Tour de France – Sixty years ago, the seizure of power by brands to the detriment of national teams

It was sixty years ago. At the start of the Tour de France in Nancy on June 24, 1962, the show of T-shirts with the colors of the national flags ended. On the breasts of the riders we saw the same names as during the rest of the season: St Raphaël-Helyett (Anquetil and Altig), Mercier BP (Poulidor), Flanders-Faema (Van Looy, Planckaert), Ignis (Nencini and Baldini). ), Peugeot BP (Cerami), VC12e-Leroux-Gitane (Darrigade and Simpson), Liberia-Grammont (Anglade), Gazzola-Fiorelli (Gaul). And, because at that time we liked alcohol, Pelforth-Sauvage-Lejeune (Groussard), Wiel’s-Groen Leuw (Junkermann) and Margnat-Paloma (Bahamontes). Each leader, regardless of nationality, became the owner of his home.

Three years earlier, Jacques Goddet, the director of the Tour, was still declaring himself “strongly opposed to branded equipment in the current anarchic state of affairs“But, as a good politician in the face of the principle of reality, he had changed his mind to announce, on October 4, 1961, that the Tour was adopting branded equipment.”experimentally“With a return to the national teams in the Olympic years, a promise that no one obviously had the idea to believe.

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There is debate in the caravan. The communist pressHumanity, Sprint mirror, cycling mirror) he sees in this change a victory of trade and, we dare say, of capitalism. Maurice Vidal pronounces the accusation: “Who will we believe that the Tour given to non-athletes will be more protected from secret deals, that their progress will be more regular and that, as a result, runners will be more combative? Since when does the intrusion of money give guarantees of honesty?“Perplexed and resigned,” says Antoine Blondin The team of runners “proclaiming the virtues of an appetizer, a sausage, or a percolator“and judge that, in these new teams,”we no longer speak the same language, except that of interest

Jacques Goddet at the 1963 Tour de France.

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When the creator of the Tour, Henri Desgrange, had the idea of ​​the selections at the same time as that of the advertising caravan, during the winter of 1929-1930, it was in the first place because the last editions of the Tour disappointed the point , writes Pierre Chany, “who watched helplessly as his work sankThe interest in an event that no Frenchman had won since Henri Pélissier in 1923 had to be revived as a matter of urgency. first live radio reports.

From the Liberation, the successive rivalries within a same national equipment undermined the formula: Bobet-Robic, Anquetil-Rivière-Geminiani-Anglade, Coppi-Bartali, Kubler-Koblet. By 1959, Franco-French rivalries had contributed to the victory of the Bahamontes. It is also thanks to the teams that in 1961, Antonin Magne kept Raymond Poulidor in reserve, despite having won the Milan-San Remo and the French championship.

The very idea that his runner could be found in Anquetil’s service made “Tonin” and his black beret tremble. In Poulidor and I. he writes: “I was satisfied with the change of system that, on its own, could return to the Tour de France its truth.“He explains,”I felt a sense of shame when I saw (…) my ‘purples’ bend into the bondage of the team race, be it as glorious as the tricolor formation. From now on, thanks to the Tour ‘by brands’, each runner would faithfully defend the colors of the ‘house’ that designated him.. ”

Orgy of legends: Bobet, Poulidor and Anquetil in the same plane.

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June 24, 1962: General de Gaulle prepares to attend July 8, with German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, a Mass at Notre-Dame de Reims, definitively sealing the Franco-German reconciliation; and fifteen teams of ten riders depart from Nancy and head to Spa and Herentals, Rik Van Looy’s land, before completing a Tour that follows the country’s contours quite well.

Jacques Anquetil will win his third Tour de France at the same time as a French rival who on other occasions would have been his teammate: Raymond Poulidor. The latter, who had started the race with his left hand in plaster, his little finger broken, won his first stage in Aix-les-Bains and finished third in Paris. Joseph Planckaert is second. Rudi Altig is wearing the green shirt again. Federico Bahamontes, winner of the Tour in 1959, won the Mountain Grand Prix for the fourth time. Tom Simpson is the first Briton to wear the yellow jersey, six days before the Rolling Stones’ first concert in London. We believe that the experimentation of branded equipment will last.

However, there will be a two-year hiatus, also advertised as “experimental“: to”take into account the wishes of the public“, writes Pierre Chany, the selections return in 1967 (year of the creation of the prologue) and in 1968”.The cockade hid under the acronyms“, Blondin points out, temporarily reassured. For lack of fighters, we added two Luxembourgers to the Swiss team (including Johnny Schleck, Andy and Franck’s father). We invented” Bleuets de France “and” Coqs de France “plus the French National Team, the” red devils “plus the Belgian national team and the” Spring “plus the Italian team.

This Tour marked by the death of Tom Simpson at the Ventoux will be won by Roger Pingeon, who will have found, thanks to the selection, a luxury companion in the person of Raymond Poulidor. Lucien Aimar, in 1968, preferred to leave the French team to join the B team. But the race was desolate and disappointing, with an unselective course, few big stars and Poulidor surrendered after be hit by a motorcycle. Only the suspense of the last day will save him from oblivion, Jan Janssen stripping Hermann van Springel of the yellow shirt to win for the first arrival at the Cipale de Vincennes.

Therefore, the brand’s teams will return in 1969, for Eddy Merckx’s first Tour. In the cycling mirror, Abel Michea will sign a final match: “The teams respond better to the wishes of the public, who may be a little arrogant but also love simplicity, and who like to find the same criteria in international cycling competitions as in international competitions in other sports.. ”

The fight will not take place. Sponsors are not investing funds in equipment because they will not see their colors on the roads and TV screens in July, even though the name is on the national shirt. Former Tour director Xavier Louy, however, is not moving: “I keep thinkingtrust, that the Tour would be much more interesting for the public with national teams. It would be great in terms of the audienceOne even wonders if, like Julian Alaphilippe winning two world championships with the tricolor shirt, the selections do not lead to the victory of a Frenchman.

In The teamon February 1, 2019, Romain Bardet was also asked the national team question: “The Tour would gain in readability. It would arouse, I think, an interest“, while adding:”What to do with sponsors?“Until further notice, Mass will be celebrated in the great religion of July.

Julian Alaphilippe at the head of the French team in the Tour? A simple dream so far.

Credit: Getty Images

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