The Tour de France looks set to get the reality TV treatment, with former England rugby and cricket stars, an OIympic champion and cast members from rating-leading reality shows likely to ride L’Etape du Tour this summer for a Channel 5 series.
Called Tour de Celeb, the six-part series will air on Saturday evenings on this summer, reports The Sun, with participants including ex-rugby player Austin Healey, cricketer Darren Gough, Olympic gold medallist in the skeleton Amy Williams and model Jodie Kidd among those taking part.
They are reportedly being coached by two-time Olympic champion Victoria Pendleton, herself no stranger to reality TV having taken part in the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing following her retirement from cycling after the 2012 London OIympics.
While some might question whether as a former track cyclist she’s the best qualified person to coach relatively inexperienced riders to tackle Alpine climbs, more recently, Pendleton also proved her ability to take on a challenge outside her comfort zone.
Last month, the 35-year-old finished fifth in the Foxhunters’ Chase over the Gold Cup course at horse racing’s Cheltenham Festival.
According to reports in The Sun and other media outlets, the series will involve the celebrities tackling a cycling challenge in the Pyrenees.
While it’s entirely possible they will be training there, road.cc can reveal that their ultimate destination is more likely to be the Alps, where L’Etape du Tour takes place on Sunday 10 July.
Covering 146 kilometres, it follows the route of Stage 20 of this summer’s Tour de France from Megève to Morzine.
It includes four tough ascents – the Col des Aravis, the Col de la Colombiere, the Col de la Ramaz and last but certainly not least the Col de la Joux Plane before the descent to the finish, with 3,335 metres of climbing in all.
Last week, a video of the route of this year’s Etape du Tour was uploaded to Vimeo under the name Tour de Celeb by Stephen Lovelock – also the name of the series producer of last year’s sports reality ITV series, Eternal Glory.
Also involved in that production was a company called Wildfire Creation, which confirms on its website that it is “now working with STV to make Tour de Celeb for Channel 5.”
Wildfire Creation’s David Sutton, who was series director of Eternal Glory, has posted brief details of his involvement in Tour de Celeb to the website The Talent Manager, where people involved in the creative industries showcase their work.
He is working as series director from 16 February to 16 July, and that it will see “eight celebrities train for and then ride a stage of the Tour de France.”
Those last few words, together with the route video uploaded to Vimeo, appear to confirm that it is L’Etape du Tour which the celebrities are training for.
Hopefully the producers will have seen last week's news that the French cycling federation has banned disc brakes from events falling under its rules, including L'Etape du Tour - although the thought of eight celebs arriving at the start line of an event they have spent months training for only to be told they can't take part would admittedly make for some compelling TV.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.