During its last week, the Tour de France heads for a final showdown in the Alps. This year’s race is incredibly close, with less than 30 seconds separating the first three riders. The penultimate stage is a time trial, so we may even see an almost-repeat of 1989, when Greg LeMond won the big race on the last stage by just 8 seconds. Anything remains possible – a welcome change from previous Tours that often were all but decided by the half-way point.
Yesterday’s stage began in La Mure – a small town in the mountains above Grenoble that we visited a little over a week ago. Already, the town was preparing for the Tour.
The mairie (town hall) was decorated for the occasion, with a big count-down board over the entrance showing the time left until the start of the stage, down to the very second!
Many businesses in town were decorated for the Tour…
Dozens of yellow bicycle wheels were distributed around town, with the names of famous racers from the past and present. Local children and teenagers were engaged in a game of finding them all to win prizes. It was fun seeing the name of one of my heroes, the Eagle of Toledo, next to a Peugeot Demi-Course kid’s bike similar to the one I had when I was ten years old.
It seemed that every other resident had pulled an old bike out of their barn or basement to celebrate the Tour, creating a veritable museum of cycling history. Le Mure is in the mountains, so all the bikes were interesting machines with derailleurs and good brakes – to ride here at all, you need at least a decent bike.
Just like the local children had fun finding the yellow wheels, we enjoyed discovering bikes during our evening stroll around town. (Click on the photos for high-resolution images to see the details of the bikes.)
One display had a full complement of Mafac brakes, from the lowly Racer on this Liberia…
… via the Raid model on this lovely Peugeot 650B mixte…
… to the top-of-the-line Competition brakes on this neat Jeunet.
It was getting dark when we stumbled upon a real treasure: a 1940s women’s bike leaning inconspicuously against a wall.
I’d never heard of Belledonne, but this mixte was a very nice cyclotouring bike with quality components. A little more Internet research found that Belledonne was the brand of a cycling wholesaler in nearby Grenoble.
The fillet-brazed frame was nicely made, with the single main tube and extra set of well-braced stays that make for a much-better performing frame that the more common twin-lateral mixtes (as on the Peugeot above). The minimal fillet joining the seat and diagonal tubes may have been inspired by Jo Routens, who was also in Grenoble… Or perhaps both employed the same framebuilder?
Originally, this bike had front and rear derailleurs, with the popular Cyclo at the rear mounted on a brazed-on support made from two tubes. The front derailleur was missing, but otherwise, the bike seemed complete and original, with only a thorough overhaul required to get it back on the road.
The more I looked, the more I discovered neat parts: custom racks and powerful Jeay roller-cam brakes…
… and full generator lighting courtesy of the sought-after JOS components. Even in France, where bikes that we might revere as classics remain in daily use, the “Belledonne” stood out as a quality machine. It was sad to think that, some day, it may end up in a landfill.
In fact, most of the bikes on display looked like they should be ridden, rather than just
serve as display pieces. Let’s hope that some of their owners will be inspired by the Tour to get them on the road again!