Tour De France - Organisers


The first organiser was Henri Desgrange, although daily running of the 1903 race was by Lefèvre. He followed riders by train and bicycle. In 1936 Desgrange had a prostate operation. At the time, two operations were needed; the Tour de France was due to fall between them. Desgrange persuaded his surgeon to let him follow the race. The second day proved too much and, in a fever at Charleville, he retired to his château at Beauvallon. Desgrange died at home on the Mediterranean coast on 16 August 1940. The race was taken over by his deputy, Jacques Goddet.

War interrupted the Tour. The German Propaganda Staffel wanted it to be run and offered facilities otherwise denied, in the hope of maintaining a sense of normality. They offered to open the borders between German-occupied France in the north and nominally independent Vichy France in the south but Goddet refused.

In 1944, L'Auto was closed – its doors nailed shut – and its belongings, including the Tour, sequestrated by the state for publishing articles too close to the Germans. Rights to the Tour were therefore owned by the government. Jacques Goddet was allowed to publish another daily sports paper, L'Équipe, but there was a rival candidate to run the Tour: a consortium of Sports and Miroir Sprint. Each organised a candidate race. L'Équipe and Le Parisien Libéré had La Course du Tour de France and Sports and Miroir Sprint had La Ronde de France. Both were five stages, the longest the government would allow because of shortages. L'Équipe's race was better organised and appealed more to the public because it featured national teams that had been successful before the war, when French cycling was at a high. L'Équipe was given the right to organise the 1947 Tour de France.

L'Équipe's finances were never sound and Goddet accepted an advance by Émilion Amaury, who had supported his bid to run the post-war Tour. Amaury was a newspaper magnate whose condition was that his sports editor, Félix Lévitan should join Goddet for the Tour. The two worked together, Goddet running the sporting side and Lévitan the financial.

Lévitan began to recruit sponsors, sometimes accepting prizes in kind if he could not get cash. He introduced the finish of the Tour at the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in 1975. He left the Tour on 17 March 1987 after losses by the Tour of America, in which he was involved. The claim was that it had been cross-financed by the Tour de France. Lévitan insisted he was innocent but the lock to his office was changed and his job was over. Goddet retired the following year. They were replaced in 1988 by Jean-Pierre Courcol, the director of L'Équipe, then in 1989 by Jean-Pierre Carenso and then by Jean-Marie Leblanc, who in 1989 had been race director. The former television presenter Christian Prudhomme—he commentated on the Tour among other events—replaced Leblanc in 2005, having been assistant director for two years.

Current race director Prudhomme works for the Société du Tour de France, a subsidiary of Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), which since 1993 has been part of the media group Amaury Group that owns L'Équipe. It employs around 70 people full-time, in an office facing but not connected to L'Équipe in the Issy-les-Moulineaux area of outer western Paris. That number expands to about 220 during the race itself, not including 500 contractors employed to move barriers, erect stages, signpost the route and other work.

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