“A gentleman is one who puts more into the world than he takes out.”*
The Tenspeed Heroes get lucky sometimes. We could lay this fortune on the mantle of fate, but we will also give credit to our curiosity. Though battered from chasing the Tour de France for two weeks, we gave ourselves some time to take in the southern French Alps on our way to the airport in Nice. We thought a few days traveling across the mountains would restore our senses. Our agenda: see some Cols, eat some good food and soak in a bath every night. High on the list of Mountain roads was the Col de la Bonnette, often noted as the highest pass of the Grand Boucle. As the story goes, we looked for mountains and instead we found a Gentleman, Roger Lando, citizen of La Barcelonette.
La Barcelonette is a market town; walk down its streets and you can find a place to do laundry, catch the new Harry Potter film, buy some fresh peaches and store up on the day’s baguettes. While waiting for our laundry to dry we looked in windows to pass the time. I caught Jonathan Hero staring in the window of a boutique called Lando Sport. Soon the proprietor, Roger Lando came out of the store and introduced himself to us. Wearing a red cardigan, with strands of white hair combed backwards, his gentle smile and his firm handshake guided the Heroes inside the dimly lit shop.
Lando Sport looks like a re-sale shop of vintage sport wear from the 50’s-60’s and 70’s but after a few minutes of conversation with Lando it became obvious that Lando Sport was as much a functioning business as a time capsule clothing that was more après ski. Most of the packages are priced in francs, most of the clothes made in France, and all are in their original packaging. In all honesty it appears that Lando has not made a significant order since 1975 and the inventory he has remaining are the small sizes for boys and girls. The fabrics are wool, linen and piqué cotton. It was a time when sportswear meant natural fibers and not something that had the cut and look of a four-man tent.
This is what we can tell you about Roger Lando: He is 86, an honored citizen of his town. He keeps hours on a regular basis and when you are trying on a shirt he helps guide it over your shoulders like an American Haberdasher. He is not afraid to recommend an alternative to your first choice. He talks about the mountains as if they were close friends. His first five words of English were learned when walking with American paratroopers that had landed outside his town during world war II (They were all cuss words). In 1968 he carried the torch for the Grenoble Olympics and celebrated Jean-Claude Killy’s gold medal. His father, Jacques Lando started the shop in 1936 and Lando took over in 1951. His family loved to be outside in nature and in exercise. Jacques Lando was a fauconnier by foot and horse in the surrounding hills that Roger calls home.
We told Roger of our journey to drive up the Col de la Bonnette and he mentioned the Tour had just been through a few years past (The Heroes of course remember, John-Lee Augustyn of Barloworld, cresting the top in first place, and then upon the descent, sliding down the shale mountain side for some thirty odd meters). We did not really want to leave, but we needed to be off and hoped to see him again. We asked to take his picture in the front of the store and he obliged. Looking at the small image on the screen of my camera, Roger spoke, “We all grow old, don’t we?”
*George Bernard Shaw