Cyclists follow big race - literally

Marlborough cycling enthusiast Chris Ginders has a dual mission when he goes to France next week to follow the world's most famous cycle race.

The Tour de France begins on Saturday with a prologue before cyclists set out on the 3497-kilometre course over terrain that includes some the toughest mountain climbs in the world.

Ginders organised and guided a group of cycling enthusiasts from Marlborough to the tour last year and on Monday leaves with another group to follow the famous event.

They will ride several of the stages after the tour riders have gone through, and now Ginders hopes to entice cyclists from France to visit Marlborough next year.

"I've been talking to a French contact, who is helping me organise the tour, about bringing French people over here to do the Forrest GrapeRide and the cycle Tour of New Zealand [organised by Marlborough's Pete Yarrell]. It's just a matter of working out the logistics, but we've got a little bit of a plan."

Ginders loves the Tour de France experience, which offers the public a rare opportunity to ride parts of the course including the highest climb, a 26km slog up the Col de la Madeleine, and the Col du Tourmalet, an 18km mountain ride. Another highlight of the trip is expected to be a ride with a French cycling club from which Ginders hopes to recruit people for a trip to New Zealand.

Four members of the Marlborough group are doing both the Alps and Pyrenees sections. They are Ginders, Jim Parsons, Grant Baxter and Nigel Nesbit.

Peter Blackmore, Rose Bothwell and Mary Lissaman are doing the Alps section and Kevin and Alison Murphy and Robert and Lynne Kennedy the Pyrenees section.

The Marlborough Express