Whenever you’re learning French, it’s onerous to miss France’s largest sporting event of the yr.
From sixth July this yr, a gaggle of elite cyclists will push themselves to the bounds of endurance on a route that takes them to all corners of France – in addition to passing via Belgium – earlier than crossing the finishing line around three weeks later on the world-famous Champs-Élysées in Paris.
The Tour de France occupies a singular place within the French cultural and sporting landscape. And to non-French, it takes its place alongside all the other well-known photographs of France that colour our impressions of the country.
For those who’re interested in the Tour, its historical past and its cultural significance, here’s every thing you have to find out about this venerable and revered biking race.
The Origins Of The Tour De France
Let’s begin by taking a look at how it all started. The Tour de France is the world’s best-known and most iconic biking race. There was a Tour yearly since 1903 – aside from a quick hiatus during each of the World Wars.
Nevertheless, the origins of the race don’t lie in sporting competitors however in a rivalry between two sports newspapers, Le Vélo and L’Auto.
Originally of the 20th century, the preferred sports activities paper in France was Le Vélo. L’Auto was a newcomer to the scene, set up in 1899 specifically to problem the dominance of the older publication.
Nevertheless, by 1902, things weren’t going based on plan and L’Auto was failing to match the circulation numbers of Le Vélo.
Because the story goes, probably the most junior member of the journalistic group, Géo Lefèvre, proposed the thought of staging a large-scale bicycle race to improve gross sales at a disaster meeting.
The editor of the paper, Henri Desgrange, was intrigued by the suggestion. So together they started to hatch plans for the first-ever Tour de France.
A Gruelling Ordeal
The first occasion passed off the following yr in 1903 and was a gruelling ordeal for the riders, even by at present’s requirements. There were solely six levels. But every one concerned a mean of 400km of cycling and took up to 18 hours to finish!
To put this into perspective, nowadays, no stage is over 250km, and lots of are shorter.
A generous purse of 20,000 francs for the winner attracted 60 riders – some professionals, many merely courageous amateurs. But by the top of the primary stage, 23 had already dropped out.
The course took riders over unpaved roads. There were no help automobiles. Individuals had to repair damaged bicycles by themselves. They usually rode in darkness by means of the night time to finish each leg.
On the finish of it all, professional French bike owner Maurice Garin gained the inaugural Tour de France. And the last-placed rider completed the course over 60 hours behind him.
The Early Years Of The Tour De France
The unique Tour had been meant as a one-off. However such was the noise and pleasure it created in France that a race was soon organised for the next yr. It was marred by underhand techniques – together with fans restraining and beating up rival riders beneath the duvet of darkness, individuals hitching rides in automobiles at night time and more.
Garin, the victor of the previous yr, gained in the long run. But he, along with the second- and third-placed finishers have been later disqualified for cheating. This led to the abolition of nighttime driving and the introduction of shorter daytime-only levels the next yr.
By the third yr of the Tour, it had already develop into a huge success and an eagerly anticipated occasion. It also achieved its unique goal of challenging Le Vélo, maybe much more so than anybody on the 1902 assembly might ever have envisioned. Since solely journalists from L’Auto might cowl the race, sales of the newspaper soared.
By 1908, L’Auto was selling round a quarter of one million copies, up from around only 25,000 earlier than the Tour started. Le Vélo had been soundly defeated. And the newspaper closed its doorways endlessly in 1904. L’Auto later turned L’Équipe, a well-liked sports activities newspaper in France to this present day.
The Tour De France Now
Since these early years, the Tour has advanced into the world’s most famous and prestigious biking race. Early on, the organisers resisted know-how, for example banning using gears and insisting on using picket rims.
There were also experiments with awarding points for every leg. Or deciding the winner by calculating the combined time for the whole race.
These days, the mixed time is used. And the race chief with the bottom general time firstly of each leg wears the coveted Yellow Jersey. The race now has 21 levels that take place over 23 days.
Annually, the Tour consists of two or three time trials. Nevertheless it principally consists of mass-starts the place the cyclists all set off together. Of these, probably the most spectacular to observe and probably the most challenging to journey are the legs that happen within the mountains of the Pyrenees and the Alps, with a number of climbs having achieved specific notoriety down the years.
Not all levels are in France, with some additionally happening in neighbouring nations.
