There's probably not much that hasn't been photographed in the Tour de France's first century or so, but Richard Moore uncovers the story of a Tour less ridden in Tour de France 100
. Those of you familiar with Moore's work may be a little surprised to find him compiling what is essentially a photographic history, after all, he's not a photographer.
But Moore has been granted access to the Getty Archive which lends a different viewpoint from the norm and also some refreshing poignancy in some of the images contained in this book. There's Maurice Garin riding into Longchamps to win the inaugural Tour, a grainy full-page shot of Octave "Assassins!" Lapize pushing his bike up the Tourmalet in 1910. The "quality" of the images is not necessarily in their composition or lighting, but in what they show.
As you'd expect, the photos are predominantly black and white, not in a moody, über-cool Rapha sense but simply because that's what was available at the time. However, that often serves to illustrate the things that make a Grand Tour - well - grand. We see Firmin Lambot riding up the Galibier in 1920 and the starkness of black and white serves to illustrate the desolation of the Col at that time. There are no baying crowds, no names painted on tarmac roads and just a rough track on a scorched mountainside and the reader begins to get a sense of what an undertaking those early Tours were.
Throughout the book, Moore narrates tales and anecdotes from across the 100 editions: we read about Henri Pelissier falling foul of the race organisers' clothing rule and remonstrating with Henri Desgranges in 1923. Most readers will associate Mont Ventoux with Tom Simpson's tragic death in 1967 (indeed there's a jarring image of Mister Tom receiving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation) but Moore writes of Jean Malléjac's near identical incident during the 1955 visit to the Giant of Provence, collapsing in the heat, doped on amphetamine.
Indeed incidents in the Tour have a habit of returning to haunt the race. We see Roger Rivière being tended to after a crash on the Col de Perjuret in the 1960 race. Riviere hit a low wall while descending off the Col and would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. The similarities with Fabio Casartelli's fatal crash off the Col de Portet d'Aspet in 1994 will not be lost on any cycling fan.
To the modern era and Moore has assembled images of the usual suspects, albeit in perhaps unseen guise. Bernard Hinault smiling (yes, really), Pedro Delgado skulking from doping control in 1988 and - yes - Lance Armstrong gets a look in too. As Moore points out, he can't simply be erased from the pages of the Tour's history, but will perhaps be known for "the asterisk era". Interestingly, there's only one image of Floyd Landis throughout - not his banzai solo break into Morzine on Stage 17 of the 2006 race, but rather the day before on that disastrous climb to La Toussuire. Who knew then at that moment of the significance of what was unfolding?
One final thought on an excellent book that deserves your attention: headlines become fact over the years (Simpson's "put me back on my bike", for example) and what actually happened on the road gets lost in hyperbole and the need to tell a good yarn. So, to stage 15 of the 2010 edition on the road to Bagnères-de-Luchon. Or "Chaingate". We all know that Andy Schleck's chain shipped on the climb and Alberto Contador stuck 42 seconds into him. Bet you probably don't remember that it was Alexandre Vinokourov who was on Schleck's wheel when it all went wrong. That's what Tour de France 100 does.