Tour de France: Jean-Paul Ollivier in the SZ Interview - Sport
Long before Armstrong was doped in the Tour de France, terrible falls are part of the picture - so why is the popularity of the tour continues? France TV journalist Jean-Paul Ollivier answers.
Jean-Paul Ollivier worked as a journalist on 41 Tour de France competitions. He became known through the broadcasts on French television, where he often presented the sights on the edge of the track. Ollivier also wrote numerous books on the tour, cycling and President Charles de Gaulle. In 2015, he commented on the tour for the last time, today the 75-year-old works on an encyclopedia about the villages that house the tour. There are some of them.
SZ: Mr Ollivier, also due to the successes of Julian Alaphilippe and Thibaut Pinot, the French TV is reporting a record attendance after another. What fascinates your compatriots every year about the race?
Jean-Paul Ollivier: The tour is a mosaic of a thousand stones. An hour before the drivers drives the advertising caravan on the racetrack. There's music going on, spectators are thrown off caps and giveaways. Of course, the duels between the drivers in the mountains are fascinating. But perhaps the most important arguments are the landscapes. The tour allows the French to get to know their own country.
So sport only plays a minor role?
Sport is important, but for most French viewers, the images of their country are crucial. 60 percent of viewers say they watch the tour on TV. You know, France is beautiful! Here you can eat and drink well, it is the land of the mountains and the plain. Every year, even the French are astonished.
What fascinates you personally about the tour?
Everything is in their history, good and bad. After the World Wars, men of modest proportions drove on a bike to get it all out of themselves. In her quest was grace. I would say the tour is like a summary of life. And that is exactly what gives her her size.
They come from the most cycling-loving region of all, Brittany. Is there a driver from your home whom you admire?
For me it's Louison Bobet, one of the most beautiful riders cyclists have ever produced. Bobet became triple tour winner and world champion. In 1956 he won his third tour despite a bowel inflammation. He then had himself operated and escaped by a hair of blood poisoning. He was an incomparably brave man.
Does the tour challenge people to cross their own borders?
In any case, and not just sporty. Because Bobet did everything to please the audience. After his third tour win some said to him: 'Monsieur Bobet, you have not won Paris-Roubaix!' So he saw it as his duty to win this race - and he did.
Shortly after Bobet, a certain Jacques Anquetil came on the scene ...
Anquetil was the elegance itself. He was a fantastic rouleur. When he started his career at the age of 19, his pace hurt the rest of the field (laughs). You know, if somebody wants to win the tour, he has to be an excellent time trialist, you could see that again with Romain Bardet. Anquetil knew about his strength and did not get everything out on mountain stages. In 1964, on his last tour win, he weakened up to the Puy-de-Dôme and lost time on Raymond Poulidor. When he arrived at the finish, Anquetil had only 14 seconds more in the overall standings. His only comment: "14 seconds, well, then I won."
Was that arrogance?
No, Anquetil was aware of his strength. He knew that there was only one time trial between Versailles and Paris and he would beat Poulidor there.