University’s academics deconstruct the Tour de France, shedding new light on the world’s greatest sporting event
Experts ‘Deconstruct the Tour’ in video, audio and blog posts on new University website
First film features Professor of French David Walker, who reveals little known facts about the world’s biggest annual sporting event
Site will also show off Sheffield’s cycling hotspots through Instagram and Twitter photos
The world's biggest annual sporting event is being put under the microscope by leading academics at the University of Sheffield on a new website deconstructing the Tour de France.
On Saturday July 5 and Sunday July 6 2014, the world’s greatest cycle race will start in Yorkshire, bringing the historic event closer to the University and the city than ever before.
To celebrate the Grand Depart, experts from the University will shed new light on various aspects of the Tour on a new website – including its history and evolution, the science of cycling and its impact across the globe.
The University will be updating the site, which has been launched today (Thursday 29 May 2014) , with videos, mp3s and blog posts featuring the work of academics from across different faculties.
The first video features Emeritus Professor David Walker, from the University’s Department of French, who may well owe his career to the event.
As a cycling mad 12 year old in 1959, Professor Walker picked up a magazine about his favourite hobby and read about Brian Robinson who had just become the first Briton to win a stage of the Tour.
After learning the event was the most prestigious cycling race in the world, he began to learn the vocabulary of the event and took a serious interest in the country’s language and culture.
He became a Professor of French at the University of Sheffield in 1995 and even went on to teach a module on the Tour.
In a series of videos, he reveals little-known facts about the Tour – including why it was known as ‘The Tour of Suffering’ and how the Tour de France existed before the invention of the modern bike.
In the first film, Professor David Walker said: “The Tour de France is significant as a cultural event in France and dates back before the invention of modern bikes. It can initially be traced back to young apprentice artisans travelling around France to work with skilled masters in their field to learn their craft. This was a process known as the ‘Tour de France.’
“At the end of the 19th century when the modern bicycle was designed, France had established its Third Republic – the first republic that would really last – and its key figures set themselves the task of ‘building’ a new France.
“It was at this time that many of the things we associate with modern France were officially adopted, such as the tricolour flag and La Marseillaise, and the Bastille Day celebrations on 14 July.
He added: “The founders of the bicycle race were motivated by the same patriotic instincts and decided on the title ‘Tour de France’ for the race that would travel around France and announce both the unity and significance of the country.
“The founder of the Tour presented the race as a way to bind the country together during a vulnerable period of its history.”
The new website will also see the University highlight why Sheffield is such a special place for cyclists by launching a ‘Velogram’ project – inviting staff and students to send in photos and videos from their favourite cycle routes via Instagram and Twitter.
The best shots will be used to create a collage that shows off Sheffield as a cycling hotspot, as well as create recommended routes to get more people out and about and on their bike this summer.
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