A LITTLE TOUR WITH … Jean-Paul Ollivier who will be, throughout the Tour, a regular spectator of this event that shook his childhood and accompanied his long career.
The first memory of the Tour. “ In my early childhood. As soon as I was old enough to understand things, it was immediately just the Tour de France. I remembered the whole Tour, it was so beautiful, so magical. When I went to the criteria or the races in Brittany, I would occasionally slip into the runners, look at them and give them their record. That’s how, at age 14, I met a runner who said to me, ‘‘ What do you want to do in life? ’’ I replied that I wanted to be a journalist. He took me through the newsrooms three years later. The Tour has never left me. He was visceral. »
The first visit of the Tour. “ In 1954, July 14th. It was raining and I deeply regretted it because I couldn’t recognize the silhouette of the runners with raincoats. It was too hard … I wasn’t happy. But it was the magic of the Tour, even though they had passed quickly. It was at my door. »
The first emotion. “Bernard Thévenet’s rise to Pra Loup on the 1975 Tour. It was great to see him win and get Merckx out of the untouchable caste. It was fine. One idol vanished, another emerged. We were still waiting for Bernard Thévenet, 4e in 1971, 2e in 1973, stage winner at La Mongie. We said to ourselves, one day he will get there … “
The first autograph. “ The first thing I dared to ask for was at the Aulne circuit. On the Tour, it was at the start of a stage in Lorient, in 1960. It was René Pavard, a driver who was a member of the French team, a good driver who did not make a fantastic career. In the past he was doing very well, he was a carpenter from Épinay-sur-Orge, he was very handsome on a bicycle, he wanted to ride a bike. It was great. I also recited his list of awards to him and he had given me his musette. A Spar backpack, marked Tour de France. Thanks to him and this autograph, I had gotten a little closer. The gendarmes had left me, because René Pavard was doubling me. And I saw, almost touched, Roger Rivière and the others. I was there, looking at them with envy. »
The first tears. “When Louison Bobet surrendered in 1959 at the top of the Iseran. I found it very hard. Louison was at the end of the race. We knew what had happened. He was still suffering from the saddle, he had been operated on, he had almost had sepsis. He went after himself. He did not know the neck of the Iseran. He had crossed it once in 1949 but Bobet had given up before, in the Pyrenees. And there they let him go, like the middle runner. The broom car was still far away, he got into the Parisian’s car and said to the journalist: “Lend me your cap so that no one will recognize me, I’m ashamed to surrender.” It was beautiful. I cried»
The object of the Tour preserved as a treasure. “ I kept a bottle of the 1954 Tour which belonged to Marcel Dussault which was the first yellow jersey of the 1949 tour, won several stages of the Tour. It was his son who sent me the bottle marked Tour de France 1954. 1954, for me, is a symbol because it was the first time I saw the Tour pass. »
A dinner with a current or old runner? “ I did 41 Tours, meals, I shared some, right and left. So choosing a runner, I don’t know. Everyone, I am very attached to the Tour. On this Tour, I wish the French could show up. I hope Gaudu, Madouas and Barguil shine. I would love to be with them. »
Which cyclist did you stay with? “ I always ride a bike. I drive quietly down the green lane. I don’t do big raids but I like to ride. Every morning when I’m in Brittany … »
Jean-Paul Ollivier is present in bookstores with “Paulo la science” Memoirs and “Le Tour de France des champions français” (Mareuil Éditions).