Book Review: Mapping the Tour

Monday, 1 July 2013

Mapping the Tour by Ellis Bacon

+ Givewaway competition to win a copy of the book

The idea is simple, recount each year’s Tour de France along with a collection of statistics such as the distance, number of starters and finishers, the winner and more and then add the map of the race to accompany the words. But the ability to see how the route changes is special, making this more than a list of winners and stories from times past but an aerial view on how the the race as evolved.

As well as the review, there’s also a chance to win a copy of the book if you can guess the weight of Tour de France podium lion.

There can’t be many other sports where the map matters so much. Each October the route of the Tour de France is announced in front of a packed auditorium and even streamed around the world on the internet. The map matters as it gives clues to the kind of race we can expect but when the presentation happens as the leaves are falling and it’s also a way to project yourself into the summer, to imagine being on the roads of France.

Given this it’s almost a surprise there aren’t any books on the cartography of the Tour de France, listing the race routes stage by stage in a list or table but on a map. So here comes Mapping the Tour.

You can go through the book page by page but skipping through works too. Flip fast to see how the route changes. First a loop around France but over time the route zigzags, riding into central France and ignoring other regions of France. The stage distance shortens, what was once an epic ride became a hyphen between two willing municipal bidders.

The background to the maps change, for example the central Marche region has long since vanished but it’s helpful to see the route of the race plotted on a map from the period, reflecting how things were then. France itself has changed, fundamentally so with border changes after end of war in 1918 when the Alsace-Lorraine area was regained from Germany. The Tour had some defiant moments climbing the Ballon d’Alsace to challenge the border of Imperial Germany or even borrowing some roads into German terrain, a first foreign visit. Or see the 1919 route with its visit to Strasbourg, a city reclaimed by the Treaty of Versailles. It’s with this that you can see the Tour as more than a race and it’s not condemned to the past, see how the Tour visited West Berlin for a prologue alongside the infamous wall in 1987 or how today’s grand départs follow the money instead of politics.

There are a few mistakes in the book. This blog enjoys the luxury of alert reader and a handy edit button but print is different. You can live with spelling mistakes – Aix les Baines – and the Col des Echarmeaux probably wasn’t the first col of the Tour, instead it was the Col de Pin Bouchain. But the story of Eugène Christophe stands out. In 1913 he was descending the Tourmalet when his forks broke. He had to make it down the climb on foot to repair them in a forge in St. Marie de Campan where he did the work but a boy operated the bellows. The rules said no outside help was allowed. It’s here versions differ with Ellis Bacon writing “the Frenchman was disqualified, and Belgian rider Philippe Thys went on to win the race.”

Thys won the race but Christophe was not disqualified. Instead he got a time penalty. Some say this time penalty cost him the race but that’s wrong too. He was docked three minutes, a near-meaningless loss given he’d been leading the race by 18 minutes. Instead it was the accident itself that cost Christophe. Forced to walk down, he lost around two hours. Worse, he was sponsored by Peugeot and worried the fork failure would reflect badly on his sponsor so he cut through woodland to avoid being spotted, costing even more time.

Each Tour gets two pages, one page with a summary of the race with anecdotes if they matter flanked with stats on the year’s event, like who won, the distance, the highest col, the number of finishers and so on, plus some photos. It’s a handy reference, if you want to check what happened in 1934 or 1986 then just open the page.

In addition the 2013 Tour gets analysed in full, handy if you buy the book quickly. This is followed by a collection of other notable places of the Tour which include the classics like Mont Ventoux and the Tourmalet but extras like the Lac de Vassivière or the Puy-de-Dôme, both in central France and you learn of their importance to the race.

Conclusion
A page on each race and the accompanying map make it sound simple but the combination works well. It’s the ability to see how route changes with time as it reflects the sport as well as politics and other factors. This makes it an accessible book for those dipping into the history of the book but reference material for those wanting detail for example the index lists every start and finish town ever.

