jos Planckaert – followers of 1960s assure me was no climber either. So surely the pace uphill wouldn’t have been ferocious? “So modest were the hills” of stage 12, wrote The Sporting Cyclist, “that Darrigade won a bunch sprint up the top of the Col des Ares” (a prolific road sprinter).

Although some Jean Graczyk a ‘non climber’, he also won a mountain stage (17) from Briancon to Aix-les-Bains in the Alps, as well as three other stages en route to the points classification. He was on a flyer that year and my gut feel is that many of the British team domestiques must have been a level below the Belgians, French, Spaniards and Italians.

The story of the from Sporting Cyclist magazine, however, of the “comparatively easy” 12th stage from Luchon to Toulouse is of one that put paid to the hopes of two more of Tom Simpson and Brian Robinson’s lieutenants.

“We had seen him going off the back on the Ares climb.”. Harry Reynolds crashed out descending the Portet d’Aspet and a litle later there was another news flash on Radio Tour that John Kennedy had retired.”

The only rest day of 1960 came after stage 13.

Sporting Cyclist September 1958 - article about British riders in 1960 Tour de France

These stats certainly suggest that the going got too tough when the Tour hit the high mountains. But behind all the bare statistics there is a story for every rider in every stage. Each guy has his own version of the race, and the statistics only scratch the surface and are a snapshot.

Jim Hay, a commenter on this site who started riding with the Glasgow Nightingale in 1946/7 offered to enlisted the help of a John “Gino” Goddard of the Kenton Road Club, who was in touch with surviving members of the 1960 Great Britain team at the Pedal Club lunch, to see if we could gain any long- lost insight.

In addition to John, three of the team have passed away – Tom Simpson of course, Jock Andrews and Vic Sutton. Brian Robinson, now in his 80s, didn’t remember Kennedy, but this is unsurprising as the late call-up meant they wouldn’t have ridden together. Norman now apparently lives in Australia and was not contactable, leaving only Stan Brittain and Harry Reynolds to ask.

Reynolds recalled John as being super-strong on the flat. “He seemed to be one of the strongest team members – quite comfortable in the front part of peloton but seemed to lack confidence in the mountains. He retired after the first day in Pyrenees as did Norman Sheil. This lack of confidence in the mountains comes as a surprise to anyone who knew John from his time in the UK. He was known as a strong all-rounder who was an excellent climber. (KoM in 1955 Tour of Britain) Perhaps 5 or six years racing in Belgium contributed to his lack of confidence in the mountains?”

Meanwhile, Stan Brittain who roomed with John told a darker story.  John told him he had been feeling depressed for some time due to the widespread drug use in Belgium, making it very difficult to compete on even terms without getting involved in doping as well.

This isn’t controversial – Tom Simpson’s use of amphetamines are well documented and were a contributing factor to his death in 1967. Roger Riviere, a favourite for the 1960 Tour, crashed on a descent trying to follow Gastone Nencini, and the injuries ended his career. Painkillers were found on his body and had admitted taking drugs for his hour record in 1958.

Stan Brittain also recalled some marital problems that were contributing to this low morale. Another rider who knew John from his days in the Velo Club Stella reckoned that he received a letter via the Tour’s internal mail system informing of the end of his marriage during the Tour. I have never been able to corroborate this, but it is known that he returned to Britain and resettled, marrying again in Wales.


Thanks to John Gallacher for supplying the initial photos that led to this piece, and to Steven Flockhart for help sourcing historical details and context.

Acknowledgements are also due to Jim Hay, Gino Goddard, Norrie Drummond, Ray Green and Russell Galbraith.

Roadside for a TTT: Tour de France Stage 9 in Plumelec

On the Saturday evening after watching Stage 8, I returned to the house to find the appero being served and the barbecue being readied for cotes de boeuf, saucisses and pork chops. Drink was taken and I hatched a last-minute plan to watch the TTT with the one true cycling fan amongst the group.

We set off at 10am from our location in central Brittany to drive the hour towards the TTT course. I felt it was a bit early and wasn’t relishing nursing my groggy head for several hours at the roadside before the race came past. My companion was right to leave so early though, as we got through a few back roads and pretty close to the course at just the right moment before the verges became clogged with parked cars. We’re on the penultimate climb, about 5km from the finish line, and have a good view down the drag of the teams heading our way.

It’s already jam packed with fans and we see several teams doing an easy recce, as well as Oleg Tinkoff riding the stage – nobody seemed to recognise the Tinkoff-Saxo team owner, despite Contador being hugely popular in France.

The madness of the publicity caravan whizzes through, and there are some ugly scenes. It’s another cliche that can ring true – grown adults debase themselves for a commercial freebie, but that’s for another blog post.

