Synopses & Reviews
Yellow Livestrong wristbands were taken off across America in early 2013 when Lance Armstrong confessed to Oprah Winfrey that he had doped during the seven Tour de France races he won.and#160; But the foreign cycling world, which always viewed Armstrong with suspicion, had already moved on. The bellwether events of the year were Chris Froomeandrsquo;s victory in the Tour and the ousting of Pat McQuaid as director of theand#160;Union Cycliste Internationale. Even without Armstrong, the Tour will roll onandmdash; its gigantic entourage includes more than 200 racers, 450 journalists, 260 cameramen, 2,400 support vehicles carrying 4,500 people, and a seven-mile-long publicity caravan. It remains one of the most-watched annual sporting events on television and a global commercial juggernaut.
Inand#160;Selling the Yellow Jersey, Eric Reed examines the Tourandrsquo;s development in France as well as the eventandrsquo;s global athletic, cultural, and commercial influences. The race is the crown jewel of French cycling, and at first the newspapers that owned the Tour were loath to open up their monopoly on coverage to state-owned television. However, the opportunity for huge payoffs prevailed, and France tapped into global networks of spectatorship, media, business, athletes, and exchanges of expertise and personnel. In the process, the Tour helped endow world cycling with a particularly French character, culture, and structure, while providing proof that globalization was not merely a form of Americanization, imposed on a victimized world.and#160;Selling the Yellow Jerseyand#160;explores the behind-the-scenes growth of the Tour, while simultaneously chronicling Franceandrsquo;s role as a dynamic force in the global arena.
and#8220;This book is filled fascinating material. . . . Thompson has made a great deal of sense out of this complicated story.and#8221;
and#8220;A comprehensive history of France from the raceand#8217;s inception, long before Greg LeMond or Lance Armstrong were born.and#8221;
and#8220;There are several books to tell you who first won the yellow jersey or the identity of the youngest post-war winner of the Tour de France, the kind you might receive as a gift. This is sort of book youand#8217;d buy for yourself.and#8221;
and#8220;In this original and compelling examination of the Tour de Franceand#8217;s commercial, economic, and cultural history, Reed inserts the worldand#8217;s greatest bicycle race into the broader narrative of globalization even as he illustratesand#160; the important role local and national context plays in shaping the Tourand#8217;s many meanings.and#160;Selling the Yellow Jersey
demonstrates that sport does not simply reflect and exploit major trends in business strategies, leisure, and consumption patterns, celebrity and mass culture, and media innovation; it also shapes those trends in significant ways. In the process, Reed deepens our understanding of how the Tourand#8217;s internationalization has both challenged and reinforced longstanding notions of a distinctive and#8216;Frenchness.and#8217;and#8221;
and#8220;Selling the Yellow Jersey is a provocative case study describing how twentieth-century globalization trends inherent in modern media, marketing, and consumerism interact with and transform the peculiarities of national and regional identities.and#160; Reed explains how by developing into a quintessential and yet contrived cornerstone of la France profonde, the Tour became a significant aspect of a developing national identity for the French as they struggled to adapt to post-war modernity and global commercial competition.and#160; At the same time, the Tour de France gave the world of international cycling, including its celebrity culture and its rules and ethics, the peculiarly French twist that it maintains through today.and#160; By focusing intently on the development of the Tour as a commercial venture, Selling the Yellow Jersey illuminates the perhaps unromantic yet undeniable ways that businessmen built modern sports and other mass entertainment spectacles in search of new ways to boost their profits, whether that meant selling more newspapers or directing more consumers' eyes to paid advertisements.and#8221;
and#8220;In Selling the Yellow Jersey Reed deftly intertwines the stories and spectacles of the Tour de France alongside a fascinating reading of the shifting culture and politics that have shaped France over the past century.and#160; It is essential reading for sports fans, history buffs, and Francophiles alike."
andldquo;Excellent. . . . Selling the Yellow Jersey is recommended reading for anyone interested in the fascinating history of this sport and its social, cultural and economic aspects.andrdquo;
In this highly original history of the world's most famous bicycle race, Christopher S. Thompson, mining previously neglected sources and writing with infectious enthusiasm for his subject, tells the compelling story of the Tour de France from its creation in 1903 to the present. Weaving the words of racers, politicians, Tour organizers, and a host of other commentators together with a wide-ranging analysis of the culture surrounding the eventand#151;including posters, songs, novels, films, and media coverageand#151;Thompson links the history of the Tour to key moments and themes in French history. Examining the enduring popularity of Tour racers, Thompson explores how their public images have changed over the past century. A new preface explores the long-standing problem of doping in light of recent scandals.
"Shows that sport has been for us moderns the ultimate tabula rasa
into which we pour our hopes, fears, prejudices and self-interest."and#151;Robert A. Nye, author of Crime, Madness, and Politics in Modern France
and Masculinity and Male Codes of Honor in Modern France
"Chris Thompson has written an engaging, nicely-paced account of France's world-famous cycle race: his writing is lively and full of detail and excitement. But he has done much more than simply narrate the story of the Tour. His book sets the raceand#151;its history, its participants and its meaningand#151;firmly in its shifting national and cultural contexts. The sections dealing with professional cycling as a form of labor and with the Tour's place in France's troubled twentieth century are absolutely first-rate: insightful and original. This is the best history of the Tour that we have and are likely to have for many years, a work of scholarship that deserves to find a broad general readership."and#151;Tony Judt, author of Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945
The Tour de France is the most-watched annual sporting event on television, surpassed only in viewership by the quadrennial Olympics and soccer World Cup. But while those events are explicitly international, the Tour is a distinctively French event. Eric Reed tackles the dual questions of what it has meant for France to host this media extravaganza every year, and what it has meant for the world of cycling that its premier event is uniquely French.
The story of the men who have raced the Tour de France has been told many times, but the growth of the Tour itself is taken for granted. From its beginnings as a stunt to sell newspapers in 1903 up to today's media spectacle (produced by a staff of 300, with dozens of cars, trucks, buses, and helicopters, and watched by more people than any other annual sporting event), the Tour is a unique window onto France in a changing world. Eric Reed takes us behind the scenes, not just onto the team buses (though the riders' stories are not forgotten) but also into the offices of the organizers (from Henri Desgrange through Christian Prudhomme) as they navigate international politics, the business of selling newspapers, and the quasi-governmental institutions of French TV and radio. Too, we see the role of the Tour in the life of two cities which have hosted stages regularlyand#151;Brest and Pauand#151;and see not only the ways in which they transform themselves in order to host this traveling behemoth, but also the ways in which the Tour has changed their role in France and the world. Reflecting the nationalist politics of its founder Desgrange, the Tour has always represented a distinctively French contribution to international sport, culture, and media.
About the Author
Christopher S. Thompson is Associate Professor of History at Ball State University.