I found this thanks to French journalist Jean-Paul Brouchon. Today a collection of notebooks from Alphonse Steinès are up for sale in Paris at the Christies auction house.
As I wrote before, Steinès worked for L’Auto and to was responsible was the Tour de France visiting the Pyrenees, the first race in the high mountains. To cut a long story short he made his way up the Tourmalet to determine whether a race could be held on the roads. But on the day conditions were so bad that he ended up needing rescuing. Yet far from being wary, soon as the hypothermia subsided, he fired off a telegram to Paris saying the road was “perfectly passable”.
Like many legends of the Tour de France Steinès’s reconnaissance trip has been told so many times over the years that exaggerations make the tale ever more colourful, with accounts of blizzards, marauding bears and more.
But now a collection of his notebooks are for sale at auction house Christies, a genuine record rather than legend. There are nine and they are accounts from the race, complete with newspaper cuttings, handwritten results and many observations made during the race, for example “fog so thick you could cut it with a knife“.
The price is expected to reach €4,000-6,000 this afternoon. It’s a lot of money but for me that sounds like a bargain. I can’t inspect them but these are not rare, they are unique. In an age where people pay a premium for “heritage brands”, this is genuine.
The sale is today and I’d be interested to know who buys them. The books don’t appear to contain any revelations but they are records and documents from the past. As such they contain precious insights into some of the earliest races. It would be nice if they were bought by a museum or made available to historians of the sport. Today the Tour de France is part of France’s cultural heritage and these early notes are important historical documents. But if they go to a private collector I wish them some happy reading.