What's Cool In Road Cycling

TOUR’15 St.15 Roadside: Ed’s Tour Arrival!

Roadside Stage 15: The final week of the Tour de France is always the best and this year we have the Alps to make that last shake of the dice that bit more exciting. Our most experienced Grand Tour follower, Ed Hood, has taken over the Tour reins for the third week. Here is his Grand Entrance.

Dawn breaks and the North Sea broods; it’s cooking up how it’s going to wreck another day at the British Open Golf Championship, just up the coast in Saint Andrews – rain maybe? Flood the bunkers? Or wind? Blow the balls off the greens?

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The North Sea may not be an Ocean but what it lacks in size it makes up for in unpredictability and ferocity – it even had its say with Le Tour.

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Just ask Nibali . . .

But there’s a ray of sunshine waiting for me at the news agents – big Stevie Cummings victory salute dominates the front page of The Observer.

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One of the ‘good guys’ – back in Steve’s Disco days when he rode in the service of Contador, the Spaniard said; ‘I’d have Cummings in my team any day.’ Cummings is an under-rated rider; a former world team pursuit champion and Olympic team pursuit medallist, he ‘paid his dues’ with Landboukrediet and Barloworld before moving up the divisions to Discovery, Sky and BMC. He doesn’t win often, but when he does it’s always memorable – his beautiful Vuelta stage win in 2012 a case in point.

Yesterday was true to the old adage about the man who wants it most winning – as Pinot and Bardet looked at each other and played poker, Cummings charged up like the war horse he is, barged the skinny French men aside and went straight into “death or glory” mode through the last bends – great bike racing . . .

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There’s a lot of coverage in the Brit Press of Chris Froome’s horrible ‘baptism’ during the stage – some of the fans just take it all too far. And whilst that sick fan’s actions are reprehensible, Sky just haven’t got it right when it comes to the ‘common touch.’ The staff around the bus always seem aloof, ‘too cool for school’ and whilst they appeal to the flash bike/Rapha/Sportiv generation it doesn’t cut it with continental fans who like their riders and teams to be ‘of the people.’ And perhaps Sky’s ‘let the break go’ then close it down tactics don’t endear them to some.

But it’s always been thus – Anquetil, Indurain, Armstrong all did it that way. What’s that? Merckx, Hinault?

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They were special . . .

The cab to the airport is late – naturally but I get there eventually to meet up with Callum, the other half of the PEZ team for the final week. Will it be a Sky procession; or will Alberto, Nairo and Vincenzo flow – like liquid metal Terminators – back into the riders we remember tearing Grand Tours apart? The next seven days will tell.

Beziers – has someone opened and oven door? And what’s that noise? Oh yes, crickets – the little chaps like the 30 degree heat, it’ll take us white skinned North Europeans a day or two to acclimatize. My amigo on many a Giro and Tour, Dave is down in this part of the world on holiday, he meets us at the airport with water, cookies – and L’Equipe. He knows me so well. All too soon we have to go our separate ways.

L’Equipe’s front page is dominated by news of the sad demise of F1 driver Jules Bianchi. That’s the other side of the glamour coin in top line two and four wheeled sport – death can be just one mistake or malfunction away.

Tour de France 2015 - stage 14

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Inside there’s a photo sequence of Bardet and Pinot messing about with a big menacing figure just a little behind them: then the big figure is in front of them and crouched low over his machine – game over. The hire car is a Nissan; it has air con and a radio – what more could we want?

Radio Nostalgi isn’t coming in wall to wall but it’ll get stronger as we head north.

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We tune to ‘sport’ – Greipel wins from Degenkolb. What happened to Cav? A year or two ago it seemed a case of ‘when’ the Manx Man broke Merckx’s record of 34 Tour stage wins – it’s not looking so clear cut now.

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Dave’s been saving up L’Equipe for us and aforementioned Cav does dominate the front cover for Stage Seven; ‘Return of the Beast’ says the headline. Unusually for L’Equipe, Froome dominates three of the recent front pages – inside words like ‘watts,’ ‘espionage,’ and ‘paranoia’ leap off the page. It’s not easy being a dominant maillot jaune in post-Lance wasteland. . .

They’ve even enlisted a tarot reader to see what the cards say about Froome’s ‘cleanliness’ – there’s ‘doubt’ apparently. . .

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The most striking front page though is of a shredded Jean-Christophe Peraud just seconds after his Stage 13 ‘chute’ – horrible. The emails begin to flood in; apparently Cav had stomach trouble last night and was ’empty’ – that’s why he was absent from the finale. He’d better win in Gay Paris or I think Patrick Lefevre will be looking at another fast man for 2016.

Claud Francois lights up Nostalgi with ‘Cette Annne-La’ a cover of the Four Seasons ‘Oh What a Night’ – crank that one up as the countryside changes around us, the plains giving way to low rolling, wooded hills. Valence, the stage finish and the good news is – we can’t get our creds ’til tomorrow.

Worse things happen at sea (I think?) – destination Gap and the Press Centre for us first thing in the morning, then! Talk to you from there . . .


It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,100 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.

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