PEZ: Gordan, you are covering the first 10 stages of this year’s Tour de France. What’s your plan or is it wait and see?
Gordan: I’ll be hitting the ground on team presentation day, and going as far as Tarbes at the end of stage 9. I have vague plans, based around staking out good viewing points for the key early stages – the TT’s and the Pyrenees. But it’s more of the vague and less of the plans until I’ve had my passport checked.
Like most of the Pez guys, the plan changes from day to day. Sometimes something falls through and you look for plan B, sometimes plan B is crap and by some miracle plan F is much better.
There’s no point going all the way to the Tour and watching it in the press room. I want to be out there on the roadside, and hopefully I’ll be able to bring some of the excitement to the Pez family around the globe.
PEZ: Which stages are you looking forward too?
Gordan: The opener in Monaco should be pretty spectacular, and it’ll open a few decent time gaps up as well. The TTT will be a grand show, and I reckon the stage up to Arcalis could be a bit of a barn-burner as well.
On Ed’s watch, the stage up Mont Ventoux will be something special.
PEZ: Who will ride into Paris in Yellow?
Gordan: I know we’re supposed to be neutral, but I wouldn’t be too disappointed to see Andy Schleck winning it. He’s one year stronger and more confident than when he ran out of gas in ’08, but he’s still a bit short in the TT’s. SaxoBank have brought the firepower to back him up, so we’ll see if he can get rid of Contador in the mountains …. but it’s hard to see anyone other than Contador in yellow.
Andy Schleck is Gord’s sentimental pick, but Contador is the real favorite.
Mind you, not too many people expected to see Sastre win last year, so maybe someone else will sneak off with the big prize when the top guys aren’t looking? Maybe Evans??
PEZ: How do you think Lance will do? Will there be conflict in the Astana camp?
Gordan: I reckon Lance will go pretty close. He isn’t going there to muck about or finish 12th like he did at the Giro. He wants to win it again, he’s hitting form, and there is no competitor like him in the cycling world today – love him or hate him, that’s a fact.
He needs no introduction.
I think Astana have a job on their hands to keep everyone happy. Contador wants to win…. Leipheimer and Kloeden will have to bite their tongues.
It’ll be interesting because if the Astana team doesn’t have any other Spanish-speakers, that’ll make it harder emotionally for Contador. We hear that Bertie, Noval and Paulinho were almost off to Garmin, so … that would suggest it’s not all happy families at Astana.
On a separate note here…you can add Antonio Colom (left) to the list of Bruyneel riders that have tested positive after leaving.
PEZ: What were your feelings last year when PEZ asked you to cover roadside at the Tour?
Gordan: Excited, scared, excited, confused, excited….. once those first 15 seconds were past, I settled down a bit. It’s a big responsibility, trying to bring the other sides of the Tour alive for the Pez readers, so I wanted to do a good job.
PEZ: The best and worst experiences of being part of the press pack?
Gordan: Best – access. I was a bit like Wayne and Garth visiting Alice Cooper’s dressing room the first time I got a press pass.
Worst – the logistics of covering the Tour is probably the toughest part, especially as I was solo last year. The constant long days, long drives, late nights, technical meltdowns to deal with …
Here’s an actual postcard Gord sent Pez – and that’s Gord’s actual house!
PEZ: You live on an island off the west coast of northern Scotland, and as I found out recently, your house is nearly at the end of the world (middle of nowhere). How much of a culture shock was it to go from the peace of the Isle of Skye to the “razzmatazz” of the Tour de France?
Gordan: I went from having twenty kids in my whole primary school, to a secondary school of 250, to university….. Much bigger culture shocks!
Another view of the heaven that is the Isle of Skye.
Where I live … well, some people reckon it’s remote, but my job is 20 minutes away by bike, the shop is close, the atmosphere is good, the pace of life is mellow, the people are lovely. It’s pretty cool. We have a neighbour, so that makes it pretty central…
PEZ: You do race reports on BBC radio in Gaelic, how did that all come about?
Gordan: Yep, English is my second language. Gaelic is undergoing a bit of a revival, but needs more help and support still. When I went to school first, I was definitely more fluent in Gaelic than English, but I don’t think I ever got lower than an ‘A’ for any English exam, so it did me no harm!
I had friends working in the Gaelic media who suggested my name to the producers … I have the right face for radio. So now, I report and comment on the big stories such as the Grand Tours and the Classics, Lance and his comeback, and the brilliant track success the UK has had. There’s definitely a growing interest in all aspects of cycle sport in Scotland, and it’s not constrained by language.
PEZ: Is it live and nerve racking?
Gordan: It is usually live, sometimes to the evening sports bulletin on TV, by telephone link-up.
It can be nerve-wracking, but usually the radio shows are on a Saturday morning, so there’s not too much time to dwell on it. Just check the research, go to the studio and stick the headphones on.
PEZ: How did you get into cycling?
