“L’échappée” by Stéphane Dugast, an odyssey through France
In 25 years of career as a reporter, Stéphane Dugast has released a dozen books, the fruit of his travels to the four corners of the world, from the Arctic to Route 66. He has even gained a status, perhaps obsolete but prestigious: that of explorer. In the summer of 2020, the French author left for a less exotic but more personal trip than the others, a crossing of his country by bike from Dunkirk to Hendaye, along the diagonal of the void. He drew a book from it, “L’Échappée” (224 pages, available from Éditions du Trésor from March 23), the major themes of which he addresses for Vélo Mag.
A childhood dream
The book summons two of Stéphane Dugast’s passions: remote territories and the little queen. “I grew up in the Nantes countryside, with mountains and fields as my horizon.he recalls. My imagination developed a lot by watching the Tour de France, which made me travel through the whole country. When I was 20, I was able to cross the Pyrenees, and I realized that I liked cycling to stop, to chat with people, to go to places inaccessible. I built this dream of crossing France by bike. » Which he finally accomplished thirty years later.
A child of confinement
“L’échappée” was born in a particular context, that of post-confinement. Like many French people, Stéphane Dugast felt an irrepressible need for fresh air. “I had just spent two months in a Parisian apartment, which was also an office that I shared with my wife, a classroom that I shared with my daughter, a dance hall, a yoga room. I had this bike on my balcony that I dreamed of riding. […] I had this need to get out of Paris, to escape and I told myself that it was the right time to fulfill the dream of my 20 years rather than regret it all my life. »
An optimistic and ecological odyssey
Throughout his journey, the adventurer has set himself only one rule: meet and have people testify. “I wanted to meet bright personalities who offer solutions, who are optimistic about the future, about ecology. There was a desire to re-enchant my daily life in a very anxiety-provoking period, when I realized how important it was to be able to see people and go out. » A bias that is felt over the pages, in which the floor is given to the various French people, farmers, cyclists or elected officials, crossed on the road.
An allegory of life
Sunday cyclist, left without any real preparation and partially injured, Stéphane Dugast discovered on the job the difficulties and the pleasure of the cycling trip. “I like this quote from René Fallet: “Only those who have ridden a bike know that life is not flat”. You have elevation, wind, heat, traffic, moments of total euphoria, magnificent landscapes that pass by, hard knocks. This adventure was both a physical and intellectual challenge. I spent my day on the bike wondering what I was going to write. It also proves that you don’t need to be in New Zealand to go on an adventure, that it is really written in front of yourself, during enlightening encounters. »
A tribute to cycling literature
Originally, Stéphane Dugast left without necessarily thinking of making a book or film of his trip, but simply sharing it on social networks. “I wrote notebooks, as I do regularly. When I returned, some editors told me that I had already told everything on Facebook. I was a little upset, I tried to explain that it was written on the spot, that bicycle literature can be worked on much more. I wrote another book in the meantime, then I came across the sounds I had recorded and I thought I had to share them to make people want to ride a bike. This is how it was born “The Escape”. »