Rolf Rae-Hansen

Rolf's a freelance copywriter based in Edinburgh


tour de france

Review: Full Gas by Peter Cossins

It’s a long time since I last pinned a number to my cycling jersey. Back in my day (when MTB wheels were all 26 inches and fluro lycra wasn’t retro) I entered a lot of cross-country races. The only tactic I observed, with mixed to middling results, was to ride flat-out from start to finish. My only ‘glorious’ road-racing memory involves failing to ride my breakaway companions off my wheel on a climb, then leading out the sprint, ignoring my inner monologue, which was breathlessly shouting, “you shouldn’t be leading out, you shouldn’t be leading out!

I have no immediate intention of returning to competitive ways and so picked up Full Gas – How to Win a Bike Race: Tactics From Inside the Peloton, to give it its full title, unsure if this book was really for me.

It didn’t take long for those doubts to be dispelled.

Continue reading “Review: Full Gas by Peter Cossins”

Review: The Invisible Mile by David Coventry

The Invisible Mile by New Zealand author David Coventry is a fictionalised account of the five Australian and New Zealand cyclists who, in 1928, formed the first English-speaking team to ride the Tour de France.

Continue reading “Review: The Invisible Mile by David Coventry”

Cycling Savoie Mont Blanc

I’m recently back from a few day’s riding in the Savoie Mont Blanc, the lumpy, Alpine part of Eastern France that borders Switzerland and Italy. The area, hugely popular with winter skiers, is making a big push to promote its many mountainous delights to summer cyclists. Not that cyclists haven’t already discovered the place. I stayed in Morzine, which has already hosted 19 Tour de France stages, including this year’s Tour’s penultimate etape (the soggy stage won by  Ion Izagirre’s demon descent off the Col de Joux-Plane). The locals clearly took the Tour to heart and a month on from the big event the whole area was still decked out in white with red polka dots to match the maillot a pois rouge worn by the race’s best climber. 2016-08-20_17.25.00.jpg

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The Season’s Cycle

I live my life by the season. That’s not a spelling mistake, I don’t mean seasons, plural, I mean the cycling season.

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Cooked on the Casse Déserte

Stage 14 of the this year’s Tour de France takes in a wee hill called the Col d’Izoard. Here’s an extra from The Breakaway on the day that very climb very nearly claimed us: Continue reading “Cooked on the Casse Déserte”

Never Meet Your Heroes – Redux

Back in June last year I wrote this short blog about ‘meeting’ the polka dot jersey won and worn by one of my cycling heroes, Robert Millar, at the 1984 Tour de France. 

I’d encountered it after stumbling into Billy Bilsland Cycles on the way home from an afternoon watching the British Road Race Championships at Glasgow Green.
Well it seems as if another trip west (surely a pilgrimage?) is on the cards. Billy Bilsland Cycles have this week unveiled an addition to their Millar tribute. Alongside the signed and framed spotty jersey you can now see the actual Peugeot bike upon which Millar rode to that famous victory.
Apparently the bike hadn’t been seen in public for 30 years, having been in the ownership of a private collector. Well now (but unlike it’s ilusive original owner) the bike is very much back in the public eye — and in one of Scotland’s best bike shops too. Definitely worth a trip to Glasgow, if only to marvel at the size of the inner chainring — what, no compact?!
There’s more info and a full gallery at Billy Bilsland’s Facebook page.

(Still reckon retro Peugeots look better in fluro pink, like my old steed.)

Best of Times, Worst of Times

One of the great things about having ridden a load of Tour climbs is pretending to know how the peloton feels as the Tour cruises and crawls over the same roads. Stage 19 takes in the Col du Glandon and the Col de la Madeliene, both of which I tackled during The Breakaway. For me the Madeleine was a total and utter nightmare. I suffered like a dog (trapped inside a hot car) the whole way up. The Glandon was that day’s second ascent and, surprisingly, I recovered enough to find it, dare I say, enjoyable.

Click to enlarge profile

Continue reading “Best of Times, Worst of Times”

Ride the Helter Skelter

For stage 18 the Tour de France will tackle Alpe d’Huez twice. The GC contenders will surely be

Double-ouch stage profile

nervous about this stage. The sprinters and rest of the autobus regulars will be absolutely bloody dreading it. Alpe D once in a Tour stage must hurt enough. Twice will purgatory, for them. For us voyeuristic public it will be an unmissable spectacle. Continue reading “Ride the Helter Skelter”

No Holiday on Ventoux

Click to enlarge stage profile

Sunday July 14th July sees stage 15 of the Tour de France, the longest in this year’s race. As if the distance of 242.5 kilometres wasn’t enough, the organisers have lumped the climb of Mont Ventoux on at the end – just to make sure no one gets the idea that July 14th is some kind of French holiday and an excuse for a day off work.

By the time The Breakaway reached Carpentras for the the Giant of Provence the mood in our travelling camp was like the weather around it: oppressively hot, shocked and scarred by rumbling thunder and bolts of lightening.

The morning of our ride up the Mont, however, and the weather broke, the cool and wet conditions at least partially easing the tension.

The late, great Tom Simpson

We had absorbed all of this mountain’s many myths and legends, including the tragic tale of Tom Simpson, who died on its slopes in the ill-fated 1967 Tour de France. As a result we had expected furnace-like heat, had spent months on end bracing ourselves for such a searing slog. Pedalling insouciantly into the rain and I couldn’t help but feel that it was all a little too easy. As I soon found out, on the Ventoux easy is wrong, just plain wrong…

Drew shifted up a gear and began to sprint, suddenly deciding that grovelling off the back was less than acceptable on this climb of all climbs. He took off up the road so I duly accelerated and pulled level, expending too much puff to be able to demand an explanation. Had he been faking earlier on, psyching me out or just warming up? Either way, I wasn’t about to dismiss the opportunity for a duke on the Ventoux. In turn I shifted up a gear and kicked hard, my move eliciting his mirror reaction. So we remained, locked together, front wheels edging each other out of the photo finish until the next ramp kicked right and Drew finally came off the gas. I relaxed back into the saddle, assuming the game was up, only for him to go again, three more attempts to drop me, somehow to no avail. As each ramp turned into the headwind, our hurt intensified and my satisfaction increased: pain was exactly what I wanted; pain was what the Ventoux demanded, all that it was said to be about.

To read more from The Breakaway & to buy a copy (for less than the cost of an innertube) click here.

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