Episode 1: Team spirit, camaraderie at the heart of the peloton
In the picturesque alleyways of this city steeped in art and history, I imagine cycling enthusiasts already massed to await the start of the race, in the shadow of the Guggenheim Museum and Mother, the singular work by Louise Bourgeois.
The atmosphere is electric, the arrival of the riders, the passage of the caravan, the presentation of the riders – everything is organized and meticulously planned to make this a memorable day and kick off the 110th edition of the Tour de France. Enthusiastic murmurs of spectators float through the air, as they throng with palpable anticipation to witness a grandiose cycling symphony.
At the heart of this moment, I’ve chosen to present you with a new work symbolizing for me one of the fundamental values of cycling: team spirit.
It plunges us into the heart of the peloton, where the riders of a team proudly organize themselves around the LCL yellow jersey, their leader. Their supportive presence is a vibrant testament to the importance of harmony and camaraderie in this unique discipline.
Cycling, like a meticulously choreographed dance, reveals a symphony of collective effort. Each rider plays his or her own part, forsaking personal aspirations for the common good. The ultimate goal is to give their leader a breather, to reveal his audacity at the right moment, and to escort him to victory, stage after stage, and perhaps all the way to the ultimate accolade: donning the precious yellow jersey at the end of a 3,404-kilometer epic quest strewn with pitfalls.
The Tour de France brings its share of drama, triumphs and moments of bravery, tears and injury, captivating millions of fans across the globe. A universal sport, a cycling odyssey whose fervent spectators await, with obvious impatience, the denouement in three weeks’ time, on the prestigious Champs-Élysées.
A winner, decked out in yellow, will cross the finish line, proudly bearing the burden of his sacrifices, his efforts and the unshakeable unity of his team. But until then, the vibrant love of cycling will continue to ignite competitors and aficionados alike, forging an unbreakable bond between them.
This team spirit, and more generally the values of cycling, are embodied by the companies that support or take part in this magical, world-famous event. I’m thinking in particular of LCL, whose commitment to the sport and to its customers on a daily basis is exemplary.
Episode 2: The sprinters' flight, a symbol of determination at its peak
The Tour celebrates Victor Lafay with his fine victory yesterday ahead of the favorites, and heads for Bayonne with this 3rd stage suitable for sprinters. On this occasion, I invite you to dive into the heart of the very special action that is a cycling sprint, where power and determination are the watchwords. I’ve illustrated this value with a dynamic table highlighting the magnificent victory of the green jersey, witness to the supremacy of the best sprinter, surrounded by the other distinctive jerseys.
Grouped together in the peloton, the riders position themselves with pinpoint precision, ready to unleash all their power for a merciless battle to the finish line. They wait patiently for the moment, imperceptible from the outside, when everything changes. Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, everything changes and the sprint unfolds with exhilarating dazzle. The heartbeat races, the world seems suspended in the shuddering anticipation of the denouement.
The acceleration is lightning-fast and the speed spreads like an irresistible wave. Legs move with a frenetic cadence, propelling bodies forward in a well-choreographed dance. The road passes beneath their wheels with unrivalled ferocity, while adrenaline feeds their muscles aching from lactic acid and the intensity of the effort. In their quest for victory, riders dare to take extreme risks. Handlebars brushed against each other, touched each other, but none wavered in the face of the ultimate reward: victory. Every pedal stroke becomes a battle to tame time, to get ahead of the others, to climb to the top of the podium. Bodies bend and twist as the will to triumph transcends pain. The body, already tired, is only a means to an end, it’s all in the mind, never give up. The finish line approaches, impatient to crown the one who has dared to defy all obstacles and take all risks.
Exhilarated by this merciless struggle, the crowd roars, galvanizing the riders’ motivation, their eyes fixed on the ultimate goal. The slightest error in trajectory can be fatal, but nothing can stop their adrenalin-driven ardor and thirst for victory, which will only go to one of them.
Sprinting is one of the most fascinating examples of determination. It’s a symphony of unbridled passions, of boiling dreams, written on the roads of the Tour de France and with the 2 most beautiful rewards for a sprinter: stage victory and the Škoda FRANCE green jersey.
