Cover of Adin Dobkin: Sprinting Through No Man's Land

Adin Dobkin Sprinting Through No Man's Land

Endurance, Tragedy, and Rebirth in the 1919 Tour De France

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Book information

Little A

UK

2021

Paperback

295

Standard

304695

978-1-5420-1883-8

1-5420-1883-8

Bicycle racing; France; 20th century.

Annotation

Journalist Dobkin debuts with a novelistic blow-by-blow account of the first Tour de France run after WWI, shining light on the wartime experiences of its racers, organizers, and observers. Founded in 1903 by Henri Desgrange, editor-in-chief of the sports daily l’Auto, the Tour de France had last been run in 1914 (the race started on the same day Austria’s archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated). After a five-year hiatus, Desgrange aimed to make the 13th tour “more to France than it had ever been,” and set a course that followed the length of the country’s borders and passed near the Somme, Verdun, and other battlefields. Sixty-seven cyclists, some of whom were still on active military duty, started from Paris on June 29, 1919; only 11 finished the monthlong tour. Dobkin profiles competitors including Frenchman Eugène Christophe, whose commitment to finishing the race after he lost the lead while stopping to repair his bike’s broken frame captured the country’s imagination, and vividly describes arduous ascents, rubble-strewn streets, and the crowds that lined the route, waving flags and shouting encouragement. The result is an immersive look at the mythical power of sports to unite and inspire.

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