© Alexandre Montesinos

Un Anglais à Marseille #15

Prof d’anglais et coursier à vélo à Marseille, Rory Launder livre son regard sur la ville tout en vous donnant une occasion de réviser votre anglais. Dans ce nouvel épisode, il nous propose de tenter l’ascension de la Gineste ce week-end, en compagnie d’Arthur et Gaby, deux passionnés de cyclisme à l’origine de l’événement Everesting la Gineste.



Rumbling up Michelet the cycle lane is pretty convenient. The naïve colours of Le Courbusier lit up by early morning sun to the right. On reaching l’Obelisque I take off my jacket, and joke to myself that cycling to work is the best part of my day. Depending on the groups I will teach, it might well be.


The traffic immediately snarls up again after the roundabout. The cycle lane reappears. A couple more intersections and we’ve reached Vaufrèges, where on a workday one turns right and heads up to Luminy. This Saturday however, we’ll turn left and head to the basecamp of Everesting la Gineste.


Arthur and Gaby co-creators of La Gineste en Vélib meet me at La Courserie. Saturdays are not as busy as weekdays for the delivery company, so they can lend a couple of cargo-bikes for the event. I admire their matching Cinellis, matching caps, and matching big, tanned, hairy, tattooed legs.


They look like the legs of couriers. Tattooed for the style, tanned by the weather, swollen by the work. Serious road cyclists often shave their legs for reasons of (for me dubious) aerodynamics, or to aid with massaging and hygiene, or simply because they like the way it looks. There is an unusual quirk in courier culture that while many of the men shave their legs, many of the women don’t. I imagine for much the same reasons.


The sadistic geniuses are in fine form, stretching their gorgeous legs out in front of me, before crossing them politely at the ankle. Arthur begins defensively and with gusto, either slighty offended or simply incredulous that I would dare to ask why? La Gineste? “The Gineste is our col unique! For the people of Marseille it’s the first big hill you will ever do on a bike. We know every corner. It’s our hill of reference.” It’s true, when we check the route on holiday, we divide the total dénivelé by three-hundred and something so we can visualise how much climbing we have left for the afternoon. ‘Ok, ça-va, a double Gineste to go, and we’ll be at the campsite.’


Gaby explains “La Gineste en Vélib in 2019 was our flagship event. Our hallmark. The event that defines us. There is always some element of ‘yeah, but your bike is much better than mine, it’s not fair’. The Vélib was our way to level the competitive playing-field.


“It costed 4€ to participate, to rent a Vélib. For us it’s sad that these old, clunky, workhorses have been replaced by electric city-bikes. Vélib helped us a bit with our events. Not really with sponsorship, but they gave us a few presents for the winners, and more importantly made sure the sites at the l’Obélisque were well-stocked and recently serviced. We have not contacted the city this time. We would like to keep some pirate-spirit: we have the right to ride our bikes.”


Arthur becomes philosophical, gesticulating “It’s a different political vision. Everybody has the same bike. It’s a difficult challenge. But one that is accessible to everyone. Exempt from the injustice we often see in sports. Carbon contraptions that cost 10,000€, all the expensive equipment… this can be seen as a representation of the social injustices we find in our society.


“The event will take place over 24 hours. From six in the morning, until six in the morning. If you want to ‘Everest’ the Gineste, you will need to do thirty-six Ginestes. It’s quite ‘ultra’ in terms of cycling. A ‘Ventoux’ is eight ascensions, but one is also good. Feel free to ‘Gineste’ the Gineste!


“More important for us than the challenge is the basecamp. A place for us to gather. To meet and talk together. A place to eat something, to rest, to encourage each other, to share our emotions. We want to create a convivial atmosphere at Vaufrèges. We invite everyone to bring something to share, a quiche, some beers… It important for us that the event is free. We’re putting a bit of money in, but we want the maximum number of people to be able to participate.


“There is no checkpoint at the top. Alpinists have their basecamp at the bottom. There is no one to receive them when they arrive. The event is based on trust. It’s a personal challenge, so you can’t really cheat. We would be happy to have volunteers to help at the basecamp. We suspect that certain friends of ours will be capable of staying through the night (with music and few beers).”


Gaby is smiling, reflective, imagining what is to come “We don’t know how many people to expect. There were more than one-hundred different participants over the years for the Vélib events. We’re up to three-hundred-and-fifty on Facebook, the weather looks good… There is nothing to win and nothing to lose. It’s not the challenge of doing however many Ginestes, what is important is the communal experience.



Rory Launder,




Everesting la Gineste : du 2/09 à 6h au 3/09 à 6h. Rens. : https://www.facebook.com/events/1403038693590800