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HomeCyclingPEZ Bookshelf: Le Fric - PezCycling Information

PEZ Bookshelf: Le Fric – PezCycling Information


In 1978, the American R&B group Stylish had a monster international hit with the music “Le Freak,” and folks in France, noting the lyrics “C’est stylish!” thought it referred to “le fric,” pronounced kind of the identical approach as French slang for cash. Cash—whether or not you name it dough, bread, loot, ducats, folding stuff, moolah, clams or no matter—is on the coronary heart of the enterprise {of professional} sports activities and in Alex Duff’s new guide, “Le Fric,” some mild is shed on that peculiar establishment that’s the Tour de France.

le fric

The blurb on the again cowl reads: “On the Tour de France, the most important winner on the financial institution is just not the bike owner who makes it to Paris within the yellow jersey—it’s the secretive household that owns the race.” And that may be the Amaury household and the way they got here to personal the Tour is an interesting story, which doesn’t appear to have been advised a lot in English-language publications. The primary a part of “Le Fric” is about Émelien Amaury, who arrived in Paris as a poor boy from Étampes, aged fourteen, and set about working in eating places, washing dishes and clearing tables. His trade was famous by a newspaper proprietor, who discovered him employment in his promoting division after which, when his protégé confirmed extra promise, established him in his personal promoting company. Amaury rise was not stunted by World Warfare II and the occupation of France by the Germans. He performed together with the Vichy Authorities of French collaborators, getting juicy contracts for print work, whereas on the identical time in Paris his crews have been printing up Resistance paperwork by night time.

Amaury was near Normal Charles de Gaulle and when the Liberation got here in July 1944 an interim authorities was established that wished management of the nation’s press in the precise palms. Publications that had labored with the Nazis have been principally confiscated and, given new names, have been turned over to those that had connections to the Resistance. Amaury was in a position to get management of Le Petit Parisien, probably the most fashionable and worthwhile newspapers within the nation, which was renamed Le Parisien Libéré, and started to accumulate regional publications as properly. His timing allowed him to get half possession of l’Auto, the sports activities publication which managed the not-very-profitable Tour de France because the proprietor, Jacques Goddet, was in some issue as a result of his obvious helpfulness to the Germans. L’Auto was renamed L’Équipe, with Goddet remaining in cost and left to his personal units on the newspaper’s vibrant places of work in Montmartre. Amaury was not a lot desirous about sports activities in any respect.

The guide tells of the origins of the Tour and the way it grew slowly. Regardless of early worldwide participation it remained very French in character and seemingly caught in a bucolic previous. It made so little cash that the publicity caravan was invented to pay the payments and prize cash was doled out stingily. Finally Goddet’s dangerous enterprise selections left him financially susceptible and Amaury ended up shopping for up his curiosity within the newspaper in 1968. Amaury’s press empire was not with out its personal issues, much like what was occurring within the UK, as fashionable printing tools required far fewer staff and mass firings came about, with appreciable resistance—together with protests on the Tour.

Trendy media modified the character of the Tour as first radio pushed apart newspaper stories after which tv stepped in however this enhanced protection and higher curiosity past France didn’t change the enterprise nature of the race. After Émilien Amaury’s demise in 1977, his son Philippe took over to run the newspapers and a brand new division, the Amaury Sport Group. ASO owns not solely the Tour de France but in addition Paris-Roubaix, Paris-Good and different basic bike races in France and Belgium, together with a share of the Vuelta. And as sponsorship brings in increasingly more cash to the Tour, its significance now outstrips that of the newspapers to the household.

Not like the enterprise preparations that characterize {most professional} sports activities as we speak, akin to Components 1, soccer or gridiron soccer, the Tour de France stays conservatively caught previously. Groups obtain a small quantity from ASO—most likely not even sufficient to cowl the gasoline payments for the crew automobiles for 3 weeks—and nothing from tv rights or sponsorship cash. Somewhat, annually the Amaury household shareholders, who’re Philippe’s octogenarian widow and his two youngsters, cut up one thing on the order of 10 Million Euros in dividends. They’re blissful to proceed doing so for the foreseeable future.