Several riders in white and red, publicising Mecenat Chirurgie Cardiaque – a heart surgery charity. There are several Tour luminaries including Roger Legeay, former DS of Gan / Credit Agricole, Jean-Francois Pescheux, former race director, Bernard Hinault and Bernard Thevenet.


To the racing, and the teams come through in descending order of the highest-placed rider on GC. Orica are just surviving, as I overheard Matt White explaining to a journalist the previous day. They had come to win the TTT, and since it’s now impossible, with 3 riders retired and 1 rolling wounded, they will be taking it easy.

My friend and I try to start a stopwatch – I’m no timekeeper, so I focus on the photos and note-taking, while he aims to clock which teams are ‘up’ or ‘down’.
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Ups and downs following Stage 8

I was lucky enough to be in position to see the start and finale of Stage 8 of the 2015 Tour de France, which took in 181.5km from Rennes to Mûr-de-Bretagne.

I’m staying with my in-laws very close to the 50km mark at Saint-Méen-Le-Grand and had an ambitious plan to watch here as well as at the start and finish. Unsurprisingly this idea was a bit too much to ask, due to various factors.

Having enjoyed mooching about the start area in 2011 at Dinan I wanted to do this again, and wasn’t disappointed, getting close to team buses, managers, journalists doing their work and a few riders. It is much more interesting for me that the tacky publicity caravan, which wears pretty thin after having seen it once or twice.

As I waded through crowds and headed towards the paddock, a guy wearing a Festina cap caught my eye. The scandal of 1998 must be forgiven, I thought. I tried wearing a retro Festina jersey back home once and the slagging and banter became tedious – even 15 years on, the name is synonymous with heavy-duty endemic doping.

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Tour de France 2015 Stage 8: it’s Mûr, not The Mur

I’m really looking forward to this year’s Tour de France Stage 8, Rennes to Mûr-de-Bretagne. I’ve seen the uphill finish before, in 2011, and in 2015 the route is even more accessible for me, starting just 30km from where I will be staying, and making its way through an area I know well.

Mûr de Bretagne climb

The climb at the finish is steep and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s name means the ‘wall of Brittany’, in a similar fashion to the Flandrian bergs such as the Muur de Geraardsbergen. Fans are more likely to be confused give that the Mur de Huy is the uphill finish a few days earlier on Stage 4, in the French-speaking Walloon region of Belgium.
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Tour de France podcasts 2013

I have always liked radio, and since the emergence of podcasts, it is the main way that I consume information about professional cycling. Looking at twitter is probably the main way I find news and comment, with online articles coming behind that, then TV and finally print.

Cycling podcasts have been around for a few years and it has taken a while for them to ‘go pro’ as it were. In the past 2 years we have seen more professional output from established broadcasters and traditional media, while some of the new media podcasters have upped their game too.

At Tour time there is a splurge- many shows crop up just for July. Here are a few, but there will be more out there, but these are the ones I’ll be listening to. If there are other great listens out there, please share in the comments below.

Humans Invent
Richard Moore, Daniel Friebe and Lionel Birnie have a Tour preview show on design, science and technology site Humans Invent, the organisation that have been supporting Graeme Obree in his world “Human Powered Vehicle*” speed record attempt. (*basically an innovative aero bike without the UCI restrictions)

If you are a long-term podcast listener you’ll have heard these guys in the past broadcasting for Bikeradar, Cyclingnews and Cycle Sport magazine, and if you aren’t a podcast listener, you’ll certainly recognise the names as well known authors and journalists – some of the best analysis there is.
Itunes feed

BBC 5Live
Last week 5 Live hosted a 100 Years of the Tour show, unfortunately it isn’t available for download any more but it saw a discussion panel with host Simon Brotherton and Richard Moore, Ellis Bacon, Lionel Birnie and Suze Clemitson aka @Festinagirl on twitter, whose 100 Tours 100 Tales blog has proven very popular.

The main Tour preview went out this week with Alex Dowsett and Rob Hayles on ‘the panel’, and interviews with Cav, Froome, Garmin DS Charly Wegelius, Dan Martin and OPQS manager Roger Lefevre.

