Competitive Cycling

When cycling becomes a sport?

The late 1860s saw the birth of a series of activities linked to the practice of velocipedes. Along with the development of an industry and an economy of the cycle, the first clubs, the first specialized newspapers and the first sports competitions were created. May 31, 1868, the famous Parisian Company, which manufactures and distributes bicycles type Michaux, organized the first cycling race in France in the park of Saint-Cloud.

Often organized by sports newspapers, New prestigious races (such as Bordeaux-Paris in 1891 and of course the Tour de France, created in 1903) are contested, making sport cycling increasingly popular. The new heroes and their new exploits inspire a growing number of fans who also compete in more anonymous competitions within their respective clubs. In the first quarter of the 20th century, cycling became one of the most popular sports, and “cycling” a practice deeply rooted in customs and performances, as evidenced by cycling race and Sports Festival, both born during this ” golden age.“

The riders on the track

Realized in 1902 by Georges Duchesne, race cyclist is a watercolor rather typical and without great artistic pretension. If the forest landscapes show a vague impressionist influence, the naivety of the line (see the face of the man on the right) and the use of the color is more benign. By playing the curve that the road draws, the artist represents a “running scene.” In the distance, two riders escaped, chased by two others who come out of a small peloton of five cyclists. One of them, a victim of a fall or a puncture, leaves again, helped by a man (the road has a slight rib). Like their armbands, the colorful outfits of the runners refer to the different teams.

Later, our website print puts cycling in a kind of compendium of sports practices. Indeed, this event also brings together footballers, runners, jumpers, but also Boat Races, and car and air competitions (airplanes and balloons in the sky at the bottom). The artist thus suggests symbolically the multiplicity of activities that are on the program of this festival of sport and sports, as well as absolute modernity (traits and equipment of the athletes, presence of airplanes). If it takes place in France (more flags and tricolor on the masts in the foreground), the flags of other countries and the different jerseys of the athletes show that it is an international event.

From leisure to competition

Nothing is known about the sporting importance of the event represented in Race Cycling. It can be as much a prestigious competition as a “Sunday race” between amateur clubs. The watercolor above all reveals that the “civil” practice of cycling as leisure was immediately accompanied by a “competition” cycling made of efforts (see the bodies and attitudes of the riders), teams, intense moments (the breakaway) and technical incidents. Race mythology then takes place.

Intended to present (for announcement or reminder) a multi-sport meeting, this website does not deal specifically with cycling. Nevertheless, it reveals that cycling has become a sport in its own right and that it naturally has its place among international competitions. Born simultaneously in Europe and the United States at the end of the 19th century, sports cycling has always brought together riders of all nationalities.