Bastille Day is July 14, the national holiday (la Fête Nationale) of France, one of the most important days in French history. The Tour de France happens in the month of July. Beyond those events, bien sûr, there is always une bonne reason to play French music in your cycling classes all year round.
I’ve been using French music in Tour de France stages since the mid-1990s. One of my other passions is riding my bike in France. I worked for a couple different American luxury bike tour companies in France from 1989 to 2001 and I started my own luxury bike tour company in 2003, taking groups to ride in France, including for the Tour de France. I also had a passion for French electronic and dance music. I believe I was one of the first to introduce certain French songs to the indoor cycling community in my Tour de France sessions at WSSC beginning in 2004. These included now popular songs in cycling classes such as “Tu Es Foutu” by In-Grid, “Désenchantée” by Kate Ryan (and another version by Mylène Farmer), and songs by the group Les Negresses Vertes.
Over the years, I have curated one of the most comprehensive collections of classic and modern French songs for your Tour de France and Bastille Day celebrations in your cycling classes—or any class that warrants some good foreign music. Below you’ll find my Spotify bucket playlist with 560 songs of all genres: pop, rock, hip-hop, electronic, dance, and alternative. A second playlist contains about 60 classic French songs that are excellent as pre- and post-class music or for recoveries or interludes.
While I love discovering new French artists, I also find myself returning to many of the French tracks I used early in my Spinning career. I found some that truly inspired my riders to turn those pedals up those imaginary French Alpine passes, complete with attacks or long, emotional grinds up the steep French cols (passes). I also love to play classics such as Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose” or George Trenet’s “Douce France” as we stretch—they lend a certain je ne sais quoi to our workout.
Tips for Using a Large Spotify Bucket Playlist
When you have a bucket playlist that is as large as this French collection, it can be somewhat overwhelming to select songs directly from here when you create your profile. So what I recommend is to create an intermediary playlist, what I call a “dump file” or “sample playlist” where you will put the songs that interest you the most. As I peruse the larger collection, I drag the songs that I like that fit the type of profile I am planning, making sure to include tracks with a wide variety of tempos, energy, and emotion—remember, you’ll need songs for warm-ups, cool-downs, and recoveries along with your challenging climbs, fast flats, attacks and breakaways, and sprint finishes. This dump file should contain a fairly large number so you have choices, but not so many that you are overwhelmed. Then, when it comes time to create your playlist for your profile, go through your dump file to select the songs for your actual profile. If you need more, you can always return to the original large collection. Sort the playlist by duration to find songs of a particular length if need be. You can also use sortyourmusic, a third-party software that sorts your Spotify playlists and adds the bpm to every song.
If you don’t use Spotify to teach your classes, you can still follow these bucket playlists using a free Spotify membership and create a dump file. Then, you can search for those songs in your preferred music resource, saving you a lot of time trying to find songs on your own.
Because I’ve been a longtime Tour de France fanatic, I’ve always celebrated Bastille Day in my classes with a TDF stage. But if that’s not your thing, just play a fun selection of French songs (including some classic songs with an accordion), decorate the room with some French flags, provide croissants after the ride, and do a little trivia about all things French and the story behind Le Quatorze Juillet.
Here are a few interesting facts to start with: Did you know that the French consume 11.2 billion glasses of wine per year? Or that there are about 1,000 kinds of cheese in France (of which, 400 are “official” and regulated)? Or that the croissant was actually invented in Austria?
The storming of the Bastille may have ignited the French Revolution, but it’s not what Bastille Day is based upon. The holiday celebrates the Fête de la Confédération, which took place one year later to commemorate the unity of the new French nation. Here are some more facts about Bastille Day and the real story about Marie Antionette’s oft-quoted alleged quip, “Let them eat cake.”
The Tour de France
Hélas, what can be more French than the Tour de France, originally conceived in 1903, replete with cheating from the start? I’ve probably attended 50 actual stages of the Tour in my life, beginning in 1988. As I mentioned above, I spent many years leading bicycle tours to the Tour and numerous years teaching instructors how to create and coach exciting Tour de France profiles in their classes, based on my experiences studying and watching the Tour in person.
You’ll find two ICA Tour de France profiles and the Paris–Roubaix ride to download below. Using these will save you many hours of your precious time when creating profiles to match this year’s stages—if anything, just look at the songs I’ve used—you’ll know the music has been chosen to match the goal and intensity of that segment. And make sure to stay tuned in the coming weeks because this year, I will be modifying some of my vast collection of TDF profiles to use with my classes this July. I’ll be posting them here for ICA members.
If you want to create your own profiles for this year’s Tour de France, you can find the official route and each stage’s profile here. Don’t worry about trying to follow every kilometer of the route—just pick a few segments to highlight, such as the final two or three climbs or a rolling segment in the middle of a mostly flat stage. Culminate your stage by bringing your riders to the finish line with a dramatic and challenging push. Not every stage of the Tour ends with a “sprint” in the real sense of the word—a massive, explosive effort that only lasts 15–20 seconds, where the sprinting specialists get to strut their anaerobic prowess. (There are typically only five or six stages that are designated as sprinters’ stages.) Nevertheless, even on summit finishes in the big mountains, every rider will be emptying the tank as they cross the finish line.
One thing to think of when creating your Tour de France profiles—they aren’t limited to just THAT year! Don’t just teach it once and forget about it—if it’s a fun ride that your riders enjoy, pull it out in winter! Use it three years, even six years from now. The vast majority of your class probably doesn’t follow the Tour very closely, and virtually none of them would know if the profile, modified from a ride you did a few years ago, perfectly fits a current stage—just rename the climbs, sprints, or start/end cities from past profiles to ones that look somewhat similar in this year’s Tour stages. This way, you’ll save massive amounts of time by not having to re-create the wheel (pun intended) for new stages.
Make sure to download these profiles below to either simply borrow the music and cues, modify to a current stage, or just use them as is. I will sometimes pull out a stage profile I created from the 2004 Tour de France—no one cares and they’re always well-received!
Two Attacks Up the Mûr, a Dramatic Tour de France Stage. I taught this emotional profile (from a 2021 stage) this past January and it was a big hit. One reason is that it has such a moving backstory about the protagonist (the stage winner) and his famous grandfather that goes along with it. You can watch me teach this ride on video for tips on how to coach the emotional story.
Team Time Trial. This version is from 2019, modified by Leslie Mueller, but I originally created the TTT profile that this one is based on over a decade prior. I switch out songs every time I do it, but the foundation of the ride remains the same from race to race. The TTT is not included every year in the Tour de France (unfortunately, it’s not in the 2023 edition), but that hasn’t stopped me from teaching this challenging workout several times a year. It’s so totally different from most classes you’ll teach. I’ve also done this ride on video which you can watch here. Because this ride entails switching up between three groups of riders (as they ride in a paceline), you’ll need to learn how to manage those three groups; this video will show you how to do it seamlessly. On that page, you can download four different versions and playlists of this profile.
Paris–Roubaix. This is a completely different race than the Tour de France, of course, but I am especially proud of the mostly French playlist for this ride. The songs will work great for your Tour de France profiles.
If you have a favorite French song that I haven’t included in my bucket playlist, please share it below in the comments. I continue to add new songs every year, so every suggestion is welcome.