Cycling – Madeleines de Proust of the Tour de France

Just look at the map and the route of the stages to understand why we like the Tour de France so much. We dive into the names of the municipalities, we list the departmental ones, we are already on the roads while the race has not yet started. The Tour takes us back to memories, landscapes, characters. The names of the crossroads appear there as so many Proust madeleines. They are Lagarde and Michard, Vidal de La Blache, Malet and Isaac together, plus the television, the helicopter and the drones above the platoon. Follow the leader!

1st step

Since the opening of this 109th edition, in Copenhagen, Andersen’s Tales came out when the runners passed near the Little Mermaid, who was watching them from the Langelinie pier (kilometer 9.2). It was on Hans-Christian Andersen Boulevard where the finish line of the time trial was set. Too bad Elsinore is a bit far from the Danish capital, because we would have reread Hamlet as well.

Tour de France

“One of the most beautiful finals of the Tour? The summit of Galibier in 2011”


Copenhagen, the starting city of the Tour and world capital of cycling

4th step

Return to France this July 5. Dunkirk, its endless beach, the Allied defeat of 1940, the English embarking on disaster to continue the war from home, the spectacular film by Christopher Nolan but also Jean-Paul Belmondo in Weekend in Zuydcoote. Just before arriving in Calais, it is Sangatte, synonymous with migrants, misery, deaths at sea. D’Artagnan took fewer risks by embarking very close here to The Three Musketeers to go and collect the labels in London from Anna of Austria and fight the Milady. .

5th and 6th steps

In battles! The organizers pampered us: Bouvines (kilometer 20), victory of France by Philippe Auguste. Then Agincourt (kilometer 110) during the Hundred Years’ War: defeat against the English, six thousand killed on the French side, 600 on the English side. The next day, again with Rocroi (kilometer 77), victory over the Spaniards. We were saved from Crécy, where France was crushed in 1346. Head east on Charleville-Mézières, long enough to recite two verses from Rimbaud, whose birthplace it is. (“Sleep in the sun, hand on chest, Quiet. Has two red holes on right side”) and it’s Sedan at mile 125.

Sedan and its fortress where hundreds of French soldiers, including my father, crowded in May 1940, forced to spend the war as prisoners in the depths of Germany. On arrival in Longwy, memories of the defunct French steel industry, in a constituency of Meurthe-et-Moselle where he has just elected a deputy of the NUPES.

The profile of the 5th stage: The day of the cobblestones and all the dangers

7th step

Sometimes it’s a sound that tickles your memory. Granges-sur-Vologne (kilometer 86) evokes Lépanges-sur-Vologne from a sinister memory, where little Grégory died. Cold case. Well, just before there is Rambervillers (kilometer 58). He had attended a Philippe Séguin campaign meeting in 1997. Jacques Chirac had just dissolved the National Assembly and Séguin, as always, was not optimistic. He had his reasons.

8th and 9th stages

Arbois, Lac-des-rouges-Truites, Morbier, Epagny-Gruyères: there is gastronomy in the air. We imagine ourselves on the shores of Lake Geneva, on a terrace overlooking the beauty of the lake. In his time, Antoine Blondin indicated “contact lenses” in his expense reports. The fans were less serious than today and the richer newspapers …

10th, 11th and 12th steps

When you get to the Alps, the memories are closer to the race itself than to the history of France. At the top of the Galibier, two days in a row, the eternal thanks to Henri Desgrange, the founder of the Tour, passing in front of his wake. At the top of the Alpe d’Huez, a birthday: in 1952, seventy years ago, Fausto Coppi emerged victorious from the first ascent with twenty-one bends. The legend was just beginning.

Pierre Rolland (B&B Hotels – KTM), climbing the Col du Galibier, in the 7th stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné 2022

Credit: Getty Images

13th step

Vizille (kilometer 27), doubly historical: the city was one of the cradles of the French Revolution then center of resistance in 1940-45. Thirteen kilometers further on is Grenoble. His elected officials have not always had very tender words for the Tour. But it is also one of the cities Compagnon de la Liberation. “A well-deserved homeland,” said de Gaulle when he came to decorate it on November 5, 1944.

14th step

Political parenthesis: Yssingeaux (kilometer 50) became famous thanks to its mayor and multi-minister Jacques Barrot, who was a hardworking and brilliant centrist. In Puy-en-Velay (kilometer 85), a memory of near lynching: on December 4, 2015, three days after the fire in the prefecture of the Haute-Loire, overexcited “yellow vests” tried to attack the car of ‘Emmanuel Macron.. “Die on the road!” shouted a protester. “They can kill me with a bullet, but nothing else”he entrusted the president to his collaborators on his return.

When the stage arrives at Mende airfield, memories will be cut in half: half by Laurent Jalabert’s stage victory on July 14, 1995, half by Bourvil and Louis de Glider’s final glider flight. Funés in La grande vadrouille, with this unforgettable line: “there’s no helix, alas, where the bone is.”

15th step

Should we forget Tarascon-sur-Ariège (kilometer 97)? In 1998, runners chose to sit on the ground at the start line, delaying the race by two hours. Richard Virenque and the Festinas had left the Tour, police had landed at the TVM team hotel, reporters began searching the teams. Let’s not forget to take the path of the Pyrenees better.

Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic), behind the wheel of his teammate Amaury Capiot, in the Tour de France 2022

Credit: Getty Images

19th stage

When the peloton passes Valence-d’Agen (kilometer 105), Bernard Hinault may think of the strike he led on July 12, 1978: the runners crossed the finish line on foot. Reason: infernal cadences and too many transfers. Not friendly to the public. The mayor of the city, Jean-Michel Baylet, almighty head of La Dépêche du midi, the “badger” will tell him a few years later : “What are you complaining about? If we hadn’t gone on strike, your people, no one would know!” Not false.

At kilometer 147, the Montcuq pass, which in 2016 became Montcuq-en-Quercy-Blanc, will provoke the usual jokes and Daniel Prévost’s sketch of the Petit Ponent will be “liked” on social media. .

21st step

It is the last and will be real, as it should be. And even imperial since its passage through Rueil-Malmaison, and why not resist seeing Mont-Valérien. Then it will be the almost traditional step in front of the Palace of Versailles. In Paris, the passage to the Luxembourg Garden will remind us that the Senate, if it is republican (and very important when it stands next to the National Assembly), is installed in what was the palace of Marie de Medici. Head to the Louvre, the royal residence before becoming the largest museum in the world where tourists are slowly returning.

As for the Champs Elysees, we are no longer entirely sure that it is the most beautiful avenue in the world, but they have been an integral part of the Tour since 1975. When runners cross the finish line, when the Patrouille de France passes over the peloton spitting his blue-white-red plume, any of the caravan claiming not to have goosebumps would be a little liar.


Credit: Getty Images

Tour de France

“La Planche des Belles Filles, a magnificent discovery”


Tour de France

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