Three years later, the 2022 Tour de France passed through Saint-Étienne, the arrival city of the 13th stage. During its passage through the Loire prefecture, the field took the rue Roger Rivière, named in tribute to the rider who won five stages of the Tour de France, former holder of the hour record and champion of the team’s French champions in 1957. If not as frequent as for politicians or writers, many cyclists have been entitled to this honor in the four corners of France. Anthology.
The record holders: Bobet and Anquetil superstars
In France, Louison Bobet and Jacques Anquetil are the two most popular street cyclists: both have almost 80 to their name, depending on whether homes are counted or not, mainly in Brittany, which clearly sets them apart from the rest of the field. By comparison, Bernard Hinault, five-time winner of the Tour, has only ten, as does his contemporary, Laurent Fignon.
The over-representation of the two champions who had their heyday in the 50s and 60s can easily be explained by the temporality of their success, at a time when the popularity of cycling increased tenfold. Clearly, Bobet and Anquetil remain a far cry from Charles de Gaulle, the surname most found on plates in France, with more than 3,900 streets in his name. The General itself is a good distance from the “Rues de l’église”, the name of the road (or odonym) the most illuminated in France, with almost 8,000 occurrences.
The moderns: Virenque, Voeckler, but not yet Alaphilippe
While 20th century riders obviously get street names more often, some big names in the modern peloton have also appeared on the map. Thomas Voeckler is one of them: in 2012 he personally inaugurated a boulevard in his name in Chantonnay (Pays de la Loire), the place of his second victory at the French championships in 2010. Richard Virenque had received the same honor in Marignane ( Bouches-du-Rhône), the city with the most plaques with the names of cyclists, a few years earlier.
On the other hand, there are no streets named after current French champions, such as Julian Alaphilippe or Thibaut Pinot. This is not a surprise, as the case of Voeckler is an exception: it is rare to give a route name to a champion who is still active. The Ministry of the Interior even generally advises against using names of personalities who are still alive. In Paris, it is even prohibited by a consideration of December 9, 1938, which authorizes the name only five years after the death.
Local: Ignolin, Poulidor and others
For the most part, the cyclists who give their names to the streets are regional to the scene. In Saint-Léonard de Noblat, Raymond Poulidor’s stronghold, since 2004 there has been an avenue named “the eternal second”, as in four other villages in Limousin. But lesser-known riders are also entitled to this honor: in Perros-Guirec in 2021, Guy Ignolin, Armorican cyclist, three-time Tour stage winner in the 1960s, for example, was entitled to it on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of his death.
Foreigners: Coppi, Gallien, Koblet…
Some foreign runners also have the right to their own road in France, as evidenced by rue Charly Gaul in Albi, avenue Fausto Coppi in Nantes, dead end Hugo Koblet in La-Roche-sur-Yon, or even avenue Luis Ocana in Pennautier. Proportionally, it is of course less compared to the French masters, who in all areas: of the 200 most frequent odonyms in the country, only 14 are foreign. But that may be about to change: In 2020, Nadia Hai, minister delegate for the city, said she was in favor of giving the roads more names “foreigners who fought for the Republic, who embody its values and who deserve to be honored”.