1923: The Mystery of Lot 212 and a Tour de France Obsession

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1923: The Mystery of Lot 212 and a Tour de France Obsession

1923: The Mystery of Lot 212 and a Tour de France Obsession

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He coalesces this disparate content into a lovely meditation on the passing of time and the echoes of history. Beeckman fell into Boulting’s life when the ITV commentator-come author – How I Won the Yellow Jumper (2011), How Cav Won the Green Jersey (2012), 101 Damnations (2014), On the Road Bike (2014) , Boulting’s Velosaurus (2016), Heart of Dart-ness (2018), Square Peg, Round Ball (2022) – acquired at auction a portion of a Pathé newsreel from the 1923 Tour and then set about turning its two-and-a-half-minutes of celluloid into a book and a TV programme. The places he has taken it by the end of the book are a really nice way to cap it off and they give readers some form of closure. Jump forward to July 8 and across France Boulting finds news of a four-year-old boy killed in Argenteuil, a plane crashing and killing its pilot in Le Havre, and a woman committing suicide in Nantes.

It sets him off in fascinating directions, encompassing travelogue, history, mystery story - to explain, to go deeper into this moment in time, captured on his little film. Getting back to the cycling, Beeckman’s story being thin gruel we get brief portraits of Henri Pélissier, who was killed by his lover; of Ottavio Bottecchia, who died in mysterious circumstances; and of Jean Alavoine, who died following a crash (I know that this is history and in history everyone dies, but Boulting really does trowel it on thick, it’s like he’s adapting Horrible Histories’ ‘ Stupid Death’ sketches by removing the laughs). If you want to read an excellent cycling book which goes back to grass roots of the sport try 1 more Kilometre and were in the showers by Tim Hilton. Locked down in his London home, Ned dedicates himself to internet study reaching far into the lives of the people, the race and the history linked to his tiny piece of film.

Beekman is the lone rider who crosses a bridge (which had its own history, covered by Boulting, of course) on the film and he won stages but the overall winner was Henri Pélissier. A scrap of newsreel film, a century old and two and a half minutes long, sweeps Ned Boulting back not just into the world of a forgotten hero of the Tour de France but into the forces that shaped that world: a collision of sport, war, family and destiny. Metropolis International Group Limited, 10th Floor, Southern House, Wellesley Grove, Croydon, CR0 1XG.

It sets him off in fascinating directions, encompassing travelogue, history, mystery story – to explain, to go deeper into this moment in time, captured on his little film. Come down the travelators, exit Sainsbury's, turn right and follow the pedestrianised walkway to Crown Walk and turn right - and Coles will be right in front of you. When cycling commentator Ned Boulting bought a length of Pathé news film featuring a stage of the Tour de France from 1923 he set about learning everything he could about it – taking him on an intriguing journey that encompasses travelogue, history and detective story.

From the off he’s told us he knew little of the history of the Tour in this era, how he had only vaguely heard of Henri Pélissier, who won the 1923 race. It sets him off in fascinating directions, encompassing travelogue, history, mystery story to explain, to go deeper into this moment in time, captured on his little film. It’s easy to see how Boulting got so caught up in the investigations with the sheer amount of individual stories that came out of one short clip. Join him as he explores the history of cycling and France just five years after WWI – meeting characters like Henri Pélissier, who won the Tour that year but who would within the decade be shot dead by his wife's lover. Critérium des Aiglons, August 12, 1923, Georges Cuvelier (Lapize), Nicolas Frantz (Thomann), and Théo Beeckman (Griffon).

An education in the effects of War (post and looming,) in a particular society (time and place) and how life reboots and copes. Photograph: Ed Marshall/Alamy View image in fullscreen Mysterious beauty: the daymark on St Martin's, Isles of Scilly, whose coastline is explored in The Draw of the Sea.

And he ends up not being able to answer the really big question he unearths, such as why Beckmann's move to Alcyon collapsed and he ended up back in a Griffon jersey after having gotten married. It sets him off in fascinating directions, encompassing travelogue, history, mystery story – to explain, to go deeper into this moment in time, captured on his little film.

I sit in the sun trap, the heat helping to transport me a few hundred kilometres across the Channel from North Norfolk to La Roche-Bernard, South-East of Brest, where France juts out deep into the Atlantic Ocean. In the autumn of 2020 Ned Boulting (ITV head cycling commentator and Tour de France obsessive) bought a length of Pathé news film from a London auction house. Another fun fact for you: the third finger, left hand thing, while it’s great to know when you’re looking for someone to hit on in a bar, it’s a cultural thing, not legal. At its core is a snippet of film of the 1923 Tour de France and it would be easy to say the book is about Ned’s quest to find out as much as he could about it. After Henri Desgrange gives the signal for the riders to restart after a two-minute stop to sign-in at the control in the town of Lorient, the peloton gets underway again.Mostly it feels like Boulting has tried to craft an image of Beckmann he wants to believe in, a quiet man who spoke with his legs, like the best Tour heroes should.



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