The storm has passed and the road is calm again as the other peloton riders cross the line. All will be back on the road tomorrow after an evening of recuperation.
Episode 3: At the summit, surpassing oneself, the ultimate fight in effort
Heading for the steep slopes of the Tourmalet, a legendary Pyrenean pass, this is a climber’s stage where the favourites come out of the woodwork and reveal their ambitions in broad daylight. To illustrate this, here’s a picture of 2 breakaway riders battling for victory. Like dancers, they get up on their pedals for a well-honed choreography, the rhythm is intense, the movements of the bike accompany the cheers of the crowd massed on the side of the road. It’s easy to imagine Pogacar and Vingegaard waging an epic battle for stage victory and the LCL yellow jersey, as they did yesterday on stage 6 of the Tour. Outside the peloton, efforts are colossal to reach the summit and cross the finish line as a winner, a prospect that calls on the 2 breakaways with all their might.
Opponents and breakaway companions, they take it in turns to fight the peloton’s comeback. They climb, breathless and muscles burning. Fatigue makes itself felt, insidiously, trying to slow them down, to bring them back to the peloton and anonymity. Their minds are focused on a single goal: to overcome pain and push back the frontiers of their own abilities.
Then an attack, the “we” of the early breakaway no longer exists, drawing on the ultimate reserves of their already exhausted bodies. Every breath is a fight against asphyxiation. Their muscles, tetanized by the effort, continue to respond. Time seems to stand still, but they can’t afford to relax. They know that the slightest deviation at the top can topple their destiny.
In this second state, they push the limits of human endurance, their bodies on the verge of breaking. They draw on an unsuspected strength, hidden deep within themselves. They are in the red, in that zone where suffering and ecstasy merge, where surpassing oneself takes on its full meaning, like a mountain climber in the death zone or a freedivers in the abyss.
These crucial moments create legends and rivalries, moments that will forever be part of the Tour’s history. The exploits of Poulidor, Merckx, Thévenet, Hinault and Indurain continue to fascinate us. Their struggle was merciless. Every bend, every restart was an opportunity to get the better of the other, to make a mark, to write your name in cycling history. They remind us that the impossible is nothing, and that in fact, nothing has changed.
In this quest for excellence, victory is reserved for those who are prepared to go beyond themselves. The heroes of the road, the exceptional cyclists, remind us that surpassing oneself is the key that opens the doors to accomplishment. They inspire us to never give up, to meet our own challenges with courage and perseverance at every stage of our lives.
Episode 4: Cycling heritage and tradition, a legend that lives on in Auvergne and beyond
The names are familiar: Alpe d’Huez, Tourmalet, Galibier, Iseran, Ventoux, but we’ve never been there. Associated with the magic of the Tour, these majestic passes have been silent witnesses to the exploits of the riders, the moments of glory and defeat that have taken place on their steep slopes. Every bend, every twist tells a story, evokes memories, and plunges us into a dimension where sport rhymes with scenic beauty. It’s essential to pay tribute to the old-timers, to remember the mythical duels and to recall the significant, sometimes tragic moments in the history of the Tour de France.
And this year we’re in for a treat, as it returns to the mythical slopes of the Puy de Dôme after a 35-year absence. Listed as a UNESCO site in 2018, its ascent promises to be thrilling, followed by a Tuesday start from Vulcania, a stage that many riders have ticked off since the 2023 Tour route was presented. I wanted to highlight this ascent with the painting of this episode, witness to a legendary duel between Poulidor and Anquetil, and the victories of Zoetemelk, whom I met and painted in 2019.
In addition to the riders’ exploits, the Tour also highlights magnificent landscapes and regions rich in history and ancestral know-how. Each region crossed by the Tour de France unveils its treasures, offering spectators a total immersion in the diversity of French cultures distilled at the heart of the territories.