You’ll get that on the Bespoke podcast feed, along with daily roundup shows by live commentator Simon Brotherton. These shows tend to be quite short and are not always sufficiently in-depth for me, but are good if you need a quick round-up of the day’s action.
Itunes feed

Ned Boulting, Matt Rendell and Chris Boardman provide daily coverage. Their accreditation, and the need to get rider interviews for the TV shows mean that their access is put to good use and you’ll get more soundbites than the BBC. There is quite a bit of humour but it is not as rough around the edges and rambling, as their Real Peloton show, which has a cult following. I probably prefer hearing Matt and Ned pontificate with a bit more freedom and time, but we haven’t had an RP for quite a while. RIP RP

The burning question is: will we see the return of cameraman Liam Macleod’s ukelele?
Itunes feed

Velocast Premium
Scott O’Raw and John Galloway started free daily shows of the Tour in 2009 and refined their format in 2010. After a hiatus they returned in 2012 with a daily subscription show and this year they have ‘gone pro’ – podcasting full time, which is a really interesting development. Their Tour shows will include historical anecdotes from Cilian Kelly on ‘This Week in Cycling History’ and contributions from Suze Clemitson aka Festinagirl.

For me following cycling wouldn’t be the same without these guys and if £20 seems a lot for 3 weeks, you also got the Tour de Suisse coverage. It’s 30 shows for the price of 4 magazines – and I don’t have time to read print these days.

Subscribe via their website.
Works best with Downcast podcatcher app if you are using an iPhone.

Eurosport Cycling Podcast
I have been a long-term fan of the Velocast and Scott and John’s free weekly show is now sponsored by Eurosport. It’s good to see that It will be the best place for a general round-up of the week’s Tour action but if you want their real, in-depth coverage, you’ll have to subscribe to the daily shows.

Velocast.cc website
iTunes feed

SBS Cycling Central
Journalist Anthony Tan has been the lynchpin of this show from Aussie broadcaster SBS for a couple of years. ‘Tan Man’ as he is known to journalist cronies can be quite a dry commentator who is not short of banter and wit but has his own platform now and his interviews are very good.

I used to enjoy his appearances on British-based podcasts but at times the banter overtook the race analysis. Who could forget his 2010 rendition of ‘Beds are Burning’ that teetered between hilarious and excruciating. But for SBS, it very interesting to hear an English-speaking perspective from the other side of the world that doesn’t have to assume the majority listeners are following Sky – you will hear different insights and interviews here. The most recent ones are interviews with Nicolas Roche and Team Sky.

I haven’t found a podcast feed, which is unfortunate as I tend to miss the updates on the SBS website and their soundcloud page. For me a podcatcher like iTunes or the great Downcast app is the best way to stay updated with the shows. You can’t play soundcloud in the background on an iphone, for example, and it cuts out if your lock screen kicks in after a timed period.


Velo Club Don Logan
The VCDL podcast is a relaxed, funny fan’s view of pro cycling. Gary and Graham’s 3-week publishing schedule doesn’t allow for daily shows or anything like that (these are guys with jobs) but I enjoy their analysis and there is almost always a laugh-out-loud moment or two.

Worth noting is that these guys started podding when the Velocast went AWOL in 2010: something that always impresses me. New media is social, and you often get more out of it the more you put in, and the fact that they just started their own podcast when their favourite one stopped is cool.

ITunes feed

The Bike Show
Jack Thurston’s the Bike Show, which runs fo a couple of series’ a year for London community radio station Resonance FM, usually gives an alternative view of things and this is why I like it. Although a lover of cycle touring and country lanes, Jack also digs the pro scene. His podcast special on Tour de France books covers titles you won’t have heard of and is really interesting, with contribution from expert (a serious understatement) Feargal McKay, reviewer on Podium Cafe.

iTunes feed

Velovoices is a new podcast from fans Panache, Kitty and Tim. It is very emphasised on the joy of cycling fandom, with each host having their favourites and little talk of doping scandals or corruption. There is more to their output than the audio show – although this will probably appear more frequently during the tour, there will be daily blogs and content on their website.


Related link
Tour de France podcasts 2012

David Millar’s Tour stage win

A collection of images from David Millar’s win on stage 12 of the 2012 Tour de France. This post comes very muchafter the event but I wanted to celebrate it on the blog as I am a Millar fan.

As a blogger I’m fighting to stay within the time cut at the moment, rather than driving the break- in a month’s time I might have some Chris Hoy pictures for you all.

I have been hoping for a stage win from Millar since his solo escape into Barcelona in 2009. He had come close in a few time trials, and got into a few breaks but only

Millar had the strength to mark most of the moves in the final few kilometres, and then the tactical nous to allow strong climber Pereaud a bit of a gap when he attacked in the final kilometre, before jumping the three remaining breakaway riders to latch onto the AG2R man’s wheel. Then he had the confidence to lead out the sprint, knowing he had the beating of the sometime mountain biker.

David Millar - Tour de France, stage 12
© Garmin Sharp

In addition to the way he drove the break, got the jump on his rivals and powered past Pereaud to the line, he made a point about cycling’s dark recent past in the post-race interview. Without prompting he referred to himself as “an ex-doper” and took on the issue of his ban and tainted past upfront. Contrast that to Alejandro Valverde’s avoidance of the issue, even when questioned by journalists, after his win in the Pyrenees on stage 17.

