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Tour de France (Cycling)

Last modified: 2005-12-24 by ivan sache
Keywords: tour de france | cycling | red pennant | flamme rouge | start flag | danger flag | number: 7 (black) |
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Red pennant (Flamme rouge)

[Red pennant in Tour de France]

The Flamme rouge - Image by Ivan Sache, 28 July 2002

In Tour de France, there is a tradition, whose origin I am unfortunately not aware of: the last kilometer of each stage is identified by the so-called flamme rouge (red pennant).

In a not so ancient past, the red pennant was simply hoisted vertically on a rope fixed up vertically above the road. Nowadays, the red pennant is hardly seen because it is incorporated in a huge multicoloured plastic porch.

It seems that the red pennant is used to show the last kilometer in several international cyclist races, probably with local nicknames.

The image shown above is now obsolete. The pennant is still triangular, red, and vertically hoisted, but the logotype of the Tour de France is added in white.

Ivan Sache, 28 July 2002

Start flag

There is another flag rarely shown on TV, which is used for giving the "real start" of the stage.
Each stage starts in a city, which pays a huge amount of money for that, but the streets are usually to narrow to give a mass-start. The racers therefore parade after a "fictive start" in good order through the city streets, with the leaders in front line.
When the pack gets out of the city and the street enlarge, the race director, standing in his traditional convertible red car, waves a white flag with something written on it (in the past, I seem to remember it was simply DIRECTION DE COURSE [race direction], but there might be some sponsor logo now) to give the real chronometric start.

Ivan Sache, 9 July 2000

The start flag is currently a white rectangle flag with the word DEPART [start] in capitals and underscored. The sponsor logo turns out to be on two poles with fixed cloth constructions on the side of the road, marking the imaginary line where the director should wave the flag (or maybe start waving; I don't have the regulations).

Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 16 July 2000

This year (2002), the pennant was a white rectangle with DEPART in blue letters placed on the SW/NE diagonal. In each of the two fields delimited by the diagonal, the logotype of the race is placed on a blue background.

Ivan Sache, 28 July 2002

Danger flag

[Danger flag]

Danger flag - Image by Ivan Sache, 21 July 2003

The flags seen most often in the Tour the France, however, are the yellow pennnants that are used to indicate danger; either a dangerous curve or an obstacle.

Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 16 July 2000

The yellow colour is associated with danger and is not related, in this particular case, to the yellow jersey. Henri Desgranges, the founder of the Tour de France 100 years ago, invented in 1919 the yellow jersey to highlight the leader of the race. Desgranges had a very modern perception of advertizing and created the race as a means of advertizing his newspaper L'Auto and suppressing his competitor Le Vélo, which was very successful. He selected yellow for the leader's jersey because L'Auto was printed on yellow paper.

L'Auto was still published under the German occupation, although Tour de France did not occur during the war, and had therefore to change its name for L'Equipe. Tour de France resumed in 1947 and L'Equipe is still one of the major sponsors of the race. Desgranges was succeded by Jacques Goddet as the director of the race. A stele remembering Jacques Goddet is placed on the top of the Col du Tourmalet (first used in 1910, the racers being then scared by the bears!), whereas Desgranges has a stele on the top of the Col du Galibier, in the Alps.

Ivan Sache, 21 July 2003

Unidentified supporter's flag (2003)

[Unidentified flag]

Unidentified flag - Image by Ivan Sache, 22 July 2003

This flag was waved by a supporter very close to the finish line in Luz-Ardiden, on 21 July 2003. The flag is light blue with an emblem looking like the Argentinian sun and three blue-white-blue stripes in the bottom of the flag.

This design looks rather Uruguayan / Argentinian but I am not aware of any connection with Tour de France, except that Juan "the Arrow" Flecha, winner in Toulouse, is half Spanish and half Argentine.

Ivan Sache, 22 July 2003

The "Seven" flag (2005)

[Seven flag]

"Seven" flag - Image by Ivan Sache, 24 July 2005

Lance Armstrong won in 2005 his seventh Tour de France, which will be a record very difficult to erase. Before him, only Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain were able to won five Tours de France.
During the last stage, traditionally a pleasant rally through the countryside of Ile-de-France ending with a circuit on the Champs-Elysées and a final sprint, several flags were decorated with number seven. The most striking of these flags was a home-made flag waived by a supportress somewhere near Saint-Rémy-les-Chevreuse, a hotspot of cyclism in Ile-de-France, where the late Jacques Anquetil won nine times the late Grand Prix des Nations; the flag was white with a black 7 inscribed in a black ring.

Ivan Sache, 24 July 2005