Schlagwort-Archive: Tour de France

Paula Patiño: „I know Colombia has its eyes on me“ (3/5)


From the 24th to the 31st July, we will be looking at a handful of favourites for the Maillot Jaune on the Super Planche-des-Belles-Filles. Nevertheless there are many riders amongst the 144 taking to the start-line that will be looking for their moment in the sun on this historic first edition. Let’s meet 5 champions with an ambition to shine.

Paula Patiño: „I know Colombia has its eyes on me“ (3/5)

From the heights of Antioquia, Paula Patiño has developed her climbing talents to shine in stage races and hilly classics alongside Annemiek van Vleuten, her leader in the Movistar Team Women outfit. The young Colombian, who grew up as a rider with Fernando Gaviria’s father and then discovered European racing in the UCI’s World Cycling Centre, returned home to prepare for the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, where she will be the only rider from her country to chase the „sueño amarillo“ (the yellow dream).

Paula Patiño’s road to professionalism took a decisive turn with a one-year stay at the World Cycling Centre based in Aigle, Switzerland. It was „the best cycling school“ according to the young Colombian, who was then able to join Movistar. Fernando Gaviria represents the Colombian school of sprinting and was the first wearer of the Yellow Jersey of the Tour de France 2018 during his only participation. His father Hernando, at the helm of a cycling club in Antoquia, introduced Paula to competitive cycling. Rigoberto Uran has been a pioneer for the current generation of Colombian champions. He won a stage in 2017, the year he also stepped on the final podium (2nd). He’s also a mentor to Paula Patiño, who even shares training rides with Uran in Colombia.

Where do you prepare for the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift?
I’m currently in La Ceja, Antioquia. It’s where I was born and where I’ve lived all my life. I return there when my race schedule allows me. This year, I returned very recently, after staying in Spain since January. I’ll go back to Europe on June 23rd, and it will soon be time for the Giro Rosa and then the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift.

Many Colombian cycling talents come from Antioquia…
It’s a great place to ride. For example, these days, I’ve seen Sergio Higuita a lot. We have a good relationship and he also trains in Eastern Antioquia. We often meet each other and, depending on our program, we ride together a bit. Dani Martinez is around here often too. He’s not from Anitoquia, but he lives there with his wife and their kids. And there’s Rigo Uran who is from the area. So I see those three a lot and we share some training rides. Antioquia also attracts many foreign riders.

What is so good about cycling in Antioquia?
I think it comes down to the landscape, the mountains and especially the altitude. I live 2.200m above the sea. And you can ride on the flat, hilly routes or into the mountains. Antioquia is also a region with very open people. So when foreigners come here, the people will always try to help them find their way and understand the language.

And you got into cycling with a local figure…
I started with Hernando Gaviria, who is the father of Fernando Gaviria. With my brothers, we were doing all sorts of sports with the municipality programs, and Hernando is the one that really pushed me towards cycling. He had a club and he saw that I could have a talent for this. But at first, I was telling him that I didn’t see it for myself, I was saying myself that it was too hard a sport for a girl. Women cycling wasn’t as visible as it is now, it was only the men’s races that would get broadcasted. I told him I didn’t think I could do it, that there wasn’t a future there. And he was convinced that he could train me and that I could be a great rider. So one day he came to my home with an iron bike and a helmet and he told me: „Tomorrow morning I expect you at 7 for a training ride.“ I couldn’t say no anymore. The next day, I was riding with the club and he trained me until the junior ranks.

We know the Colombian fans and how they wake up early to support their riders in Europe. What is your experience with the Tour de France?
With my two brothers, we loved all sports, but it was always cycling that got us more excited. We would get up for the Grand Tours, especially the Tour. And I think that’s something that really defines the Colombian people. We are very patriotic people and cycling runs in our veins. If there’s a Colombian to watch, we get up and support any Colombian. Here, my family and everyone, they love it when I’m in Europe. They wake up at 2 or 3 AM, whatever it takes to watch the race. I think it’s lovely and it says a lot about Colombians.

Who were the idols that got you to get out of bed?
In the men’s peloton, I’ve always admired Rigo, not only because he’s Colombian, but also for the way he is. He’s always very natural. On or off the bike, it doesn’t matter if things have been going his way or not, he’s always the same person. I love what he shows us and what he teaches us. About the women, I’ve always admired Anna van der Breggen, Marianne Vos and Annemiek van Vleuten for the type of riders they are and everything they’ve accomplished. I’ve been able to race with the first two and I’m a teammate with Annemiek. She’s a great leader. At first, we were all a bit stressed when she came, because she’s number 1 in the world ranking, and we had to be up to helping her. I think she’s happy, and we’re happy as well. We’ve learned a lot from her.

What does it mean to represent Colombia in this first Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift?
I’m immensely proud. It’s one of the biggest goals, one of the biggest dreams that I had for this year. When we got aware this would happen, we all wanted to be there. The Tour de France is the biggest cycling event in the world, so to have it for the women means a lot. It’s a big achievement. To represent Colombia makes me happy and I feel a responsibility as well. I know the country has its eyes on me, that people will be thinking: ‚There’s a Colombian, we hope it will work well for her, that she will do great.‘

The Giro Rosa is a reference in Paula’s young career: she finished 8th in the overall standings in the 2020 edition, won by Anna van der Breggen. The 2022 Vuelta a Andalucia was particularly successful for Movistar: while her Cuban teammate Arlenis Sierra won two stages and the general classification, Serbia’s Jelena Eric won the third stage, and Paula was rewarded for her efforts with the 4th place in the final hierarchy. The Spanish classic contested in Irurzun, in the Basque Country, saw Paula Patiño display her ability to shine in one-day races. She takes 3rd place here, just after her teammate Sarah Gigante victoriously concluded a breakaway.

Paula Patiño (Movistar Team Women)

Born on March 29, 1997 in La Ceja (Antioquia, Colombia)
Teams: UCI WCC Women’s Team (2018), Movistar Team Women (2019-2022)

Major results :
• 2018: 1 stage of the Tour of Colombia, 4th GP de Plumelec-Morbihan
• 2019: 18th La Course by Le Tour, 20th World Championships
• 2020: 8th Giro d’Italia Donne
• 2021: 2nd Colombia Nationals, 22nd Olympic Games
• 2022: 4th Vuelta a Andalucia, 3rd Emakumeen Nafarroako, 9th Itzulia Women

Particular sign: the only Colombian in the Women’s World Tour! In the ranks of Movistar Team Women, Paula Patiño has one Latin-American teammate, Cuba’s Arlenis Sierra, five Spanish companions, and one from France, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Serbia and Australia.


Next episodes:
• Marta Cavalli (ITA / FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope)
• Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (ZAF / Teams SD Worx)


Episode 1/5 : Chloé Dygert: „The Tour is such a huge goal!“


From the 24th to the 31st July, we will be looking at a handful of favourites for the Maillot Jaune on the Super Planche-des-Belles-Filles. Nevertheless there are many riders amongst the 144 taking to the start-line that will be looking for their moment in the sun on this historic first edition. Let’s meet 5 champions with an ambition to shine.

