Why Mountain Biking In France Is Popular

By: Anna Stenning

One of my favourite past times is to go mountain biking down countryside trails and travel long distances from one town to another. For me this is an enjoyable form of keeping fit and you have the added benefit of appreciating the scenery. Mountain biking does not necessarily have to be enjoyed in your own home territory and one can be involved with mountain biking abroad. Places like France, Italy, Spain, Africa and Australia.

Mountain biking in France is more popular than any other destination because of the smooth and challenging trails that make biking here more fun. The French Alps is famous for holding the popular Tour de France biking event, whereby thousands of spectators come from all over the world and support the contenders. The Alps is also popular with skiing holidays and professional skiing competitions, which has placed the French Alps as one of the top destinations for activity holidays.

The Tour de France has helped to keep the Alps to maintain its reputation for being one of the best experience mountain biking in France as a whole. The first Tour de France event began in 1903 and is structured so it is partaken in stages rather than one long marathon. History will reveal that the Tour de France was largely influenced and inspired by the popular sporting magazine in France, called Le Velo. Like most sporting magazines, this focussed on sporting events but also included politic and current affairs in France.

Le Velo was produced and published to symbolise the innocence of Alfred Dreyfus, who was accused and found guilty of selling secrets to the Germans. There was a large division between the people of France, with one side favouring his innocence and the other believing he was guilty. Some of the advertisers were against what Le Velo stood and were very much against the support of Dreyfus's innocence. Those that withdrew their advertising later published their own rival magazine.

L'Auto was established and to promote it the Tour de France began. This was also a publicity spectacle to rival Le Velo and their event, Paris-Brest et retour organised by editor Pierre Gifford. Originally, the race was discussed to be a five weeklong tour, however with only 15 entrants this was then reduced down to just 19 days. Cycling journalist Geo Lefevre and Editor Henri Desgrange announced the event on January 19th of 1903 - thus born a new trend of mountain biking in France.

The public were caught and drawn in by the event, from the growing number of entrants (who were offered a daily allowance) and the entertainment attractions (some amateur and unemployed entertainers). The tour was split into stages of riding 400km, this saw the riders riding into the night, which captured the spectators attention. After the event, the magazine sales went from 25,000 copies sold to 65,000. By 1933 when the Tour had finished Desgrange had received a record of 854,000.

L'Auto magazine was not a direct predecessor to the now popular magazine L'Equipe, but was a spiritual figure and influence to the current organisers of the Tour. This is not directly organised by L'Equipe but is run by its owners called Societe du Tour de France. To this day this is an event which has grown on a massive scale over the years. This has influenced much of France to see many holidaymakers take part in mountain biking in places like the French Alps, but also open up other events like the Tour such as Giro d'Italia based in Italy and Vuelta a Espana based in Spain.

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