Initially, it was a simple question: but why does the Tour de France never go through our neighborhoods? This question, the children and teenagers of the Toulouse association Média-Pitchounes have asked tirelessly, since 2009, to all the actors they met on the Great Loop. They come from Bagatelle, one of these neighborhoods known as "sensitive" and composing all of the Grand Mirail, southwest of the Pink City. And have been sensitized to cycling by Laurent Girard, the founder of the association, who, by mixing journalism and sport, seeks to take them out of their world, to make them work their expression and to give them confidence in themselves.
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This confidence, they acquired at the same time as the awareness of this anomaly: at home, cycling does not exist, or almost. So maybe the Tour de France would win new followers through this France … The idea became a project, called "the Tour at the feet of the towers." And after ten years, the sympathetic lobbying of Media-Pitchounes finally bears fruit: after a fictitious departure, Thursday, July 18, given near the Stadium of Toulouse, the caravan and runners will rally Bagneres-de-Bigorre crossing on a few kilometers Bagatelle and the neighboring districts. A first.
The meeting between worlds that ignore each other
" The cities that host the Tour are looking for the postcard, observes Laurent Girard. They do not want to show neighborhoods where tourists will never come. This is understandable, but damaging for all: we can see the gap that is growing between the populations. Deep France does not know the neighborhoods, except through the depreciated image given by the news when things go wrong. The passage of the Tour is an opportunity to show something else, to meet worlds that are ignored. " The stake is not thin and the parade of ministers on the operation confirms: are expected initially in Toulouse, the Minister of Sports, Roxana Maracineanu, and Julien Denormandie, in charge of the city and housing. " Let's just hope it's not just a one-time display ", comments Laurent Girard.
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" The links between cycling and the popular classes have long been very strong, cycling being for them a major mode of travelexplains Gilles Vieille-Marchiset, director of the sports and social sciences laboratory at the University of Strasbourg. But with the politics of any car from the 1960s, these links were distended. Today, they remain important in rural areas, but in large cities, it is the middle and upper classes who move as well. The bike has almost disappeared from working-class neighborhoods, marked by the phenomenon of immigration with populations far removed from this culture. "
The brakes to practice are also numerous. " The cost, the absence of bicycle garages, the lack of utility because other means of mobility are privileged ", list Laurent Girard. " Insecurity, rodeos by car and motorcycle, set an unfavorable context. And the lack of infrastructure too. Even in Strasbourg, municipality yet voluntarist in the matter, bike paths are rare in the poor neighborhoods ", says Gilles Vieille-Marchiset.
Also promote girls' practice
In Bagatelle, Media-Pitchounes also sometimes feels like preaching in the desert. " Here, football and basketball dominatesays Daniel, 17, a Portuguese boy who arrived in the neighborhood in 2012, who has covered the Tour several times since for the association. Nobody watches the Tour on television. For the inhabitants, this passage will be a total discovery. " While walking through the neighborhood to announce it, Émelyne, a volunteer with the association, made the same observation: " Reactions oscillate between total indifference and disbelief. The caravan, the peloton … all this big barnum, it will be a real surprise. "
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A click ? " In the image of the swimming plan for children not knowing how to swim, a cycling plan with funds from the city's politics would be really interesting, Judge Gilles Vieille-Marchiset. There is also a need for more initiatives to promote girls' practice and to overcome gender stereotypes that work in the neighborhoods. There is a lot of work to do with families, especially mothers. "
This is also the niche that now counts to invest Media-Pitchounes. By creating the first women's leisure bike club, Bagat'Elles. " We must fire any wood, concludes Laurent Girard. I remain convinced that one day champions and cycling champions will emerge from neighborhoods. And as in football or boxing, they will make reference, creating a snowball effect. "