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History Unplugged Podcast

with Scott Rank

The 1919 Tour de France That Took Place in the Bombed-Out Ruins of WW1

00:00 44:07
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On June 29, 1919, one day after the Treaty of Versailles brought about the end of World War I, nearly seventy cyclists embarked on the thirteenth Tour de France. From Paris, the war-weary men rode down the western coast on a race that would trace the country's border, through seaside towns and mountains to the ghostly western front. Traversing a cratered postwar landscape, the cyclists faced near-impossible odds and the psychological scars of war. Most of the athletes had arrived straight from the front, where so many fellow countrymen had suffered or died. Sixty-seven cyclists, some of whom were still on active military duty, started from Paris on June 29, 1919; only 11 finished the monthlong tour. The cyclists' perseverance and tolerance for pain would be tested in a grueling, monthlong competition.
To discuss this story of human endurance is Adin Dobkin, author of Sprinting Through No Man's Land. He explains how the cyclists united a country that had been torn apart by unprecedented desolation and tragedy, and how devastated countrymen and women can come together to celebrate the adventure of a lifetime and discover renewed fortitude, purpose, and national identity in the streets of their towns. Dobkin profiles competitors including Frenchman Eugène Christophe, whose commitment to finishing the race after he lost the lead while stopping to repair his bike’s broken frame captured the country’s imagination, and vividly describes arduous ascents, rubble-strewn streets, and the crowds that lined the route, waving flags and shouting encouragement. The result is an immersive look at the mythical power of sports to unite and inspire
July 20, 2021
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Meet Your Host
Scott Rank is the host of the History Unplugged Podcast and a PhD in history who specialized in the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Before going down the academic route he worked as a journalist in Istanbul. He has written 12 history books on topics ranging from lost Bronze Age civilizations to the Age of Discovery. Some of his books include The Age of Illumination: Science, Technology, and Reason in the Middle Ages and History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers.. Learn more about him by going to scottrankphd.com.
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