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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.

Deconstructing The Tour

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.

To learn more about the Tour, visit http://www.deconstructingthetour.group.shef.ac.uk/wordpress/

Additional information

The University of Sheffield

With nearly 25,000 of the brightest students from 117 countries coming to learn alongside 1,209 of the world’s best academics, it is clear why the University of Sheffield is one of the UK’s leading universities. Staff and students at Sheffield are committed to helping discover and understand the causes of things - and propose solutions that have the power to transform the world we live in.

A member of the Russell Group, the University of Sheffield has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines. The University of Sheffield has been named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards 2011 for its exceptional performance in research, teaching, access and business performance. In addition, the University has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes (1998, 2000, 2002, 2007), recognising the outstanding contribution by universities and colleges to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

One of the markers of a leading university is the quality of its alumni and Sheffield boasts five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students. Its alumni have gone on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, Boots, AstraZeneca, GSK, Siemens, Yorkshire Water and many more household names, as well as UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

The University has well-established partnerships with a number of universities and major corporations, both in the UK and abroad. The White Rose University Consortium (White Rose) a strategic partnership between three of the UK's leading research universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York. Since its creation in 1997 White Rose has secured more than £100M into the Universities.

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