The Tour de France is a place of memory par excellence of French society. It was born in 1903 within a flourishing “Belle Epoque” from every point of view and will live through a twentieth century strewn with misfortunes, shaping the society in which we live today.
Sport and History: A colorful commemoration
The “Great War of 14-18” got the better of the Tour de France for many years because of the mobilization of cyclists like many other categories of people in French society. In 2013, the Tour de France celebrated and celebrated its centenary. In 2014, it celebrated its 101st edition under the colors and cornflower of the commemoration of the centenary of the First World War. The organizers and the runners will travel the roads of France in memory of the civilians and soldiers who fell during this war, through reconstituted landscapes but which retain the scars of the horrors of the war. On July 5, more than 80 countries will be able to attend the start of the Tour de France and launch the commemorations of the “Great War”, through sport. The riders under the bosom of their teams will compete, fight, this time peacefully to win each stage until the final victory, which will be held on July 27 on the Champs-Elysées. The podium will have the triumphal arch as a backdrop, like a final tribute to the unknown soldier.
A historic route
The Grande Boucle, another name for the Tour de France, will set off, strangely enough, in England, one of the belligerents of the First World War, where the riders will compete in three stages, before landing in France and starting commemorations. The fourth stage takes place between Le Touquet and Lille, an inaugural stage before getting to the heart of the subject and the significant places of the First World War. The next stage starts from Ypres, a city which has remained sadly famous for the use of gas, a symbol of modernity and industrial progress and which reminds us that the First World War was an industrial war. The riders will cross the rolling plains of Belgium as well as nine cobbled sectors which announce a bitter battle to create gaps between opponents. At the end of 155km of bitter struggle, a truce will be established after arriving in Arenberg, an industrial basin which marked the Belgian landscape throughout the 20th century.
The day after the paved stage, we will continue our commemoration of the Centenary by taking the roads of the Battle of the Somme and the Chemin des Dames within the Arras-Reims stage, two cities among many that have been damaged. by War. Here we are indeed in the heart of the First World War with a final packaging in Reims under the majestic cathedral of Reims so hard hit by the shells of the “Great War”. The sixth stage will start from Epernay, the Mecca of champagne wine, exemplary to illustrate what a city endured during the First World War. From invasion to liberation, hardships, assaults, humiliations, agonizing expectations become part of the daily life of each inhabitant.
On the road to the Tour, Verdun will open its doors to us, one of the most terrible battles of the First World War both on the French side and on the German side, the route will take us near the fort of Douaumont, place of all ambitions during the conflict to end up in Nancy, regularly visited by the Tour since 1905, the “City of Golden Doors”. The next day, two stages will honor the cities of the North-East including that of Mulhouse, town of Alsace, territory lost by France in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian war and which is already preparing its revenge, a "race to the sea ”therefore which is carried out this time from west to east. Two difficult stages for the riders in which some will lose chances of final victory due to revenge in the Alps. A first conflict which will therefore take place in the Alps before starting a second in the Pyrenees at the end of which a final battle will be held between Bergerac and Périgueux during a time trial in which the riders will have to throw their ultimate strength. .
On July 27, it is the Champs-Elysées where the winner of the battle of the Tour de France 2014 will be dedicated, with a particularly important feature. It will not be a question of consecrating a nation with the objective of marking supremacy but of crowning a cyclist who, when he will brandish his bouquet and the yellow jersey, will have, voluntarily or not, commemorated the centenary of the First World War, back to the Arc de Triomphe and to the unknown soldier. In the space of a month, sport and history will become one.
History of the Tour de France, by Jean-François MIGNOT. The Discovery, 2014.