How did you come up with the idea to write about the pack…
How did you come up with the idea to write about the pack?
We tend to think of it as an entity, as it lives from within, we come out and come back in, it’s not silent, it doesn’t stop changing. I wanted to do some sort of reconnaissance of this platoon. People spend whole afternoons looking at cycling to castles, mountains, landscapes, etc., but why not explain to them what’s going on there too? How does the peloton deform and reform? How do you prepare for a sprint? It’s before our eyes, but how does it work?
Are you looking for the individual in the crowd?
Cycling is an individual discipline that is ridden in a team. Except perhaps in the time trial, it is a social sport, where you interact with others – sometimes without wishing – and where you share the same fate. Moreover, in my early childhood I believed that the “big pack” was the name of a runner (laughs)!
How did you manage to get into the minds of the runners? From conversations with them? Your knowledge of cycling?
It is a mixture of reflections, discussions, admiration and even reverence. I wish I was a runner! And I thought it was important to let people understand them, to tell them from the inside how things are going.
Are these lyrics a way to live your dream life as a cyclist?
All the way. The writer’s job is to put himself in the place of his characters. I have great admiration for cyclists, for geniuses like Anquetil, but also for those riders who race, not necessarily the great winners, but those who make the race last. Who can have their moments of happiness, who seek their place in the pack, who find and try to be where they are most effective for the team.
In my early childhood I believed that the “big pack” was the name of a runner
In one of your texts (“The screwed eyes”) you write that the Tour has become the image of a dream France. Why ?
It dates back to the 1970s with the invention of the stabilizer ball under the helicopter. Suddenly the director came up with the idea of turning the camera around to look around. And of course this meant that the layout of the stages was adjusted. We go from beauty to beauty, we avoid the great industrial valleys of the Alps, we no longer see the suburbs. It has become the Tour de la belle France. I don’t regret it, it is true, but France is not just about these landscapes that we show during the Tour.
You admire runners, but not blissfully. You talk about their petty greed, even their stupidity. Does the peloton reflect ‘normal’ life?
It’s a society! Guillaume Martin, the philosophical runner, has also written a book “La société du peloton”. This is the theoretical side of what I was trying to show in a more practical way. In a platoon are people of good will, others who abuse the strength of others, vices,…, a whole type of people that can be found in society.
Watching Slovenia bring out super athletes reminds me of East Germany 40 years ago
You also get angry. In “Black Magic” we recognize Tadej Pogacar. You write that he is surrounded by “boys who are presented as villains but who are real assholes”…
What I regret is that the people around you can distort the way you look at certain athletes. I’m sorry, but when I see a small country like Slovenia sending out super athletes now, I think of East Germany 40 years ago. That suspicion is always there: for example, Bjarne Riis is at the head of a team (note NTT Pro Cycling Editor) if he has been convicted several times for doping. These things last and it makes me angry.
You also give the runners a place of honour. Was it a certain exercise?
No, because I don’t put myself in the shoes of a woman, but of a runner. That’s what interests me. For example, I express their anger at being recognized for their true worth, as the leading athletes that they are. The women’s races are wonderful to watch, the level has risen sharply, their claims are legit.