1923: The Mystery of Lot 212 and a Tour de France Obsession

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1923: The Mystery of Lot 212 and a Tour de France Obsession

1923: The Mystery of Lot 212 and a Tour de France Obsession

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This manic on-this-day-in-history ‘Not The 1923 Tour’ strand takes up a large part of 1923 and when you join the dots – see the pattern! The other photograph, that one actually was taken in the Parc des Princes, where the Petit Tour de France was being held, a post-Tour track-meet Desgrange organised annually and which forms an early step on the road to today’s post-Tour critérium circuit. Boulting spends a good part of the time trying to track down information of the man who leads the race at that time of the film.

Had the book concentrated on the riders, the pieces in the film and the riders, it would have been a much better read. There’s also a healthy dose of genealogy that would make for a great spin-off of the Who Do You Think You Are? Ned Boulting is a life long cycling enthusiast, who in 2020 acquired a piece of Pathe film from the 1923 Tour de France.

Join him as he explores the history of cycling and France just five years after WWI – meeting characters like Henri Pélissier, who won the Tour that year but who would within the decade be shot dead by his wife's lover. There is the unsettling background of the covid pandemic distorting our sense of distance and connection. and appears to have been taken in the Parc des Princes was actually taken in Luxembourg (the Vélodrome du Bel Air, a quick jaunt elsewhere tells us), at the end of the first stage of the Critérium des Aiglons. Join him as he explores the history of cycling and France just five years after WWI - meeting characters like Henri Pelissier, who won the Tour that year but who would within the decade be shot dead by his lover using the same pistol with which his wife had killed herself. The places he has taken it by the end of the book are a really nice way to cap it off and they give readers some form of closure.

We ride on dynamite,” 1923 ­winner Henri Pélissier told ­journalists, his kitbag including chloroform and cocaine, needed to push his body through the torture of the Tour. But at this stage I’m so used to the blind leading the blind in books like this that I didn’t really consider how limiting this might be. This book is not just a history of the Tour De France but also of the geopolitical situation that shapes it. Often seen wheezing his way through north London, he's also a big football, rugby and NFL fan with cycling offering much needed respite from being let down. Ned set about learning everything he could about the sequence – studying each frame, face and building – until he had squeezed the meaning from it.It starts about 150 kilometres and six hours into the stage, still another 260 or so kilometres and more than nine hours of racing to go. I expected an in-depth review of a 100-year old race, but this was only one aspect of a brilliant book. As interesting as the story of how Boulting pins down the precise year of the film, 1923 – weather reports and clothing confirmed it couldn’t have been 1924’s appalling heatwave – and starts to attach names to faces, is the insight he gives into the “heroic age” of cycling. I am grateful to Ned for taking the time and trouble to open up a window to a much earlier time in the TDF and for telling the story in both detail where available and within the much wider context of the world and people around them.

It is interesting, but it takes a lot of attention away from the main topic – the race and the stage 4 winner, Theofile Beekman. I’d even switched my brain off when it came to the various factual infelicities that invariably appear in books like this. Beginning with a fragment of a century-old race, Ned has written a 'biography of the unknown rider'. In fact, as he begins to identify certain figures on the film, he discovers that one of them was behind a mutiny, one year later, against the conditions.It sets him off in fascinating directions, encompassing travelogue, history, and mystery story – to explain, to go deeper into this moment in time, captured on his little film. But 1923 isn’t the type of book that seeks to build on the work of others (needless to say, none of those authors appear in Boulting’s bibliography … but three books by Hemingway do).

And then there are the many, many characters, some scarcely believable, whose extraordinary lives brush up in unexpected ways against this fragment of history, preserved from oblivion by nothing more providential than pure coincidence. The Mystery of Lot 212 and a Tour de France Obsession is a brand new book by presenter, commentator, podcaster and author Ned Boulting.Boulting’s drum-banging on ­Beeckman’s behalf is touchingly like ­trying to start a fan club for one of the centre-backs from the ­Stanley Matthews Cup Final. The 103 third parties who use cookies on this service do so for their purposes of displaying and measuring personalized ads, generating audience insights, and developing and improving products. Resurrecting the forgotten, remembering the overlooked, reinstating those airbrushed from history, it’s what keeps the publishing industry alive.



  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
  • EAN: 764486781913
  • Sold by: Fruugo

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