One of the best track riders in recent years with seven World Champion titles and two Olympic medals, USA’s Chloé Dygert also aims to make the most of her raw power on the road. It started off in impressive fashion with the 2019 World Championships on the road, where she took the rainbow jersey in the time-trial and finished 4th of the road race. Since then, the 25-year-old star has suffered serious misfortunes with a crash in the roadside barriers at the 2020 Worlds and the Epstein-Barr virus earlier this season. Dygert says she’s been used to setbacks since she was a kid, and she’s always come back stronger. She’s now in her „last bit of rehab work“ as she aims to chase the Maillot Jaune next month with Canyon//Sram Racing.

Chloé Dygert stormed to the podiums as soon as she appeared on the international scene as a junior. A former basketball player, upset by injuries, she won the world championships in the United States in Richmond… in the time trial and in the road race. Her collection of titles and rainbow jerseys rapidly grew as she joined the Elite ranks, first on the track. In 2016, she became a world champion in the team pursuit in London. Among the many feats of her career on the track, Chloé Dygert broke the world record of the individual pursuit for the first time in 2018 at the world championships in Apeldoorn in the Netherlands. She has since improved it twice at the 2020 Worlds.

Almost three months after being diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus, how are you?
Every day is a new day. Sometimes I’ll have really good days, and other days feel like I took three steps back. It’s been a very frustrating process but I’m just trusting those around me as we’re doing everything we can with the team, USA Cycling and my doctors. I’m in Indiana right now and tomorrow [on June14th] I fly back to Colorado Springs to do my last bit of rehab work. I’m just taking it day by day and hoping I can overcome this soon because I still have a lot of things that I want to do this season. I planned at the beginning of the year to do Nationals, Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift and the Worlds. So those are still on my list to accomplish. It’s just a matter of if my body can get there in time.

How do you hang on when you can’t be a rider?
I go back to my faith and I think of this being just God’s plan. And as much as I don’t agree with it all the time, I know that in the end I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing in his terms. I remember the first injury that I had when I was a little girl, it was a back injury. I’m very used to setbacks. It is frustrating, especially when I’m having to sit out for such a long period of time but I do think it’s an advantage to have been able to mentally overcome these physical setbacks. I struggle with it, every day, it’s not easy. But it also makes it easier when things go wrong on race days. Like, in the 2019 World Championships, when the time-trial was delayed because of the weather conditions, I remember it being such a huge deal for all the girls. For me, yes, it might have been a little bit frustrating, but I didn’t want it to affect me, because everybody is in the same boat. It’s just something that we have to adapt to and we have to overcome.

“I hope there’s gonna be time trials in the next years,
that it will just grow and become the all-time
best women’s event cycling can have.”

How did road racing enter your horizon?
I was bribed! I started mountain biking. And I was told: “If you do the Junior Nationals on the road, you can use your brother’s wheels on your mountain bike”. I was like: “Yeah! Ok, I’ll go.” That’s how I got into road, and then I went to the junior Worlds in 2015, the year before the Rio Olympics. USA Cycling had access to all my data and everything, and with that, I was put in touch with Andy Sparks at the time, the coach on the track, and he invited me out for a camp, just to see where I’d fit in and how I would perform. It got me to Rio and now I’m a dual discipline athlete.

Were you also following the sport as a fan?
I was more interested in doing things rather than watching them! In America, when you think of cycling, when you don’t know anything about it, you think of the Tour de France! So the fact that now we have a Women’s Tour de France is a huge accomplishment.

So have you been talking about the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift with your father?
Of course! I’ve been talking about it with everybody! It’s such a huge goal! It’s a goal for all these women to be part of the first ever Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift. It’s a huge step forward for all of us and I hope this is just the benchmark, the starting ground to what it’s gonna become. I hope there’s gonna be time trials in the next years, that it will just grow and become the all-time best women’s event cycling can have.

The eight stages will bring different types of challenges. How do you approach them?
We have a super strong team, so if I’m there I’m gonna do what’s good for me but also for the team. If that means I work for the team the whole time, that’s what I’m gonna do. This is such a huge opportunity. Being on the top step, it doesn’t matter if it’s me or someone else wearing our colours. It would be such an honour to be part of it and help us go for that Maillot Jaune.

How do your abilities on the track translate on the road?
I do enjoy being in a peloton and I always set my standards high. Everybody makes it sound that it’s such a hard thing, being in the peloton. I actually was told that I probably wouldn’t make it in the front group in my first European race, and that was the World Championships in Yorkshire. Lizzie Deignan said, and it stuck with me: “You either have that instinct or you don’t.” I think I have been blessed with… I know in my head where I should go. Sometimes it doesn’t always work, but at least I know. I can’t wait to race more because I do have the confidence in my performance, I do have the confidence in my training, I know I have the strength to accomplish the goals that I want to accomplish. It’s about getting the experience, the time on the bike, with the team, and really learning how to work as a team and focusing on that dynamic to pull together the win.

Chloé’s power extends to the road with a bang in 2019. At the world championships in Yorkshire, she won the time trial ahead of Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten. In the road race, she finished just off the podium (4th). Chloé’s winning streak came to a halt at the Imola Worlds in 2020, when a violent crash prevented her from completing her race towards another rainbow jersey. The consequences of her injuries then disrupted her 2021 season. After a long period of interruption, the American rider was able to resume competition at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. She left with 7th place in the individual time trial… and also a bronze medal on the track.

Chloé Dygert (Canyon//Sram Racing)
Born on January 1, 1997 in Brownsburg (Indiana, United States of America)
Teams: Twenty16-Ridebiker (2015-2016), Twenty20 Pro Cycling (2017-2020), Canyon//Sram Racing (2021-2022)

Major results :
• 2015: junior World champion in the road race and the ITT
• 2016: World champion in the team pursuit, silver medalist in the team pursuit at the Olympic Games
• 2017: World champion in the individual and team pursuits, Pan American champion in the ITT
• 2018: World champion in the individual and team pursuits
• 2019: World champion in the ITT, Pan American champion in the ITT, winner of Joe Martin Stage Race
• 2020: World champion in the individual and team pursuits
• 2021: USA champion in the ITT, bronze medalist in the team pursuit at the Olympic Games

Distinctive sign: with 1m75 and 67 kg, Chloé Dygert is easily noticed, even when she does not wear a rainbow jersey. “I will never climb better than girls who are 50 pounds lighter than me but I do everything to be the best rider possible.”

Juliette Labous: „I feel the pressure mounting“ (2/5)

As one of France’s promising up-and-coming cyclists since the junior category, Juliette Labous has been rising a little higher each year in the hierarchy of the best female climbers. At 23 years of age, she carries on her shoulders the greatest French hopes for a good result in the general classification, provided she is chosen by her DSM team, which is not in doubt. She feels ready to aim for the Top 5 in this first Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, a year after she finished seventh in the Giro Rosa. The Bisonta native has just gotten a boost of confidence after winning her first World Tour race, the Tour of Burgos, in mid-May, just before her training stage in Tignes (25 May to 15 June).