I venture a parallel: the Tour de France evokes the spirit of Les Compagnons du Devoir, craftsmen in perpetual pursuit of know-how and excellence. Like the craftsmen who passionately craft their creations, cyclists strive for perfection in every pedal stroke. They are heirs to a 120-year tradition, guardians of a legend handed down from generation to generation. The Tour and its cyclists have their own codes, a hierarchy symbolized by distinctive jerseys such as the LCL yellow jersey, the Škoda green jersey, the E.Leclerc polka-dot jersey, the KRYS white jersey and the rainbow jersey.
This legend continues to be written, to amaze us, inspire us and remind us that nothing is impossible when the heritage of the past blends with the present. The Tour de France takes cycling to ever greater heights, ever faster and ever more exciting. Many thanks to Christian Prudhomme and the A.S.O. – Amaury Sport Organisation team for perpetuating this great adventure, which began in 1903 with a crazy idea from Geo Lefèvre and Henri. Desgrange, of L’Auto, the forerunner of L’EQUIPE.
Episode 5: Cycling, a passion that celebrates the pleasures of the sport
Cycling is the essence of fun, a sport that combines nature, self-improvement, health and sharing. Every pedal stroke is an invitation to explore new horizons, to set off on an adventure on the road. This escape is lived to the rhythm of the wheel revolutions, lulled by a symphony cadenced by our heartbeats and our panting breath. This pleasure combines effort, lightness and the simple pleasure of being in motion. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned cyclist, cycling offers moments of unique reward, of victory over others or over yourself, an escape to an indefinable feeling of freedom, a feeling of simply being alive. Wind, heat, the sound of wheels on asphalt all contribute to an immersive experience on well-known roads or new routes to discover, connected to your body rather than your smartphone.
Everyone can cycle, and the sport’s accessibility is one of its most valuable assets. Like walking, running, swimming, cycling is a skill that many of us learned as children, and one that is deeply ingrained in our memories. With few equipment requirements, it’s also a sport that can be enjoyed beyond the confines of professional structures and competitions. Anyone can hop on their bike and set off on an adventure, as the playground is inexhaustible. Whether solo or in a group, mixing genders, generations or levels, cycling creates strong bonds. Sticking to the wheel, encouraging each other, surpassing oneself and celebrating together, amateurs and pros alike, all share the fundamentals that make cycling unique: a tough sport, a fun sport, a healthy sport, a challenging sport, a team sport.
Sport, and cycling in particular, is a channel for energy, a way of surpassing oneself and pushing back one’s own limits. Each pedal stroke is an opportunity to reconnect with oneself, to silence doubts and uncertainties, a real inner journey that unfolds with the miles.
But beyond cycling, towns like Issoire are deeply committed to access to sport, offering a wide range of sporting activities open to a broad public. They set up appropriate infrastructures, encourage the emergence of varied and safe practices, and support sports-oriented initiatives. And if the Pays d’Issoire Agglo is in the spotlight today with the arrival of the Tour de France, it’s sport as a whole that will come out the winner. It inspires, it channels, it socializes and ultimately contributes to a healthy mind in a healthy body, and to living well together. Issoire and the Barraud Bertrand team understand this and continue to encourage it year after year with a rich and dynamic network of associations.
Episode 6: Chauvinism and French victories - An often colorful July 14th
On this July 14th, when France celebrates its national holiday with pride and joy, I’d like to touch on a very French value: chauvinism. But don’t get me wrong, we’re not talking about that blind, intolerant chauvinism, but rather a light-hearted chauvinism, tinged with humor and a touch of bad humor.
Cycling, the sport that stirs the heart, has seen many French victories on July 14th, creating a tradition that is deeply rooted in our memories. It doesn’t matter if it’s a coincidence or an extra soul, a victory on this special day has an ever more special flavour. On that day, the French heroes of the peloton rode their bikes with tenfold determination, flying our country’s colors high. The likes of Anquetil, Thevenet, Brochard, Virenque and Laurent Jalabert have twice thrown themselves into a fierce battle, pedaling with the unfailing support of a whole nation, devouring the kilometers to conquer a symbolic victory and dreaming of a Frenchman in yellow in Paris on the next Tour.
