by Larry Humber
Canada Day, but not Canada’s day
The Tour de France launches in Dusseldorf on July 1, Canada Day, but without any Canadians.
Arc-ing champagne corks
The 104th edition of the Tour de France winds its way to Troyes, in France’s champagne country, a city famed for its half-timbered houses. Joan of Arc took mass at the cathedral there in July 1429.
For those in the nose
A couple of days later, a cross-country flight and a 178-km stage finds riders in Bergerac, where there are not one, but two, statues of Cyrano, he of the large nose, famously played by Gérard Depardieu.
The Wright flight
Then it’s on to Pau, once the world capital of aviation, even visited by the Wright brothers.
Holy roman emperor
After some serious climbs, Le Puy-en-Velay beckons. It’s famed for its cathedral, a centre of pilgrimage since Charlemagne’s day. He visited twice, in 772 and 800.
He should have seen this coming
Salon-de-Provence follows another nasty climb. Seer Nostradamus, whose outlook on life was rather bleak to say the least, spent his last years there and that’s also where he’s buried.
July 22, the penultimate day, finds the riders in Marseille, where the notorious Bernard Tapie was president of the local soccer team (Olympique de Marseille), which rose to great heights but was plagued by scandal, sending Tapie to jail. Tapie also made a splash in cycling as he masterminded the celebrated La Vie Claire team, which was spearheaded by five-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault and upstart American Greg LeMond. Yes, Canada’s Steve Bauer also pedalled for La Vie Claire from 1985-87.
Finishing where it began
The Tour de France comes to a close in Paris on July 23. The stage launches in Montgeron, a southeast suburb of Paris. Montgeron was the departure point for first Tour in 1903, the 59 riders setting off from the Au Reveil Matin café, no doubt bolstered by a couple of stiff drinks. Those riders were just getting started—today’s group will look forward to Tour’s end.