Today is the last rest day in the Tour before the race heads into the Pyrenees for tomorrow’s frighteningly gruelling mountain stage around the Circle of Death. The rest gave Jack Thurston time to catch up with Lionel Birnie, The Bike Show’s favourite cycling journalist. Lionel writes for Cycle Sport Magazine and the Sunday Times. You can follow him on twitter at lioneljbirnie and read his articles in Cycle Sport Magazine and in the Sunday Times.
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This year’s Tour de France is the 99th edition of a bicycle race that is rich in meaning and symbolism for the French nation. Christopher Thompson is professor of history at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana and author of a widely acclaimed cultural history of the Tour de France. He discusses how the race came about in an era of rising nationalism and how the route itself was loaded with political meaning. Professor Thompson argues the race projected carefully constructed role models and entrenched traditional gender archetypes. More recently, controversies over doping in cycle sport can be linked to concerns about recreational drug use in wider society.
It’s July, that means it’s the Tour de France. Jack Thurston talks with Ned Boulting, a sports reporter who has been covering the Tour for ITV since 2003. He talks about the rise in popularity of cycle sport and everyday cycling over the past decade and the high jinks he’s got up to while covering the last nine Tours de France Ned’s book, How I Won the Yellow Jumper, is out now, published by Yellow Jersey Press.
1987 was an annus mirabilis for Stephen Roche, one of a wave of world class Irish athletes that rose to fame that decade. He won the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France and the World Championship road race. The only other rider to have accomplished this feat, know as the ‘triple crown’, is Eddy Merckx. Roche has a new book out called ‘Born To Ride’ and talks about his life in cycling, winning the triple crown, as well as his thoughts on today’s peloton, the scourge of doping and his own implication in an EPO doping conspiracy.
His new autobiography, Born to Ride, is out now, published by Yellow Jersey Press.
At the start of the second week of this year’s Giro d’Italia, we take the long view of cycle sport in Italy with John Foot, professor of modern Italian history at University College London. His book Pedalare! Pedalare! tells the fascinating story of how Italy fell in love with the bicycle and how cycle sport took a central role in national life.
Cross Elvis Presley with Muhammad Ali, raise him in a grocery shop in post-war Belgium, put him on a bicycle and what do you get? The greatest cyclist of all time: Eddy Merckx. Cycling journalists Daniel Friebe and William Fotheringham have both treated us to new books about Eddy Merckx, the Cannibal, winner of 525 professional races, five Tours de France, five Giri d’Italia and countless Classics. He was world champion and broke the hour record. We talk about his career, his motivations and the challenges of telling the story of the greatest racing cyclist who ever lived.
In the concluding half of an extended interview with engineer and bicycle inventor Mike Burrows, we talk about Mike’s biggest passion: laid back bicycles. He explains how these human powered vehicles came about and where he hopes they’re going. Plus Simon Nurse discusses the possibility of a cycling equivalent of the London Marathon.