But the chauvinism I’m talking about goes beyond cycling. July 14th is a time to celebrate our successes in athletics, swimming, tennis and rugby. Our champions have written some wonderful pages in our sporting history on this date. Our FFR Bleuets will be looking to add a new page to this story with a possible world championship title on July 14, and the Marseillaise will certainly have a special flavor. A great program for sports fans.
What also makes this day so special is the fusion of patriotic values and openness to the world. The parade of the armed forces, a symbol of our collective strength and alliances, is accompanied by a parade of sportsmen and women, who, like Chloé Trespeuch and Perrine Laffont, have flown the flag for France on the international stage. It’s a meeting of tradition, modernity and excellence, with the Patrouille de France as the highlight.
In our sometimes complex world, shouldn’t we try to see the glass as half full? So let’s congratulate, encourage and applaud those who try, fail or succeed in all areas, just as we do for our athletes. July 14th is a unique moment to celebrate our country, our culture, our tumultuous history, our diversity and our successes, both sporting and otherwise.
Chauvinism expresses itself through pride and teamwork, so let’s be chauvinists and build the foundations for a better world in all aspects of our lives, while respecting others. Let’s take to the roads with our riders, and perhaps achieve a French victory at the summit of the Grand Colombier, a terrain conducive to breakaways and exploits, or in Cape Town for our blueberries.
Happy July 14th! 🎉
Episode 7: The bicycle between ecology and clean mobility - All committed to our planet
Faced with global warming, resource depletion, pollution, etc., ecology and clean mobility concern us all, and in this world in search of sustainable solutions, the bicycle is positioned as an environmentally-friendly means of locomotion, promoting health through sport and reducing carbon footprint.
The history of the bicycle dates back to the industrial revolution, first as a fashion statement, then as a means of locomotion turned into a sport. Its role in green travel is more relevant than ever. By riding our bikes, we become the actors of a positive change, committed to preserving our environment, a true personal and virtuous CSR approach.
To illustrate this, I’ll use a table where 4 riders follow each other, carried by the powerful suction of the peloton, a green and efficient energy. They take it in turns to pull this group towards greater energy efficiency by reducing friction and effort. By combining the laws of physics and cooperation, we go further, faster, stronger and save precious watts.
The Tour de France is also part of this ecological dynamic. All players are mobilizing to adopt new mobility solutions. Renowned partners such as Škoda and REXEL are becoming ambassadors for a more eco-responsible energy mix that respects our beautiful planet through electric mobility and hybridization. But the Tour is much more than a showcase, it’s a veritable innovation laboratory, bringing new technologies to the heart of the event. Hydrogen, this clean and promising energy source, is unveiled with vehicles from the AURA region in partnership with Phillip van der Merwe‘s MOVIATECH. This reflects our desire to rethink the way we travel, to promote more environmentally-friendly solutions and to look ahead to long-term solutions.
These initiatives are multiplying. Julien Pierre of Fair Play For Planet and other committed entrepreneurs, like CAPILLUM, highlight their creativity and propose concrete actions to reduce our ecological footprint and recycle what can be recycled. Their dedication and commitment show that we can all make our own contribution to the ecological transition. So let’s pedal together for our health, our planet and a greener future for our children and future generations.
An unfailing supporter of the yellow jersey, of all cyclists and of innovative mobility and sustainable development projects, LCL has just renewed its commitment to ASO and the Tour for the next 5 years.
Episode 8: The Praise of Patience - The Road to Victory
An essential value in cycling and in life, patience makes the difference between an ordinary rider and a true champion. Wearers of the yellow jersey come and go, having to cope with incessant attacks from their rivals, constant media coverage and the pressure of being the one to beat.
In a team, the leader can outdo himself on certain stages, but he can’t win a race like the Tour de France on his own. He needs his team-mates of different abilities, these followers, sprinters, climbers and rollers. Each of them plays a key role in the quest for victory. They organize, complement and support each other to enable their leader and contender to position himself in the general ranking and attack at the right moment.
The precious yellow jersey is a pride and a coveted burden. In this unpredictable world, every inch of road can mean the end of his reign. An unexpected attack, a fall, a puncture, an unsuccessful strategy, a bout of fatigue, a defection, sudden illness, hunger pangs or simply a tough opponent… Anything can jeopardize the victory so close at hand, but to succeed, he must patiently manage his efforts, adapting and reacting according to the situation.
