In the summer of 1969, Belgian photographer Jef Geys embarked on a road trip to capture the debut Tour de France victory of his countryman, Eddy Merckx.
Taken from the perspective of the pure amateur, Geys’ images offer a unique snapshot on professional cycling in the late 1960s as his lens pokes and peers through the huddles of crowds in search of the star of the show.
His juxtaposition of urban landscapes and the general public around the Tour brings added layers of vitality to a world almost 50 years old.
“Geys has produced a series of photographs which juxtaposes a range of ethnological, sociological, urbanist and artistic realities,” says curator Sylvie Boulanger.
“The images treat the riders on an equal footing as the fans and the onlookers, and the logos and adverts in the stage towns become a sort of symbolic literature for the event.”
Geys often took photographs while peering through the crowds, in this instance at the Vélodrome de Vincennes.
His images capture the surrounding furniture of the Tour de France: cars, architecture, bystanders’ fashions and the ever-present bright sunshine and warmth of the French summer.
Many scenes will appear all too familiar to followers of the modern day Tour, accentuating the changes in equipment, clothing and style.
The lobby: people watching while lying in wait for Merckx at the team hotel.
1969 saw Merckx take his memorable stage win across the Pyrenees to Mourenx. At the age of just 24, he won the Tour from Roger Pingeon by over 17 minutes.