The Tour De France Jerseys
The Yellow Jersey worn by the general leader could also be crucial and the one each bike owner aspires to. But there are others too.
- The ‘King of the Mountains’, the bike owner who has performed greatest in the mountain levels of the tour, wears a white jersey with purple dots
- The rider who is leading the points competition wears the Inexperienced Jersey
This can be a classification inside the general Tour, with factors being awarded to the first 15 finishers of every stage as well as to the first 15 to cross a delegated ‘sprint’ point in every stage.
The 2019 Tour De France
This yr, the Grand Depart – the beginning of the race – is in Brussels for the the second time in the race’s historical past. The 2019 edition will see seven mountain levels and five summit finishes, including Tourmalet, a formidable cross that has featured 82 occasions, more than some other in the historical past of the Tour.
The full distance of the race is 3,480km.
The Cultural Significance Of The Tour In France
To outsiders, the Tour de France is something as quintessentially French because the Eiffel Tower or baguettes. But what does it mean to the French themselves?
The primary Tour came at an incredibly delicate time in France’s history. Simply over 20 years before, the monarchy had been overthrown for the ultimate time and the Third Republic was established.
Bastille Day was celebrated for the first time in its present type on July 14th 1880. Le Marseillaise had only lately been adopted as the nationwide anthem. And France was looking for nationwide unity and a brand new id.
Towards this background, such a spectacular occasion was a source of satisfaction for the French in addition to one thing that would assist unite the nation. Early on, a lot of the riders have been French. And seeing Frenchmen perform such superhuman feats on two wheels would even have evoked great feelings of patriotism.
Plus, this was at a time when few individuals ever travelled beyond the closest city. And the inhabitants began to study concerning the geography of France with the Tour maps printed in copies of L’Auto. And take an interest in the remainder of their own country.
How The French View The Tour De France At this time
The French see The Tour de France as a nationwide establishment. Most French may have stories of the occasions they witnessed the riders cross someplace near their houses.
And lots of may also keep in mind seeing the Tour once they have been youngsters. That is principally because of the Caravan that passes a few hours before the cyclists, throwing out small presents for young spectators to select up from the floor.
Everyone in France is aware of when the Tour is happening, particularly because of every day TV protection.
Even for French individuals who aren’t biking fans, watching the athletes move by way of the numerous areas of France – from the luxurious fields of Normandy within the north to the Mediterranean landscapes of the south and taking in the Alps and the Pyrenees in between – is a method of studying about elements of the nation they didn’t know before.
Identical to when individuals have been fascinated by the maps revealed in the writeups present in L’Auto within the early days of the Tour!
The Tour de France is likely one of the three Grand Excursions, along with the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España.
- the oldest
- the original
- probably the most demanding
- probably the most prestigious
- and naturally, it’s French
For all these causes, the French see it as a supply of nationwide delight. And an integral part of the annual cultural calendar in much the identical means as Wimbledon is in Britain.
How To Speak About The Tour In French
Listed here are a couple of vocabulary gadgets associated to the Tour de France which may are available helpful when you’re planning to go and see a stage in France or simply chat to French-speaking associates or household about it.
- Arrivée – the end line
- Caravane publicitaire – the Caravan, promoting floats that move a couple of hours earlier than the riders, throwing out souvenirs for youngsters to select up
- Chasseurs – chasers (actually ‘hunters’), riders making an attempt to catch up with the leaders
- Col – a mountain move
- Classement générale – Common Classification, the standings in the race in response to cumulative occasions
- Doubler – to overhaul
- Étape – stage
- Maillot à pois – the white jersey with purple spots worn by the ‘King of the Mountains’
- Grimpeur – actually a ‘climber’, a rider who’s a mountain specialist
- Maillot jaune – the Yellow Jersey, worn by the leader of the classement Générale
- Maillot vert – the Green Jersey, worn by the leader of the factors competition
- Peleton – the primary pack of riders
A Unique French Spectacle
Watching the Tour on TV – and even better travelling there to observe the riders for actual – provides a singular insight into the nation.
Listening to the commentary and seeing the views of the massively various French countryside because the Tour passes via could be extremely inspiring.
And also can help give your motivation to continue studying French an enormous increase.
And even be one more reason to get began on your French-learning journey.
So, let me know in a comment under. Are you a fan of the tour? Are you planning to go to France to observe it?