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Grab bags, café raids and booze – how Tour de France cyclists refuelled in the 1960s

The 3,500-kilometre, 23-day cycling competition known as the Tour de France has long been considered one of the most prestigious and gruelling athletic events in the world. But, as this excerpt from the celebrated French director Louis Malle’s documentary Vive La Tour (1962) demonstrates, even the most intense competitions have their more comical and lighthearted moments. The entertaining clip traces the clumsy yet pivotal practicalities of grabbing meals and refreshments amid the heat of competition. First, slowing as little as possible, the cyclists nab musettes, personalised bags full of food. Later, they drop into cafés on the route, demanding refreshments – the more calories the better, even if that means some wine, champagne or beer. While the musette tradition continues today, the booze raids have been replaced by sugary energy drinks.

Director: Louis Malle

28 January 2020

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