“Le Fric” recounts two makes an attempt by go-getters to attempt to modernize professional biking as a enterprise however with out the Tour de France any try and do a World Collection of Biking is doomed. After which Wang Jianlin, one of many richest males in China, made a suggestion for the race however was firmly turned down. There actually is not any solution to put stress on ASO–the race is just too essential as crew sponsors count on a presence on the Tour. The creator cites the strike at Wimbledon that put energy into the palms of the tennis professionals or the reorganization of Components 1 by Bernie Ecclestone as examples of the modernization of professional sports activities however the parochial nature of the Tour truly works in opposition to its internationalization. ASO works in shut cooperation with the French authorities, which subsidizes the race to a excessive diploma recognizing its invaluable advantages for tourism promotion, and has had a decades-long association with French public tv. The Amaury household is unwilling to danger the household jewel and, since they maintain all of the aces, one can perceive why. They view the race as virtually a public good, a logo of France. At one level the French nationwide lottery, FDJ, truly thought of shopping for the Tour as a solution to stop it from each falling into overseas palms however, after all, it was not on the market.

Though the Amaury household approaches the Tour in a really conservative approach, there have been a couple of modest stabs at modernization when a Harvard-trained supervisor was introduced in and a few improvements tried, such because the Tour “villages” firstly and end, with their VIP areas to entertain sponsors (long-established in different sports activities). Nonetheless, the Tour is the Tour and he didn’t final lengthy.

The creator had the chance to talk with Jean-Etienne Amaury, son of Philippe and part-owner of ASO. The household’s presence on the Tour is almost invisible; on the annual unveiling of the Tour route, Jean-Etienne speaks (very) briefly and the race is left within the administration of pros. It seems that the founder’s successors usually are not a lot secretive as simply not very fascinating. They act to guard their pursuits, as illustrated when the UCI tried to dictate to ASO and the matriarch labored out a settlement. It’s instructive to learn in regards to the origins of the UCI, which was for a few years an basically powerless group run by a handful of volunteers—and financed by l’Équipe!

Whereas the creator supplies particulars of the 2 makes an attempt to modernize professional bike racing as an entire, with some cloak-and-dagger accounts, with out ASO’s acceptance these have been all the time doomed to failure. Alex Duff spices up the guide with tales of biking’s massive doping scandals and the way they could have put the Tour in danger. The Festina Affair of 1998 was the primary time proof of complete doping was happening was revealed however the Tour continued in 1999 when there was the “Tour of Redemption,” received by Lance Armstrong and we all know what adopted. After Operation Puerto, when Spanish authorities investigated many sports activities figures, German broadcasters kept away from displaying the Tour de France for 3 years however returned in 2014, albeit paying far much less for tv rights than they’d beforehand.

The problem of creating bike races work was proven by the instance of Velon, the group arrange by 11 professional biking groups in 2014 to run their very own races. The Hammer Collection of races, which included some progressive information transmission new to professional racing, ran from 2017 to 2020 however conflicts with the UCI ended that initiative and Velon stays a modest effort.

“Le Fric” is a guide a few skilled sport that’s behind the instances and seems to be content material with that. The story behind ASO is an fascinating one and the creator has interviewed lots of the gamers who matter, together with crew managers, potential traders, and has painted wonderful portraits of post-war Tour de France figures, notably Jacques Goddet and Felix Lévitan, however there’s fairly a solid, from the Chinese language billionaire to Jean-Luc Lagardère, who wished to increase his companies (making missiles) to incorporate newspapers like l’Équipe, to Jean-Claude Killy, Olympic skier after “le fric” and really well-paid to defend Amaury household pursuits.

As to “Le Freak”…it was so fashionable {that a} French financial institution used it because the soundtrack to their tv commercials. C’est stylish!

le fric

“Le Fric” by Alex Duff
314 pp., illustrated, hardcover
Constable/Little Brown Guide Group, London, 2022
ISBN 978-1-4087-1669-4

  • “Le Fric” by Alex Duff is out there from AMAZON.COM.

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