Chronicals the cyclists of the Tour de France and their daily trails along the race.

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Chronicals the cyclists of the Tour de France and their daily trails along the race.

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October 1962 (France)  »

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Viva il tour  »

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Remarkable Time Capsule
27 April 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

If you are a fan of cycling and fascinated with bicycle race history this is a must see short film. Shown in the film are a number of the all time great racers - such as Jacques Anquetil (first 5-time winner of the Tour De France). But, this film does not focus on heroes by any means. Most of the footage shows the and seldom considered and rarely seen moments which made this famous race such a unique part of French culture.

We can observe groups of racers dashing into small cafés along the route where they literally steal any glass bottles of beer or wine which they can carry away stuffed in their Jersey pockets. Then they share their loot with riders of opposing teams as they all ride on. Then, of course, nature calls. Now we see dismounted racers stopped in private moments as they stand at the roadside to relieve themselves and another even executes the awkward pose from his saddle while a teammate riding beside pushes the bike. We would never see Lance Armstrong stopping to dip his overheated shoes in a village fountain, and riders today would never happily drink from a crude plastic container offered by a fan along the route or stop to fill water bottles from a public fountain or a fan's garden hose. Reporters at days end type their copy on portable manual typewriters (not laptop computers)... and they phone in press reports from rows of tables trailing miles of phone wires and fitted with small canopies to shield each telephone from the loud multilingual din during this era long before the ever present cell phone and satellite video links.

Nuns and priests flock to the roadside and cheer on the racers passing through rural villages right along with what must be the entire population of France. It is not simply a race but joyous national event. Colorful corporate sponsored vehicles (comparable in their local familiarity to the Oscar-Meyer "Weinermobile" in the US) follow the tour, some throwing publicity trinkets into the crowds of fans, and a carnival like atmosphere is present all along the route.

Some racers still carry extra sew-up tires wrapped over their shoulders just as they did many decades earlier. On the dark side, each day, some riders claiming a dinner of "bad fish" but in fact exhausted from taking too many amphetamines slump at the roadside unable to continue. Helmets were simply never worn. One rider bleeding badly from his head but still riding, is aided by his team car... they just stuff a bit of bandage against the wound to be held down by a cotton cycling cap. And the famous "Broom Wagon" which follows the main convoy of official vehicles is seen as it stops to "sweep up" the occasional straggler who has finally given up his race.

The film is like a collection of countless candid snapshots from a time and Tour which we will never see again. I would guess a 16 mm. Arriflex would have been all anyone could have mounted on any following vehicle and the quality of the footage is not flawless. The film was later copyrighted by the director in 1976, but it was shot 14 years earlier. So, this was not a polished work by the same director of later years. He was only 30 years old at the time and with only 2 feature films under his belt. But he clearly had a Frenchman's passion for cycling and a keen eye for the whole atmosphere surrounding the event. I think it is a truly wonderful little treat and one which I am still pleased to have found - and have watched repeatedly.


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