BMX, mountain biking, cyclocross… Juliette Labous experimented on all types of terrain before becoming a professional on a road bike. In the youth categories, she was even one of the winners.
It was in the mud of the French championships in Pont-Château that Juliette Labous won her first tricolour jersey, then in the junior category. Still, in the junior category, it was then on a global scale that Juliette Labous made her mark, with a bronze medal in the time trial at the 2016 Doha Worlds.
You were born in Besançon and have always lived in the area, but Labous is a Breton surname (pronounce the S), and it was in Finistère, in Kerlouan, that your brother taught you how to ride a bicycle on the paved terrace of a gîte.
Yes, I must have been three years old. I remember falling into a flower pot! There were a few falls, but then it was all over, and I’ve never stopped since. Every summer, we spent a week in Finistère. My paternal grandfather is from there. But otherwise, I’m franc-comtoise!

You have a sister, ten years older, and a brother, five years older. It was thanks to him that you developed a passion for cycling.
Yes, Quentin made me want to do it. I followed him everywhere. He was my role model! Quentin started with BMX, and I followed him. It was the same for mountain biking and then for the road. Our parents supported us but never pushed us. One day they brought in trucks to lay down soil to turn our garden into a mini-BMX track!

Your brother stopped his studies at 18 to give himself a chance to go pro.
Yes, school no longer suited him. It was now or never, but it didn’t work out, but it could have.

By achieving this yourself, do you feel fulfilling a dream for two?
A little bit. Yes and no. My brother taught me a lot and always gave me the right advice. He wasn’t lucky enough to meet the right people and for everything to go smoothly, which was my case.

You were trained at the Besançon hopefuls centre, under the supervision of Matthieu Nadal, before joining the professional ranks as soon as you left the juniors with your current team. Was this the very first team to contact you?
Yes, they did after the Richmond Worlds, when I was a J1. The team’s sporting director had contacted me on Facebook. I didn’t know at first if it was real! He arranged for me to do training camps at the beginning of J2, and our relationship developed naturally. They took youngsters to the „Talent Days“ scouting camp every year. It went well, and I won a stage at Albstadt in the Nations Cup. After that, they said to me: „You are welcome in the team!” FDJ contacted me, but it was practically a done deal with Liv-Plantur (the former name of Sunweb and Team DSM). I wanted to join them because they were a foreign team, and I wanted to experience the Dutch cycling culture. It was a dream; there was little question about it.

At the time, Marianne Vos was a particular inspiration to you.
Yes, because she won everything! Women’s cycling didn’t get much media coverage in those days. In the few races we saw, it was her or Pauline Ferrand-Prévot. Julie Bresset also inspired me with her Olympic title in London (in mountain biking). I had my idols in BMX when I was younger, like Laetitia le Corguillé. I took a photo with her when I was very young. I ran into Laetitia again two years ago during a seminar in Dijon. She and I took another picture together and had a good laugh. I learned that she had named her daughter Juliette!

As a child, could you identify with the male riders watching the Tour?
No, not really. I liked watching, but as there were no girls, I couldn’t say I wanted to do it. It was like becoming a professional; the idea didn’t come until later. But I went to see the Tour when it passed by my place. It happened two or three times. I remember the time trial in Besançon in 2012. We went to ride the day before to try to see the pros! It left an impression on me. There is another thing too: during a training camp with the Franche-Comté committee, Sandrine Guironnet took us to see the Route de France in Arc-et-Senans… I recently spoke to Evita Muzic about it because she was there too. Watching all those female teams motivated me. I had the impression that they were pros, even if, at the time, this was not the case.

You will be the best French chance for the general classification, to aim for a top 5. How do you feel about the pressure you’ll be under with a month left to go before the race?
I can feel it starting to mount. I am hearing more about it from the general public to those around me, but I think I’m ready for it. I was the only representative at the Olympics last year, where I was already feeling the pressure. Generally speaking, it’s not something that holds me back. It doesn’t scare me too much.

Have you talked with Romain Bardet about this? He has been in this role for a long time and has also ridden for Team DSM since last year?
No, but there would indeed be something to talk about! We talk sometimes. It was complicated last year because of Covid and the bubbles to be respected. At the last meeting with the men’s team, we had a good chat with all the French riders, including the newcomers, Romain Combaud and Léa Curinier.

Do you have any idea what your friends and family have in store for you for the two stages in the Vosges? La Planche des Belles Filles is only 100 kilometres from Besançon.
No, but I think there will be a lot of people! It’s going to be something special.

Do you have a fan club?
No, not officially!
But you can count on the support of your parents. Your brother told us that they have said they only want to follow a few stages. But he thinks they are lying and will, in fact, do the whole thing!
It’s not impossible! I don’t think they will be there in Paris, it’s a bit difficult, even if only logistically. I believe they will be too eager to come after watching a stage or two on TV. They have already deviated from their initial plan! At first, they were only talking about the last three stages. They are starting to say they could come and help the team on the white paths of the fourth stage!

Juliette Labous‘ climbing skills coexist perfectly with her riding abilities. For example, she beat Audrey Cordon-Ragot and Aude Biannic in the French time trial championships in 2020. In 2021, Juliette Labous confirmed her ability to compete with the best in the time trial: 9th at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, then 6th at the World Championships in Bruges. The Flèche Wallonne is one of Juliette Labous‘ favourite events. In 2021, she finished 6th at the top of the Mur de Huy.

Juliette Labous (Team DSM)
Born 4 November 1998 at Besançon (France)
Teams: Sunweb (2017 to 2020), Team DSM (2021-2022)

Major results :
• 2014: French Cadette Road Champion
• 2015: French junior Time Trial champion, 4th in the European Junior Championship, French Junior Cyclo-Cross Champion.
• 2016: French Junior Time Trial and Road Race Champion, 3rd in the European and World Time Trial Championships.
• 2017: 4th overall Tour de Feminin
• 2018: French U23 Time Trial champion, 7th overall Tour de Yorkshire
• 2019: 1st Young Rider Classification Giro Rosa (11th overall), 3rd Overall Tour de Bretagne
• 2020: French Elite and U23 Time Trial Champion, 6th in the European Time Trial Championship, 8th in Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes
• 2021: 2nd overall Women’s Tour, 6th Flèche Wallonne Femmes and World Time Trial Championship, 7th overall Giro Rosa, 9th in the Tokyo Olympic Games Time Trial
• 2022: 1st overall Vuelta a Burgos, 5th overall Flèche Brabançonne, 11th overall Trofeo Binda and Amstel Gold Race, 12th overall Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes

Particular sign: Gifted at school, little Juliette Labous skipped a grade (CE1) and dreamed of becoming an astrophysicist. She had a map of the constellations projected onto her bedroom ceiling, and during clear nights, she observed the stars through a telescope.

