I’ve read countless cycling books. It is a sport that is wonderfully served by the quality of the writers it attracts and the broad audience (probably mostly of middle aged men) for books on cycling history ensures a steady supply of interesting books. Yet, I knew very little about the business side of the Tour other than it’s origins as a way to sell newspapers.
Le Fric corrects that gap in the market giving us the an entertaining and comprehensive history of the Tour’s ownership, its business model, and the family that controls it. It’s a journey that covers pre and post War France and the various political machinations that eventually allowed Émilion Amaury and his descendants take over cycling’s most famous race.
Le Fric is a fascinating work of history but it is also strong when reflecting on more modern changes to the Tour as a business and wider, so far largely unsuccessful, attempts to reform cycling’s structure more generally. Duff captures the internal power structures within the sport and the unique challenge of the sport’s biggest event being owned and operated outside of the control of cycling’s governing bodies.
The book also captures how the leadership of the business grappled with the fallout from various doping scandals and somehow managed to both run newspapers reporting on the scandals and keep the Tour as a major global sporting event.
Le Fric is an excellent addition to any fan’s cycling library.