Theatres Of Dreams

The Badger and EVdR re-enact Strack v Kennedy on La Redoute

The home ground of Manchester United Football Club, Old Trafford, is colloquially known around the world as the Theatre of Dreams. It holds a revered place in the hearts of the club’s supporters, and even those of other teams; it’s an icon of football, and sport in general. Millions have gone there to watch their heroes play, but how many can claim to have set foot on the hallowed turf, let alone have a kick around or slide studs up into a tackle a’la Roy Keane?

That’s why Cycling is such a unique and special sport; we can ride our bikes on the very same roads that our own heroes have raced upon, where the very greatest racers have conducted battles in the very greatest races for decades. We can recreate winning moves in the exact spots that they actually happened; want to smash it over the Carrefour like Faboo or Tom? Got a hankering to climb the Muur in the big dog like Museeuw? Maybe give it some berries on La Redoute like The Badger? You don’t need an entry fee or a permit or to jump a fence; the roads are ours to ride, anytime.

This is something I love the most about the Keepers Tours, besides hanging out with mates both old and new of course. Every day there is an iconic road to be ridden, an anecdote related by William, Alex, or even the Lion himself. “This is where I attacked to win my second Ronde” is something I’ll never forget hearing as I climbed alongside Johan on the Tenbosse, the small crowd lining the climb to catch the Espoirs Ronde double-taking as they recognised the legend out for a ride with some nobodies on a chilly Flemish afternoon. How many Man U fans will ever get to hear Eric Cantona say “this is where I blasted one through the wall and made Seaman look like a park goalie” as he slots a pass for you?

Football fans can dream. Cycling fans can live them.

[dmalbum path=”/ Galleries/[email protected]/dream roads/”/]

KT2013 on the Carrefour l’Arbre

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30 Replies to “Theatres Of Dreams”

  1. So true. when working with Greater Manchester Police for a short time a few years back and planning a VIP visit to Old Trafford we were well warned to stay off the pitch. I went everywhere inside else but on blades of grass? No Chance. Wembley Stadium were not so precious but a slide tackle would have ruined the knee of my suit.

    Waiting for news of a Keepers Tour 2014. Cobbles or Alpes?

  2. is there any other sport where the fans can get so close? Or so crazy so close? I am amazed by fans being able to run alongside the No.1 athlete in his sport yelling obscenities in his ear! It would be like standing next to Cantona as he was about to take a penalty shot FTW, and advising him just what you thought of his parentage.

  3. Spot on. You’ve captured Powhatan makes cycling unique. I’ve been to Old Trafford a fair few times and the atmosphere is flat when compared to Alp D’Huez on race day.

    There’s also the small point that most premiership footballers are overpaid, cheating, diving shits who could all do with a large dose of Rule #5!

  4. It’s awesome to get so close.  Before the “Depart” from Annecy this year we had just parked the car and as we walked towards the start Sagan rode in front of me.  We followed to have a nosey and were right in amongst the whole team as they got ready for the day’s racing.  Nobody even looked at us funny as if to say, “You shouldn’t be here.”  I hope it stays like that.

    Not up to Pedale’s standards.

  5. In my small mind I’m going clear on the steepest ramp…

    I think its truly the greatest asset of the pro racing scene. On the right day you can go and stand by an obscure stretch of road somewhere and the stadium comes to you!

  6. @Harminator

    A Merckx brother. It is the coolest thing in the world to ride these routes we have only seen on the tv for years and years. Nothing makes it more clear than riding any part of any race route at half their speed; they are pros and we are not.

    And to watch the race for free, where ever one wants. If one is lucky there will be beer and frites close by too. I can’t think of another sport like that but that might because I’m dumb.

  7. This. This is one of the reasons that our sport is soooo much better than other “ball sports”. We can ride the same roads, and occasionally actually ride with pros, be it at a Grand Fondo, KT, or just by chance out on the open roads. If you’re in a position to be a Cat I/II, you can toe the line from time to time with domestic pros that may be on their way to Europe (I’ve raced with Horner, COTHO, Rathe (from Garmin) and even Bobke (Bob Roll) has been in the bunch here a couple times. The list goes on.

    But better than that, is the access we get: @Cyclops chatting up Jens “motherfucking” Voigt etc. This photo is from yesterday. My longtime friend and teammate with T. Boo. In Vegas. Very Bad Things…..

  8. Those roads that ooze historical sweat cannot be matched over here on US soil..but us old guard can have similar, albeit not so historical, experiences. Like lining up next to and chatting with some Webcor ponytailed dude in a local event. Nice kid and had lots of good things to say. And he dominated all over the country that year. Can anyone do that with any ball sport?

    The transition to bringing the worlds best to our neck of the woods is very humbling. In describing the course for a past AToC stage, the riders said it was “lumpy”. Lumpy? There’s a 13% pitch in that fucking climb! Lumpy? And Sagan won the day. It does give my old guns a few extra ounces of push to know our current crop of pro’s have been here..

    Not quite the Lion, but it will have to do for now.

    Thanks brett.

  9. this is all so spot on. I have done some of the early bird time trials here in Perth, where the course record is held by one Cameron Meyer, ok so in his Pre-pro years but its kinda cool.

