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Dirty Feet: How the great unwashed created the Tour de France

By Les Woodland

Back to McGann Publishing's home page

Dirty FeetISBN: 978-1736749401
Print version: $16.95 US
6 x 9 paperback, 198 pages
Publisher: McGann Publishing

Kindle eBook: $3.99
Audiobook: $17.46

Publication date: February 28, 2021

About the book
About the author

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About the Book

Dirty Feet is a fresh look at the now more than 100-year-old Tour de France. Les Woodland goes back to the blue-collar origins of the race when the father of the Tour, Henri Desgrange, was so bothered by the hygiene of his tough, beloved racers that at the end of each stage he would publish the names of the riders who did not wash after a day of racing on France's mostly dirt and often muddy roads.

The sports paper Desgrange edited was going to go out of business unless some way could be found to increase circulation. That way was a giant sales promotion called the Tour de France, first run in 1903. Dirty Feet tells anew the story of the Tour's origins—at a time when the average life expectancy of a Frenchman was just thirty—and how it came to be modern spectacle it is today. The Tour is now a technological marvel where the riders shift gears electronically and the race is watched in real time around the world. Yet, despite all this change, the race is much the way Desgrange left it, a bicycle race around France where each day's elapsed time is added up. The rider with the lowest time wins.

As Les tells the story, starting with the invention of the bicycle, he gives many of the myths that have cluttered cycling history merciful deaths. As a lifetime scholar of cycling history he is able to sprinkle his tale with an endless stream of fascinating stories and little-known facts, bringing to life the men of the past century who have devoted themselves to the sport.

Come along for the ride as Henri Desgrange creates the greatest sporting event in the world, The Tour de France.

About the Author

Les WoodlandLes Woodland has been cycling for 50 years and has been writing about cycling since 1965, when he wrote his first reports for the British publication Cycling.

Since then he has been a prolific contributor to newspapers, magazines and radio stations in the U.K. and Belgium. Mr. Woodland, who currently lives in France, speaks several of the languages of cycling: English, Dutch and French. At last count he has written 27 books, nearly all about cycling.

In the picture to the right, Mr. Woodland is at the showers of the Roubaix bicycle track.