The big international news this weekend was the embarrassing sign disaster at the Tour de France. A woman posing for a picture and holding a cardboard sign that said (loosely translated), “Go grandma and grandpa,” caused one of the bikers to crash. That crashed started a chain reaction that wiped out most of the field.
Most people think that the crash was caused by an oblivious social media junkie, desperate for attention. Instead, I believe it was caused by the descendant of an angry (and justifiably so) housewife.
To understand why, we have to take a trip back in time to 1903— a simpler, primitive time, before the car, the TV, and Google maps had been invented.
A French man named Pierre de Begue decided he wanted to abscond from his duties as a father and husband for a few days and go bike riding with his friends.
He pitched the idea to them and they were on board right away. One of his friends said, “if we ride all the way across the country, we can stretch that out a whole week.” Another said, “and if we go the long way, we can make it two.” Another said, “If we give my pet marmot too much wine, we can trace his footsteps on a map and the incoherent route will buy us another week.”
Everyone agreed this was the best course of action and they set about plying the marmot with a Bourdeaux. One of Pierre’s friends worked for the newspaper and he came up with the idea to make it a competition. “If we can get the newspaper to sponsor it as a race, then we can get our three weeks off paid for.”
And thus, the Tour De France was born. 21 days (or stages) of guys riding bikes around the country and avoiding any meaningful work. And for 117 years, (give or take a few gaps for wars and the lack of a participating marmot), they were able to fool the world into thinking this was about international competition and not about avoiding doing dishes, cutting the grass, and watching les enfants (while mommy has quiet time), for three whole weeks. But mommy likes her quiet time, and she would get her revenge one day.
Meanwhile, the world became enthralled with the competition. The winner of each stage is presented with a yellow jersey and gets to wear it for the next stage of the race. Additionally, (and not as well known) he gets a gold star and his crayon art goes on the National Refrigerator of France (located in Vichy).
Pierre and the guys would be proud to know that today the race is televised all over the world and people actually cheat to try and win the race. As if the three-week holiday isn’t a reward in itself!
And then 2021 happened. The world is still trying to figure out who the woman was that held the sign that toppled half the field in the year’s race. Well, that woman is none other than the great-great-granddaughter of Pierre de Begue. And the sign that most people think was a shout-out to her grandparents was really a taunt to her ancestor on behalf of her neglected ancestorette, Marie-Elise de Begue.
And that’s the story (sort of) of the Tour de France.
Carry on, Citizens!
* Intoxicated marmots are no longer used to create the route, as far as I know.