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Here’s How The Citroën 2CV Might Have Defined The Tour de France

What’s the collective noun for Citroën 2CVs? - Photo: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP (Getty Images)
What’s the collective noun for Citroën 2CVs? - Photo: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP (Getty Images)

Over the past nine days, a few hundred of the best cyclists in the world have been racing their hearts out in the fields and mountains of France as they compete in the grueling Tour de France. The racers compete across intense sprints, rapid descents and punishing climbs that might all have been judged based on the capabilities of the Citroën 2CV.

Teams like Visma Lease-A-Bike, UAE Team Emirates and the Ineos Grenadiers are currently battling out for supremacy in the historic French race, which sees teams of eight riders compete over 21 stages covering more than 2,100 miles. Along the route, they’ll face various challenging climbs, which are graded from category four (the easiest) up the category one (the hardest).

If, like me, you’ve ever wondered how the race organizers come up with the classifications of each climb then I’ve got good news, as I have the answer. And, because this is France, it’s obviously all due to the Citroën 2CV.

The iconic French car was built between 1948 and 1990 and took the country by storm. Citroën went on to sell almost 4 million of the pokey little cars, which packed just 9 horsepower (eventually 29 hp) and a four-speed manual.

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It’s this gearbox that gave the Tour de France its classified climbs, explained Europsort in a social media post this weekend. According to the broadcaster, a category four climb is the easiest as it’s a climb that the 2CV could manage in fourth gear.

A category three climb is one that the driver would need to drop down to third gear to complete, a category two climb is on that can be summited in second gear and a grueling category one climb is one that, you guessed it, requires a switch to first in the 2CV.

Tour de France climbs are categorized based on difficulty. - Photo: Dario Belingheri (Getty Images)
Tour de France climbs are categorized based on difficulty. - Photo: Dario Belingheri (Getty Images)

It’s an adorable image which firmly roots the iconic race even deeper within its French origins. However, cycling publication Rouleur has thrown some doubt on this cutesy tale. As the site explains:

Legend has it that the classifications were originally decided with a Citroën 2CV car, with the climb’s category judged to be the same as the gear necessary to motor up it. For Thierry Gouvenou, the Tour’s race director and the person responsible for designing the race route, that’s all nonsense.

“Perhaps the story came from a drunken night between journalists,” Gouvenou tells Rouleur. “In cycling we have so many stories like that that have been embellished over time. Maybe there’s some truth in it somewhere, but I’m not convinced.”

So whether you believe Gouvenou that it’s instead all down to mathematics and scientific formulae, or prefer to picture some route setter out every year in a Citroën 2CV, that’s your call.

Personally, I quite like the added French charm of an old family car running the 2,169.8 miles of this year’s Tour de France before Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogačar are let loose.

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