Gordan: Purely through Robert Millar and the rest of the Peugeot foreign legion like Stephen Roche, Sean Yates, Allan Peiper and those guys. Sean Kelly and Greg Lemond, too. It was a brilliant time to get into the sport, with so much success for those riders in the 1980s.
I was a sport obsessive anyway, so getting into cycling and dreaming of wearing the maillot jaune and being a legendary climber was just an extension of wanting to be a soccer star, cricketer, downhill ski racer, F1 driver, rugby player, bobsleigh pilot, tennis player…..
I can’t honestly say I ever displayed anything approaching race winning aptitude on the bike, but I love riding all the same.
PEZ: Does living on an island not confine your ride routes?
Gordan: Not really – the Isle of Skye has a bridge to the mainland so that opens things up. To be honest, the normal route I ride is pretty lumpy, good for training, and the scenery looks different just about everyday so it never gets boring.
PEZ: Is there much chance of racing in the Highlands and Islands?
Gordan: There’s a few clubs and groups that go out, and races, especially around the bigger towns like Fort William (which has some really good riders – the late, great Jason MacIntyre lived, trained and rode there) and Inverness (home of Commonwealth Games riders, the Riddle brothers). But normally, you’ve got a bit of a drive to reach any events.
Gord in full-on reviewer mode.
The scenery is sensational, the roads are challenging…. it’s just the logistics and lack of infrastructure that are a problem for attracting bigger events. It would be hard to get all the race vehicles around the narrow single-track roads we have up here! But a pretty good quality race could be run from Inverness – fly everyone in, have a TT there, a road stage to Fort William along Loch Ness, then over to Perth, down to Edinburgh …………… if anyone wants to organise a proper Tour of Scotland that would be a good way to start!
PEZ: Of all the Euro-based contributors to Pez you live the closest to PEZ HQ in Vancouver; I think around 6,000 miles away. How did you get started with Pez?
Gordan: I’d done a bit of writing for newspapers, and fancied myself as a sports reporter. Always felt that was my dream job! So I found Pez online in an idle moment…. well, when I should have been doing something else…. dropped him a line and I was in.
I’ve still never met the Pez in person tho’…. only yourself, Al, and Ed for about two minutes!
PEZ: Who is your favourite rider, from the present and the past?
Gordan: If it hadn’t been for Robert Millar, and seeing the documentary about him on TV in 1985 (yikes!!), I wouldn’t be involved in any of this. To see a Scot succeeding in such a ‘weird’ sport at world-class level, that was a big inspiration, so he’s definitely the favourite from days gone by.
Gilbert is a favorite of Gord’s.
Today, I just want to see exciting, clean racers coming through and getting the wins. Style-wise, I really like Phillipe Gilbert – he’s a bit of a swashbuckler. I love the way he races, just attacking regardless of the terrain.
Sylvain Chavanel has his lights switched on nowadays and is being more successful, whereas he used to ride like a bit of a “daftie”, but he’s exciting to watch.
Also, Nicole Cooke – she’s so focussed, dedicated and dynamic. I don’t know if she’s ever been in a boring race? Every time she races she tries to light things up.
How can you not like Nicole Cooke?
Off the bike, when you meet the riders, they’re generally a nice bunch. People who’re polite and engaging tend to be on my favourite list – the late Ryan Cox was always a pleasure to speak to, very open and friendly and his passing was a real downer.
PEZ: And the top race?
Gordan: Best race I saw live in person was probably the Ventoux TT at the Dauphine Libere in 2004, when Iban Mayo obliterated Jonathan Vaughters’ record….. of course, we all know what happened to Mayo! But it was amazing to see these top guys really suffering in one of the great theatres of racing.
Can anyone forget the 1989 Tour?
Best race I watched on TV would be a tie between the 1986 Tour de France (Lemond vs. Hinault) and 1989 version (Lemond vs. Fignon). Robert Millar won a stage that year, and it was like Christmas time in July!
PEZ: When I was lucky enough to visit your house for a great dinner, you were working towards self-sufficiency. Tell us more.
Gordan: Well, my girlfriend and I decided on a more simplified lifestyle, where we’re trying to consume less. We’re working shorter hours, spending more time at home, and getting a chance to grow more of our own food. The plan is to try and source a little bit more land to take the ideas further.
We just decided that time was hurtling past and we traded off living on less money but with more free time against working long, hard hours in an office. I’d recommend it to anyone if they think it will suit them.
PEZ: Good luck for the Tour and thanks for all your thoughts and giving us a glimpse into your life, as always we will be reading your road reports avidly. The Grand Dйpart in Monaco should be hoot. Will Pez be funding a night out at the Monte-Carlo Casino?
Gordan: Yes….. the whole budget will be going on the red! Probably means it’ll be baguettes and water for a fortnight…
We don’t have long to wait for Gordan’s “Road-side Reports” to take us to the heart of the Tour de France action, he flys out on Wednesday and it won’t be long for him to get the Mac cranked up!
Money can be sent to help Gordan’s Monte Carlo Casino fund. You too can help. Or, if you just want to say hi, send Gord an email HERE!