    I’ve never understood why the football codes are so precious about their turf, went to the MCG (the cathedral of AFL here in Oz) with my 8 year old son, we asked if he could  step on to the grass, maybe even have a little kick? “Oh no sir that’s not possible” – FFS, what’s an 8 year old in trainers going to do? rip up the turf more than 90kg behemoth in cleats?

  10. My friend Charlie is in Italy right now with his bike. His daughter lives in Florence. Hopefully he will be riding the finishing circuit, maybe with some professionals, and then watch some of the races from roadside. Who could ask for more?

  11. @Marko

    Have you learned to ride the crown yet, Bretto?

    Can’t you read the minds of the riders on that Keepers’ clip?

    “Man, its is SHIT here in the gutter – gotta get to the crown. Jeeesus the crown is fucked! It looked better from the gutter. Maybe it is better in the gutter. Yes there’s a smooth patch. Oh no. The gutter is sooo shit. Maybe the crown…oh fuck!.”

  12. @Harminator


    Have you learned to ride the crown yet, Bretto?

    Can’t you read the minds of the riders on that Keepers’ clip?

    “Man, its is SHIT here in the gutter – gotta get to the crown. Jeeesus the crown is fucked! It looked better from the gutter. Maybe it is better in the gutter. Yes there’s a smooth patch. Oh no. The gutter is sooo shit. Maybe the crown…oh fuck!.”

    Yep, really depends on the sector… Carrefour is definitely better/faster in the ‘gutter’ (which is barely wider than a 28c tyre). Except when dickheads stand in the way…

  13. When I first got into it 25 years ago, one of the things I loved about cycling was that, in this land of football and cricket “gods,” it was very much a minority pursuit, and you could show up at a club race and mingle with guys and gals who were World and Olympic reps, and there was no “us and them,” we were all part of the same deal, just some were faster. Fast forward to when I returned a few years ago, and it was great to discover it’s still the same, and someone like Robbie McEwen (who I used to get soundly beaten by as a junior) would still show up at a summer club crit for training; I used to think it was just because, being a small tightly-knit sporting community it was just because we were banding together, nowadays I think perhaps it’s deeper than that….

  14. Sigh..I come here to get away from the never ending coverage of football we are subjected too here in the UK.

    To watch grown men running around in circles swearing and diving around like fairies whilst the fans bay for blood is pretty much my idea of purgatory.

    A great article…soiled by references to That Fucking Sport!

  15. Kicking a ball around Old Trafford would never look or feel as good as this!!!!!

  16. Living the dream……….. Pretending to be Pantani on Ventoux. Scoring the winner in the world cup final wouldn’t compare.

  17. @slatanic

    …Pretending to be Pantani…

    Looks like the EPO has caused the blood in your right arm to congeal quite badly.

    Awesome photo, looking very pro. It’s definitely on my list of climbs that I need to lose anther 10kg for.

  18. Its not even just being on the same roads as the greats, you can get to feel the pain & experience a taste of what it must have been like on the big day (Without the charged crowd)…….. Having giving a lifetime reading & watching these famous roads from rural Ireland, to be there & attack them (More of a slow retreat :)) was indescribable. These are magic places. Whatever it takes get there………. Next spring hope to attack the Arenberg like Kelly & destroy myself in the process :)

  19. This is on one of my local loops in leafy Surrey – last week the Tour of Britain came rolling up this road.  I’m sure I was up there in the breakaway this lunchtime……….

  20. @Mike_P

    @Teocalli Where is that, as leafy surrey is my manor too? All our leafy lanes can look the same after a while.

    Yeah they do don’t they!  It’s Thursley Road going out of Elstead towards Hindhead with Thursley Common on the left just short of Prides Farm Shop (their meat is great).

  21. Nice one! I’d love to ride some of the mtn. and berg roads but the really cool thing is that I also dream of riding routes I haven’t ridden in a few weeks, or some that I haven’t ridden in a few years after moving to a different place. That’s fun to dream about as well.

    Popularity is a very tricky thing. I follow NHL ice hockey, European football, and most keenly, PRO cycling. When I was young I was called a “soccer fag” for years on end for playing that sport. Not fringe, but definitely not mainstream and seeing a game on t.v.? Good luck. Now it’s not uncommon (not England, by any means) to see football jerseys at the bar, on the street, etc. And now the Premier League is on a major t.v. network. And using mainstream actors/comedians to advertise. I wonder what might happen to the NHL as it gains popularity and cycling as well. I honestly think cycling is secure in the U.S. because a) it is fucking hard to do, the whole suffering aspect thing… and b) car culture rules in the U.S. and cyclists are going to continue getting run over by distracted, aggressive drivers. I think this’ll keep most to the golf course. (cross might have an interesting effect; most cross riders around here drive to ride, most roadies cycle to cycle, and most mtn. drive to ride)

    I think teams like Man. U. have totally fucked the competitiveness of the sport. And I also think that stadium nickname is oh, a wee bit pretentious.

  22. Who is the fellow Calgarian sporting the Bow Cycle gilet in photo #5 form the Keepers tour series?

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