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Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Power of Five (10)—Tour(s) de France (1903-2013)

Click here for the introduction to the Round and Square series "The Power of Five"
One year ago on Round and Square (30 June 2012)—Primary Sources: Through the Mountain Tunnel
Two years ago on Round and Square (30 June 2011)—Flowers Bloom: An Open Book
[a] Distant Goal RF
Below, I list the "Five Tour(s) de France.

The timing for this should be obvious. Stage One of the Tour de France just wrapped up yesterday, and three weeks of riveting pictures of France, its countryside, and toiling riders climbing steep mountains will follow. If today was any indication, we'll see some mass sprints and crashes, as well. It's all part of one of the world's greatest sporting spectacles, and the only one that is annual (sorry World Cup), multi-stage (sorry Super Bowl), and really packs in interest—these days—from all over the world.
[b] Spectacle RF

And it's all about pedaling...and peddlers. If you haven't taken a close look at the Tour de France for a while, notice the swarming and swirling commerce that affects every element from the riders, their jerseys, and their bikes, to the vast spectacle of watches, bank credit, and clothing products on sale in every nook and cranny of the event.

This is an event that circles France (depending on the year, in clockwise or counter-clockwise fashion) and ties together a heritage that was cemented from loose origins into a nation state with an abiding entity today. The Tour de France was no small part of that "national" transformation. 

July is filled with re-tying and tightening national knots (the Tour itself is called Le Grande Boucle, or the Great Buckle). It all comes together in a Durkheimian display of secular commemoration. It is shown forth to the world in spectacular fashion all month, and people from Missoula to Canberra, and Sapporo to Santiago watch it every single day for more three weeks and four weekends. 

July is consumed by it.

And then the French go on vacation in August.
[c] Consumed RF

That is a tough combination to beat, and there is a reason that the spectacle of Le Tour gets bigger and bigger every year—even with close to two decades of doping scandal (this could be extended almost to the full one-hundred runnings of the Tour, and with only small change in definitions). You see, on some levels...the Tour de France is so big...that the bike race is only a part of something much, much more grand(e).

So, of all the exhilarating Tours from which we could choose, these are the five. Together, they represent are the totality

Remember, if you think that this is a "top-five" list, such as you read on Yahoo, you are very badly mistaken. No, these are totality. True, this one comes as close to seeming like a "best of" list as you will encounter in this series. 

Well, it isn't "The Best of..." It is totality. These five Tours are Le Tour.

If that doesn't make sense...go back and read the introduction and the links!

[d] Alsace RF
The Five Tours de France
(feel free to click the links)
1910 The Tour Adds Mountains 
("You are assassins...assassins")

1926 Lost in the Pyrennes 
(It's midnight; do you know where your riders are?)

1949 Epic Battle 
(Coppi emerges, with panache)

1969 The Cannibal 
(Eddy devours the field, and all the jerseys)

1989  Last Day Drama 
(Greg nips Laurent, and both become icons)

[e] Watchin' RF

Honorable Mention**
Le Tour de la France par deux enfants


Attila the Hun

** The RSQ board will occasionally make use of the "honorable mention" opportunity to throw in a few more things to think about. Read the first (click the link). This is the greatest Tour...ever. The examples below it engage the words (and ideas) "Tour de France" in strange and even counter-intuitive ways. The RSQ Board has its reasons.

 A brief (sort-of) explanation. Some were close and some were blow-outs. Together, they create totality. 1910 was the first to add the Pyrennes, and "first" rhymes with "cursed," which is what the riders did to the organizers. 1926 saw an unusually cruel (even for Le Tour) stage of 200 miles through the Pyrennes. Some riders hadn't finished by midnight, and had to be rescued. 1949 saw the greatest panache ever displayed. 1969 saw the most dominant the Tour's most dominant champion (he won all of the jerseys). 1989 was the highest-drama and closest finish that could be imagined. As for the honorable mentions, click the links on the first one. The others have a little bit of historical relevance, too (even if they are a way).

'nuf said. The cosmologists have the last word. These are The Five.

The Five Diets
[f] Nope. You get only two wheels. RF

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