At the velodrome

At the velodrome

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  • Velodrome. Cycling race around 1900.


  • Velodrome. Cycling race around 1900.


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Title: Velodrome. Cycling race around 1900.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Photographic print circa 1900.

Storage location: National Museum of Car and Tourism website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzisite web

Picture reference: 01-015591 / CMV56002 / 52

Velodrome. Cycling race around 1900.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzi

To close

Title: Velodrome. Berizzisite web

Picture reference: 01-015592 / CMV56002 / 53

Velodrome. Cycling race around 1900.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzi

Publication date: August 2011

Historical context

Road cycling, track cycling

From the 1880s, the practice of sports cycling developed considerably in France. While the first Summer Olympics held in Athens in 1896 featured six cycling events (five on track and one on road), these became one of the most popular and high profile sporting events around the turn of the 20th century.e century.

While road cycling is very important, track cycling is no exception. More specialized than the “road”, the “track” is a sport even more geared towards records and technical innovations, followed by a large public and yet more “expert”. With London and New York, Paris is one of the world capitals of the "track", and one builds more or less important velodromes, like for example those of Roubaix (1895) or of the Parc des Princes in Paris (1897 ).

Dating from 1899-1900, these two photos taken from a photographic album allow us to understand the representations and implications linked to this increasingly familiar sport.

Image Analysis

On track

The two photos come from the René de Knyff (1865-1954) collection, famous racing driver and president of the International Sports Commission. Made up of numerous images of sporting events (races, tennis, hunting) contested between the 1890s and the 1940s, the collection has great documentary value. Both anonymous, the photographs were probably taken during the same race by the same photographer.

The first shows the “behind the scenes” of the race, the scene being able to take place before or after this one. In the background, two guards open the door of a white wooden building, to store a racing bicycle or to take out another. In the foreground, plainclothes officials talk to an American rider (in uniform) (see the flag on his bib) who is likely to be racing (or has raced) on this bike soon.

The second shows the race itself. The photographer has taken his place in the stands bordering the finish line (it appears in the foreground). Taken at the moment when four runners in full effort "complete" a lap, his photo reveals a good part of the velodrome. In the background to the right are the opposite stands, which seem to be well filled. A few advertising panels line the track in the bend without bleachers. In the background lies a cityscape bristling with tall buildings.


Race day

The two images give little information on the races concerned: the location of the velodrome, the date and the type of event are unknown. But both suggest a professional and organized sport (different numbers and representative of the teams and countries) with financial stakes (advertising), rules (official) and a relatively large audience.

It is with a certain symbolism that the second image represents the inscription of the velodrome in the city. The cliché suggests that the space dedicated to running and performing (a fairly bare space except for the low-rise stands) is somewhat separate, entirely devoted to the efforts of the runners. Beyond the organization and infrastructure, beyond the technical aspect, track cycling is still an accessible and popular sport.

  • sport
  • bike


Alain CORBIN (dir.), L'Avénement des loisirs (1850-1960), Paris, Aubier, 1995.Pryor DODGE, La Grande Histoire du Vélo, Paris, Flammarion, 1996. Jean DURRY and Ronald HUBSCHER, L'Histoire en mouvement Sport in French society, 19th-20th century, Paris, Armand Colin, 1992.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "At the velodrome"

Video: Déjà vu at the Velodrome