The Shattered Peloton is a mind-boggling account of young athletes in their prime destroyed in the hell of war. A mesmerizing view of cycling in its golden age, and the darkness that followed.
On June 28, 1914, one hundred and forty-five riders lined up in a suburb of Paris at 3 a.m. to start the first stage of the Tour de France. The race, which had been founded just a decade earlier, had grown to become the biggest bicycle race in the world. The riders did not know it at the time, but as they raced, an event was taking place on the opposite side of Europe which would change all of their lives forever: Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, triggering World War I.
While racing went on in France, a diplomatic crisis had started that would try but fail to avert war. Shortly after the finish of the race, France mobilized its troops and went to war with Germany. The organizer of the Tour de France, Henri Desgrange, despite being fifty years old, enrolled in the army shortly afterwards and encouraged the cyclists to do the same. The war would see over 16 million soldiers and civilians die. Many of the riders from that Tour de France did not return, and three previous winners of the race would be among those killed in action.
The Shattered Peloton tells the story of the 1914 Tour and what happened to the top cyclists of the day during the course of the war. A brilliant, disturbing, important book for anyone with an interest in cycling or military history.
About the author
Graham Healy is a keen cyclist and author from Dublin, Ireland. He is the author of a biography of the Irish cyclist, "Shay Elliott: The Life and Death of Ireland’s First Yellow Jersey," and also "The Curse of the Rainbow Jersey: Cycling’s Most Infamous Superstition."