Spatial Transformation and the Tour de France

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The research investigates how the Tour de France bicycle race generates a distinct cultural geography of France. The authors use drawings from Lefebvre's conceptual triad of spatial practice to demonstrate that the Tour de France is a representation of space that is annually reordered and structured depending on specific cultural traditions. Via the processes and politics that follow route selection; the transformation of the civic space to be taken by the cyclists during the race, the paper explores the foreground that the socially constructed nature that reproduces the vital cultural cartographies of France.

The author introduces the paper by providing the historical background of the meanings and social interpretations that people have always tried to assign the Tour de France since its inception. Also, Palmer begins by introducing some preliminary details about the race, and its transformation into a map work. The paper then progresses to a discussion of the logistics involved in organizing the race annually, together with how the selection of the towns to traverse takes place.The author uses Lefebvre’s conceptual triad of spatial practice to build a foundation for the construction of the social nature of route making and the role of the human in producing and reproducing cartographies of France through the race. The paper is built upon two ethnographic field works aimed at studying Tour de France as a means of negotiating identity.

The introduction of the paper frames the subsequent discussion by highlighting the key points to be discussed. The author also emphasizes the study techniques like the ethnographic fieldworks, the interviews, observations and the empirical application methods to analyze the collected information. Besides, the author demonstrates the chronology of the events, right from the route identification for Tour de France, techniques used to obtain the data, and the analysis procedures to be used in the article to come up with a solid conclusion about the topic of discussion. The introductory part of the paper also gives a general feel and the impact of the events under consideration.


The author makes two primary cases in the article. Firstly, there seems to be a concern about the role of human intervention in making of maps and cultural cartographies of a country. Palmer argues that the agents of spatial practice are essential to the operations and the organization of Tour de France. The agents help in the routes to be followed and the appearance of the map of France. The decisions on the stage villages and critical localities are not arbitrary, but the products of the cultural work done by the agents of spatial practice.

The next argument is the inclusion of the specific sites and locations in the Tour de France race map. Such integrations highlight the importance of regionality and the dominant narrative of the Tour de France. Indeed, the author argues that the race helps in the expression of identity which is done at both the regional and national levels. The collection of various pieces of the images of Tour de France produces a sense of a unified France which presents a much more valued currency of the nation. Also, the race takes a space of sports that creates a crucial point of entry of the social meaning of landscape and territory which presents the contemporary France as a complex and a different nation. Besides this, France comes out as a country that has a capacity of a mega socially constructed nature of space (Lamont and McKay). Lastly, the author argues that the returns per on sports as a result of the Tour de France races provides a compelling reason of how the landscape of space of France can be constructed through social relations.


The paper is structured into an abstract, introduction, sections and subsections, together with a conclusion. Ther abstract provides general information about the article and also highlights the history of the main subject of discussion, Tour de France. An introduction to the analysis of the process and politics involved in the route selection is also provided within the abstract. Also, the author provides an insight of the role of the human in reproducing the cultural cartography of France.

The first section of the paper is the introduction which introduces the article by providing a highlight of the structure. The author also mentions the three themes of the writing and the contextual importance of the Tour de France as a sporting activity. The introduction states the research methods used in the paper including the ethnographic fieldworks, observations, photography and the analytical techniques applied by the author in the article. The author mentions the continuous events that are usually associated with the Tour de France as an annual social activity.

The paper also has other sections and subsections with the first being an introduction to sports, space and place. This part considers games as a subset of human geography and cultural sociology. The author highlights the role of stadia in constructing and conferring social identities. The next section is titled “Mapping France, " and this part looks at the application of technology in creating boundaries of sport. The creation of the routes to be followed occurs based on the feedback from the journalists regarding people, culture, race and the topographical profiles. Under this sections, the agents of spatial practice like politics and pragmatics of selection are also discussed as a subsection. The other subheading under the same topic includes the pragmatics of route selection.