What’s better is observing how the race route changes over time, you can see how the race changes almost like a flipbook cartoon. Yes there’s the Christophe mistake but I cited the reality because I find the myths of the Tour fascinating. Don’t worry, the two pages on 1913 have valuable information.

If you like your cartography, France or the Tour’s history this is a great account of the races. Yes Christophe wasn’t disqualified but myth is part of the race.

A list of other book reviews is available here.

Giveaway Competition
The publishers sent two copies for review so I’ve got one in perfect condition to give away. To win just guess the weight of the lion given to the Tour de France yellow jersey. The golden toy has been one of cycling’s ultimate prizes, awarded to the yellow jersey holder in the Tour… but also a few other races sponsored by LCL, today’s name for the French bank.

Like all animals, weight can vary but one male has been weighed and this is the reference for the competition.

The Rules

  • Please give your guess by comment only so I don’t have to collate emails and tweets
  • Post under any pseudonym you like, I will only need the name and address should you win
  • If there’s a tie then it’ll be random selection
  • The winning pick will be made on Friday at midday
  • It’ll be posted to anywhere in the world

Marcel Kittel’s haircut gets outclassed

Pin It

{ 235 comments }

David July 1, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Looks like a great book. I say 1156g for the lion.

elliot fine July 2, 2013 at 2:02 am

1,o20 g.

Keep up the excellent job!

Mark July 1, 2013 at 10:04 pm

600g

Samuel Gamester (@LanterneVerte) July 1, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Love maps, love cycling, love The Tour – 767g for the Lion

Robbie July 1, 2013 at 10:12 pm

495g

KB July 1, 2013 at 10:13 pm

842g

AndrewB July 1, 2013 at 10:14 pm

995g

Camilo July 1, 2013 at 10:15 pm

1000 g

Zueco July 1, 2013 at 10:30 pm

Love maps! 395 grams

Freek July 1, 2013 at 10:33 pm

1400 grams

David Dubost July 1, 2013 at 10:35 pm

756kg

Dr_Death July 1, 2013 at 10:35 pm

849g?

David Dubost July 1, 2013 at 10:36 pm

I meant 750g!

Roberto July 1, 2013 at 10:36 pm

907 g

Wild Feng July 1, 2013 at 10:37 pm

787 grams

Iashido July 1, 2013 at 10:47 pm

626 g

James July 1, 2013 at 10:47 pm

653g :-)

Little Tom July 1, 2013 at 10:51 pm

1,220g

K July 1, 2013 at 10:53 pm

790g

Apos July 1, 2013 at 10:55 pm

471 g

Chris July 1, 2013 at 11:02 pm

666g

Cecilie July 1, 2013 at 11:03 pm

640 g

Fargo July 1, 2013 at 11:04 pm

1200g

goltim July 1, 2013 at 11:10 pm

723g

jonathan wale July 1, 2013 at 11:16 pm

400g

Flávio Ferreira July 1, 2013 at 11:23 pm

587g

ifor July 1, 2013 at 11:24 pm

1413 grams

Kyle July 1, 2013 at 11:25 pm

1 lbs 3oz.

America!

Karol July 1, 2013 at 11:26 pm

I’ll say 348g for the lion.

Chris (another one) July 1, 2013 at 11:27 pm

815 grammes

Ben July 1, 2013 at 11:31 pm

265g

al b-madison July 1, 2013 at 11:35 pm

226 grams, please.

thanks for the give-a-way!

Rüssel July 1, 2013 at 11:38 pm

1450 g

Tom July 1, 2013 at 11:39 pm

340g

Jon B July 1, 2013 at 11:39 pm

325g

KubaWinter July 1, 2013 at 11:41 pm

826 g

Tom July 1, 2013 at 11:43 pm

497g

AOC July 1, 2013 at 11:47 pm

712g

will July 1, 2013 at 11:49 pm

580g

Daniel July 1, 2013 at 11:51 pm

422g

Flying Squirrel July 1, 2013 at 11:55 pm

400g i gues :)

Dennis July 2, 2013 at 12:00 am

1100 grams

Mike July 2, 2013 at 12:03 am

845 g. Same as a front R-Sys with a tire.

