It is the story of a fake Tour de France, of a cursed race whose memory, over the years, had faded, and that Etienne Bonamy, a former journalist at The Team, had the happy idea of reviving. To take the measure of his story, we must return to September 1942, in full German occupation of part of the national territory. That year, the “real” Tour being at a standstill, an ambitious journalist, Jean Leulliot, took it into his head to occupy the field and offer the public – lacking sporting events – a race in eight stages. Across the country. A collaborationist journal (Socialist France) sponsors the operation; the Germans approve; the head of government, Pierre Laval, is himself in favor of it. This is how the Circuit de France is launched. On the program: 1,650 kilometers, for 72 runners, French and foreign, divided into six teams.
Leulliot, the chief organizer, thinks he has planned everything: the route, the bonuses, the accommodation, the page in the so-called “free” zone, a bus for the reporters, without forgetting, of course, the followers, whom he whether mechanics or motorcyclists… But the riders are not fooled. From the outset, they sense that the case is off to a bad start, that a bad wind is blowing in the opposite direction. Basically, most of them have no desire to be part of this “Circuit” which has nothing to do with a Grande Boucle. If they are there, it is to try to earn three pennies or to escape the Compulsory Labor Service in Germany. Hence the title of this book, The Forces of the Roada sensible way to announce the coming fiasco.
Escapes to fiction
This forgotten epic, Etienne Bonamy first recounted it in The world, in the form of a long article. He then undertook to dedicate a book to him. Make no mistake about it: the mention “novel” appearing on the cover is just a mark of honesty, a way for the publisher (In highlight, specialist in quality sports publications) to specify that the author allows himself at times to escape into fiction.
But the facts reported here on a day-to-day basis are essentially accurate. Perfectly reflecting the reality of these troubled times, they are the result of meticulous investigative work intended to reconstruct as faithfully as possible the backstage of the event and the context of the time. In fact, from Le Mans to Poitiers, from Clermont-Ferrand to Saint-Etienne, there it is, this popular France of 1942 which does not always have enough to eat, but only has eyes for these “convicts of the road “.
They too existed, starting with the most outstanding of them: Emile Idée, the 1942 French champion. . It is this meeting that prompted him to undertake this literary project. He draws a captivating story, well conducted, where the reader constantly wonders how this badly born race, marked by a cascade of abandonments and setbacks, was able to come to an end, on the track of the former Parc des princes…
“Forces of the road”by Etienne Bonamy, En Exergue, 206 pages, 20 euros.
“Forces of the road”, by Etienne Bonamy, En Exergue, 206 pages, 20 euros.