Rob Arnold: 20 years on the Tour de France
It’s not every day that you stand on a podium at the Tour de France, so please allow me the indulgence of sharing a moment that happened in Carcassonne on Tuesday 24 July 2018…
The Tour de France has become a big part of my life. This year provided a special opportunity; a moment to receive some recognition for the work that I’ve done on the race since 1997. This is actually my 22nd Tour de France, my 21st complete Big Loop, but in Carcassonne on the morning of the 16th stage of the 2018 race, it was my time to get a medal: 20 years of service, the ‘Trophée de la Fidélité‘ something that, I assure you, will take pride of place at home.
Christian Prudhommme was generous with his overview of the work that I’ve done – both for the Tour itself (over a period of 16 years working with ASO during the month of July) as well as with RIDE Media.
Below is a little summary of my involvement in the race over the years.
(Big thanks to everyone who has been kind enough to write words of encouragement yesterday and today. I’m quietly chuffed to be part of the Tour Family and pleased to have been given this little moment of recognition.)
– Rob Arnold
Photos: Justin Davis
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20 Years: an overview
After a 10-stage stint at the Tour in 1997, working as a consultant for SBS TV, I returned in 1998 to report on the entire race. Contracted to write the English component of the live coverage for the official website, LeTour.fr, I completed the Big Loop along with Eric Serres (who wrote the French content). It marked the beginning of a 16-year stint with ASO.
“If you are invited back for a second Tour,” I was told in 1998, “you’re part of the Tour de France family.”
I was not only part to the family every year from 1998 to 2013, I felt welcomed, appreciated and respected.
I continued to expand the content delivery on LeTour.fr through to the 100th edition of the Tour, all the while spending the rest of the year as publishing editor of a quarterly cycling magazine in Australia.
Publishing RIDE Cycling Review was my “day job”, but I always set July aside to fulfil my contract with the Tour de France.
From 1999 to 2003, I worked alongside Bob Guennegan in what was a period of significant change for the race.
English become more commonly used and the Armstrong years ensured that there was always considerable interest from nations which had long been on the outer tier of the cycling sphere… and it was great to be able to provide commentary that was not only read online by millions of cycling enthusiasts, but also utilised via intranet by reporters and journalists in the salle de presse as well as the radio and TV tribune.
In 2004, I began work with another French colleague, Louis Doucet. Together we covered the Tour, writing the live coverage of LeTour.fr as well as the daily film de l’etape race summary and conducting post-stage interviews.
I completed 10 Tours de France with Doucet before moving on and focussing on my young, growing family and the responsibilities I had with RIDE Media.
Of course, I’ve returned to the Tour every years since 2013, albeit working in a different capacity: still reporting on cycling – of course – but this time for my own company, www.ridemedia.com.au as well as freelance contributions for various Australian media outlets, including SBS TV.
In advance of the Centenaire edition in 2003, I brokered an arrangement to publish the Official Tour de France Guide in Australia. This was meant to be a one-off in celebration of the first 100 years of the race… but the magazine was quickly established as Australia’s favourite cycling title and it has since become a hugely popular annual production.
The Australian edition of the Official Tour de France Guide is by far the biggest selling cycling magazine in Australia every year, and it has also been the largest of all the international licensees: with the 2011 and 2012 editions growing to 292 pages!
The Official Tour de France Guide continues to generate healthy sales and, over the years, it has introduced many Australians to the intricacies of the Tour de France and cycle sport in general.
In 2009, I wrote the biography of Cadel Evans. ‘Close to Flying’ was on the best-sellers list in Australia for almost five months and it introduced many to the rider who would become the first Australian to win the Tour de France.
I’ve attended every stage of the Tour de France since the prologue in Dublin in 1998. I’ve written millions of words about cycling – with a strong focus on the race itself – and have watched the sport evolve during a turbulent but exciting time for cycling.
What had long been a Euro-centric sport grew to become a truly global one during my years of association with the Tour de France and I like to think that my contributions have helped explain the beauty of the event to people around the world.
I had grown up watching the Tour de France and, in my youth, thought it would be special if I could witness just one stage of the race. I’ve now seen hundreds and spent well over a year of my life on the road following this bike race. I have met thousands of people because of the race, befriended many and believe that I will always be part of the Tour family.
This is my 21st complete Tour… and I’m proud to have been a part of the race.
– Rob Arnold
A moment to remember…
A big thank you to everyone who has been part of this journey. Many friendships have been made on Tour that will last a lifetime. It’s great to have shared the ride with you all.