Seth July 2, 2013 at 12:06 am

423 grams

DNF July 2, 2013 at 12:08 am

Come guys, it’s made of carbon, so I’ll say 501 grammes.

OxChris July 2, 2013 at 12:16 am

689g!

vendeeu July 2, 2013 at 12:16 am

1399gr

Brian W July 2, 2013 at 12:17 am

I always enjoy reading your website inrng. Thanks for the effort.
670 gram

Armchair cyclist July 2, 2013 at 12:19 am

447g

Andy Logan July 2, 2013 at 12:29 am

956g

PGrecu July 2, 2013 at 12:38 am

1500g

25sean July 2, 2013 at 12:40 am

369.. the goose drank wine

Dave from VA July 2, 2013 at 1:01 am

683 grams

Walen July 2, 2013 at 1:08 am

877 grams

Oliver July 2, 2013 at 1:09 am

801 grammes.

Gilly July 2, 2013 at 1:16 am

482g

Tom July 2, 2013 at 1:16 am

1520 g

Schultmeister July 2, 2013 at 1:32 am

908 g

The Wisdom of Crowds July 2, 2013 at 1:33 am

913g

caleb July 2, 2013 at 1:35 am

888

jpmal July 2, 2013 at 1:38 am

900grams

Anonymous July 2, 2013 at 1:40 am

812 gm

Rupert_Roadie July 2, 2013 at 1:41 am

978 grams

BarkingOwl July 2, 2013 at 1:45 am

430g

bill July 2, 2013 at 1:49 am

460g

Mike P July 2, 2013 at 1:52 am

380 g

Iorek July 2, 2013 at 2:02 am

421grams

Detlef July 2, 2013 at 2:09 am

593 grams

Nick Andrew July 2, 2013 at 2:28 am

610g

Ben July 2, 2013 at 2:34 am

425g

David Leibowitz July 2, 2013 at 2:40 am

795 grams

PeterC July 2, 2013 at 2:41 am

390g

sixer July 2, 2013 at 2:44 am

999

wigto July 2, 2013 at 3:15 am

946 grams

Ash July 2, 2013 at 3:22 am

375g

Rey July 2, 2013 at 3:31 am

552g

Dan July 2, 2013 at 3:36 am

757g

Andy July 2, 2013 at 3:38 am

225g

Rick Graham July 2, 2013 at 3:46 am

Limb. Going out on one.

1863 grams. The year Crédit Lyonnais was founded.

Neil July 2, 2013 at 3:47 am

557 g

Mick Fester July 2, 2013 at 3:47 am

695g.

Mark Hotchkin July 2, 2013 at 3:55 am

1037 g

The Trickster July 2, 2013 at 4:03 am

786g

Jesse July 2, 2013 at 4:09 am

840g

Krystal Paris July 2, 2013 at 4:18 am

714 grams

Lance July 2, 2013 at 4:27 am

7g

Jean A July 2, 2013 at 4:32 am

373g

Mike July 2, 2013 at 4:32 am

1300g

James July 2, 2013 at 4:34 am

777g

ninja July 2, 2013 at 5:13 am

343 grams! I love maps, great idea for a book :)

Guy July 2, 2013 at 5:18 am

412g

OneTreeHill July 2, 2013 at 5:19 am

865g

EB July 2, 2013 at 5:22 am

892

dmlo July 2, 2013 at 5:35 am

356g

Jeremy July 2, 2013 at 5:47 am

675g

Velogeezer July 2, 2013 at 5:48 am

484g

Alison July 2, 2013 at 5:59 am

I’ll go for 558g.

