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☆ Tour de France – French Passion ☆

27/07/2009

☆ Tour de France - French Passion  ☆

The Tour de France is an annual bicycle race that covers around 3,500 kilometres (2,200 mi) throughout France and bordering countries. The race lasts 23 days and attracts cyclists from around the world. The race is broken into day-long segments, called stages. Individual times to finish each stage are totalled to determine the overall winner at the end of the race. The rider with the lowest aggregate time at the end of each day wears a yellow jersey.[1] The course changes every year but it has always finished in Paris and in more recent years along the Champs-Élysées. The Tour de France is the most well known and prestigious of cycling’s three “Grand Tours”. The other two Grand Tours are the Giro d’Italia (Italy) held every May and the Vuelta a España (Spain) held every August-September.

The roots of the Tour de France can be traced to the Dreyfus Affair, a cause célèbre which divided France at the end of the 19th century over the innocence of Alfred Dreyfus, a soldier convicted – though later exonerated – of selling military secrets to the Germans. Opinions became heated and there were demonstrations by both sides. One was what the historian Eugen Weber called “an absurd political shindig” at the Auteuil horse-race course in Paris in 1899.[6] Among those involved was Albert de Dion, the owner of the De Dion-Bouton car works, who believed Dreyfus was guilty.[7] De Dion served 15 days in jail and was fined 100 francs for his role at Auteuil.[8]

The incident at Auteuil, said Weber, was “tailor-made for the sporting press.” The first and the largest daily sports newspaper in France was Le Vélo,[9] which sold 80,000 copies a day.[10] Its editor, Pierre Giffard, thought Dreyfus innocent. He reported the arrest in a way that displeased de Dion, who was so angry that he joined other anti-Dreyfusards such as Edouard Michelin and opened a rival daily sports paper, L’Auto.[11]

The new newspaper appointed Henri Desgrange as editor. He was a prominent cyclist and owner with Victor Goddet of the velodrome at the Parc des Princes.[12] De Dion knew him through his cycling reputation, through the books and cycling articles that he had written, and through press articles he had written for the Clément tyre company.

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