One of the enjoyments of the Tour de France is the additional coverage given to this race. Instead of a few lines in L’Equipe there are five pages or more every day and the same is true across all of the cycling media. It’s not just the depth of news and analysis, it’s the variety with extras like podcasts. Only the Humans Invent podcast from the Tour de France has kept going after the race and now has a near-settled weekly format.
It’s based around a trio of British writers: Lionel Birnie, Daniel Friebe and Richard Moore, each prolific writers with plenty of experience in the sport. They meet up to record the show, often in a café or pub and this is reflected in an easy conversational style. Imagine three friends getting around a coffee or a pint of British beer rather than just sitting around a microphone. The subjects are what the podcast calls “talking points”, so news and current events. You get thoughts on the Tour de France route after the journalists have been to the presentation in Paris; this week it’s their take on Ryder Hesjedal and how Jonathan Vaughters is running his team.
The contributors are all knowledgeable and informed with good powers of recall for past events, often because they were there in the hotel or at the finish line. Better still each of the trio has subtly different styles and angles, for example Friebe is more Euro-centric with references to Italian cycling or the new generation of French cycling.
humansinvent.com is a website dedicated to invention and innovation. As a fine invention obviously the bicycle has a place here and you’ll find some clips on the website about Grame Obree. The connection to pro cycling seems to come about via Sharp Electronics. They sponsor Garmin-Sharp and the humansinvent.com website so there’s the overlap and having sponsored some Tour de France podcasting in July the show lives on.
I have a small hypothesis that says cycling writing is flourishing in Britain and our trio want to hone their broadcasting and audio skills. Being a knowledgeable writer is one thing but with live audio there’s no delete button or edit function and talking to a topic is harder than it sounds. Take the latest episode with Lionel Birnie discussing Bjarne Riis’s deal with Oleg Tinkov as “being in bed with a loose cannon” and this mixed metaphor gets gently mocked by Richard Moore. It’s the kind of thing we could all do over a coffee with friends… but in a broadcast interview it’d stand out. Everyone wins, the listener gets a free show. And for the most part it sounds accomplished, even when recorded in a London pub the audio is good.
It’s Brit-centric at times, the recorded interviews tend to involve British riders. But British cycling’s big these days so it’s a relevant insight into things, Moore especially has covered British Cycling and Team Sky a lot.
Besides every podcast out there seems to be run with a domestic bias. Cycling Central has more than an Australian accent, it’s got a regular focus on the domestic scene whilst the Velocast’s This Week In Cycling History makes a running joke about Cillian Kelly’s ability to squeeze in a reference to Irish cycling. But as already mentioned Daniel Friebe is often there with a Euro touch.
It’s easy listening but intelligent conversation. Like the book reviews on here, the point isn’t to impose personal tastes but to share something so you can try it out for yourself. If you’re not familiar with the podcast but enjoy books and magazine articles from the trio then give this a listen.