We've found this 2006 collection of four Tour de France race directors' cars on eBay, which is sure to appeal to Tour aficionados young and old.
This collection of just four directors' cars nevertheless tells a large part of the Tour de France's story. There appears to be a small mistake, though, in that the beautiful 1949 Hotchkiss 686 S49 is associated in the display box to Tour founder Henri Desgrange, when Desgrange actually passed away in 1940, passing the reins to Jacques Goddet.
Goddet has his own car here, too – a 1966 Peugeot 404 – while Jean-Marie Leblanc's 2003 Alfa Romeo 166 and incumbent race director Christian Prudhomme's 2006 Skoda Superb complete the collection.
Cars and the Tour de France, of course, go hand in hand – much as many people wished they didn't. There are a number of more discreet motorbikes that buzz around in the convoy, too – TV camera motorbikes, race judges and the famous motorbike-mounted chalkboard person, who scribbles the time gaps between groups on their board to show the riders and the viewers at home – but teams have support cars to ferry bikes on, and to have their directeurs sportifs shout at their riders from, while the race staff lead and follow the race in their famous red cars, directing the race and providing information over Radio Tour.
Why red? We actually don't know, although we wouldn't put it past being as a result of the L'Equipe newspaper's red logo. The paper had started life as L'Auto – the newspaper that the Tour de France was invented to promote – and became L'Equipe after the Second World War. L'Equipe's founding editor, Goddet, who'd taken over as editor of L'Auto upon Desgrange's death in 1940, also took over from Desgrange as director of the Tour.
Leblanc became director in 1989, and was still in charge of the world's most famous bike race when Skoda took over as the official car supplier from Alfa Romeo in 2004. That year, Prudhomme began shadowing Leblanc at the Tour – and in organising the ASO's other races, such as Paris-Roubaix and Paris-Nice – in readiness to take over from Leblanc as head of the race in 2007.
As an aside, I know for a fact that Jean-Marie Leblanc's mid-2000s Skoda Superb had a central console that folded down to reveal a bottle of Champagne and some glasses. It wasn't only reserved for special occasions like the Tour de France, either, as it was gratefully 'experienced' at the now-defunct Critérium International.
The UK-based seller is looking for £80 (US$100) for the case of four cars. We're probably not the first to think that they'd look great lined up on a shelf in convoy alongside some of those die-cast metal mini cycling figurines that have been all the rage in France for decades and decades, but can also be found elsewhere with just a little internet-looking.
We're constantly on the lookout for unique and rare cycling relics on eBay. If you have any suggestions or leads, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org with 'eBay Finds' in the subject line.
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