Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Hooligans and the Tour de France in 1904

In a chapter written for Dauncey and Hare's The Tour de France: A Century of Sporting Structures, Meanings and Values, Philippe Gaboriau notes that hooliganism was a frequent problem of the early Tour. As an example, he describes an incident from the 1904 Tour that took place near Saint-Etienne.
According to the riders' own statements, it was 3 am and the night was dark, and, "Suddenly, towards the summit of the climb, Faure accelerates briskly and takes a lead of two or three lengths. We look up and notice about 50m in front a group of about 100 people making a tunnel on either side of the road. They're armed with cudgels and stones. Faure bravely went forwards and passed through, and then the cudgels came down on those following." Several riders were inured, some seriously, and faced with repeated violent incidents, the much worried competitors "promise to ride equipped with revolvers." (65-66)

We have discussed in previous posts the link between soccer hooligans and regional identity and have theorized that their hooliganism may be a form of resistance to globalization. It appears that this same mentality was shared by early hooligans in the Tour de France who let their local hero (Faure) pass through before beating up the other riders. Instead of resisting globalization, however, these hooligans were attempting to assure that their region's rider was at the top of the standings, and they perhaps on some level feared losing their regional autonomy and being assimilated into the French Republic. After all, the Tour de France always ends in Paris and reinforces the dominance of the capital and the Republic on all of France. Best then to have someone from Saint-Etienne win and show Parisians that inhabitants of le Dauphiné are still autonomous and deserve respect.

Fortunately for today's riders, the regional hooligans have largely been replaced by regional flags along the route of the Tour.

5 comments:

SM Sprenger said...

Did people make bets on the Tour in the early years? i wonder if there's not a more cynical explanation.

Corry Cropper said...

Good point. I haven't read anything about gambling and the early Tour, but I can't imagine they didn't (double negative, sorry; I bet they almost certainly did bet on the Tour). But in this example, if that is true, they bet on the local guy.

Ophir Sefiha said...

Not sure if Corry has pointed out this team...The Basque team Euskadi


http://www.fundacioneuskadi.com/pag/fr_index.asp

is a unique blend of regional identity and a ProTour level team. Because their riders must ether be from the Basque region or have raced there as AM's, they have rarely had a strong team. Lots of climbers, but not the depth to support them in stage races.

The Euskadi team has a crew of self described 'hooligans' who dress up in orange (and they are not even Dutch!!!) and get rowdy on the climbs. They seem to be fearfully regional and they booed Armstrong a lot during the Tour(s).

The Italian former Giro winner, Gilberto Simoni, had a group of fans wearing t-shirts emblazoned with 'Simoni Hooligans' out in force during the 2003 Giro. I Seem to remember claims of minor violence directed towards competitors.

Good point about wagering. I too would imagine that lots of betting was occurring. I am reminded of Paul Demio's (sp?) comment that the first tests for sports related performance enhancing products was conducted on horses to 'ensure' that people would continue to wager on 'fair' horse races.

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istanbul tours said...

This walking tour was a great way to see st etienne and learn about the incredible history. It was a high educational trip but the information was given in a easy to understand way whilst walking around one of the most beautiful cities. What could be better. Our guide was really nice and also answered a whole range of other questions about st etienne http://www.privatetoursinistanbul.com This was a great thing to do on our first day in st etienne and gave us a wonderful insight into everything, we also saw a lot of sights in a short space of time which would be good for people short in time. Some tips they gave were invaluable such as getting into Le Louvre without the lines... The answer you will have to find out on the tour! Have an Enjoy :)