Owen Fairley July 2, 2013 at 6:07 am

I say 2013g.

charlie July 2, 2013 at 6:12 am

Is that a new lion or one that’s been slobbered over by Cadel’s dog? 522g

Capo Mele July 2, 2013 at 6:20 am

721 grams

pottssteve July 2, 2013 at 6:25 am

I think the lion is 878g

Thank you.

kento July 2, 2013 at 6:38 am

put me in for 310g

Kento July 5, 2013 at 6:55 am

actually revise that, 599g

AndersB July 2, 2013 at 6:54 am

338 gr

LWK July 2, 2013 at 7:16 am

1500 grams

TomC July 2, 2013 at 7:35 am

583g

Bikefoolish July 2, 2013 at 7:36 am

680g

izoard July 2, 2013 at 7:49 am

321 gr.

Bundle July 2, 2013 at 8:10 am

279 grams.
Interesting book, although the TdF courses are basically well documented on the web. I would like to see the same book on the Giro and the Vuelta. There are old stages where I don’t know where the race went through.

snowplc July 2, 2013 at 8:34 am

643g

Rooto July 2, 2013 at 8:34 am

845g.
I must try and get to the podium ceremony, to see if they throw a lion to the crowd. Hands off! It’s mine!

Matt July 2, 2013 at 8:36 am

567g for the lovely lion

Panda July 2, 2013 at 8:43 am

729g, looks like a fascinating book.

patrick July 2, 2013 at 8:44 am

let’s say 849 g

StevieB July 2, 2013 at 8:52 am

387g?

Charlie July 2, 2013 at 9:00 am

769g

MikeF July 2, 2013 at 9:17 am

416g

GMT July 2, 2013 at 9:26 am

688g

Darren July 2, 2013 at 9:32 am

853g

Andy July 2, 2013 at 9:40 am

433g

Ian July 2, 2013 at 9:50 am

I’ll go 712 g for the Lion

BeckyD July 2, 2013 at 9:56 am

547g

Russell July 2, 2013 at 9:58 am

329g

Anonymous July 2, 2013 at 9:58 am

The Lion must be 780 grams.

haps July 2, 2013 at 9:59 am

444g

Matt L July 2, 2013 at 10:04 am

821g

MT July 2, 2013 at 10:08 am

665g

DavidS July 2, 2013 at 10:10 am

I’ll go for 410g. Looks like a cool book. You can’t have too may maps, there’s just something mesmerising about them…!

MWde July 2, 2013 at 10:27 am

327 grammes

Chris James July 2, 2013 at 10:34 am

525g I think.

I don’t envy you trying to work out who is the closest if you have hundreds of guesses!

Salsiccia July 2, 2013 at 10:53 am

453g

Rahul July 2, 2013 at 11:07 am

As a confirmed cartophile I have to have a stab at this. Sadly my knowledge of stuffed toy animals is somewhat out of date… Still, I’ll say:

462 grams

Simon July 2, 2013 at 11:17 am

412 grams

Tom July 2, 2013 at 11:37 am

a nice and fluffy 1000 g even…

The Little Gartner July 2, 2013 at 11:38 am

1025g

Wato July 2, 2013 at 11:40 am

843g

Ian Tivey July 2, 2013 at 11:44 am

853g

Erik Berendsen July 2, 2013 at 11:45 am

my guess: 1591 gram a bit much, but it’s a big book

horace July 2, 2013 at 12:07 pm

730g

NotAsFastNow July 2, 2013 at 12:13 pm

358g

Q July 2, 2013 at 12:15 pm

502g

dmnc July 2, 2013 at 12:23 pm

514g for me.

Henrik July 2, 2013 at 12:25 pm

1122g

Cyclingbase July 2, 2013 at 12:26 pm

902 gram

petur July 2, 2013 at 12:27 pm

342g

Mike Burdon July 2, 2013 at 12:29 pm

363 grams

Richard July 2, 2013 at 12:29 pm

1081g

Paul July 2, 2013 at 12:30 pm

575g

Manuel Pérez Díaz July 2, 2013 at 12:32 pm

285 g

Alberto July 2, 2013 at 12:37 pm

For me it’s 420 g

ewan July 2, 2013 at 12:39 pm

701g

alicespringy July 2, 2013 at 12:41 pm

900g fingers crossed!

