My favourite route starts right in fron of Notre-Dame, at the official Kilometer Zero stone for all French roads. It crosses the city by the Champs-Elysées, passes near the Longchamp racecourse, and then leaves the capital by a succession of hidden streets, parks and forests. It includes some shorts dirt and gravel sections but remains largely rideable on any road bike. The route consists of successive loops so it’s easy to shorten it. On the way back, you pass in front of the Chateau de Versailles and joins the Parc de Saint-Cloud where you will benefit from an amazing view of Paris. Finally, you will pass the Eiffel Tower then along the Seine to finish at the Express Bar, a local Basque pub with a cheap menu and an amazing home made foie gras.
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Tell us about your start with cycling.
I started cycling with my brother, riding loops in my grandparents garden near Roubaix, with a piece of cardboard between the spokes of a really old bike to imitate the sound of a motorcycle.
Then, I embraced it twenty years later by following a group of friends to an alleycat race in Brussels. I entered it on my father’s old Peugeot and got dropped, but I still pedal.
What anecdote of cycling history do you want to tell us about?
Even though I’m really into cycling history and wrote a book about the Classics, it is mainly contemporary cycling that interests me. Seeing Laurens Ten Dam literally foaming in front of me on the Embrun-Chorges individual time trial of the Tour de France 2013, bumping into Chris Froome as I was going down the Colle di Sestriere in June or even watching a terrible live stream in the middle of the week will always beat any anecdote. With all due respect to the detractors, contemporary cycling is exciting. But if you really want an anecdote, I know that the ashes of the founder of the old velodrome of Roubaix were scattered right on the lawn where all the riders collapse at the end of l’Enfer du Nord.
What were the first people you used to ride with? Who influenced you?
My partner in crime has always been the infamous Nicolas Herenstein, AKA Le Duc. He does not influence me but does help me to keep in mind that having a beer with your friends at the end of any ride is more important than any amount of stretching or chemical recovery drink. Amateurs wants to act like pros, but pros envy us for this kind of recovery drink.
Who is your bicycle role model?
Marc Madiot, the directeur sportif of Team FDJ and double-winner of Paris-Roubaix. He has a strong personality, an endless love for the popular roots of cycling and a joyful sense of punchlines.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in this sport?
Ride with different kinds of cyclist and tell them if something is going wrong. Nobody can guess how you feel and we all quickly forget the beginner that we were not so long ago.
Coffee ride, paceline, or a three-day epic?
All three. The pleasure of cycling lies in diversity. We are not hamsters in cages.