Ned Boulting on the Tour de France, the Tour du Yorkshire and cycling’s steep learning curve

It sparked a love affair with racing that saw him work behind the mic at the event for 20 editions. Now Boulting, ITV’s lead Tour de France commentator, is performing a one-man show across the country to celebrate the race.

Re-Tour de Ned is billed as a “theatrical roadmap for anyone aspiring to wear the yellow jersey on the Champs Elysées: a really, really rough guide to the tactics (pedaling faster) and challenges (pedaling not fast enough) that will have to be deployed to win the greatest bicycle race in the world”.

“It’s supposed to make you laugh and it will make you laugh,” Boulting says. “It’s a fun celebration of all the craziness and absurdity as well as the big business, scale and epic nature of the Tour de France when looking at it from a side angle.”

Ned Boulting brings his Tour de France show to Yorkshire. Photo: Adam Laurent

The show explores the history of the tour as well as the last edition of this summer which has just disappeared. “Right now, I can’t imagine a time when the Tour de France wasn’t part of my life,” says Boulting.

It’s come a long way since its first edition cover in 2003. “I had no idea what I was doing. I waded around like a helpless fool for a few years.

“I knew I liked it, I just didn’t understand it. It took me years to master the event.

“It was a very, very steep and very public learning curve as well. I think a lot of our viewers looked at me and thought who is so stupid and why doesn’t he know anything about cycling?”

Boulting has also been involved in coverage of the Tour de Yorkshire cycling race, which first took place in 2015, the year after the region hosted the Grand Départ of the Tour de France.

The 2022 Tour de Yorkshire has been cancelled, with organizers saying the race “would not be viable” due to “the impact of Covid-19, combined with increasing financial challenges”. The 2020 and 2021 races had not taken place due to the pandemic and plans were announced to launch a new event from 2024.

“The Tour de Yorkshire got off to such a stunning start and it was immediately understood and embraced by the region,” says Boulting. “The crowds and the efforts of all the villages and towns at the time of the race were out of scale…

“Very few races achieve what the Tour de Yorkshire has done and no race, to my knowledge, has ever done it as quickly as the Tour de Yorkshire, capitalizing on the Tour de France coming to Yorkshire. feels like he should come back in some form and I hope he does.

Boulting is at York Grand Opera House tonight, at Ilkley King’s Hall tomorrow and at Leeds City Varieties on November 7. Visit nedboulting.com/live

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