Monday, 23 July 2012

Dreyfus, de Dion and the Tour de France

I watched the final stage of the Tour de France yesterday afternoon.

I don't really follow cycling and haven't watched any of the other stages.  I watched mainly because it promised to be a bit of sports history, an Englishman winning the world's most famous cycling race for the first time.  Bradley Wiggins is also a Mod and indie fan who lives in the North West and trains in the hills of Lancashire and at Manchester velodrome.

Reading up on the history of the Tour de France, I found this article about how it began in 1903 as a result of the Dreyfus Affair, the imprisonment of a Jewish army officer for espionage that divided France and increased anti-semitism and nationalism on one side and radicalism and anti-clericalism on the other. The car manufacturer Jules-Albert de Dion, an anti-Dreyfusard, joined other industrialists outraged at the pro-Dreyfus stance of France's leading sports newspaper Le Vélo in setting up a rival publication, now L'Équipe, which sponsored the first race.

The final stage of the Tour goes through some rather pretty countryside. I've been to France but not Paris. If the aerial shots of the gardens at Versailles are anything to go by, they'd be top of my list of places to see if I'm ever there.

I went for a walk after the race had ended. Maybe it was my imagination but there seemed to be a lot of middle-aged men on bikes out on the roads...

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