Lydia July 2, 2013 at 12:41 pm

The weight of the lion is: 1361 gr.

Campbell July 2, 2013 at 12:42 pm

1590g

Campbell July 2, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Whoops, that was the book weight. Lion weight guess: 175g

thetobyjug July 2, 2013 at 12:43 pm

I’m going for 806g, it just feels right

The Inner Ring July 2, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Great to see such interest and we’ll see if the wisdom of crowds theory applies.

But no views on the book, the maps, French history and more? Would be good to hear from others who have read the book too.

Igam Ogam July 2, 2013 at 12:45 pm

322g

Greg Keller July 2, 2013 at 12:47 pm

850 grams

Trond July 2, 2013 at 12:50 pm

684g

Taffy July 2, 2013 at 1:10 pm

1510 gram. Original TdF book!

Jon July 2, 2013 at 1:11 pm

541g

Inrng, do you have one of these lions in your possession?

cilmeri July 2, 2013 at 1:34 pm

550g. I was also amused to see in the wiggo doc last year (itv?) that he had 20 or 30 lions in his house – I never thought that they were allowed to keep them, and that they got one for each day in yellow! LA should be made to give all of his back (presuming they were around back then?)

Looks like a great coffee table book, to dip in and out of as opposed to read at once.

Tom Parr July 2, 2013 at 1:34 pm
maverik15j July 2, 2013 at 1:35 pm

900 grams

Ronan July 2, 2013 at 1:38 pm

453G

matt July 2, 2013 at 1:39 pm

725.748 grams!

thanks inrng.

Tom Parr July 2, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Oh. I mean 851 grams.

Nick Evans July 2, 2013 at 1:51 pm

461g for the Lion.

Igam Ogam July 2, 2013 at 1:53 pm

I’d love to comment on the book but first I have to win/read it! ;-)

L_Islandais July 2, 2013 at 2:01 pm

752g

tototot July 2, 2013 at 2:09 pm

746g

Matt July 2, 2013 at 2:11 pm

437g

Levi July 2, 2013 at 2:19 pm

714g

damian July 2, 2013 at 2:24 pm

493.2g

Dave July 2, 2013 at 2:30 pm

666g

beastarm July 2, 2013 at 2:31 pm

816 g

oli July 2, 2013 at 2:35 pm

414g for the lion

a pseudonym July 2, 2013 at 2:39 pm

728g

Foster July 2, 2013 at 2:42 pm

734 grams

Beth Leasure-Hudson July 2, 2013 at 3:44 pm

2.2 lbs or 998g

Alex July 2, 2013 at 3:51 pm

544 grams

Alex July 2, 2013 at 3:54 pm

5th paragraph, last sentence–change to became sted because: “The stage distance shortens, what was once an epic ride because a hyphen between two willing municipal bidders.”

The Inner Ring July 2, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Thanks, fixed it.

The wee hon July 2, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Worth a guess – can’t really afford the book!

563 grammes

bryan July 2, 2013 at 6:18 pm

750g!

christopher July 2, 2013 at 6:48 pm

442 grams

trounder July 2, 2013 at 7:28 pm

595 g for a male lion (397-ish for a lioness)
Another concise review of a book that I would enjoy having on the shelf, one way or another. And thanks for keeping quiet about the forward by Cav. Curious to read his thoughts about the ever-changing map of the Tour.

Jw July 2, 2013 at 7:39 pm

1,110g

Kelly July 2, 2013 at 8:54 pm

702 grams

simon July 2, 2013 at 9:14 pm

297g

peloton.pl July 2, 2013 at 9:20 pm

666gr

Gustav H July 2, 2013 at 9:32 pm

756 g

quercus July 2, 2013 at 9:55 pm

832 g

Rune July 2, 2013 at 10:00 pm

478 g

balkou July 2, 2013 at 10:14 pm

440 grams.

