When I joined Rouleur, one of the first things that both the editorial and commercial team said to me was that it might be a good idea to make the Tour de France magazine a two-sided affair, with two front covers, one at each end. This has been done before: occasionally an advertiser will sponsor a section of the magazine which is then printed at the back, and upside-down relative to the rest of the mag; usually it’s just a few pages. Printing companies like multiples of eight, so it would be eight or 16 pages.
However, we wanted to make sure that the women’s Tour received the same coverage as the men’s. The only way to do that was to make Rouleur 112 two magazines, each taking up half of the pagination. We hope that soon the Tour de France Femmes will be as big in every way as the Tour de France Hommes: Rouleur 112 reflects that ambition. It would have been easy to do our usual Tour de France coverage, then tack on a couple of features for the Tour Femmes, but it would also have reinforced the idea that one race is more important than the other. We also added 16 pages, because there was also way too much cool stuff to fit in.
We wanted to make sure that we covered some big and prominent stories about the races, but also the lesser-explored aspects. Volata editor Olga Ábalos had an Annemiek van Vleuten interview in the can already, so we made that the centrepiece of the Tour Femmes magazine. We needed an equivalent on the men’s side. Obviously there are two current Tour riders who stand out above all the others, and we’d run a feature about Tadej Pogačar in Rouleur 111, so we went after Primož Roglič. Jumbo-Visma set us up an interview from the Slovenian’s altitude camp, we got some brilliant portraits, and the result is the feature, ‘Controlled Chaos’ in the Tour Hommes magazine.
I’m fascinated by Van Vleuten and Roglič. It’s not just that they’re great riders, but both are compelling individuals. What struck me about Van Vleuten was that she absolutely exudes the impression that cycling for her is fun. I was in the press conference following her extraordinary World Championships win in Yorkshire, 2019. She’d just pulled off an epic heist, a ride for the ages, and she was just goofing around, as if she’d ridden 100km solo break because the idea of it amused her. This comes across in Olga’s interview. Van Vleuten will be 40 at the end of the year, but I can come to no other conclusion that her age is not at all an issue because, why wouldn’t she still be good at something that she obviously gets so much enjoyment from.
Roglič is compelling for different reasons. In English, he’s not the most revealing interviewee; the interest comes in the way he rides and organises his cycling life. I used to think he was a bit of a control freak; however, watch more carefully and he has an ability to thrive in chaos and also to recover his optimism very quickly after setbacks. It’s a more formidable weapon than it sounds: few riders would be able to win Liège-Bastogne-Liège two weeks after the most humiliating and public defeat ever inflicted in the Tour de France.
With these two riders going in, we decided that we should celebrate that fact with the covers, which we’d already been working on. Our designer Enric Adell came up with a few ideas, but the one that just seemed to stick with all of us was the concept of illustrated playing cards - a King for the Tour Hommes and a Queen for the Tour Femmes. We liked the idea because playing cards also work both ways up, so the magazine would be flippable, the covers equally so. Hopefully something is the right way up whichever way you are looking at it! Once we’d confirmed Roglič, we commissioned the illustrator Monste Galbany, who’d done us a great picture of the Brazilian rider Vinicius Rangel in Rouleur 111, to make the playing cards resemble our two star interviewees, but also represent all riders. The final touch was Enric’s idea to pick out the illustrations in shimmering blue foil, which looks fantastic in the light and also makes the cover very tactile - the foil has a different texture from the thick yellow paper from which the cover is made.
Of course, the magazine is not just about these two riders. We wanted to cover the fact that the Tour Hommes starts in Copenhagen, so who better than to show us around the city’s coolest cafes and hangouts than Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig? Former editor Andy McGrath pitched us a fascinating Ben O’Connor interview, and Kate Wagner sent us a brilliantly written and observed at-home interview with Matej Mohorič. Allan Peiper, the former UAE Emirates DS, explained the process of creating a Tour team. Professor Douwe van Hinsbergen, of the University of Utrecht, who runs the @geotdf Twitter feed, wrote us a hugely interesting feature about the geology of the Tour de France, and Jamie Wilkins spent the best part of an entire day riding the longest Grand Tour stage there has ever been. On the women’s side, Trevor Ward interviewed some of the British riders who took part in the original Tour de France Féminin, and the result is a great insight into the memories and realities of being a female cyclist in the 1980s. Isabel Best also went to interview the runner-up of the first Tour de France Féminin in 1984, Heleen Hage, while Maria David spoke with Marion Rousse, the director of the Tour de France Femmes, about her plans for the race. We also celebrate the most expensive street in the world, the Avenue de Champagne in Épernay, where the Tour Femmes will have a stage finish, and we’ve published an Itzulia diary by FDJ pro Brodie Chapman, who is as good at writing as she is at cycling (which is very good indeed).
Rouleur 112 has been a real labour of love for the staff, and we’re very proud of it. It covers the two biggest races in the world in a compelling and original way, and we’d love to hear your feedback on it. Please subscribe at https://www.rouleur.cc/pages/