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The Unknown Tour de France

The Many Faces of the World's Greatest Bicycle Race
by Les Woodland

Format: 8˝ x 11 inch hardcover
Description: 160 pages with 150 duotone photographs
ISBN: 978-1-892495-63-1
Price: US$39.95

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  • In search of a forgotten hero, the Tour's first winner
  • The first long-distance race, Paris–Rouen
  • The origins of the Tour and the man responsible
  • Foul play in the Tour, now and then
  • The Yellow Jersey that dropped into the ravine
  • Tour directors and the way they run their show

A fascinating look behind the scenes—and in the history archives—of the Tour de France


The Unknown Tour de France was awarded the first place prize in the category "Image-Driven Books" by Bookbuilders West, the Western States publishing association, at its annual book show, October 2009. Visit to read more about the book show and the awards.

About the Book

After more than 100 years now, the Tour de France is still the sport’s premier event. But there’s much more to the Tour than the daily stage victories and the Yellow Jersey. This new edition of the book takes a closer look behind the scenes of the Tour. Les Woodland recounts many of the fascinating episodes from the Tour’s past and present in a knowledgeable and humorous style. The book is greatly enhance by the more than 150 beautifully reproduced period photographs in duotone.

The Unknown Tour de France makes fascinating reading for everyone interested in the sport. You’ll find out about the great champions of the early days, and those of the present time You’ll find out about the men who started and promoted this great venture. Find out about "the foreign legion," the few early English-speaking riders who paved the way for such men as Greg LeMond, Lance Armstrong, and others.

About the Author

Les Woodland has been writing about bicycle racing for over 30 years. He was European correspondent for Velo News in the early days of that publication. Today, his writings still regularly appear in English and American cycling periodicals. An avid cyclist himself, he recently moved to France, which he considers the world’s best place for cycling.

He is also the author of another book published by us: The Crooked Path to Victory.

What the Critics Say

ance Armstrong captured the imagination of people around the globe by winning the Tour de France in 1999. Armstrong's strength of human spirit is precisely why millions of fans watch the race each July. Considering that the riders cover 2000 miles in 21 days, traveling through all kinds of terrain and weather, the Tour is arguably the toughest, most demanding bicycle road race in the world.

In The Unknown Tour de France, veteran cycling reporter Woodland describes the event from a behind-the-scenes perspective. Woodland's book is a credible history, making good use of anecdote to detail how the Tour has changed since 1903. Moreover, the author chronicles the many colorful people involved and the drug scandals that continue to tarnish the competition.

Library Journal, Larry R. Little Penticton P.L., BC Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Table of Contents

The Forgotten Hero

14. Ici On Parle Anglais
2. The First (Very Curious) Race 15. Look at Their Bikes
3. Enter Henri, the Magnificently Crazy 16. The Emperor and the Cannibal
4. The First Tour 17. Counting the Beans
5. Into the Mountains 18. Stars in Stripes
6. Misery in the Valley 19. News from Chambéry
7. Dubious Cases 20. Blood on the Tracks
8. … And Cheats 21. A Day in the Life
9. Teams and Donkeys 22. The End of the Beginning
10. Yellow Peril 23. A Day at the Races
11. Caravan Crossing   Appendix 1: 100 Things You Didn’t Know About the Tour
12. The Glory Years   Appendix 2: English-Speakers in the Tour
13. The Summer of ’64   Index

From the contents

Reports from the first Tour, 1903.


Three infamous brothers at the Tour: Charles, Francis, and Jean Pellisier.


Before derailleurs, the riders could only change gear by reversing their rear wheels, which had a high gear on one side, and a low gear on the other.