Culture & Society News Slovakia Sports

Slovak sprinter Peter Sagan and the Tour de France in the spotlight at French Institute exhibition

Bratislava, Slovakia – Slovak photographer Tomáš Školník may be one of the biggest fans of Peter Sagan, the world-famous Slovak cyclist. And that’s saying something, as Sagan, widely considered as one of the greatest talents and the world’s fastest sprinter, has no shortage of fans in his home country and far beyond. sagan tour de france

For years, Školník has been following the rise and successes of his idol, including directly on the tours and competitions where Sagan has shined, making an entire nation proud and others, jealous.

The Tour de France is arguably the race where Peter Sagan has made the greatest name for himself, winning a total of twelve stages of the Tour and, most importantly, a record seven times the points classification. Many fans were eager to witness, once more, his sporting exploits on one of the world’s most famous, demanding and watched cycling races. Fate decided otherwise and, as many other sporting events, the Tour de France 2020, supposed to kick-off at the end of June, was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A small taste of Slovakia in the French Alps.

But that didn’t stop Tomáš Školník from finding another way to honour his long-time idol. In an exhibition running from June 30 to July 24, the French Institute in Bratislava, in charge of promoting French culture in Slovakia, showcases 25 beautiful pictures taken by Školník on the iconic Paris-Roubaix and Tour de France races. Sagan remains at the center of the exhibition, which nonetheless attempts to pay homage, more broadly, to the heroic sport of cycling and to the unique atmospheres and landscapes both races travel through.

The French Institute in Bratislava organized a special evening on June 30 to launch the exhibition. In a light and relaxed atmosphere, the launch was held in a not too crowded atmosphere, as per the wish of the organizers who, in these trying times, wanted to remain cautious on large gatherings. The vernissage was therefore mainly held in the presence of the artist, his relatives and members of the press, including Kafkadesk.

Slovak photographer Tomáš Školník was always happy to detail and explain the background story of his pictures.

After pointing out that this might be the only taste of the Tour de France we might experience this year, the French Institute organizers encouraged us to fully enjoy Školník’s photos, and take in, for all of us cycling fans, the beauty of the sport they capture.

His pictures were indeed enthralling. Giving us a dynamic and multi-faceted overview of the Tour, the exhibition simultaneously portrays cyclists in action and in their full speed, as well as public encouragements and support alongside quiet and well-composed mountainous landscapes from the Alpes d’Huez, the Col d’Izoard or the Mont Ventoux, among the most emblematic and challenging stages of the race.

An approach that perfectly embodies the underlying spirit of the Tour which, on top of being an incredible sportsmen feat of endurance and skill, is also, for tens of thousands of people in France and beyond, a beautiful escape and snapshot of the French countryside. Tomáš Školník knows that all too well and perfectly captures it in his pictures.

A well composed photograph, where patience is key to catch both still landscapes and fast-passing cyclists.

As an amateur of both photography and cycling, he mixed his two passions to give us a mastered and authentic result. The 25 photos selected in the exhibition retrace the different Tours de France he attended since 2016 with, as a Slovak, always an important focus on Peter Sagan.

The 30-year-old cyclist and sprinter, a superstar in Slovakia and Central Europe, appears in almost every single shot featuring cyclists, and one can only wonder the excitement of fans like Školník waiting for days to catch a furtive glimpse of the rider and get the best snapshot in, at most, a few seconds. With Slovak and Czech flags waving in a cheerful and celebratory atmosphere, Tomáš Školník’s passion and craft fortunately turn these glimpses of sometimes inhumane effort and emotions into pleasant and long-lasting memories.

An exhibition, which was ironically made possible due to the 2020 edition’s cancellation, giving the photographer time to articulate and implement his project, definitely worth seeing, allowing us to travel through times and spaces momentarily out of reach that will please hard-core passionate people as well as simply curious minds.

More information on the exhibition right here.

By Zakaria Benmeriouma

Freshly landed in Slovakia from France for professional reasons, Zakaria has kept on blending in the region ever since. Currently living in Bratislava, he follows local cultural events and activities linked to music and visual arts, and hopes to provide useful insight of Slovakia and Bratislava’s cultural life to all interested readers.

Headed by Kafkadesk's chief-editor Jules Eisenchteter, our Prague office gathers over half a dozen reporters, editors and contributors, as well as our social media team. It covers everything Czech and Slovak-related, and oversees operations from our other Central European desks in Krakow and Budapest.