Such was the cry of love we had at the time of the grand start of the 2008 edition of the Tour de France in Brittany. This heartfelt cry – we now have seen confirmation of it – was no vain message. Indeed, from Brest to the Champs-Élysées along the 3,500 km of its 95th edition, the noble centennial race called the Tour de France demonstrate – once again – that it does remain an inescapable monument of both sport and France’s national heritage.
It was a fine moment in July!
Starting in Brittany already, the race was full of unexpected events, emotions and suspense. In just three weeks, seven cyclists wore the Yellow Jersey sometimes after stealing it from their opponents with the minutest margin. The Yellow Grail was still seriously disputed – with six ambitious cyclists gathered in a 50-second bracket on top of the rankings – before the verdict of the dreaded Alp stages, only five days away from the final arrival in Paris. And we still had a very final show-down between Carlos Sastre and Cadel Evans, almost at the end of the road, on the eve of crossing of the ultimate finish line in Paris.
For three weeks, followers, viewers and spectators were kept on tenterhooks. The merit of the suspense goes of course primarily to cyclists, whose vast majority had decided to play fair game. In the high category passes, we saw men fighting as very hard as they could, giving new – and bright – momentum and meaning to the fundamental notion of courage. Organized under the auspices of the French Cycling Federation, the 2008 Tour de France was also a beacon of hope and the remarkable work done by the French Agency in the Fight against Doping (AFLD) is certainly not foreign to the renewed hope.
In a race with such an uncertain outcome, French cyclists – having gotten rid of their hang-ups and playing the insatiable showmen – stirred patriotic feelings with three stage victories, the Yellow Jersey on the shoulders of Romain Feillu, the overall combativity title for Sylvain Chavanel, the steady performance of Sandy Casar and the revelation of Amaël Moinard’s talents. A (pretty) nice track record, even if we are still waiting – in absence of a true successor to Bernard Hinault – for a French cyclist who might have an eye on the podium in Paris.
This fascinating last edition of the Tour de France was followed by hordes of passionate crowds cheering along the road. The huge popular fervor never failed! The magic is still alive and kicking. An additional evidence of the Tour–s success is that even before the end of the 2008 edition, questions were already many about the 2009 edition of the Tour de France and its route after the Principality of Monaco, which will be the prestigious host of next year–s grand start!
So yes, forever “Tour”…
Because there is just NO other way!
Director of the Tour de France