Adam W July 2, 2013 at 10:15 pm

736g cheers!

John July 2, 2013 at 10:16 pm

707 g

Alan P July 2, 2013 at 10:35 pm

600g – Thanks!

Graham Letham July 2, 2013 at 11:20 pm

824g

obutterwick July 2, 2013 at 11:23 pm

500g

chris July 2, 2013 at 11:27 pm

351.534 grams

WV July 2, 2013 at 11:28 pm

434 g?
Nice blog by the way!

Dave July 2, 2013 at 11:42 pm

841g

Jan July 3, 2013 at 12:19 am

942g

Sam July 3, 2013 at 1:21 am

813g

donncha July 3, 2013 at 3:16 am

812g

Lachlan July 3, 2013 at 3:25 am

1037g

Cheers

Jo_whid July 3, 2013 at 3:28 am

I’m going with 836grams.

bodsey July 3, 2013 at 3:51 am

I’ve just spent too much time working out how many genuine ‘le lion en peluches’ have been handed out since Crédit Lyonnais started sponsoring the maillot jaune in 1987 – coincidentally the year I first remember watching. Besides learning, or re-learning, some fascinating details of how the tour’s stage composition has changed even since then, my dodgy arithmetic gives 572 stages including prologues ttt’s and that preface, so 1g per potential rider given a lion, forces me to guess 740 grams.

I really need to get out more..

Graham July 3, 2013 at 3:54 am

Love the blog
Will but the book if I don’t win one
568g
Merci

Graham July 3, 2013 at 3:58 am

“buy” the book, even

Jared July 3, 2013 at 4:17 am

1,001 grams

Paul July 3, 2013 at 5:19 am

692

Fred B July 3, 2013 at 10:37 am

588g

BaldEagle July 3, 2013 at 1:10 pm

997 g

Stewart July 3, 2013 at 3:36 pm

498g

Felix July 3, 2013 at 7:40 pm

821g

Herdingbats July 3, 2013 at 10:31 pm

1001.001g

paul July 3, 2013 at 10:34 pm

411g

Skye July 4, 2013 at 1:59 am

444 grams

jon July 4, 2013 at 7:16 am

937

Ant July 4, 2013 at 7:23 am

718g

Max July 4, 2013 at 8:42 am

998g

hoh July 4, 2013 at 11:48 am

After weighing several of my daughter’s stuffed animals:
890g.

Paul Gorman July 4, 2013 at 12:16 pm

435g

Mendip 5000 July 4, 2013 at 2:38 pm

685g, although that may be a typing error for the actual figure ;-)

Graham Fryer July 4, 2013 at 3:05 pm

405g

Ruben July 4, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Sound stuffed animal-mathematics, combined with a purely random guess, decree that the weight will be 634 grams.

Paul July 4, 2013 at 6:31 pm

410g

The Inner Ring July 4, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Plenty of good guesses, I’d love to know what the average is.

The lion has been weighed and the answer will be online tomorrow. Nobody has the precise guess so far but it’s close.

Lighter Fluid July 5, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Average guess is 700.57 g (if outliers of 1.5 tones and 7g are removed, 6796.5 g if included!)

I’ll add a guess at 618.5g (new average is 700.2g).

Looks like a good read, I’d vaguely started thinking about attempting a slower bike tour based on the 1913 route, but aside from the arrival and departure towns, I didn’t have much to work from. It would be interesting to see how much those old routes are still intact or ride-able.

Lighter Fluid July 5, 2013 at 12:24 pm

damn, too slow!

The Inner Ring July 5, 2013 at 12:04 pm

The competition is over. The actual weight is 803g. Well done to Oliver with the closest guess of 801g.

Drop me an email and I’ll post the book to you.

Lion

Diane July 19, 2013 at 9:16 am

890gg

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