I COULD DO THAT - ON A MOTORCYCLE!
THE TOUR DE FRANCE - ISN'T THAT BICYCLES?
Did you watch the Tour De France cycle race? Maybe you were captivated by last year's Grand Depart in Yorkshire? Either way, one of the major features of these and the other big cycle classic races in mainland Europe is the preponderance and profile of the motorcycle riders that make up the whole circus.
Bikes are used to convey the race marshals and stewards, doctors, photographers and camera crew, and then there's the large contingent of police...in France the Gendarmerie. On TV they seem remarkably fast and close to the cycle racers at times. Sometimes it's the camera angles, but over the years of the race there have been a number of incidents where motorcycle riders have collided with race competitors; and this year motorcycle rider 538 was ejected for causing one of the leading racers to crash.
I could do that...
I've always nurtured an ambition to take part as one of the support motorcyclists. It would make a good story: a diary account of the experience of being at the heart of one of the big cycle races. It's not as straight forward as just being a good bike handler. You could be carrying a camera person or photographer on the back, and they will be moving around with their equipment, and want to be in position to capture the best and most dramatic shots.
I'm sure the downhill sections in the Pyrenees or the Alps are just as technically difficult on a motorcycle as they are for a racing cyclist, and it's often wet with accompanying loose stones. And if you've seen the way some people in the crowds behave, getting as close to the riders as possible when they are on the steep climbs, and running along the road in somewhat crazed enthusiasm. It's not as 'romantic' a gig as it seems.
So that the skill levels are monitored and refreshed, every two years Tour motorcycle riders have to undertake rigorous training at the French police national school in Fontainbleau near Paris. The fact that these are the only civilians they train is testimony to the importance attached to the role of the motorcyclists in the race.
This year the official motorcycles were supplied by Kawasaki (30 bikes); but all the Japanese manufacturers are represented along with BMW. It's hard to find information on the total number of bikes involved, but it's estimated that at least 50 of the 240 + accredited press photographers are on board bikes.
You would have to be living on a remote island or a in a deep cave to have missed the news that the Tour De France finished in Paris on Sunday with a win for Chris Froome – the first time a British rider has won the Tour twice.
What do you think, ever fancied being a motorcycle outrider at the Tour de France yourself? Email us at :email@example.com
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