By Robbie Broughton
That was the advice Phil Keoghan got when he first proposed recreating the 1928 Tour de France route and schedule on vintage bikes. His film, Le Ride, documents the madcap journey he undertook with his riding partner Ben Cornell in 2013. It’s now being distributed across the UK by Demand Film this November.
Keoghan was inspired when he came across the biography of fellow New Zealander Harry Watson who was the first Kiwi to compete in the Tour. He was part of a team of four Antipodean riders who had raised funds through national newspapers to take part. The plan had been to join up with some European riders to make a team of ten, but this never happened.
Competing with such a small team put the Australasians at an extreme disadvantage and the general consensus across the media was that they’d fail to even make it as far as the Pyrenees.
Back in those days, the Tour route was designed to eliminate as many riders as possible until a hardy handful remained for the final stages. The 1928 edition was no different with only 41 of the 164 riders completing the gruelling route, making it arguably the toughest Tour in history.
The Australasian team arrived in France after six weeks at sea, under-trained and under-resourced. Against the odds, and defying the dire predictions of the media and public, three out of the four riders successfully made it to the Parc des Prince Velodrome.
The best placed Aussie was Hubert Opperman who finished 18th, about eight and a half hours down on the winner, the Luxembourgian Nicolas Frantz. Despite smashing his frame on the final day, Frantz went on to win by borrowing a ladies’ bicycle to complete the final 55 miles.
Averaging 240 kilometres a day for 26 days, Phil and Ben followed the same route in 2013, traversing both the unforgiving mountains of the Pyrenees and the Alps, on original vintage steel racing bikes with no gears and marginal brakes.
The pair reflected that there are parts of the ride that they cannot remember due to physical and mental exhaustion. And this, despite their 2013 ride being much easier than what Watson encountered, with unsealed roads and many punctures per day.
Demand Film are hoping to screen in several locations across the country on Thursday 9th November. To book a ticket go to their website.