Thursday, 30 June 2011

Castle Celles-Veves, near Namur, Belgium

On day 4 of the race the cyclists raced from Wanze (Belgium) to Arenberg, in Porte du Hainaut, thus finally entering France. This was Stage 3 of the 2010 Tour de France and it took the race through Wallonia, a region studded with castles, monuments, and beautiful villages.

Although a flat stage (i.e. a stage without any significant changes in elevation) it was a tough ride for the cyclists since a substantial part of the 213 km route was over cobbled roads.The stage was won by Thor Hushovd, but Fabian Cancellara took over once again as the overall leader, i.e. as the person who had taken the least time so far to ride from Rotterdam to Arenberg.

In the Tour de France, while a handful of super cyclists have their eyes on the main individual prize (for taking the least time to cover the distance from the start at Rotterdam to the finish in Paris), there are a number of other prizes to be won. The main contest is to identify the best all round cyclist and the best all round team. Then there are contests to identify the best sprint cyclist, the best mountain climber, the best young rider (under age 26 years on 1st January of the year of the race), and the most aggressive rider.

By winning Stage 3 Thor Hushovd took a lead in the points standing of the sprint category.

The route was very pictureque and studded with many fine buildings, monuments, and castles. The tv coverage is not limited to the camera following the cyclists. Many cameras are used and several of them from helicopters which criss-cross the country side and show the tv viewer many places of local interest.

I have chosen to draw the Castle of Celles-Veves, located near Namur. There has been a castle here since the 7th or 8th century, but the one that stands now, overlooking the village of Celles, dates back to the early 15th century. It has five lovely towers and continues to be the home of the same family since the 15th century.

My sketch is appoximately 12cm x 9.5cm drawn using a photograph by Jean-Pol Grandmont as reference.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Pouhon Pierre le Grand, Spa, Belgium

The route for the 2nd Stage of the 2010 Tour de France was from Brussels to Spa, a distance of 201 Km entirely within Belgium. This was the third day of racing, on 5th July 2010, since the first day started with only a 9 km prologue within Rotterdam. The 2nd Stage saw a horrible crash in which many cyclists, including Andy Schleck one of the main contenders and Alessandro Petacchi the winner of the previous stage were injured. Sylvain Chavanel took over the overall lead from Fabian Cancellara.

Spa is famous for its Formula1 race track, the oldest casino in Europe that has been in existence since the 18th century, and of course its hot springs. This is the region that gave the word "spa" to the English language. The mineral laden hot springs of the region were famous even in Roman times for their medicinal and rejuvenating properties.

My rough sketch shows Pouhon Pierre le Grand, built in the 19th century around a hot spring. This particular spa takes its name from the fact that the curative powers of its water was endorsed by Tsar Peter the Great in the early 18th century.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

On the second day of the 2010 Tour de France the cyclists started from Rotterdam in Nederlands and raced to Brussels in Belgium. If I recall correctly the field had around 200 cyclists and it was won by Allesandro Petacchi of Italy. But the overall individual lead stayed with Fabio Cancellera who had won the Prologue on the previous day.

The nice thing about the Tour de France is that there are many different contests going on simultaneously. Although the overall prizes are won at the end of 21 days of racing, there are prizes, prize money, points, honour, and bragging rights to be won in many categories on almost every day.

Since the day's race finished at Brussels I sketched the Atomium, erected for the 1958 Brussels World's Fair. This is a steel structure made up of 9 interconnected spheres representing an iron crystal cell magnified 165 billion times. It ws designed by Andre Waterkeyn.

The total height of the structure is 102 meters. Each sphere is 18 meters in diameter and the connecting tubes enclose escalators. The vertical tube connecting to the topmost sphere has an elevator.

The Atomium is one of the most visited sites in Brussels.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Tilted Cube Houses of Rotterdam

Road cycling is one of the sports that I have recently fallen in love with. By recent I mean in the last ten years or so. This coincides with the time when we started getting live tv coverage of the Tour de France in India. We get about two to three hours of coverage every day and I make it a point to watch every minute of it. Not only do I find the contest for the many prizes that the tour offers extremely absorbing, I also enjoy the fact that the tv coverage takes me like a tourist through very many different parts of France and its neighbouring countries. I also find the commentary very interesting, for it covers not only the sport but also many interesting facts related to geography, history, architecture and commerce connected with the route followed by the Tour.

The Tour de France is an annual race for individual and team prizes. It was originally conceived as a promotional event to boost the sales of a newspaper. But it has grown in popularity, and stature to become one of the premier annual sporting events of the world.

These days the racing is spread over 21 days, usually in July, with two or three rest days thrown in-between. The distance covered varies from year to year, but on an average it is around 3000 km long. Most of the racing is through France, but the race also visits neighbouring countries briefly every year. The route goes through cities, the countryside, plains and mountains. Some of the mountain climbs are particularly steep and in the plains very strong cross winds become a major factor. The race starts from a different location each year and for the last 35 years or so the last stage has always finished at the Champs Elysees.

The race route also alternates between clockwise and anti-clockwise travel across France every year. Last year's tour started in Rotterdam and took a clockwise route around France to Paris. This year the route will therefore be anticlockwise. It begins this year on Saturday, July 2nd and I have already begun to count the hours to the start.

Last year I decided to something more than merely watch the tv coverage of the race. I decided to sketch something connected with each day's race route. It could be a distinctive landscape, or a natural feature, or a building, or monument, and do it in ink. And I also decided to stick to a fairly small sized format of around 9.5 cm x 12 cm (3.75" x 4.75") because I happened to have some cards in that size lying around. My intent was not to make these sketches very detailed, but to only capture basic forms and a sufficient amount of detail to make the landmarks identifiable. Over the next few posts I shall be sharing these sketches with you. Do let me know what you think of them

The Tour started last year with an individual time trial within Rotterdam. My first sketch is therefore one of a landmark cluster of buildings in Rotterdam - the Tilted Cube Houses designed by architect Piet Blom in 1977.