It's time to stop whining about Versus's coverage of the Tour de France. Yes, Phil and Paul need to pack their suitcase full of courage and there's way too much attention to one rider who was never in contention for the GC, but compared to European television coverage of the most significant grand tour in all the world, we US viewers have it pretty good.
My half-français, half-anglais conversation with a French cycling fan left him shaking his head in disbelief that Americans see the race live, followed by an afternoon replay and an evening broadcast. In the UK and France you see it live on Eurosport, and if you're lucky you can catch a very brief recap on the evening sporting news.
So when my family and I were in London a couple weeks ago, we walked over to the Rapha Cycle Club on Clerkenwell Road, in search of a good place to catch a few minutes of the live broadcast (and a Banksy painting I wanted to see). The "Club" is an interesting mix of cycling shrine, café, and retail store. The clientele are roadies, messengers, tourists and local businesspeople who drop in for the excellent Nude Espresso and to check up on the Tour.
The vibe is friendly – one of the Rapha folks talked to me at length about their experience with the Club, and their future plans for similar pop-up shops. He urged me to step into the Citroen broom wagon that functions as a dressing room, to try something on or "just have a look." Contrast that with our quick trip through nearby Condor Cycles, where our cloaks of invisibility prevented any of their numerous staff from greeting or talking to us, despite the lack of other customers.
At the staff's urging we took a trip to the basement to see an homage to Fausto Coppi and a series of racing bikes. Fausto looks up at you from the floor where his face has been stenciled, and a line of bikes represents different eras of racing. Some are period-correct (the Gios-Torino "like" the one Roger Vlaeminck rode), while others are actual race bikes – Cipo's Saeco Cannondale, and Lance's Madone from the 2005 Tour, for example.
Afterwards we ordered coffee, sat at a long table in front of a large television, and watched the day's stage begin. If there's no action, you can thumb through copies of Rouleur (the house mag) and numerous cycling books, including Mike Barry's excellent Le Metier.
While we watched and sipped our coffee, shoppers strolled through, including one who sprung for a spendy but cool Tailored Jacket.
The Rapha Cycling Club – at least this one – closes in another week, but I expect they'll pop up again in different cities, and at different races and rides next year.
You can view more photos from the Rapha Club London here.