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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Tour de France: The Unsung Influence of Cyclotourists | Off the Beaten Path


The 100th Tour de France started today. Wherever you look, there are retrospectives: in magazines and newspapers, on TV and the radio. Winners get to write history, and so the role of cyclotourists in the development of the most famous bicycle race in the world remains almost unknown.
The Tour de France was shaped at least in part by the animosity between Henri Desgrange and Vélocio. Desgrange was the editor of the sports paper L’Auto that created the Tour. Vélocio’s magazine Le Cycliste that was read by cyclotourists. For years, their respective papers were filled with heated exchanges about the perfect bicycle: the spare, lean single-speed racing bike or the complex, but efficient, cyclotouring bike with multiple gears. Bicycle Quarterly Vol. 5, No. 2 looked at this fascinating history.
Desgrange was financed by the bike industry, who liked the profits from the simple, easy-to-manufacture single-speed bikes. Vélocio was the advocate of cyclotourists, who wanted to explore the countryside and mountains by bike, and thus needed more substantial bikes with multiple gears and reliable brakes.

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