It’s apt that as the Tour de France celebrates its 120th birthday in 2023, the 120th edition of Rouleur is flying off the presses and into the hands of our readers. Rouleur 120 is our Tours de France themed magazine. Or rather, magazines. There are two front covers, and two magazines, back to back; one based around the Tour de France Hommes, and the other around the Tour de France Femmes.
So what’s in the mag? We’ve got an exclusive interview and photoshoot with Tadej Pogačar, the rider who more than any other has defined the last three Tours, the first two as champion, the last as the defeated but tenacious runner-up to Jonas Vingegaard. Our resident photojournalist James Startt met the Slovenian with the instruction to dig a little deeper into his psychology and work out a little more what his relationship with the sport is. Pogačar was searingly honest about his failure to win the 2022 Tour, going into detail about the working-over he received at the hands of Vingegaard and his Jumbo-Visma team on the Cols du Galibier and Granon. But he also revealed some interesting insights into his own personality, including the difference between Tadej Pogačar the young sports fan and Tadej Pogačar the dominant and era-defining athlete. When he was a young boy, he always identified with and supported the underdog, and he admits with humour, “Right now, if I was a kid, I would not be cheering for me.”
The Tour de France is a bike race, but it is also an exercise in geography. Part of its appeal is that it covers so much ground in a country that is extremely varied in terms of geology and terrain, so each day’s racing plays out against the backdrop of the French landscape. We celebrate the places of the Tour as much as the athletes. So we’ve included two quite different features which look at the landscape and geography of the world’s biggest bike race. For our feature A Lighthouse, I went to the Puy de Dôme in mid-May with James Startt, to sample the atmosphere, take a few photographs and find out a little more about this iconic Tour climb, which appears in the race for the first time since 1988, even though it was a stalwart from the 1950s onwards. The Puy de Dôme is a lava dome, formed from volcanic activity in the Massif Central, and it’s more rounded than the mountains of the Alps and Pyrenees, and remarkable for the spiral road which leads steeply to its summit. Its atmosphere, culture, aesthetic and history are unique, and James’s photos of the mountain really convey its otherworldly presence. But the Tour isn’t just about mountains. For years I’ve been driving the roads of the Pyrenees at the Tour, and I noticed that I was always crisscrossing a rushing river called the Gave de Pau. I randomly looked into the Gave, and found that its source is up high near the Spanish border at the Cirque de Gavarnie, and it traces its way down the valley past the Col du Tourmalet, Col d’Aubisque, Hautacam, Luz Ardiden and more, and then on to Lourdes and Pau and beyond to the Atlantic Ocean in Bayonne (by which time it is no longer the Gave de Pau, but the Adour). I asked the French cycling journalist Pierre Carrey, who is from the Pyrenees, to tell our readers more about the Gave, which we both consider to be the spiritual river of the Tour, at least in the Pyrenees. I also asked cycling photographer David Powell, who lives just over the border in Spain, to spend a day on the river and he went over and above the call of duty, hiking to the Cirque and almost to the source, before following it to Lourdes and Pau. The Tour takes place on roads, and we often talk about the race’s mountains. The Gave de Pau is the Tour’s river.
We also have interviews with three very different athletes in the Tour Femmes half of the magazine. Jeremy Whittle spoke at length with 2022 French road champion Audrey Cordon-Ragot, who has endured a year of terrible challenges, with two teams collapsing around her and, far worse, a stroke. Cordon-Ragot is outspoken, determined and honest, and extremely popular with fans, and her story is an inspiring one. Our staff writer Rachel Jary caught up with the up-and-coming star Charlotte Kool, who has emerged as one of the best sprinters in the world in 2023. Kool spent her teens as a speed skater, but the cross-training on a bike eventually took over. She obviously has physical talent, and trains well, but what Rachel really brought out of her was the cold, analytical strategic thinking which enables her to make the most of that physical talent. And finally, Isabel Best spoke with Betsy King, the American cyclist who took part in the Tours de France Féminins of the 1980s. King was and is an irrepressible individual, whose talent and marketability was such that she was invited to take part in the gruelling Bordeaux-Paris race, one of only two women to have done so. The organisers had made the event an open one, so that non-professionals could take part, and as a publicity stunt for the 1984 Tour Féminin, they invited King to race. These three features cover generations of female cyclists, with brilliant portrait photography by James Startt and Henry Hung.
Also in the magazine: an exclusive interview with five-time Tour winner Miguel Indurain; a look at the relationship between the Tour and flowers, which has given us our cover for this edition; a long chat with the ‘voice of cycling’ Phil Liggett, who has covered 50 Tours; an interview with Jean-Étienne and Aurore Amaury, the president and director-general of Tour owners ASO, who are the third generation of their family to take the helm at the world’s biggest bike race; Art Cycle on Toulouse-Lautrec; a hymn to the bidon; Wilier; FDJ-Suez at their Strade Bianche recon; Carlos Verona interview; Explore visits the Basque Country… and a central London pub, the Lucky Saint; Jasper Philipsen; Évita Muzic; Ned; Orla, and much, much more.