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.

Big day on the roads of France

A big day in France. French rider Thomas Voeckler won the 10th stage of the 99th Tour de France. No, he won’t win the overall Tour. (The last Frenchman to do so was Bernard Hinault in 1985. It’s been a long dry spell.)

But it’s a big deal. A very big deal. Voeckler is already a sort of national hero, having won two stages in a previous Tour. A single stage win in the three-week race (no matter what country you’re from) puts your name in the history books…and guarantees someone will always pick up your bar tab in France for the rest of your life..