Tour De France - Politics

Politics

The first three Tours stayed within France. The 1906 race went into Alsace-Lorraine, territory annexed by the German Empire in 1871 after the Franco-Prussian War. Passage was secured through a meeting at Metz between Desgrange's collaborator, Alphonse Steinès, and the German governor. The race passed to the waving of local people, the race director Victor Breyer wrote, but not without trouble at the border. L'Auto reported the difference between the German and French border controls:

Woken from a deep sleep, obliged to get up in three minutes, the German customs appeared before us correctly dressed in new uniforms. At the French border, by contrast, it was simply distressing. Smelly, covered in mud, their clothes patched and discoloured, backs bent, squashed képis on dirty bodies, the two officials charged with nosing around on behalf of the tax authorities and who represented France revolted us. —

The Germans let not only the competitors pass without problem but all the officials and their cars and the amateur enthusiasts who rode with them. "It is distressing," L'Auto said, "to find that it's only the French who can't grasp the simple idea ... of allowing the best representatives of French energy ." The paper offered to start a public appeal to provide better clothes for its frontier officials.

No teams from Italy, Germany or Spain rode in 1939 because of tensions preceding the Second World War. Henri Desgrange planned a Tour for 1940, after war had started but before France had been invaded. The route, approved by military authorities, included a route along the Maginot Line. Teams would have been drawn from military units in France, including the British, who would have been organised by a journalist, Bill Mills. Then the Germans invaded and the race was not held again until 1947 (see Tour de France during the Second World War). The first German team after the war was in 1960, although individual Germans had ridden in mixed teams. The Tour has since started in Germany three times: in Cologne in 1965, in Frankfurt in 1980 and in West Berlin on the city's 750th anniversary in 1987. Plans to enter East Germany that year were abandoned.

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