The next section deals with the representation of the spaces as a way of imagining the geographical outline of France. The author uses Lefebvre's notion of representing the spaces where people live using images and symbols. In the Tour de France, the images and logos are used to illustrate the way people live. The social map is seen as that which promotes social diversity among the people in France, while the geographical difference is represented by the images and pictorials retrieved from the media. The topic also discusses the type of food in France, which by mentioning, the author intends to elevate each region to the point of eminence (Keh). The author uses figures of the Tour in Paris, French Alps, and the regional images of the Tour foods and wine to emphasize on the cultural and geographical diversity brought about by the events.

Just before the conclusion, the paper discusses the counter cartographies which deals with the benefits and challenges associated with Tour de France. The problems include the road invasions like the cases reported about Bosque region which lies in the border between France and Spain. The author states that despite the challenges, the benefits of the Tour outnumber the problems, as the resistance by the residence is usually little (Palmer). The structure of the paper then ends with a conclusion which summarizes all the aspects of the article.


The paper is based on the Lefebvre’s conceptual triad of spatial practice (Palmer). In the model, Lefebvre describes the space of representation as the space of users and inhabitants. People try to imagine things that can create an experienced space. The area is full of theories and conceptions of thought, and it overlays the physical area to create a good use of the symbols and objects. In the article, Palmer decides to use this model to provide room for the representations of the geographical boundaries and routes for the Tour de France. Furthermore, the author uses pictures and maps to represents the cultural and social diversity of the people in France. It is also evident that the author understands that the model depends on following the formation of a representational space in a given context. The Spatial Triad is an appropriate theory because it is built on the slogans, signs of protest and the murals that flooded the city of Paris as a symbolic manifestation of space. The other materials used by the author in the article are those that talks about the social importance of sports, together with the role of constructivism in promoting diversity in the society. The other cited articles touch on the part of media on Tour de France as an annual event in France; and also the relationship of the sport with the other sporting activities like soccer.


The author uses a range of data collection, analysis and presentation techniques. The method covers the use of the ethnographic fieldworks undertaken in France. The aim of the field work was to examine the social construction of Tour de France as a means of establishing the social identity of the French people. The research also involves the use of series of interviews with the members of the organization responsible for organizing the event. The conversations were essential for the study since the author was able to have a feel and an understanding of the factors that need to be considered while deciding on the tour logistics like the starting point, the boundaries of routes to follow, security and safety of the riders, among the other factors. From the information collected, one can conclude whether the selection criterion is appropriate or not.

The study also uses the ethnographic observations to study the riders' feelings, attitudes and perceptions about the event even as they move across France (Palmer). From the fieldwork and observation notes, the author was able to formulate the themes of the article. The analysis of the secondary data and the information from the archives are used to supplement the interviews and observations. Furthermore, the author takes advantage of the writings that have been made by journalists about the Tour de France and uses the information as a rich repository of a written and photographic records from which the development of particular maps can be based (Keh). The data collected indeed supports the main arguments about the social and cultural representation of space (Palmer).


The author concludes the article by mentioning the central themes of the study. The role of Tour de France in producing the social map of France and transforming the public space is also highlighted in conclusion. Palmer also mentions the importance of the applied theoretical framework and how the themes emerge from the same. In a summary form, the author links the outcomes of the study analysis to the ideas. The consequence is that human intervention has a role to play towards producing topographical and cultural cartographies of a country. The author winds up by emphasizing the role of Tour de France in providing an entry into the social meaning of landscape and territory through a socially constructed nature of space.

Work Cited

Keh, Andre. "When the Tour de France Comes to Town." 6 July 2017. The New York Times. 24 December 2017 .

Lamont, Matthew, and Jim McKay. "Intimations of postmodernity in sports tourism at the Tour de France." Journal of Sport & Tourism 17.4 (2012): 313-331.

Palmer, Catherine. "We close towns for a living: spatial transformation and the Tour de France." Social and Cultural Geography 11.8 (2010): 865-881.

May 10, 2023

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