Stopping at a local pushbike shop to satisfy my love of fondling tubes and suchlike on a fancy swank velocipede, I was struck more than ever by the magic of bikes. It didn’t help of course that these bikes were Lapierre, sponsor for the last French team in the Tour. Lapierre bikes are works of art, I can’t afford one, but the guy doesn’t mind me coming in and dribbling over them. Anyway after this reverie of pleasantness it was out, and go climbing! But as a last delay I stopped off to put a few flowers at the little sculpture of Maurice Garin on the roundabout. Maurice was born here in Italy not far from where I live, went to France as an infant and won the first two Tours. Not many people know he was Italian and no one really wants to claim him as he was disqualified for excessive cheating in the second Tour, the first of many! Public morality being what it is, he is forgotten about, which I think is terrible. I don’t condone his actions and in later life he clearly regretted them, but there you go, it’s just a human thing. So the sculpture is simple and beau, it’s on a lovely verdant and attractive roundabout, and if you are a biking nerd I invite you to stop and have a look. In the first Tour the bikes were crap and the stages were way longer, sometimes no tarmac for long distances, no creatine, just sweat and saddle sores. I gave the brave little bronze cyclist a last fond pat, and went climbing.
There are many memorials along the roads in Europe commemorating dead cyclists. I stop when I can and say a hello. I have lived in two places on the Tour and know many of its tales, cols and epic cardiovascular battles, it’s part of my being in the same way that mountains are. Anyway among my many sporting gods that I sometimes pray to, are Merckx and Indurain, two former Tour winners. Indurain is my personnel favorite and at a Sporting meeting some years ago I noticed an old pro riders bike on a roped off podium. By all the gods it was the great mans bike! I immediately skipped over the rope and began stroking the master’s saddle, this odd behavior was quickly curtailed by a pleasant corpulent policeman, who on being told that I was a speaker and more importantly a fan went off and got me a glass of champagne. I have to report a failure to stroke Eddie Merckx bike. After tracking it down I am sorry to report because it was behind bullet proof glass! I hope this failure doesn’t disappoint you too much.