The Tour de France, 1903-2003: A Century of Sporting Structures, Meanings, and Values

The Tour de France, 1903-2003: A Century of Sporting Structures, Meanings, and Values

The Tour de France, 1903-2003: A Century of Sporting Structures, Meanings, and Values

The Tour de France, 1903-2003: A Century of Sporting Structures, Meanings, and Values

Synopsis

"This book analyzes the Tour de France over its long history, both as France's most prestigious and famous sporting event and as a European and, increasingly, a world cycling competition. It provides interdisciplinary and varied perspectives on the sporting, cultural, social, economic and political significance of the Tour within and outside France, giving a comprehensive and authoritative investigation of up-to-the minute thinking on what the Tour means, now and in the past, to competitors, to France, to the French public, to the cultural history of sport, and the sport of cycling itself."

Excerpt

Eugen weber

A hundred summers ago, the Tour de France was born out of political conflict, and from a circulation war between competing sports journals. Before he and Gustave-Thadée Bouton pioneered a stream of Dion-Bouton automobiles, Marquis Albert de Dion had spent his life constructing sports machines: a quadricycle in 1883, followed by a steam tricycle in 1887 and a one-cycle petrol trike in 1895. He also financed the daily Vélo that catered to thousands of cycling amateurs, to the rivalries and publicity of cycle manufacturers, and to the crowds attending track meetings or cheering road race riders on.

In 1899, however, at the height of the Dreyfus Affair, Dion and his anti-Dreyfusard friends were involved in an absurd political shindig at the fashionable Auteuil horse races, where a royalist baron's cane dented the top hat of the Republic's president. a government-one more-fell in the wake of the brawl but, more important to our story, the Marquis was sentenced to 15 days in jail and a 100-franc fine for his part in it. Tailor-made for the sporting press, the incident evoked critical comment from the Vélo, which had already revealed regrettable Dreyfusard sympathies. Incensed, Dion and other anti-Dreyfusard friends like Edouard Michelin set up a rival daily, L'Auto-Vélo-soon shortened to L'Auto to reflect the latest fashion in the world of sports.

L'Auto' editor, Henri Desgrange, himself an enthusiastic cyclist and cycle racer, needed a sensational publicity venture to attract new readers. Particularly since the introduction of stopwatches in 1870, indoor and outdoor races had provided spills, thrills, exploits, champions, prizes and a paying public for sports promoters and the sporting press. Intercity bicycle races-Paris-Rouen, Paris-Roubaix, Bordeaux-Paris-had been popular for decades. So Desgrange began his campaign by reviving the Paris-Brest road race, which had last been run in 1891. But although the 1901 winner knocked nearly two hours off the previous record and vast crowds gathered to follow the progress of the race on the

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