‘Etappe’ a Belgian magazine about cycling heroes

07 Aug 2012

Today I'll review the 1st edition of a brand new magazine called 'Etappe'. It's a Belgian magazine about cycling heroes brought to you by WieMu, short for 'Wielermuseum Roeselare' (cycling museum at Roeselare, Belgium).

Me and my cycling

Before telling you more about the magazine a little bit background so you understand where my love for this two wheeler is coming from. As some of you might know, I've been growing into a true cycling fan over the past couple of years. I just recently bought my 1st real race bike, so I'm still a newbie. Though I have been cycling as good as non-stop, 3 to 4 times a week since the past 3 years. I think I must really love it, to keep on cycling so regularly, in good and bad weather. Rainy Fall or freezing Winter, it doesn't matter for me, I still jump on my bike and make sure I ride my weekly kilometres. I enjoy every minute I spend on my bike. I feel free and alive, as I clear my head, and recharge my creative batteries…

Introducing Etappe

'Etappe' is a (Belgian/written in Dutch) magazine for the true cycling fan that has a healthy curiousty towards the cycling heroes of the past. This first edition takes you back in time, into the early days of cycling, 100 years ago, when the 1st Belgian, Odiel Defraeye, won his 1st Tour de France. You'll get introduced into the history of cycling in the late 19th Century, right in the middle of the glory days of the belle époque poster art. Posters from popular designers like Théophile Steinlen or Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec are still gems that you'll find at secondhand markets. Almost all poster designers from the belle époque created ads for the cycling industry. An interesting fact is that yellow was the ad makers favourite color. Referring to the enlightenment you'll always get from pedalling.

Cycling advertising poster 'Cycles Sirius' by Henri Gray (pseudonym for Henri Boulanger, 1859 - 1924).

Mystery surrounding the first yellow jersey

There is also an interesting short story about the mystery surrounding the first yellow jersey, based on statements from Philippe Thys. Outside his own words, there is little evidence to be found that this story is what actually happened. Anyway, it's a curious and most surprising story about pride and honour. Surprise, surprise… was it a Belgian who wore the 1st one (see 2 last photos of the image below, showing a photo of Philippe Thys back in 1913)?

The first image below is a piece of a comic strip with Odiel Defraeye in the spotlight. The magazine is not only an interesting read, as a graphic designer, I also find the layout, general design style, in combination with the old posters, and other vintage photos a real treat for the eye.

The magazine is full of funny anecdotes and small facts, and you constantly try to imagine how things were back then. The contrast with today is so very striking. There are a few chapters about the early days of the Tour de France. The rides were immense, like 400 km, where the riders had to start during the night…

The stomach of a cyclist is like the fire of a locomotive that must burn continuously

— Henri Desgrange, Tour boss (1898)


One of the most interesting articles in 'Etappe #01' is about how the riders got their food supplies back then, and what the riders ate and drank. A rider with an empty stomach is like a bird for the cat we say here in Flanders and falls prey to the 'fringale', the infamous hunger punch that has hit many riders off their bike figuratively. The only way to beat this danger is eat, eat and eat some more.

Photo of the food supply ('La Grande Bouffe') at Blaye during the 6th ride at the Tour de France in 1931, which was the cover photo of the French magazine 'Le Miroir de Sport'.

5 kilos of supplies

To give you an idea, the Belgian rider Henri Parmentier always collected the following at the supply post; 1 bottle of tea, 1 bottle of Vittel, 2 eggs, 1/4 chicken, 2 sandwiches with ham, 2 cheese, 2 with jam, 2 rice cakes, 6 dry cakes, 2 bananas, 2 oranges, prunes, raisins, sugar and a strip milk chocolate. Enough for 5 kilos of supplies. The contrast with today only speaks to your imagination. Stories of winning and loosing, followed by stories of accidents and bad luck for one rider, and good luck for another rider, pure determination and heroism.

Product placement

One of the other subjects in the magazine is about the introduction of product placement and team sponsoring into cycling. Team sponsoring was usually restricted to bicycle brands or brands of tires. You'll get the full background story of the legendary French bicycle brand Alcyon, and its influence due to its many victories (with 5 Belgian wins on this bike). Furthermore you'll see photos of brands that use Eddy Merckx 's face on products varying from oranges, to footballs and cigars.

Central person in this magazine is Odiel Defraeye, first Belgian Tour de France winner, exactly 100 years ago. Stories about his live and cycling career, combined with old photos and newspaper cutouts, but also the influence his victory in the Tour de France got on people here in Belgium and the press, it's all very well written and documented. It truly shows how our cycling culture originated and grew over the years, and how it brings out our national pride that we Belgians show so rarely.

Design & cycling

What a true pleasure for the eye! The cover of 'Etappe #01'. was done by Italian illustrator Riccardo Guasco. The cover is part of a series where Riccardo illustrated his 'dream team' of cyclists. Love how they all exist of flat fields of color with great usage of textures. These posters are for sale at Society6.

Dream team cyclist illustrations by Riccardo Guasco

This magazine is the ideal marriage between one of my favourite interests; cycling, and beautiful design. Just looking at the cover convinced me to have a look and read it. It's for the 'design loving' cyclist, or call it the cycling 'design lover', who's not afraid to dig into history and get teleported back into time.

Where to buy?

In Belgium you can buy this magazine in these local newspaper shops (PDF), or at WieMu and costs 7,95 Euro.


  1. 1 Martin S 07 Aug 2012

    Super stuff! It’s great to see such stylish cycling magazines and it’s great to see them survive.

    In Sweden we’ve got only one cycling magazine and it’s not particularly good.

    Maybe we’ll see you doing some stuff for Etappe in the future? ;-)

    Keep up the riding and ride safe!

  2. 2 Chris Prescott 18 Aug 2012

    This is a great post, especially when it’s my second favorite thing to do after creating, Cycling! I myself own a race bike too, pedaling to no end. Sometimes for me, when I am stuck on a project, I feel like biking is a great way to clear / refresh the mind. Intriguing design work mentioned, very nice Veerle! Brought a smile to my face!