Next episodes:
• Paula Patiño (COL / Movistar Team Women)
• Marta Cavalli (ITA / FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope)
• Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (ZAF / Teams SD Worx)

The Tour to the power of 10

2010: Reconquering the Tourmalet (10/10)
At the turn of each decade, the Tour de France has gone through organisational changes and backstage struggles that have variously turned out to be decisive or utterly inconsequential. The journey back in time proposed by comes full circle with an ending on the Tourmalet. 100 years after the peloton launched its first assault on the Giant of the Pyrenees, a stage finish at the top of the mountain thrust the technical aspects of the Tour into the spotlight. Overcoming that logistical challenge a decade ago opened the door to summit finishes on peaks such as the Galibier and the Izoard.
The Tour de France sure knows how to celebrate its anniversaries. 2010 marked the centennial of the first appearance of high mountains on the route of the race. A hundred years after Alphonse Steinès‘ odyssey (retold in episode 1 of this series), the Tourmalet again took centre stage. This time, the plan was to draw the finish line at the top of the mountain, a whopping 2,115 metres above sea level. While it was not the first time that someone had come up with the idea —Jean-Pierre Danguillaume had won a stage here in the 1974 Tour—, much had changed in the intervening 36 years. At a time when media coverage of the Tour had boomed around the globe, the resources needed to broadcast the race worldwide were at least five times as big. „I wanted to take the Tour where sport wants us to go, gambling that we would be able to adapt our resources to the terrain“, points out Christian Prudhomme. Jean-Louis Pagès was tasked with finding a solution to the logistical conundrum. In essence, the stage finish designer was asked to fit a dozen elephants into a matchbox. „I was a bit reluctant at the time because I was an old-school man“, explains the former history and geography teacher, who joined the Tour in 1984. „Having time, place and action on the same wavelength was my core tenet. This time round, we had to enter the era of resource fragmentation.“

The team had to think outside the box to make a stage finish on the Tourmalet possible. Only a handful of structures would be set up on the mountain for radio and TV crews, who would have to get there by ski lift. Guest coaches would have to park in Barèges, while the press room was to be set up in La Mongie, on the other side of the massif. On paper, at least, it seemed possible to crowbar everything into the limited space available, „although we only had half as much room as we usually had“, says Pagès. However, the weather threw a curveball on 22 July 2010. „To top it all, it started raining, so we had to improvise from the morning to save the lorries from getting bogged down. We made room for them on the road and it worked because we overhauled the layout. Cramming everything into that space was a technical wonder, but I stayed calm. I used to send Christian a picture of the finish around 11 am to let him know the finish line was ready. This time, we were still rushing to set up the timing control room at 2:30 pm, so I didn’t send him anything.“

In the end, everything was in place for Andy Schleck to outsprint Alberto Contador for the stage win on the fog-shrouded and rain-soaked Tourmalet. „Those moments were packed with strong emotions because I knew it was a test run, that it would allow us to envisage other finishes in spectacular places“, explains Pagès, who comes from the Lozère department but is now enjoying life in Nîmes. Indeed, it only took one year for the Tour to organise a stage finish on the Col de Galibier, 2,645 metres above sea level and with the technical area spread out across three levels. Sometime later, in 2017, the concept produced a spectacular finish on the Izoard, where Warren Barguil came out on top clad in the polka-dot jersey. After this string of successes, the format will be used again in the 2020 Tour, in which a similar concept was used to design the finishes on Puy Mary and the Grand Colombier.


Key points:
 The 7th edition of La Course by Le Tour de France avec FDJ looks more unpredictable than ever on a course around Nice especially designed to favour tactics over sheer strength. Title holder Marianne Vos and in-form Lizzie Deignan, who races at home, are excited about the 96-km event.
 In spite of the Covid-19 crisis, broadcasting of La Course is on the rise.

Jean-Marc Marino : « The most clever rider will win”
Race director Jean-Marc Marino is confident that the 7th edition of La Course by Le Tour de France avec FDJ will be exciting to watch and he warns that tactics, more than strength, will be the key on the 96-km course designed in the hills around Nice.
“It’s a pretty hard course at first, with a 5.5 km climb (Cote de Rimiez) at 5% and then it goes on climbing, it’s the Nice hinterland and we know how bumpy it is. Then there is a really steep descent, very technical and then 20 km on the flat,” he said.
“We can expect a big battle in the climbs. The big question is whether a sprinter can survive or whether a breakaway can go all the way. Nothing is written and that’s what we wanted, to have an unpredictable race. We noticed in the past that if we made too hard a course, it was always the same who won. This time, it might not be the strongest who wins, but certainly the most clever,” the former Tour de France rider added.
While Dutch riders, led by Marianne Vos, Annemiek van Vleuten and Anna van der Breggen, who is not taking part this year, stole the show in the past, Marino expects a tougher fight this time.
“You can expect a surprise because there are a lot of up and coming young riders who will be less closely watched than the favourites. They can sneak their way into victory. Of course we can have a solo win by Annemiek van Vleuten, and Marianne Vos, who climbs well, can win a sprint finish. Or Lizzie Deignan, who just won in Plouay and has a strong finish,” he said.

Marianne Vos: “Not for a specific rider”
Marianne Vos will be going for a hat trick on Saturday all the more confident as she feels the course suits her better than most.
“Last year’s was a fantastic win for me personally. After the first time on the Champs-Elysées, it was a different course but the same sensations and feelings crossing the line”, the Dutchwoman said.
Winner of La Course in 2014 on the Champs Elysees and last year in Pau, the three-times world road champion said the course was all the more interesting as it was unpredictable. She will obviously be among the leading favourites with compatriot Annemiek van Vleuten, also a two-times winner of the race, who was crowned European champion on Thursday.
“The course does not seem to be made for a specific type of rider. It’s not for the sprinters, it’s not for the climbers, it gives possibilities for a breakaway, it gives possibilities even for a sprinter if she survives but also the stronger climbers or classics riders can make a difference,” she said.
“I think a lot of teams will go there with an aim to win. I don’t really know the course, I’ve seen it on the Internet, which is the only possibility we have at this moment. I’ll see the course when I’m there. But the team will do the preparation and you can do a fairly good recon without being there”, she added.

Lizzie Deignan: “It’s kind of a home race”
Fresh from her third victory in the Grand Prix de Plouay, 2015 road world champion Lizzie Deignan is looking forward to La Course by le Tour de France avec FDJ, almost on home truf as she lives in Monaco during the season.
“La Course by le Tour de France avec FDJ it’s kind of a home race, it’s just down the road and I’ve ridden on those roads quite a lot. It’s obviously going to be a big celebration of cycling, with the Tour de France just down the road, it’s quite exciting to be part of that,” she said.
The Briton likes the circuit very much. “I think it’s actually a good course, a good racing course. this year was an easy year for A.S.O. to back out from having a woman’s race and I’m pleased that there’s still a woman race”.
“I think it’s a good racing circuit and is going to be quite aggressive”, Deignan, the Trek-Segafredo team leader added.
Deignan, who had health problems – food poisoning and a crash at Strade Bianche –, at the start of the season, showed great shape and tactical sense to win in Plouay and she will hope to improve on her best result in La Course by le Tour de France avec FDJ – second place in 2017. She can also count on the support of Italy’s Elisa Longo Borghini, silver-medallist ay the European Championships, who can be an outside chance for team Trek-Segafredo.

