Spokes(Wo)Man

Scared of traffic ? No bike infrastructure ? Too Far ? Helmet hair ?

 

Fuck it, ride anyway

I am addicted to porn

There’s just so much pleasure I get from looking at these little European villages, cobbled roads or magnificent castles … what?  No, travel porn. Sheesh, you people...

  The 2015 Tour de France Grand Depart from Yorkshire. Eeh by gum ! 

The 2015 Tour de France Grand Depart from Yorkshire. Eeh by gum ! 

  Past the lavender fields of Grasse

Past the lavender fields of Grasse

  Le Tour riding through Provence

Le Tour riding through Provence

Given my international jet setting days have been sadly curtailed by domestic bliss, watching glorious European scenery on TV is the next best thing. I’m a sucker for a shot of someone boating down the Canal du Midi, whilst eating cheese and drinking wine.

  Meanwhile, in Italy

Meanwhile, in Italy

And that’s pretty much how my interest in pro-cycling started; I’d be on the couch of an evening in Autumn/Winter, shivering in sub-20 degree nights like an animal, reading my book but over the top of the page occasionally looking at the sunny backdrop of the Giro d ’Italia and the Tour de France with Sprocketman. Especially if he was reacting to what was going on onscreen, or worse, talking to the television. Which. Is. My. Pet. Hate. There’s no way I can continue dreamily reading about multiple murder victims and post-mortems with an excited cycling fan bouncing on the couch next to me.

  Giro d'Italia, sigh

Giro d'Italia, sigh

Despite this book-unfriendly behaviour, I preferred to hang out with him, rather than spend several months a year apart while I read in peace and he tutted and tsk’d on the couch, and as I looked up, I couldn’t help focussing more and more on the utterly gorgeous images of Italy in spring, or France and Spain in summer. Some evoked memories of my own travels and gave me a bit of a nostalgic glow. He’d be excitedly interjecting with “Look at the derailleur on that technical descent” [this isn’t a real sentence BTW] and I’d be just as excitedly saying “Look, I bought some handmade paper and those crimson suede shoes of mine in that exact village.” And both of us “Ooh, look at that vineyard/patisserie/cheese shop!”

And trust me, when we find a combination French vineyard patisserie cheese shop, we are out of here, suckers.

  No love, it's better if you let them ferment first

No love, it's better if you let them ferment first

As a Europhile, it makes me oddly happy to even hear European words and place names, so let me hear a sentence along the lines of  “Marcel Kittle and Fabian Cancellara are riding Liege Baston Liege” I get a little vicarious thrill – which I absolutely do not get hearing someone talking about Bob Smith in the Tour of California. I can't help it. #SorryNotSorry.

And as a travel and history buff, your ears perk up when you hear the lovely grandpa-like voice of Phil Ligget intoning the name, and probably getting it wrong the first time, of a glorious chateau which the peloton is passing. The race helicopter will hover for a few minutes above a 600-year-old landscaped maze garden, and if you’re a smug show-off (as I am), it is truly delightful to be able to name the owners and several pertinent, preferably scandalous historical facts about their ancestors before the commentators get the same information out.

  Something something picturesque, an avenue in gardens of Versaille

Something something picturesque, an avenue in gardens of Versaille

  Literal gold leaf buildings and gates, but where's the letterbox ? this is not AusPost standard approved.

Literal gold leaf buildings and gates, but where's the letterbox ? this is not AusPost standard approved.

From there it’s not a huge step to actually watching a bit of the race, remembering riders, mis-hearing their names and creating weird nicknames for them in perpetuity, hello “Massive Bouhani”, I’m looking at you. Sergio Henao (pronounced “Hey Now”) is always followed by the chorus of “Don’t dream it’s over” by Crowded House. And trust me, you don’t want to know how we refer to Daniel Teklehaimanot.

Forming slight sentimental attachments to riders one remembers from one’s first viewings, forming violent dislikes of riders because they pulled some despicable tactic (Mark Cavendish) or are dentally-challenged (Mark Cavendish) or spoke like a peevish twat at an after-race interview (Mark Cavendish).

  Oh my Christ, this is just adorable.

Oh my Christ, this is just adorable.

  After all, "Mad as pants" rhymes with "Vive le France" !

After all, "Mad as pants" rhymes with "Vive le France" !

And from there you start to remember who won, or was cruelly denied a finish on the last stage, so you look up when they approach the finish line the next day.  You remember who crashed, burned into my memory is Cadel Evans winning the Tour de France, and then having such awful bloody luck trying to defend the title the next year, 3 punctures in as many minutes thanks to saboteurs throwing tacks on the roads.  

  The face of a man having his Tour de France title stolen from him AGAIN, oh THE FEELINGS

The face of a man having his Tour de France title stolen from him AGAIN, oh THE FEELINGS

You learn the history of riders and the event itself, and of the country they’re riding though. The current director of the Tour de France is Christian Prudhomme, and his short speech last year announcing a stage (l'Etape du Tour) to be ridden in Australia in 2016, and thanking Australia for their help during WWI and WWII brought actual tears to my eyes. Watching race footage, and seeing little French school kids outside war memorials, holding up banners thanking the ANZACS. Sitting over here and getting on with life, we just have no idea how much it is still appreciated. http://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/video/480908867604/christian-prudhomme-interview

  Villers-Brettoneux war memorial

Villers-Brettoneux war memorial

{Ahem, snuffles} With each little bit you watch you become a little more personally invested with the riders as people, and you learn technical details, and understand the team strategy, and voila ! two years later you’re texting your other half to hurry home because you want to watch the download of last night’s stage.

Boom! You’re now a cycling fan.