So how does a guy from Sydney end up living in France?
Good question but a long one to answer. The short version – a beautiful French girl!
Seldo’s wife Katia, his main – and best reason for living in France!
Tell us a bit about how you got started in cycling.
Well I started out in the late 80’s early 90’s in Sydney as a 12 year old racing against the men. Back in those days cycling wasn’t nearly as popular in Australia and the scene was fairly small so I never really raced against kids my own age except at State level. The rest of the time I was up against a motley crew of 20 – 50 year olds and I got my arse kicked every single race. We had a local circuit that was 3.2 km long and the first race I did I lasted about 1/2 lap. The 2nd race a week later I survived one lap and then it went on from there…
And you ended up working your way up to high level racing?
Yes, I got up to the top grades and rode some decent races but my body let me down a bit. The brain and legs were there but the rest of the body couldn’t follow! In fact I seem to have the ability to push myself through any pain barrier on the bike, which is great for being a racer as it’s through pure suffering that I got my results. When I was maybe 17 I rode out 50km to a Cat 1 race one day as I didn’t drive, so if the race was less than 60kms away I would ride to it. I got there and felt ok, managed to ride in the break all day but I felt some pretty extreme pain in my heart/lung region but I kept on going and managed to get 2nd place. I then rode home in huge amounts of pain and basically slumped in a heap when I got in the door. It ended up being a collapsed lung and this was an injury I would have 5 more times over the coming years until it got to the point that the doctors told me never to ride again.
I of course ignored this advice, but I did stop racing and I went away and had a career in IT for a number of years all the while going for light rides every fortnight or so. My dreams of racing in Europe that every young kid has at that age disappeared, but the step back was good for my body. About 6 years later when I picked up the bike again after moving North to the Gold Coast I was able to race with no physical problems since.
Seldo getting 3rd in a pro race after a race long breakaway on the Gold Coast behind Jon Cantwell who would go on to ride the Tour de France with SaxoBank and Classics strongman Mathew Hayman who was with Rabobank at the time.
How old were you then?
I guess I was about 26 – 27 maybe and I just started racing at the local level and I managed to win a bunch of races there, get some sponsorship, get back into Cat 1 and then about 6 months later I went off to Switzerland to race in the amateurs to fulfil my dream of racing in Europe! Too old then to really make it but an experience I certainly couldn’t knock back.
What was the scene like there?
It was pretty full on. I’d left an environment in Australia where I was one of the best climbers around to be confronted with some real climbs in Europe. Nothing can quite prepare you for racing over there with all the various hills and mountains – it’s extreme stuff and there’s a reason no top class sprinters come from Switzerland – it ain’t flat!
I spent two years racing mostly in France and Switzerland and I had a great time, but now I realise that the early 2000’s were not exactly the cleanest of times in the peloton and I was perhaps up against an uneven playing field. Still I have no regrets. I raced against a lot of the big pros and amateurs who went on to big pro careers, and more importantly I learned a language, fell in love with Europe and eventually some years later on holidays in France fell in love with a girl!
Racing up Mt Ventoux in ’03
What about now, can you fit in much bike with work and family commitments?
Well in 2012 I moved from the cold North East of France to the much warmer South and I have once again taken up the bike after a few years absence as the region of the Herault Valley where I live is just too nice not to get out on the bike and experience it. To be honest, I only have the time to get out once or twice a week but when I do go out, I ride hard.
I met a bunch of cool guys who were putting together a new racing club in the region and after absolutely getting my arse kicked by them in the first few rides I quickly took on some good form and felt like a bike racer again. Being out of the sport so long I started down in the lower grades but I wanted to work my way back up to the top. I managed to do that this season as I won every road race I entered except one and I managed to grab the GC win in 2 Tours too which was kind of cool. It felt great to be racing again and even better to be winning again!
Chris on the attack for his new club earlier in 2013 after a long absence from the racing scene.
What about your area, it’s a little hilly isn’t it?
It is hilly but that’s one of the reasons that makes it so good! I couldn’t stand to be a bike rider in a flat country, I just can’t do it. I’m no longer a hill climber having put on almost 12kgs since my ‘real’ racing days but I still love the hills.
Hills abound in the Herault Valley but the combination of good mates to ride with and generally good weather make them bearable.
What is the cycling scene like there?
The scene is pretty strong although like most of France the cyclists here are generally older – usually around the 40 – 50 age group as cycling doesn’t seem to be too popular with the kids and teenagers. My club just got two new junior members for next year though and I hope that’s a trend that will continue.
And what’s it like living in France as an Australian?
It’s pretty cool. I didn’t speak the language at all when I first came over to race but I quickly picked up what I would call a ‘bike rider’s’ French. I could talk about bikes all day long, every part of the bicycle, the conditions of the road, the percentage gradient of the climbs etc but take me to a social function and I was completely lost. I had no ‘normal’ vocabulary. Anyway, I got by and I managed to meet and chat up my wife ok in French so I must have been doing something right!
These days though my French is much improved and it’s all I speak at home and in daily life as all my mates here are French. In fact the only time I use English is for PEZ – but that’s everyday so I don’t forget too much. There are occasions though when a certain word or phrase in English escapes me for a moment and that’s just embarassing.
Seldo training with local pro, Clément Koretzky of the Bretagne Séché team.