The Tour to the power of 10

2000: The Tour on the archi-pedal-o (9/10)

At the turn of each decade, the Tour de France has gone through organisational changes and backstage struggles that have variously turned out to be decisive or utterly inconsequential. The journey back in time proposed by continues with the run-up to the 2000 Tour de France, when a spectacular start on Guadeloupe, almost 7,000 km from Paris, had been planned and preparations put into motion. A transatlantic Tour was almost within the realm of possibility.
Seen from the mid-1990s, the year 2000 was an equally thrilling and daunting prospect. For the Tour de France, it was an exciting opportunity to craft a route like no other. A lot of good ideas were thrown around, but one in particular stood out from the rest, especially because it came directly from the French president. Jacques Chirac told Jean-Claude Killy, the president of ASO at the time, that he would do everything in his power to support a Tour start from the French overseas territories and, especially, Guadeloupe, then governed by his ally Lucette Michaux-Chevry. No other part of overseas France was as passionate about cycling, with a generation of track cyclists bursting onto the stage and a bicycle race that had been an integral part of the archipelago’s sporting scene ever since its launch in 1948.
For Jean-Marie Leblanc, the boss of the Tour, this left-field idea hit all the right buttons: „I liked the idea because we needed something compelling for 2000. It was a powerful symbol and a great way of showing that the French overseas territories are an integral part of the Republic.“ Meetings were soon held and reconnaissance trips organised to study the feasibility of the project. Jean-François Pescheux, who at the time served as director of competitions, took on the leading role in meticulously analysing the plan: „The key issue was taking as little material to the other side of the Atlantic as possible. We had decided to get rid of the prologue to preclude the need for time-trialling bikes, to allow each team a single car and to significantly cut down the size of the publicity caravan. The route itself was interesting and featured a flat stage in Grande-Terre and a hillier one in Basse-Terre, both of which would have finished in the same place near Pointe-à-Pitre Airport“ Indeed, the second big problem with taking the Tour to the Antilles was „shortening the distance“ and mitigating the impact of the time difference with mainland France.
The „Guadeloupe plan“ hinged on a significant logistical assumption: the Concorde was the only aircraft that could be used to transfer the riders without putting them through the wringer of jet lag.
In order to avoid throwing the riders‘ circadian rhythm out of whack, the idea was to travel to the island as late as possible and get out as quickly as possible. Furthermore, Brest was chosen to host the first European stage to gain an extra 20-odd minutes. Pescheux’s timetable covered all the bases: „If we scheduled stage 2 to finish at noon, when it was 4 pm in metropolitan France, riders could be in bed in Brest by midnight and ready to tackle a short 120 km stage to Quimper the next morning. This overcame all the problems.“ Guadeloupe had more than enough hotels to host the Grande Boucle, while ASO communications manager Philippe Sudres, at the time in charge of relations with broadcasters, had already designed the outline of the TV production set-up: „The idea was to source the helicopters used to cover the race, along with other heavy equipment, from Florida.“
However, the „Guadeloupe plan“ hinged on a significant logistical assumption: the Concorde was the only aircraft that could be used to transfer the riders without putting them through the wringer of jet lag. Pescheux recalls that the talks with Air France were what finally buried the dream: „We met with the Minister of Transport and we came to the conclusion that our plan required six Concorde aircraft. However, their fleet was not big enough and, at any rate, they could not stop all their other operations just for us. It was a real pity because it would have been amazing to use the Tour to show just how close the Antilles are.“ At the time, the waivers that have since allowed the 2009 Vuelta a España to start in the Netherlands and the 2018 Giro d’Italia to start in Israel by starting the race on Friday and/or adding an extra rest day did not exist yet. In the end, the Tour gave up on its dreams of coconut palms and got the show on the road in Futuroscope near Poitiers, where the prologue saw a promising young power rider, David Millar, seize the last yellow jersey of the 20th century in his race debut.

The Tour to the power of 10 / 1970: Leblanc, a team rider with huge potential (7/10)

1970: Leblanc, a team rider with huge potential (7/10)

At the turn of each decade, the Tour de France has gone through organisational changes and backstage struggles that have variously turned out to be decisive or utterly inconsequential. The journey back in time proposed by continues in 1970, in the slipstream of Jean-Marie Leblanc, a rider competing in his second Tour de France after some minor successes in other races. A career in journalism beckons for the man from northern France, who has no idea yet that he will one day become the director of the Tour. Yet the seeds of the attributes needed to helm the race have already taken root in this humble team rider.

Those who still have vivid memories of cycling in the late 1960s would no doubt argue that Jean-Marie Leblanc was a good rider despite his modest results -no offence meant to the Grand Prix d’Aix-en-Provence or the Circuit d’Armorique. He was also what journalists know as „a good customer“, someone who can be relied upon to offer a quote that will grab the reader’s attention before the start of the race and never fails to spice up conversations with anecdotes that can be used to flesh out the „news in brief“ section. A paradigmatic example can be found in the coverage of the 1970 Tour by L’Équipe. The Bic rider was working as a devoted domestique for Jan Janssen and Luis Ocaña in what was only his second Tour de France (58th in 1968), but he seemed to appear in the newspapers far more often than would have been expected from his performance on the road. The mystery was solved in the first week of racing, when author Guy Lagorce wrote A brief portrait of a future colleague and gave the floor to Leblanc: „Starting a career in journalism would also be a way for me to prove to the world that cyclists are more than just a bunch of lads with big thighs […] I won’t deny it: every time that things get tough out there and a press car overtakes me, I feel a pang of jealousy when I peek inside. You have no idea how soft the cushions of a car look when seen from the saddle of a bike.“
Just as Leblanc showed glimpses of the potential of a future journalist, he also had the makings of a man devoted to the best interests of cycling.

Aware that he would never be good enough to earn a champion’s wages, the young father and media darling was already planning his future in a different field. By 1970, he had ample experience in this area after taking advantage of the winter breaks to lay the groundwork for his transition. Half a century later, he still remembers his first foray into the sports press clearly: „I was shy, but in the winter of 1966–67 my friend Philippe Crépel persuaded me to call Émile Parmentier, the sports editor of La Voix du Nord. He welcomed me with open arms and I’ll never be able to thank him enough for it. He sent me to report on cyclo-cross, of course, and put me in charge of the boxing section. I loved it and I even obtained a coaching diploma to be a credible source in such a special world.“ A cyclist in the summer and journalist in the winter, the young Economics graduate was definitely not your average cyclist.
Jean-Marie Leblanc continued to learn in the 1970 Tour, eagerly fielding questions. „I loved hearing them talk about this profession I wanted to practise“, insisted the aspiring reporter, who would eventually be hired by La Voix du Nord in 1971, right after the end of his final season in the peloton. Just as Leblanc showed the promise of the future journalist who a few years later would receive a call from the chief editor of L’Équipe, Noël Couëdel, offering him the post of cycling editor, he also had the makings of a man devoted to the best interests of cycling. It was his thorough understanding of the matter that led to him becoming the secretary-general of the National Union of Professional Cyclists (UNCP), where he proved his mettle as a leader: „At UNCP, for example, we fought to get two-year contracts for neo-pros, which did not exist before that. I had always wanted to help organise my profession, and when I became a journalist, I took on an active role in the trade union of French sports journalists (USJSF)“. Jean-Marie Leblanc took it to a whole new level in 1988, when he became the director of the Tour de France a mere 20 years after his first participation as a rider.

