Forced to Ride

Original title: Les forcés de la route

Publication Date:

May 2023



Original language and publisher

French | En Exergue

Territories Handled

Worldwide excl. French

Territories Sold

Germany (Delius Klasing)


Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Sport, WWII


  • Prix Sport Scriptum La Française des Jeux (finalist)
  • Prix Jules-Rimet (finalist)
  • Grand Prix Sport & Littérature (shortlisted)
  • Prix Louis-Nucéra (winner)
  • Prix Antoine-Blondin (winner)

Forced to Ride

Original title: Les forcés de la route


To relive the adventure of the “Circuit de France” is therefore to immerse oneself in an event with a sporting challenge flouted by Vichyist pretensions, but it is also to rediscover the life of the French under the Occupation, amid  rationing difficulties. , lack of fuel, compulsory curfew and haggling of all kinds. — Radio France

Make no mistake: the mention “novel” appearing on the cover is just a mark of honesty, a way for the publisher (En Exergue specialist in quality publications on sport) to specify that the author allows himself at times escapes into fiction. But the facts reported here on a daily basis are essentially accurate. Perfectly reflecting the reality of these troubled times, they are the result of meticulous investigative work intended to reconstruct as faithfully as possible the behind the scenes of the ordeal and the context of the time. In fact, from Mans to Poitiers, from Clermont-Ferrand to Saint-Etienne, it is there, this popular France of 1942 which does not always eat its fill, but only has eyes for these “convicts of the road “. They too existed, starting with the most notable of them: Emile Idée, the 1942 French champion. A man now hundred years old whom the author found at his home, in the Paris region, to exhume distant memories. It was this meeting that encouraged him to undertake this literary project. He draws a captivating, well-conducted story, where the reader constantly wonders how this ill-conceived race, marked by a cascade of abandonments and setbacks, was able to come to an end, on the track of the old Parc des Princes… — Le Monde

Inspired by true events.

Organized during the summer of 1942 by the German occupiers and the French collaborationists, the Circuit de France was an attempt to emulate the Tour de France cycling race, which had been suspended since 1940.

The French cycling champion, Émile Idée, and his racing buddies from velodromes around France were “asked” to participate in the Circuit de France, organized by the collaborationist newspaper La France socialiste. The choice was simple: join the Circuit or the STO, the Compulsory Work Service in Nazi Germany. Elite riders from Belgium, Italy and elsewhere were also forcibly embarked on the ill-fated adventure.

The German occupiers were dead set on proving they could organize a great race across France, like the symbolic Tour de France sponsored by the newspaper L’Auto (the forerunner of L’Équipe). The problem was, there was little to no preparation, a complete lack of nearly everything, and a route crossing the demarcation line between the German-occupied zone and the free zone…

The organizers assembled 72 French, Belgian and Italian riders for the race, which ran from 28 September to 4 October 1942. In six stages and 1,650 kilometers, the hastily devised tour would go from Paris to Paris in a single week through both the occupied zone and Vichy France. Billed as a tour de force at a time when the country was under the yoke of Germany, it quickly devolved into a farce, a makeshift show lacking in nearly everything. The novel tells the story of the riders and followers who unwittingly became the players of a forgotten episode in French sport, and who little realized how decisive the crossing of the French demarcation line would prove to be…