A fine strategist, the pretender also knows how to be patient, to move forward in semi-darkness, to hold on tight until the right moment, neither too early nor too late, to come out of the woodwork and dazzle the world with a memorable performance. Mentally and physically prepared, he left nothing to chance. He trained assiduously, improved his technique and studied his opponents. He’s ready to face the steep mountains, the arduous stages, the weather conditions. His experience and expertise guide his choices, enabling him to make the right decisions at the right time, to attack the wearer of the yellow jersey. To win, you have to expose yourself and seize the opportunities that present themselves. Yesterday’s time trial was one of those pivotal moments when everything could change, and Pogacar and Vingeggard knew it: a dream in yellow for the former and confirmation for the latter. The yellow jersey holder brilliantly shattered his rival’s ambitions and gained a major psychological advantage.
To illustrate this episode, I chose a painting featuring the yellow jersey, surrounded and protected by his team-mates. They form a veritable shield around him. The yellow is heavy to carry, but the leader, with patience, preparation, situational intelligence and a dash of luck, fends off the assaults of those who covet his place, valiantly defending his position to cross the finish line on the Champs-Élysées.
Barring any surprises, this 2023 edition has found its winner.
Episode 9: The arrival of the brave on the Champs-Élysées
The finish in Paris is a symbol of duty done, the distinctive jerseys proudly worn by those who have distinguished themselves on this latest edition of the Tour de France. Some will write their name in the cycling pantheon, while others, more humbly, will be satisfied with the pride of having completed this emblematic race. Crossing the finish line on the Champs Élysées is a victory for everyone, and a demonstration of their courage and determination.
During these three intense weeks and 3400 km on the roads of France and Navarre, the cyclists faced the vagaries of the weather, rain, a little, wind, a lot and heat, passionately. But the idea of giving up, not at all, even in the face of extreme conditions where scorching days put their bodies to the test. Despite this, they persevered, staying on course for the Champs-Élysées, buoyed by the spirit of competition and the reward for years of hard work.
Training and consistency are 2 of the keys to success in cycling. It requires unfailing diligence, sometimes painful sacrifices, strict diets and hours of physical and mental preparation. This rigorous preparation is a truth and a necessity for all riders, from leaders to dedicated team members, because no one can take on an event of this scale without solid preparation.
Whether you like cycling or not, this sport pushes the limits of human endurance. Hours and hours on the bike require extraordinary mental strength and courage, perhaps even a touch of madness. Endless climbs, car-speed descents and muscular handlebar-to-handlebar sprints are their trademark, an illustration of what drives them: a mixture of pleasure and suffering, because to conquer without suffering is to triumph without glory. Day after day, they draw on the resources they’ve already built up, support each other, pick themselves up after every fall, motivate each other after every difficulty, with their eyes firmly fixed on their goal: to finish.
I chose to illustrate this magical moment when the yellow LCL jersey passes in front of the Arc de Triomphe, a symbol of success, courage and rewarded perseverance. This jersey represents the culmination of a long journey, the ultimate recognition of efforts made and the consecration of a dream come true.
The Tour thus comes to an end, celebrating a winner and the Jumbo-Visma Team, but all of them, novice or experienced, know that their time on the roads of France will remain forever in the history of their sport and in the minds of the thousands of spectators, including myself, who will have encouraged them in their insatiable quest to be one of the brave finishers, with their eyes already turned towards a new goal: the Tour 2024.
Special episode: On the road to equality - Women's sport on the rise
After years of absence, the women’s Tour de France returned to the roads of France in 2022, a legitimate and eagerly-awaited renaissance for all cycling and sports fans. Clermont Auvergne Métropole, stage town for both the men’s and women’s Tours, became this year’s capital of cycling and gender diversity by hosting the 2 Tours. Lagging behind men’s sport, enhancing the status of women’s sport is a symbolic victory, an undeniable step forward, as it gains in visibility, led by exceptional women. I’m delighted that France Télévision is playing the game and contributing to the media coverage of these women who are just as deserving as the men.
