Home » Chronicles from here and elsewhere # 3: the story of a bicycle race in Chartres in 1869

Chronicles from here and elsewhere # 3: the story of a bicycle race in Chartres in 1869

by archyw
Historian, teacher, writer, Alain Denizet is fond of the little stories that make the big
Historian, teacher, writer, Alain Denizet is fond of the little stories that make the big (© Laurent Rebours)

Find on News Chartres, every Sunday, a chronicle of History and stories offered by Alain Denizet. Professor, historian, writer ofEure-et-Loir, for years it has been gathering all of its chronicles on his site.

You can also find his news and books there. Alain Denizet also chairs the Beauce and Dunois manuscript prize.

Once upon a time there was the velocipede …

Let’s take a step back to the time of velocipede at… Chartres when the runners of the Tour de France have the nose in the handlebars and finish today the Big loop.

The universal exhibition of 1867 had dedicated the pedal machine. The May 31, 1868, the first official race was held in the Saint-Cloud park over a distance of 1000 meters with the remarkable participation of the Prince Imperial. The fashion was launched.

A year later, the August 8, 1869, Chartres got up to speed by organizing its first competitions in the Clos Saint-Jean.

The Chartres newspaper, which relates the event, recalls the enthusiasm for this new means of transport and leisure: “The velocipede is the vehicle in fashion, it is all the rage, it invades the walks and the (…) streets of our cities ”.

However, the almanac The Messenger of Beauce and Perche sees in it “only an amusement which, born like many others in the midst of infatuation, will soon die out in the most complete indifference.”

Eight races at Clos Saint-Jean

Le Clos Saint Jean, now Clos Pichot, then Parc André Gagnon.
Le Clos Saint Jean, now Clos Pichot, then Parc André Gagnon. (© DR)

The races take place in front of a curious public who paid for an entry fee of three francs.

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We see in the reserved stands “a large number of ladies in elegant toilets” come to applaud the exploits of “Parisian velocemen [qui ont] responded with eagerness to the appeal of the Chartres ”.

Started at three o’clock, the races last until six o’clock in the presence of the prefect who is responsible for handing over the prizes. A choir and a fanfare provide interludes to polka tunes.

For the winners, a rifle and cigars!

The Velocipede of the Messenger of Beauce and Perche, designed by Auguste Hoyau (©DR)

The 1290-meter event was won in 4.29 minutes by Parisian Moore [1] who received the first prize, a “rich parlor rifle”.

The second is the Chartrain Desandre awarded with “a box of one hundred London”, luxury cigars.

Rifle and tobacco: the rewards have changed today …

Eight races follow one another, two of them have selected competitors; the first over 640 meters, reserved for children, is won by a Chartraine “worthy descendant of the Amazons”.

The second only accepts registrations from the department’s “vélocemen”. Not finally sulking his pleasure and seized by the vertigo of speed, The Messenger of Beauce and Perche writes: “It was a pleasure to see these jockeys [2] of all colors devouring space with their fast bicycles »

After the velocipede, the bike!

The bicycle of the Messenger of Beauce and Perche, designed by Auguste Hoyau (© DR)
The bicycle of the Messenger of Beauce and Perche, designed by Auguste Hoyau (© DR) (©DR)

After the velocipede came the reign of the bicycle.

In her early days, she was closely associated with the‘aristocracy who also directs the first bicycle organizations. It is for the elites a new sign of distinction [3].

Then at the beginning of the century, with mass production and reduced prices, the little queen became more democratic. She helped open up the villages, allowed the farm worker to go home instead of sleeping in the stable, the student to go to his school, the young man to go and tell a story in the neighboring town.

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In her own way, she contributed with the train to broadening horizons and greater autonomy for individuals.

[1] Winner in 10 hours and 34 minutes of the Paris-Rouen race on November 7, 1869, considered the first major cycling competition.

[2] A rider mounted on his steel horse, the cyclist adopts a sporty outfit that borrows from that of horseback riding. This is why the competitors wear a jockey cap.

[3] Its price, which varies between 150 and 1000 francs, reserves it for a wealthy elite.

█ Practice : Alain Denizet will be present on Sunday, August 29, 2021 at the Salon du livre La forêt des livres in Chanceaux-près-Loches (37).

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