This article explores the evolving relationship of the Parti Communiste Français to cycling in the interwar years. It argues that communist press coverage of the sport enriches our understanding of how the Party evolved from a marginal force in the 1920s to a mass party that had forged both an effective and affective bond with large numbers of the French working class. It examines attempts to harness and manipulate working-class enthusiasm for cycling and to project through its coverage of the sport an idealized image of the French worker. Reading sport history into the Party's political trajectory in the interwar years reveals how the appeal to the emotions was fundamental to its evolving image as a national workers party, but also how the Party had to make accommodations between a Soviet ideal and the realities of French working-class sports culture.
Martin Hurcombe is Professor of French Studies at the University of Bristol, UK. He is a specialist in early twentieth-century French culture, history, and politics and is the author of Novelists in Conflict: Ideology and the Absurd in the French Combat Novel of the Great War (Rodopi, 2004) and France and the Spanish Civil War: Cultural Representations of the War next Door, 1936–45 (Ashgate, 2011). His most recent book, cowritten with Martyn Cornick and Angela Kershaw, is French Political Travel Writing in the Inter-War Years: Radical Departures (Routledge, 2017). His current work explores cultural representations of road cycling in France.