Cycling has ruled the headlines this summer, with a historic first British Tour de France win for Bradley Wiggins and no less than seven gold medals in the Olympic velodrome, spearheaded by Team GB’s Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton.
The increasing success of our cyclists over the past few years has inspired more and more amateurs to follow in their heroes’ footsteps, including our very own Picture Editor, May Starey. For the second year in a row, she headed to France for the L’Etape Du Tour, an event which lets you experience stages of the Tour de France route for yourself, a few days before the pro riders.
The challenge in the office was to find the right car to get May, her husband and friends to the famous hills. It needed to be economical enough to cover long distances without breaking the bank, comfortable enough to relax tired legs and have as much space as a cruise liner.
After a few hours of head scratching and Top Trump style debates, we decided to do the same as a stumped exam candidate, and copy remorselessly. We’d drive the same motor as pretty much every official and team member who drives the 2,100-mile route. And that meant taking a Skoda Superb.
No less than 300 Skodas supported the Tour this year, so each time you witness a sinewy cyclist grimacing with effort, there’ll be a Superb in chase, normally with a team coach shouting words of encouragement from the window.
Puncture a tyre, or worse, and a new part will be whisked from one of their roof racks before the riders say, “can I just sit here for a minute”.
And it’s not just because Skoda wants to sell cars to the two billion people watching on TV. Very few other models would fit the bill.
The Skoda Superb is effortless to drive, unbelievably commodious and hushed, even at speed. It’s one of those cars which will turn you into its biggest fan. Do you remember its TV advert? No, we don’t either. That’s because Skoda hardly needed to bother with one. It’s owners – and journalists like us – will keep telling people how good it is until we border on being the worst bore at the party.
In May’s words, “It was amazing, simply amazing. My husband’s mum kept trying to move the seats forward, because she couldn’t understand how she had so much legroom. If I was buying a family car it would go straight to the top of my list. I liked driving it so much I didn’t let anyone else behind the wheel in 1,000 miles.”
It wins our unofficial gold medal for team pursuits hands down.