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1923: The Mystery of Lot 212 and a Tour de France Obsession

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The stories of Beekman, Pelissier and others in the race were really interesting as were the writings about the Tour itself. When cycling commentator Ned Boulting bought a length of Pathé news film featuring a stage of the Tour de France from 1923 he set about learning everything he could about it - taking him on an intriguing journey that encompasses travelogue, history and detective story. The film was so fragile that it couldn't be watched until Ned could find someone who could copy it without destroying the old nitrate film.

But it is further evidence that Beeckman may not have been the most straightforward man to manage, after all. A WATERSTONES BEST BOOK OF 2023: SPORT LONGLISTED FOR THE WILLIAM HILL SPORTS BOOK OF THE YEAR 2023 'An absorbing mix of historical sleuthing and travel writing' The Telegraph '[a] fascinating and often touching book… Wonderful' The Times The story of an obsession.

Boulting spends the years of the Covid shut down tracking down information about the 1923 Tour but also the identity of the riders who are on the film.

I have no idea how Boulting managed to get this so wrong, missed Gallica’s captions and somehow dated the pictures to 1925. There’s also a healthy dose of genealogy that would make for a great spin-off of the Who Do You Think You Are?

Once he obtained a copy he was able to tell that the film was of the fourth stage of the 1923 Tour de France. Beginning with a fragment of a century-old race, Ned has written a 'biography of the unknown rider'. If it were possible, if it didn’t make me sound insane, I would have to say that I fell in love with a year.

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