Discover or rediscover the previous episodes in the series:
1960: When President de Gaulle greeted the Tour (6/10)
1950: Divorce Italian style (5/10)
1940: The Tour that wasn’t (4/10)
1930: The Tour revolutionizes (3/10)
1920: “sportsmen”according to Desgrange (2/10)
1910: Alphonse Steinès’great deception (1/10)
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The Tour to the power of 10

1960: When President de Gaulle greeted the Tour (6/10)

At the turn of each decade, the Tour de France has gone through organisational changes and backstage struggles that have variously turned out to be decisive or utterly inconsequential. The journey back in time proposed by continues in 1960, specifically on the penultimate stage, when the peloton was paid a visit for the first time by a President of the Republic when the Tour passed through Colombey-les-Deux-Églises where General de Gaulle was staying. A form of mutual reverence between the statesman and the champions marked this unprecedented moment.
On the 1960 Tour de France, the battle on the road was severely hampered by a cascade of no-shows and retirements that limited the competition. Anquetil opted out, exhausted after his victory on the Giro, while defending champion Federico Bahamontes withdrew after not even completing stage two. And to add injury to insult, the French team, already in the throes of a malaise, lost any chance of victory when Roger Rivière fell tragically on the descent following the Col de Perjuret in the Lozère Department. There were barely any more combatants after the Avignon stage, one week prior to the finish, to contest Gastone Nencini. And even less so on the penultimate stage, which he tackled with a more than five-minute lead from his closest challenger, Graziano Battistini. Between Besançon and Troyes, the peloton dawdled with little motivation, but as they approached Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, rumour had it that a spectator like no other could offer an historic tone to this dreary day.
Staying in his family property of La Boisserie, General de Gaulle mingled with the public gathered on the sidewalks of the Haut-Marne village as he awaited the passage of the Grande Boucle. With no social networks or mobile phones, Jacques Goddet was alerted to this presidential surprise when he passed the support station in Chaumont, some twenty kilometres away. There was just enough time to get the message to the peloton that a stop would be observed, the absence of a breakaway allowing a quick neutralisation. When the peloton arrived and without even getting out of his convertible, the Tour boss used his megaphone to declare that „The Tour sends its affectionate greetings to President De Gaulle“. A little embarrassed by this impromptu ceremony, the president made the most of the encounter to congratulate a few riders and in particular the Italian in the Yellow Jersey, who was honoured with a handshake and the encouragement of a connoisseur: „you are going to win the Tour“.
With or without a suit and tie, on the roadside or in a car during the race, the presidential visit has become a ritual pioneered by Charles de Gaulle.

In the past, the Tour had been stopped by a railway crossing, but never by a spectator. From a purely sporting point of view, this unique stop was a Godsend for Pierre Beuffeuil. The rider from the Centre-Midi regional team had been delayed by a puncture, but thanks to the general, this was his lucky day. Beuffeuil regained contact with the peloton in Colombey as well as his confidence. With 26 kilometres to go to the finish, he put in a solo attack to claim his first stage victory on the Tour de France. „I’ve always voted de Gaulle“, said Beuffeuil after his victory in Troyes.

With or without a suit and tie, on the roadside or in a car during the race, the presidential visit has become a ritual pioneered by Charles de Gaulle. Only his immediate successor, Georges Pompidou, did not come to meet the riders, while Valéry Giscard d’Estaing waited for them in Paris to present the Yellow Jersey to Bernard Thévenet for the first final finish on the Champs-Elysées in 1975. As for François Mitterrand, he had played the spectator-photographer card on an alpine stage in 1985 and Jacques Chirac, already very familiar with the event as Mayor of Paris, followed a stage in Jean-Marie Leblanc’s car on the 1998 Tour.
However, it was during Nicolas Sarkozy’s term of office, himself a cyclist in his own right, that presidential visits became more frequent… and better organised. A few months after his election, Jacques Chirac’s successor went to the Briançon stage of the 2007 Tour, won by Colombian Mauricio Soler. At that time, the reception of a president on the Tour began to be part of a much more rigorous process than that of Colombey, as explained by the Tour’s deputy director Pierre-Yves Thouault, who was notably in charge of preparing these special invitations: „We usually get in touch with the services of the Elysée Palace in the spring, in order to think first about a date that corresponds to the president’s itinerary, and then about a stage that sometimes comes naturally. For example, François Hollande made the trip in 2014 to the Arras-Reims stage, which went past places of remembrance of the First World War on the occasion of the centenary celebrations. But the previous year, he drastically changed his schedule to go to the Bagnères-de-Bigorre stage to support the residents of the towns flooded by the Garonne a month earlier“. In any case, the planning of this visit, which is kept secret for as long as possible, is carefully tracked to ensure the security of the president by all law enforcement agencies: „Nothing is left to chance, Thouault says. We know exactly where his helicopter will land to meet us, and then how he will be evacuated at the end of the stage. However, you have to be able to adapt to any last-minute changes.” Last year, Emmanuel Macron was lucky enough to witness Thibaut Pinot’s victory on the Col du Tourmalet, while Julian Alaphilippe continued to wear the Yellow Jersey around the country. The Tour is also a certain idea of France, as the general could have said…

The Tour to the power of 10

1950: divorce Italian style (5/10)

At the turn of each decade, the Tour de France has gone through organisational changes and backstage struggles that have variously turned out to be decisive or utterly inconsequential. The journey back in time proposed by continues in 1950, marked by the collective departure of the Italian riders after incidents that resulted in Gino Bartali being threatened and assaulted by French spectators in the Pyrenees. Between the resurgence of the old internal squabbles within the „Squadra“ and the diplomatic consequences of the Col d’Aspin affair, the 1950 Tour extended well beyond the roads of France.
A quarrel between neighbouring countries on the Tour de France is both simple and, at the same time, much more complex than an anecdotal overzealousness and wine in the ranks of the supporters of both sides. In 1950, traces of World War II remained and the memory of the Mussolini regime’s collaboration with Nazi Germany was still fresh. On the political front, there was a genuine desire to reintegrate Italy into the community of nations on both sides of the Alps, but progress was slow and sport had its place in this process. In the world of cycling, the Italian federation (UVI) was not readmitted into the UCI until 1947. In concert with the authorities, the organisers worked to bring consistency to the peloton and to provoke a maximum number of encounters between the champions of the two countries, for example with the creation of the Desgrange-Colombo Challenge, in tribute to the founders of the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia. As a symbol of the newfound friendship, Sanremo hosted a stage finish on the 1948 Tour, where Gino Sciardis won ahead of Urbain Caffi… two French riders of Italian origin!

The understood interest of the two organizing newspapers, L’Equipe and La Gazzetta was to ensure that their races had the highest possible density, coexisting with the chauvinistic fibre that also sold newspapers. But this approach tended to heat up controversy and in the 1949 Tour, the French riders were copiously insulted, pushed and targeted by stone-throwing Italian supporters during the stage leading to Aosta. After the domination of Bartali and Coppi in the two previous editions, and a minimalist strategy that hardly made Italian riders popular in France, the 1950 Tour began in a climate of hostility towards them. Heralded as the rider to beat when Coppi was unable to ride, Gino Bartali felt threatened from the very first days, when the Italians won three of the first five stages. In the time trial in Brittany, he narrowly avoided falling after a spectator threw a stick into his wheels, but his team manager, Alfredo Binda effectively negotiated with the Italian journalists present not to worsen the situation. Gino himself declared in La Gazzetta on the eve of the Pyrenees that „it is better not to win“, just to ease tensions.