David Millar - Tour de France, stage 12
© Garmin Sharp

Naysayers may point out that the stage was a classic ‘day for the break’, with the Alps in the legs and a rolling stage unlikely to shake up the GC, the teams did not mount a chase and allowed the breakaway a lead of 10 minutes plus. Despite that, simply getting in a break at the Tour is hard enough, especially after 10 days of racing.


Cycling Weekly

Julien Simon, Saur-Sojasun

There are plenty of blogs that analyse the race better than I can, so something I have come to enjoy doing when writing about pro cycling is look around the edges at something different.

Montfort-sûr-Meu near the city of Rennes in Brittany is the hometown of 26 year old Tour debutant Julien Simon. It is just down the road from where I am staying for 3 weeks holiday. Simon was on my radar last year and it was nice to see he got selected for his first Tour de France. It gives me a good reason to follow one of the lesser known teams and riders in the race.

He is leading the French domestic race series, similar to the Premier Calendar, but with a scoring system that lasts the whole season. He also won two stages of the Tour of Catalonia and is breaking through to a new chapter in his career with new found confidence in his ability.

image: David Flores

Julien Simon
Image: Laurie Beylier
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Tour de France podcasts

I’m in France on holiday but as ever, managing time is a bit a juggling act, with family to see, children to chase after, bike riding to be done (as much as possible), weddings to go to, and so on.

I’ve always been a fan of radio and at Tour time, podcasts are a great way for me to keep up with all the aspects of the race- I don’t have time to read all the written media and if I’m lucky I’ll see an hour of live coverage, but when I get home and have to go back to work, I sometimes even struggle to catch the highlights.

This year there have been several shows, after what was something of a light summer in 2011.

My favourite, The Velocast, returns to daily Tour coverage. Hosts Scott and John have taken a bold step in asking for A £10 subscription upfront and I am supporting this venture and hope it leads to more shows and more time for the two of them to produce content. This may not be for everybody but

Cycling Central
Australian journalist Anthony Tan is doing what looks like it will be a daily show with Cycling Central. Scottish writer Richard Moore joined him for one earlier show- a partnership that has been seen before on the now-defunct Cyclingnews show, that was sponsored by Rapha one year, and ran to publicise the cyclingnews.com website in 2011 (as I understood it). ‘Tan Man‘ and Moore have a good chemistry and seem to thrive by slagging each other. Others may prefer their commentary more ‘straight’ but I enjoy listening for the nuances in the relationships- after 2 weeks of Tour madness, you can tell that cabin fever sets in amongst the journos and often more honest assesments of poor tactics or bad conduct come to the fore. As well as the banter there is good analysis and interviews- it’s Aussie in focus though, with audio from Allan Peiper, Matt White, Matt Goss and plenty of others so far. Cadel may be elusive but they keep a close eye on his exploits. There’s still plenty of British interest with views from Moore and today Daniel Friebe and Will Fotheringham.

Cycle Sport
Richard Moore hosted a show with Cycle Sport (and Cycling Weekly) writer Lionel Birnie. This one looks like it will be more occasional but also had some really good analysis.

This show backs up the UKs main terrestrial highlights show on ITV4. It has a professional feel with clips from the English language live commentary by Phil & Paul and interviews with the stage winner or some other man of the day by Ned Boulting. Matt Rendell is cerebral as ever but there is plenty of humour between him, Boulting and the ex pro Chris Boardman. The Scouser’s humour appeals to me, there may be impressions and possibly even some ukelele from the technical staff if we are lucky.

David Millar’s prototype aero helmet

David Millar sported an aero helmet on the final stage of the Tour de France. I’m far from a gear expert but I thought I’d bring together a few thoughts on it.

David Millar - Tour de France, stage 21
pic © Team Garmin-Cervélo
click through for their flickr photos of the Tour

The helmet caused plenty of reaction on twitter, initially with people wondering who the rider was and whether it was an aero or track helmet – “WTF?”, if you like. Screenshots from Eurosport and itv4 were posted.

Even amongst pros, one of the prevailing feelings is that out-and-out aero kit during a road stage is not the done thing. “Like turning up to an amateur race in a skinsuit and not even getting in the break” someone said.
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Tour de France stage 6 depart

I went up to Dinan to have a look at the depart of the Tour de France stage as the race left Brittany for Lisieux in Normandy. Again, I got some great shots but have been battling with rural internet connection speeds and don’t have the photos online yet- to come. For the meantime I wanted to share my thoughts and observations from the stage start, which was more interesting than I expected.

André Greipel
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