The first Tour de France Sixty cyclists and nineteen days of daring on the road to Paris

Peter Cossins

Book - 2017

The first Tour de France was a far cry from the polished international sporting event we see on television today. Organized by the financially free falling L'Auto magazine, the desperate editors thought that organizing a grand cycling tour was the only thing that could save their publication. But in 1903, cyclists weren't enthusiastic about what was pitched to them as a heroic race through roads more suited to hooves than wheels, with bikes weighing up to forty-four pounds, on a single... fixed gear, for three full weeks. Assembling enough riders for the race meant bribing unemployed laborers from the suburbs of Paris, including a butcher, a blacksmith, a chimney sweep, and a wrestler. Through these characters' backstories, Cossins paints a nuanced portrait of France in the early 1900's. The race itself is packed with mishaps and adventure--in part due to the fact that water was scarce at the time, so the men drank wine and beer throughout, often keeling over from their bicycles in a drunken stupor. There was no indication that a ramshackle cycling pack would draw crowds to throng France's rutted roads and cheer the first Tour heroes. But they did, and cycling would never be the same again.--Provided by publisher.

Saved in:

2nd Floor Show me where

796.62/Cossins
1 / 1 copies available
Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 796.62/Cossins Checked In
Subjects
Published
New York : Nation Books 2017.
Language
English
Physical Description
ix, 358 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 341-342) and index.
ISBN
9781568589848
1568589840
Main Author
Peter Cossins (author)
Review by Library Journal Reviews

Longtime cycling journalist Cossins (Alpe D'Huez) adeptly sifts fiction from fact using contemporary news sources from the early 20th century to provide a historically accurate account of how a multistage bike race, held over the span of weeks and involving equal parts spectacle and marketing genius, evolved into the most famous race of all time: the Tour de France. Cossins's work is distinct in that it focuses on the events that led up to and took place over the course of the first Tour de France in 1903. This first race represented more than merely a contest of superhuman proportions; it also mirrored a time of great technological progress, illustrating how the power of communication via mass produced print media can help inform and influence readers (not to mention increase circulation sales and advertising revenues), and assisted in the process of overall nation building. The author's detailed yet not overwhelming technical style will make readers clamor for more; especially as the 104th edition of the Tour de France approaches. VERDICT Highly recommended for all sports fans.—John N. Jax, Univ. of Wisconsin Lib., La Crosse Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

The first Tour de France was a far cry from the polished international sporting event we see on television today. Organized by the financially free falling L'Auto magazine, the desperate editors thought that organizing a grand cycling tour was the only thing that could save their publication. But in 1903, cyclists weren't enthusiastic about what was pitched to them as a heroic race through roads more suited to hooves than wheels, with bikes weighing up to forty-four pounds, on a single fixed gear, for three full weeks. Assembling enough riders for the race meant bribing unemployed laborers from the suburbs of Paris, including a butcher, a blacksmith, a chimney sweep, and a wrestler. Through these characters' backstories, Cossins paints a nuanced portraitof France in the early 1900's. The race itself is packed with mishaps and adventure--in part due to the fact that water was scarce at the time, so the men drank wine and beer throughout, often keeling over from their bicycles in a drunken stupor. There was no indication that a ramshackle cycling pack would draw crowds to throng France's rutted roads and cheer the first Tour heroes. But they did, and cycling would never be the same again.--Provided by publisher.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Describes the very first Tour de France, held in 1903 and developed by editors of L’Auto magazine, desperate to keep their publication afloat, and included unemployed laborers from Paris suburbs as participants on unpaved roads riding heavy, single-gear bicycles.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Describes the first Tour de France as a bicycle race created by a failing magazine and including unemployed laborers riding on unpaved roads on heavy, single-gear bicycles.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

From its inception, the 1903 Tour de France was a colorful affair. Full of adventure, mishaps and audacious attempts at cheating, it was a race to be remembered. Cyclists of the time weren't enthusiastic about participating in this "heroic" race on roads more suited to hooves than wheels, with bikes weighing up to thirty-five pounds, on a single fixed gear, for three full weeks. Assembling enough riders for the race meant paying unemployed amateurs from the suburbs of Paris, including a butcher, a chimney sweep and a circus acrobat. From Maurice "The White Bulldog" Garin, an Italian-born Frenchman whose parents were said to have swapped him for a round of cheese in order to smuggle him into France as a fourteen-year-old, to Hippolyte Aucouturier, who looked like a villain from a Buster Keaton movie with his jersey of horizontal stripes and handlebar moustache, the cyclists were a remarkable bunch. Starting in the Parisian suburb of Montgeron, the route took the intrepid cyclists through Lyon, over the hills to Marseille, then on to Toulouse, Bordeaux, and Nantes, ending with great fanfare at the Parc des Princes in Paris. There was no indication that this ramshackle cycling pack would draw crowds to throng France's rutted roads and cheer the first Tour heroes. But they did; and all thanks to a marketing ruse, cycling would never be the same again.