After the success of his first live show, Bikeology, which was an affectionate tribute to all things cycling, Ned Boulting decided to do something different for his second.
Neither stand-up comedy nor Ted Talk, but containing elements of both, the Tour de Ned is best understood as an interpretation of the 2018 Tour de France.
If you didn’t watch a minute of the race itself, parts of the show might go over your head, but just as there’s far more to the Tour de France than a bike race, there’s far more to the Tour de Ned than just the Tour de France.
Rouleur headed along to the preview, at South London’s Stanley Halls, to provide you with a taste of what to expect.
“The Tour de France is like doing a horrible driving holiday around France.”
As much as we love it – and none love it more than Ned – the sport of cycling can take itself a bit seriously at times. We might view them as heroic and of course we admire their athletic prowess, but when you think about it – and none have more than Ned – 176 men hurting themselves around France for three weeks is inherently hilarious.
Ned parodies the silliest seams of this year’s Tour, comparing Rafal Majka to that irritating kid on the school trip, imagining Julian Alaphilippe as Begbie and – as promised – we get the Wombles as the WorldTour’s worst time trial team. Any guesses as to who that could be?
In company he is a man of the most affable demeanour, but Mr Boulting can still conjure curses like Mark Cavendish when he wants to. It’s never gratuitous, entirely in service to the show and always with a wry eye-glint.
“Dylan Groenewegen won but who gives a f***???”
“Oliver Naesen arrived in Roubaix bollock naked.”
“It’s not Ride-f***ing-London!”
Ned’s co-commentator may not be physically present for every stop on the Tour as he was at Stanley Halls, but Millar’s personality is a warm and welcome thread that runs throughout the show.
I rather recoil at the term “bromance” but, however you want to label it, there’s something touching about what is clearly more than a professional relationship between these two men. A few jokes (or more than a few) made at Millar’s expense are the kind that only a buddy can make, and feel all the fonder for it.
Blast from the past footage of a youthful Ned interviewing an adolescent-looking Millar (in Cofidis kit) give us a glimpse into the origins of a chemistry that has made them the most charismatic commentary team around.
As anyone who has ever tried to give a PowerPoint presentation to a roomful of colleagues can attest, performing with technology can be riskier than animals and children put together.
Ned pulls in layers of video, audio, photography and animation and plays off them to help bring drama and tension to even the drabbest of stages.
Considering the number of cues – as well as this being the first time in front of an audience – it was remarkable that it all went so smoothly.
Ned Boulting is a very well-read man, as you’ll discover if you happen to catch him curled up in a corner with a book at a bike race. No John Grishams, Dan Browns or Jack Reachers for him.
The many intellectual touchtones Ned draws upon include: René Barjavel and the Grandfather Paradox; EE Cummings (imagined as cycling commentator) and the existentialists. Don’t forget your monocle and cravat.
Anyone remember what Marcus Burghardt is most famous for doing at this year’s Tour de France? Hint: it wasn’t a successful late escape, hard turn on the front to set up Peter Sagan for a sprint, or another unfortunate run-in with a labrador.
And let’s just say that the caravan in the photo is used as more than just backdrop.
A pub quiz’s worth of history, geography and language lessons
Which host town is twinned with Clacton-on-Sea?
When was the War in the Vendée and what was all that about?
What name sponsor did Team Sky nearly have?
What’s the literal translation of the the name of the final climb from Stage 6?
Read: The Chairman – Ned Boulting interviews former British champion Tim Harris, at his Belgian seat of learning
We’ve long known Ned was a Da Vinci-esque polymath, but who knew his talents stretched to impressions? Close your eyes and you could be at the front of the bunch, in the presence of some of the fastest riders in the west. And Nils Politt.
It might be a one-man show but more than a few familiar faces from the peloton pop in over the course of the Tour de Ned’s 21 stages.
Sit back, relax and relive the best three weeks of the summer.
The Tour de Ned will hold its Grand Départ in Southampton on September 28, before taking in 22 stages around the country throughout October and November. Find a full list of dates including links to buy tickets at NedBoulting.com/Live
Ned Boulting and David Millar will both be appearing at the Rouleur Classic November 1-3.
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