Louis Malle loved bike racing.

Fifty years ago, in 1962, one of the greats of French film turned his cameras on the spectacle of the Tour de France. Louis Malle, it turns out, loved cycling almost as much as he loved filmmaking.

His 18-minute Vive Le Tour! is a sweet little gem of a documentary. About bike racing, yes…but just as much about Malle’s countrymen and women who stood outside their village café or boulangerie or farmhouse to cheer on packs of gaunt guys on bicycles. Then and now, bike racing is not a bourgeois sport.

I re-watched Vive Le Tour! tonight. Fitting, I thought, since this year’s Tour de France will end in Paris on Sunday. And because this year (barring a catastrophe), a Frenchman will be on that famous podium in the middle of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Thomas Voeckler will wear the coveted polka dot King of the Mountain jersey. He could run for president of France next week with that win.

If you want to watch the last days of the 2012 Tour de France, you can watch NBC Sports. If you want to see a glimpse of the Tour 50 years ago, you can see it here (in two parts)…

p.s. Just interesting…. Also in 1962, before he filmed Vive Le Tour!, Malle marked his return to documentary filmmaking by spending four months in Algeria, war-torn and at the height of its struggle for independence from France.