Six Degrees Of Tour de France

Smooth Riding: Racers during the final stage of the 2010 Tour de France.
GETTY IMAGES
Smooth Riding: Racers during the final stage of the 2010 Tour de France.

By Raphael Mostel

Published July 28, 2010, issue of August 06, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share

It turns out that the world’s most famous bicycle race, the Tour de France that just completed its 2010 run, has an unlikely origin: It was a direct result of the notorious Dreyfus Affair.

The slightly condensed, rather confusing story goes something like this: When pro-Dreyfus Émile Loubet became president of the French Republic in 1899, he was attacked (and beaten on the head with a walking stick) by the passionately anti-Dreyfus Count de Dion, one of France’s major bicycle and auto manufacturers. De Dion was jailed for the attack, and the resulting scandal was featured prominently in the then-major daily sports paper Le Vélo (The Bike), whose editor, Pierre Giffard, was just as passionately pro-Dreyfus.

De Dion, who happened to be the biggest advertiser in Le Vélo, was so infuriated, he pulled his ads and persuaded fellow advertisers Adolphe Clément and Edouard Michelin to found a rival sports paper, L’Auto-Vélo. After Giffard sued, the name became simply L’Auto.

L’Auto was failing, and so, in desperation, a meeting was held regarding what could be done to save it. The solution, creating the biggest, longest bicycle race, ironically was the suggestion of a reporter poached from Le Vélo. The race’s anti-Semitic purpose was explicit in the announcement that sending “strong, uncomplicated men” all over France would be done with the same force with which Émile Zola defended “the plowman” (a derisive reference to Zola’s brave, historic defense of Dreyfus, “J’accuse…!”). Outside of that reference, L’Auto made a policy of no politics in its pages. The 1903 Tour de France was such a sensation that it put Le Vélo out of business and L’Auto became France’s major sports daily.

Ironically, after the liberation of France in 1944, L’Auto itself was charged with treasonous collusion with the enemy. The government seized the rights to both the paper and the Tour de France. The editor, however, was permitted to publish a new paper, L’Équipe (The Team). Charles de Gaulle allowed L’Équipe to regain the rights to the Tour de France, reportedly because the only alternatives had communist ties, and because right-winger Philippe Amaury, a member of the Résistance, defended the editor against charges of Nazi collaboration. His reward? L’Équipe — still France’s major sports paper — became part of his media empire, Éditions Philippe Amaury, and EPA’s subsidiary Amaury Sport Organization currently runs the Tour de France, as well as other sports events.

If there were any doubts about the continuing divisiveness over “L’Affaire Dreyfus,” when President François Mitterrand commissioned a statue of Alfred Dreyfus in 1985, the defense minister refused to install it in the intended location, the École Militaire.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.