Jacques Goddet paid a visit to the Hotel de France in Loures-Barousse. The boss decided to meet the Italian delegation and convince Bartali to stay in the race. But his arguments didn’t change a thing. The leader of the „Squadra“ felt he was in danger.

The fears of the two-time winner were well-founded and the atmosphere grew increasingly tense in the Pau-Saint-Gaudens stage. On the Col d’Aspin climb, the pressure of the crowd sent both Robic and Bartali off their bikes, then the situation degenerated. Accounts of this scene of confusion varied greatly, but the limits of simple intimidation were largely exceeded and there were certainly punches thrown. In any case, Bartali, enraged, managed to get back to the leaders of the race and won the sprint in Saint-Gaudens, while his young team-mate Fiorenzo Magni claimed the Yellow Jersey, and immediately afterwards decided to leave the Tour where he felt in danger. That night, Jacques Goddet paid a visit to the Hotel de France in Loures-Barousse. The boss decided to meet the Italian delegation and convince Bartali to stay in the race. But his arguments (including financial ones, according to some…) didn’t change a thing. The leader of the „Squadra“ felt he was in danger and explained himself diplomatically in L’Equipe: „In many circumstances, I’ve been wonderfully welcomed in your country. But I think it only takes one crazy person for a disaster to happen. And that’s the madman I’m afraid of. Please understand, I have children and a family. Why take such risks? No, it’s for Italy that I’ll leave tomorrow“.

In fact, opinions were divided in the Italian camp. Fiorenzo Magni, who led the general classification, could legitimately believe in his chances of going for the greatest victory of his career. Bartali did not like this, partly because of Magni’s militia past. Alfredo Binda, who coached the team, rather thought about the need to maintain friendly relations with the French, but finally agreed with Bartali’s position and assumed the group withdrawal of the two Italian teams, taking the „Cadetti“ with him. The situation helped Ferdi Kübler, the new rider in the Yellow Jersey, but more than anything else caused a lot of upheaval. Very soon after the departure of the Italians, it was decided to cancel the arrival in Sanremo scheduled four days later for fear of reprisals from the tifosi. In the rush, Goddet and his services took on the logistical challenge of preparing a fallback arrival in Menton, with more than 1000 people to house and feed.

Practical considerations were quickly relegated to the back burner, as the Aspin affair entered the judicial arena with the opening of an investigation, and political considerations as soon as the stability of Franco-Italian relations was compromised. The diplomats of both countries were much less heated than their respective supporters and tried to calm things down. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Robert Schuman, first of all hastened to send a message to the Italian ambassador, expressing his „deep regret at the incidents of which the Italian riders were victims“. The issue also came up in parliamentary debates in both countries, with Edouard Bonnefous, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, solemnly declaring that „the Italians are friends who came to our country to demonstrate their class, not to be insulted. We cannot allow a handful of scoundrels to jeopardise good relations between the two countries“. In the same spirit of appeasement, the Italian Ambassador in Paris replied that „the regret expressed by the French Minister for Foreign Affairs served as a reminder that such incidents could never disrupt the friendly relations between the two governments and the two peoples, whose collaboration will increasingly develop in all areas“. As far as cycling was concerned, the presidents of the two federations, Adriano Rodoni and Achille Joinard, met in the second week of August with the Tour de France organisers to talk about the future. The Italian riders would definitely come to the 1951 Tour de France.
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The Tour to the power of 10

1940: The Tour that wasn’t (4/10)

At the turn of each decade, the Tour de France has gone through organisational changes and backstage struggles that have variously turned out to be decisive or utterly inconsequential. The journey back in time proposed by continues in 1940: when the country entered the war, Henri Desgrange tried to keep the 34th edition of the Tour alive until spring, but had to resign himself to its cancellation. Before July France was already under German occupation, and Desgrange left the Tour orphaned in August.

According to the tautological principle that you can’t suppress something that doesn’t exist, the 1940 edition of the Tour de France is the only one in history to have been cancelled. Although its detailed route was never published and its dates were not officially announced, its organisation was well thought out, envisaged and programmed in the offices of the organising newspaper, in a France that was nevertheless at war and whose youth had been drafted in September 1939. It would be far-fetched to suspect L’Auto of existing naively in a sports bubble ignoring the major issues in the balance on the battlefield, quite the contrary. From mid-September, the newspaper even assumed a total commitment by changing its title to L’Auto-Soldat, and its editorial line then split between news of the world conflict, analysis of the competitions that continued to take place and news of the champions called up to serve in the armed forces. On 16 September, the headline was accompanied by an unequivocal quote from Voltaire: „Every man is a soldier against tyranny“. It is in this line that Henri Desgrange, who, although seriously ill, did not let go of his pen but distanced himself from sport, multiplied patriotic editorials and caricatures, for example Hitler, whom he described as a „house painter“.

In its services, all the assistants were active and strove to give shape from the very beginning of winter to a cycling season that could also sustain the idea that France continued to live on. In December, discussions began with the heads of the bicycle manufacturers to try to come up with a calendar and invent a new formula. How can a bunch of riders of at the same skill level be formed when most of the riders in the 1939 Tour were fighting? Were foreign cyclists from non-belligerent countries going to be accepted? Who would therefore have their best people available? Where can we get bicycles when the entire industry is focused on the war effort? The debate was launched, and even initiated in the columns of the newspaper, which transcribed the content of the negotiations like a soap opera. Alcyon’s boss was optimistic, but not as determined as Colibri’s: „I’ve come, like all my colleagues, to put a white ball in to get unanimous congratulations,“ read the 16 January edition of L’Auto. On the other hand, Genial-Lucifer had more misgivings („Maurice Evrard felt that in his own opinion the uselessness of certain road races was obvious“, L’Auto of 13 January), and the tone was also very cautious from the head of Dilecta. However, we manage to get everyone to agree year after year on a formula published on 6 February which, among other measures, only admits riders who are not yet old enough to carry weapons and limits the number of foreigners to 33% of the peloton.

On 11 July, on the BBC, an anonymous columnist chose sport to make the voice of London heard. „Today, if Mr. Hitler had agreed to let Europe live in peace, the 34th Tour de France would have set off joyfully.”

