French Cycling Heroes of the Tour:
Winners and Losers


In  1960  the  Tour  made  a  detour  to  pass  through  the  village  of
Colombey-les-deux-Eglises  where  General  de  Gaulle  (then President
f  the new Fifth Republic)  had his private home.  Although the Tour
hat  year was won by the Italian Nencini,  as the riders cruised past
he crowds containing the President, one national myth—de Gaulle—
ncountered another, the Tour de France.
1 Whether or not the Tour de
France is a properly ‘international’ sporting event, or still remains in
ome ways a ‘national’ competition, despite the presence of riders from
many countries,  it often appears that in the Tour,  French heroes are
defined more by reference to France and other French riders than to
oreigners. This chapter outlines the nature of the status of a number
f  French champions  whose  careers  have  been inseparable  from the
tory  of  the  Tour  de  France  in  the  post-war  era.  In  so  doing,  it
approaches the ‘heroic’ status of riders from a number of perspectives,
ncluding the ‘reality’  of  their  sporting achievements  and behaviour,
he  nature  of  their  media  presentations,  and  their  cultural
ignificance in different periods of French post-war society.
The importance—in various ways—of the Tour de France as a symbol
and  generative  mechanism of  French  national  identity  has  already
been discussed in a number  of  chapters  in this  volume.  The Tour  is
defined by its route and the way this contours the cultural, social and
political boundaries of France; the Tour is defined by its organization
and  funding  and  the  way  this  structures  its  status  as  a  national
porting  event;  the  Tour  is  defined  by  the  fashion  in  which  it  is
eported  and  the  way  in  which  this  represents  the  competition  to
hose who follow it. But perhaps most of all, the Tour is defined by the
iders and the ways in which their success and failure—circumscribed
within  the  conditions  alluded  to  above—have  through  the  decades
been  transformed  into  a  narrative  and  discourse  of  sporting