At the heart of this ascent, Marion Rousse, director of the Tour féminin, embodies the impetus of a generation determined to overturn prejudices and forge a resolutely feminine sporting identity. Alongside Isabelle Ithurburu and many others, they are expert spokespersons for sport in all its diversity. Those who talk about sport, those who paint, those who undertake, those who train or pedal, day after day, do so with the same fervor, passion and commitment as their male counterparts, another point in common after merit. On the pavement, in a stadium or in life, the masculine word “work” and the feminine word “performance” combine and complement each other in a universal language that transcends gender.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet and paint many sportswomen, all of whom share my unshakeable desire to excel and win. I’m thinking in particular of Isabelle Blanc, Sandrine MARTINET, both gold medallists, Elise Chabbey at the start of this 2023 Women’s Tour whose story is out of the ordinary, and all the others I haven’t mentioned. It’s not feminism, but rather a quest for recognition, a daily battle to make the most of those who get up every morning to live their passion, to make their mark on the sporting and artistic scene, without ever bending before the obstacles.
Women’s cycling is much more than just a race, it’s a metaphor for a paradigm shift. The women in the peloton are not asking for privileges, but for equal treatment and recognition commensurate with their achievements. They pedal with ardor, courage and intelligence, without question, to conquer their place in the world of sport. So let’s raise our sights to these shining stars of cycling, who remind us that success knows no gender, and that commitment and determination are the foundations of a deserved victory. They inspire us to create a world where gender boundaries are erased, where sport is a crucible of equality and respect.
Long live sport in all its diversity!
Episode n°10 - Transmission, emotions and memories 🚴♀️🏆
As the Women’s Tour approaches its conclusion, here is a final episode to conclude this exploration of cycling. The work “Acceleration” beautifully encapsulates this adventure, this buildup with victory in sight. Will the ultimate time trial of the TDFF 2023 freeze the general ranking or celebrate a racer who has patiently awaited her moment?
After 4 weeks of competitions on the 2 Tours, they were a laboratory of experiences in many respects. Generations succeed each other, the young experiment. The veterans of the peloton share with them their precious experience, guiding them towards maturity. At the same time, these young cyclists are prepared for the top level earlier and earlier, as soon as they are detected. This early maturity raises interesting questions about their longevity in the sport and the ability of teams to accompany them over time. Thanks to all the consultants including Laurent Jalabert and Marion Rousse, to the commentators for sharing your passion and expertise with so much energy. Transmission happens at all levels, both at the heart of the peloton and among spectators.
Finally, for the public, the Women’s or Men’s Tour evokes unique emotions. The caravan is an explosion of joy, a show on wheels. Singing horns, vehicles with extravagant shapes, gadgets flying in the sky, a fairy tale of colors, sounds and an unforgettable memory for young and old. Then the racers arrive, a colorful mosaic, fleeting moments but real connections with the public. Their energy on the roads is palpable and contagious, the arrival of a breakaway or the peloton is accompanied by loud cheers, generous support for the racers in search of a second breathe.
I also take this opportunity to salute all the participants of the Tour, with a special mention for the 2 proud champions wearing the yellow LCL jersey.
Many thanks to LCL for their invaluable support and trust during this journey that began in May with an exhibition alongside Christian Prudhomme, Laurent Fromageau, Jean GHEDIRA, both members of the executive committee, and Pierre Rouhant at the Jaude agency. Thank you for allowing me to discover the behind the scenes at the criterium and for seeing Bernard Thévenet again, for whom I have already painted.
Thanks to Bertrand Barraud for his renewed trust and for allowing me to experience the arrival of the Tour in Issoire.
Cycling stops but will quickly give way to new emotions with the Rugby World Cup. On to new collaborations with Le Coq Français® and Sport et Vie magazine, exhibitions with Acapulco by Eric FROMMWEILER in Paris, at the Seine-et-Marne museum and at the Renaissance Hotel in Aix-en-Provence.
The history of cycling and sport never really stops and continues to be written tirelessly, day after day. See you soon for new artistic and sporting adventures.