Everything seemed more or less in place, but while it was business as usual at the velodromes throughout the winter, there were great difficulties at the start of the road racing season. Paris-Roubaix, whose route was initially validated by military authorities, was transformed into Roubaix-Paris and finally saved in-extremis as Le Mans-Paris! It looked like there was also going to be course reversal for Paris-Tours, and the clouds were particularly threatening on the Race to the Sun, which L’Auto was exceptionally associated with the Le Petit Niçois newspaper in an attempt to save the organisation. Above all, Henri Desgrange published a paper with a very pessimistic tone for the future of the 1940 Tour de France. He evoked a course in the form of a „deflated bladder“, listed all the constraints he faced, and concluded as follows: „It would be enough, wouldn’t it, for you to expect this article to end with the announcement that the 1940 Tour de France will not take place? Well! It is not enough for us and we still have one last hope of being able to triumph over all these difficulties, and we want to give it a try“. The sentence was not long in coming. Four days later, the announcement was posted on the front page: „The Tour de France will not take place this year. It is postponed to 1941. See the explanations provided by its creator, Henri Desgrange, in the 13 and 14 April issues.”

Events then precipitated the country into the dark sequence of the German occupation following the signing of the armistice of 22 June 1940 by Philippe Pétain. Meanwhile, Charles De Gaulle launched his 18 June appeal on the BBC, the Free France timidly structured itself behind the „Leader of the French who continue the war“. It so happened that from London, the following 11 July, a small French enclave decided to act as if the Tour de France had started. The programme „Ici la France“ was broadcast daily for half an hour on the BBC. That day, an anonymous columnist whose name remains unknown chose sport to make the voice of London heard. „Today, if Mr. Hitler had agreed to let Europe live in peace, he would have set off joyfully on the 34th Tour de France*. A completely fictitious story began, as a way to reunite the divided country and to find itself in a shared and happy wistfulness. This was far from reality, but in the legend of the Tour, the story is as important as the race.

It is unlikely that Henri Desgrange could have heard this report, which would have certainly given him chills, perhaps even drawn a few tears. For the 1940 Tour de France, even if it had been able to take place, would also have been the first without him. Operated on a few months earlier and seriously weakened, the father of the Tour de France died on 16 August, at the age of 75. His successor and spiritual son, Jacques Goddet, took over the reins of the newspaper and the following year he opposed the organisation of a Tour de France whose prestige would be claimed by the Vichy regime. The return of the real Tour de France had to wait until 1947.

The Tour to the power of 10

1930: The Tour revolutionizes (3/10)

At the turn of each decade, the Tour de France has gone through organisational changes and backstage struggles that have variously turned out to be decisive or utterly inconsequential. The journey back in time proposed by continues in 1930, the year of a major revolution when, Tour boss and editor-in-chief of L’Auto, Henri Desgrange decided riders would compete in national teams and no longer for bicycle manufacturers. To pay for this costly reform, the newspaper also found a new source of income with the creation of the advertising caravan.

Tensions between the bicycle brands and the organisers were a common thread that followed and forged the history of the nascent Tour de France and then the interwar period. Henri Desgrange, who was a purist and uncompromising in his conception of sporting competition, despised and fought against any form of agreement likely to contaminate the simple athletic confrontation between the heroes of the Grande Boucle. Since the resumption in 1919, following the First World War, the Tour de France boss introduced regulations to reduce the influence of the most powerful manufacturers in the industry, which had a tendency to dictate race scenarios. The situation even began to disgust Desgrange following the 1929 Tour, won by Maurice De Waele, a Belgian champion who was certainly solid and exemplary, but in the end wasn’t challenged nearly enough by the competition on his victorious ride to Paris.

For the 1930 edition, Desgrange decided to radically change the format. Teams were no longer formed by bicycle manufacturers, but were made up of national selections whose composition was also decided by L’Auto. In order to be in complete control, he committed to supplying the bikes to the Tour riders, at least those entered in the Aces category, even if it meant making the “tourists-routiers” wait a few years. The great project quickly developed in the mind of Desgrange, who announced precisely his plans and objectives in L’Auto on 25 September 1929: „The major change is the suppression of commercial rivalries that have been significantly shattering the success of the race every year since 1903. With only one brand available for the Aces, we can say that there is no longer a commercial battle, and that the race will be able to take place in a sporting manner. From now on, nothing will prevent the best from winning“.

The change to national teams must not be considered as a declaration of war, as the brands retain their riders in all other competitions throughout the year and could, for example, require them to boycott the Tour.

The transformation wanted by the organizing newspaper implied major constraints since the bicycles, accommodations and provisions were fully taken care of. The financial expenditures to be made were significant and had to be paid for by some income if the reform was to be feasible. This is where a genius idea was born to balance the accounts. Desgrange was assisted by an advertising director, Robert Desmarets, who had noticed that for several years, brands had taken advantage of the exceptional crowds around the peloton to set up commercial ventures. Vehicles in the colours of Menier chocolates, for example, were already handing out thousands of bars to the public in 1929. “Grand Bob”, as he was nicknamed, decided to officially accept them at the opening of the race, in return for a fee covering most of the extra expenses for the year. Menier, Fromagerie Bell (Vache Qui Rit), Biscottes Delft and Montres Noveltex formed the Tour’s first publicity caravan.

The power struggle between Desgrange and the bicycle manufacturers can, however, be put into perspective, as the co-dependent relationship remained very real. The move to the national teams should not have been seen as a declaration of war, as the brands retained their riders all year round on all other the competitions, on the roads of France as well as on the velodromes, and could for example require them to boycott the Tour. This context of more or less harmonious cohabitation partially explained the tone adopted by Desgrange in his opening article on the day of the race’s start: „It will be the honour of the bicycle manufacturers to have accepted this experience, which may seem to deprive this or that of a profitable advertisement, but which must benefit the entire bicycle industry. (…) They did not accept this experience passively; they followed it and will follow it, for a month, with great interest. (…) Yes, we owe André Leducq and Delannoy to Alcyon, Marcel Bidot to La Française, Demuysère to Génial-Lucifer, Bonduel to Dilecta, and the Magne Brothers to the Société Française de Cycles. Our great brands have lent them to us, or better said… they gave them to us without any restrictions. What a guarantee of success that such a gift, and what recognition for such a gesture do we not owe to our major cycle manufacturers?”. The recognition was also that of a businessman, well aware that these firms were also huge advertisers who contributed to the financial health of the newspaper throughout the year.

In any case, in the Aces category there were five national teams of eight riders at the start. Belgium’s black jerseys, Italy’s green, Spain’s red, Germany’s yellow and France’s blue-white-red were about to spark phenomenal enthusiasm among the public… and among the readers. Desgrange naturally found that the patriotic fibre was working to full effect with the French Tennis Musketeers, who were taking the entire country by storm in their matches with the Australians and Americans in the Davis Cup. He found his Musketeers on wheels with André Leducq, Antonin Magne and Charles Pélissier. As if by magic, while the French were generally outclassed during the 1920s by the Belgians, Luxembourgers and Italians, the collective force of the French squad was impressive. Pélissier won a total of eight stages, a record that still stands, while „Dédé gueule d’amour“ won the general classification after a hard-fought battle with Alfredo Binda and Learco Guerra among others. The success of the French clan was also a tremendous victory for Henri Desgrange, who concluded the Tour with these words: „This is now, indisputably, the National Bicycle Holiday. From now on, we will celebrate it every year under the same conditions, to the greatest glory of this divine machine and to the glory of our great cycling industry. (…) Thus the Tour de France will henceforth be a great international and peaceful competition where cycling nations will come every year to measure the value of their champions“.