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the greenwich grande boucle

the greenwich grande boucle

some people are movers and shakers while others (and i have my hand up at this point) prefer to be moved and shaken. organising any type of event nowadays is mostly beset with difficulties, attending to aspects that will take place prior to, during and quite possibly after. for the more high profile happenings, health and safety, maybe environmental health and most likely insurance of one kind or another will occupy not only most of the hours devoted to its existence, but a sizeable portion of the finances. unless these are bits and bobs that you enjoy occupying your time, i can think of nothing more onerous and less inviting than organising any form of public event, let alone a cycling related example.

the greenwich grande boucle

having said all that, the beginning of the 20th century was possibly a tad less populated with tripwires to unsettle the unwary. otherwise how would something as complex, and ultimately successful as the tour de france have ever found its early decade grasp on the pelotonese? mind you, by all accounts, henri desgrange was not the sort of fellow to be stymied by any administrative textures; in order to sell more newspapers, the tour de france was going to take place in july 1903 no matter what.

granted, there was a lot more at stake than 'just a bike race', with the circulation of l'auto escalating from 25,000 prior to the first tour, up to 65,000 by the time it had ended. by 1908 it had reached 250,000 and by 1923 it was selling twice that number of copies per day. despite desgrange being so unsure of the whole idea that he kept well away from the 1903 race, in the light of the above circulation hike, it could presumably be considered a success.

henri is considered le patron of the tdf, even though the idea was apparently that of one of l'auto's journalists, geo lefevre. it's the very reason why the letters hg are still applied to the tour leader's yellow jersey.

the greenwich grande boucle

entirely coincidentally (i would have you believe), saturday 31 january 2015 marks the anniversary of henri desgrange's birthday. had bernard hinault still allowed him to step onto his podium at the end of each stage, he'd have been 150. howard smith over at the jersey pocket is, it would appear, something of an acolyte of the great man, for he has organised the greenwich grand boucle to not only emulate at least the philosophy of the tour, but to adhere to at least one of desgrange's mandates. "I will HAVE to insist that any mechanicals are fixed without ANY outside assistance. Henri simply wouldn't have it any other way."

for those in the vicinity who feel it only right and proper that henri's 150th birthday be celebrated in appropriate fashion, you should make your way to the cutty sark at greenwich by 10am saturday morning for a 10:30 grand depart. "The parcours includes a short time-trial section along the top of Greenwich Park before the very technical descent of 'Mont Maze'ille'. We then have two catch-sprint zones (only if the traffic lights are green) in the Greenwich 'Valley' section, where we also have a chance to admire some of the lovely chateaux in the area."

in 2014, howard managed a feat that "surely would have warmed old henri's (often hard) heart. I was the only finisher." hopefully this year he'll have competition for that final sprint, after eleven carefully measured laps of the grand boucle route. and contrary to the strictures of many another sportif, the greenwich grande boucle there's no entry charge other than perhaps having need of buying a pint or two afterwards at the nearby gypsy moth pub while discussing just how you managed to miss the early breakaway. howard puts it rather more poetically "It's meant to be a fun, social ride. In keeping with the 1905 Tour de France this will be an eleven 'stage' ride, finishing off with a sojournment to a local brasserie afterwards for a couple of demi pintes."

if this is all starting to sound a bit of an easy morning ride, unlikely to strenuously challenge your mettle, other than your solo ability to fix a flat tyre, there is an opportunity to make life a smidgeon harder for those of a more intrepid nature. "Monsieur Desgrange was somewhat sceptical about 'variable gears', considering them something of an affront to his lofty notions of the true worth of epic suffering. With that in mind, we will be awarding the 'Henri Desgrange Memorial Pignon Fixe Prize' to someone who is bold enough to undertake and complete the course on a fixed or single speed machine."

matters would be undoubtedly visually enhanced were you to arrive at the cutty sark tomorrow morning wearing a wool jersey and riding a pashley guv'nor . not forgetting a puncture repair kit in one of the buttoned chest pockets.

the greenwich grand boucle | the jersey pocket

friday 30 january 2015

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................