OITA, Japan (Reuters) - Planes, trains and automobiles are how most fans are getting to games at the Rugby World Cup in Japan but for Alexandre Roux and Elsa Lepage riding fold-up bicycles is the preferred mode of transport at the tournament.
When 31-year-old emergency department doctor Roux suggested a trip to Japan for the World Cup, Lepage was happy to go along — but on one condition.
“I wanted to come here for the rugby and she said ‘okay, but we are doing it by bicycle,’” Roux told Reuters in Oita, where the pair enjoyed a beer before the New Zealand v Canada match.
“She has done some bicycle touring before in Japan through Hokkaido ... and we decided to travel by bicycle to all of the different stadiums to discover the country in a different way.”
The pair landed in Tokyo to see France’s opening match against Argentina before taking the train to Hiroshima.
From there they unfurled their bikes and started pedalling, crossing to Shikoku, Japan’s second smallest main island, then catching a ferry to Kyushu, the southernmost major island.
Roux, originally from Nantes, said they had been following the coastline and that the terrain had been mostly flat. They had cycled up to 85 kilometres on one day but crossing to the mountainous Kyushu was proving to be more challenging.
“We are using folding bikes and they are not convenient for the mountains,” he said with a grin, though he added that being able to fold the bikes up in 10 seconds when it started to rain was a major plus.
“It’s a very convenient way of travelling.”
The pair were also travelling light, with just two changes of clothing each, while they were also carrying a tent and sleeping bags for when they stopped at camp grounds.
Cycling such distances typically come with hazards, and while the numerous snakes and raccoons they had seen had left them alone they did get a puncture shortly after they started their journey.
Getting used to riding on the left-hand side of the road was also causing some issues.
“We are French so sometimes we do make an error,” said Roux, who started playing rugby at the age of six.
While unabashedly supporting the French at the tournament, the former scrumhalf was wearing a well-washed and faded retro France jersey, Roux said they had skipped their Pool C match with the United States in Fukuoka to attend the All Blacks game against Canada in Oita on the same day for two reasons.
“We like the way they (New Zealand) play,” he said. “(And) we also wanted to see what the haka looks like in a stadium.
“(But) we support France and we hope they will go further.
“We are hoping for a surprise. They’re not the favourites so we will see.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford