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!
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • 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.