How did you get started with PEZ?
I was a reader and saw that PEZ was looking for writers, I was in cycling central in Europe racing and living the dream and I come from a family of journos so I thought, why not? I sent an article into The Pez, he liked it, published it and from then I’ve been writing for PEZ. I think it’s 11 years now since my first piece and some years I’ve written lots, others not much at all but now that I’m editor I’m involved in some way with each story on PEZ everyday.
How many hours a day/week would you say you spend at the computer?
Well my wife would very quickly answer that question with too many! Editing PEZ is a 7 day gig and hours vary depending upon the season but I’ve always felt that it’s very necessary that there is always new content on the site every single day, no matter what time of year. I’m a huge reader of other cycling sites and magazines and have been all my life, and I hate it when there’s no new content so always making sure there are new PeloPics or articles etc takes time.
And speaking of other sites and magazines – how much cycle sport coverage could you get your hands on when you were young?
Well I used to buy Winning magazines at the newsagents as a kid and I read them from cover to cover, over and over again just until the next one became available. At the time there was no internet and zero coverage of cycling on the TV so that’s pretty much all I had – and they were generally well out of date when I got my hands on them. A couple of years later other magazines came out and I devoured them religiously, and then in 1991 we started getting daily 1/2 hour TV coverage of the Tour de France on the SBS network. It was heaven and I recorded every stage on VHS and watched them over and over again until I wore out the tapes.
What is your favourite race on the Pro calendar?
That is a really tough question. For stage races I think I would have to lean towards the Dauphiné as it has all the beauty and good weather of the Tour de France without the crowds nor the boring sprint stages.
Chris went roadside at the Dauphiné this year on his bike for PEZ
For one day races I think my favourite is the French National Championships. I love how the rival French teams obliterate themselves in their silly inter team battles to make sure the jersey doesn’t go to another team and how the riders turn themselves inside out to wear the blue, red and white for the year.
When you were a young cyclist who was your hero?
Without a doubt Phil Anderson. There were only a handful of Aussies in the professional peloton when I started and Phil was the most successful so he was the man for me. I met him a few years ago when he came up to me at the Tour de France one year to say G’day because I was wearing a PEZ jersey and he figured I was an English speaker and just wanted to be friendly.
What do you think of the riders of today?
For the most part I can just put my journalistic hat down and admire them. The ability that they have to make that level and survive the crazy parcours that they have to race over is truly impressive. I’ve raced or ridden over many of Europe’s biggest mountains but I’ve never done a Tour over 7 days long and I just couldn’t imagine doing a three week one at the crazy speeds they do. Guys like Adam Hansen that do three in one year are amazing.
I’m also a big fan of seeing young guys come into the sport and make it to the top. From my viewpoint of journo/ex rider/fan I can see that the sport is cleaning up in a big way and I personally love it when a drug cheat is caught. Sure it’s bad for our sport and the sponsors to once again have cycling and doping in the headlines but the more that are caught the better as far as I’m concerned – get them out of the sport and leave it to the young guys.
Where do you think cycling is going?
In a better direction I hope. The sport’s changed for the better the last few years and hopefully the UCI can change with it.
Is ‘Mondialismo’ a good thing for cycling, should WorldTour teams be racing in China, South America, the US and, dare I say it, Australia?
Hah – Australia yes of course! Saying that though, I’ve never been to the Tour Down Under but I have been to many other WorldTour races around the world. The US? Absolutely. The sport is growing there all the time and it’s important to have the top level athletes come and race. I personally am not a fan of the Chinese races being WorldTour though. I believe that races should start out at the lower level and earn their way to the top through good organisation, promotion and parcours.
What about Lance Armstrong, has he been made the scapegoat for a time when everyone was at it, or should he be banished forever?
Banished forever is a big call but what he put others through was unforgivable. He not only took the doping to the highest level he also cranked up the omerta and intimidation tactics to the highest level too. Scapegoat though? I think he brought it on himself but it does annoy me that guys that raced with or against him at the time and doped are still riding today and earning the dollars.
I think being the biggest of the big made him a natural target and it’s the way of the world – everyone wants to be your friend and will do anything you want when you’re the best but when you’re down and out it’s easier to kick you than help. I’d like to believe that Lance’s latest efforts of reconciliation with the likes of Christophe Bassons etc are genuine efforts but the sceptic side of me is too strong and I can’t help but think it’s all about trying to get some good publicity.
Whatever the case Lance did some terrible, terrible things but he also did amazing things for our beautiful sport. If you asked the average Joe in the US about cycling 15 years ago they couldn’t have told you much, now thanks to Lance the level of interest in the sport has exploded exponentially. Bike sales shot up, clothing, magazines, websites like ours – they all benefitted in a big way from Lance.
From a journalists point of view; should the public know everything that goes on in the sport or are some things better left in the shadows?
Shadows for sure. I have no interest in knowing who Tom Boonen is dating or whatever, this is sport, not pop music. Let’s keep it to being about the bike.
Finally; why is cycling such a good sport?
The freedom of riding alone or with your mates on a sunny day through beautiful countryside is something that no other sport has ever given me. I love pushing myself to the limits racing but I also enjoy a peaceful ride just smelling the roses so to speak. This sport is beautiful and I plan to do it until I die.