Monday, 1 August 2011

The Paris Observatory, Meudon, France

My sketch shows the Paris Observatory, located at Meudon on the outskirts of Paris. This is the last sketch in my Tour de France 2010 series. LIke each of the previous 20 sketches in this series, this one too is 12 cm x 9.5 cm (approx. 4.75" x 3.75").

The observatory was built in the 17th century under King Louis XIV, and was extended several times in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. The most recent additions were made in 1951.
The world's first national almanac was published by the Paris Observatory in the 17th century, and in the mid-19th century the observatory published the first weather maps. In 1913 the Paris Observatory collaborated with the US Naval Observatory to establish the exact longitudinal difference between the two observatories. This was done by exchanging radio signals, with the Paris Observatory using the Eiffel Tower as an antenna.

The 2010 Tour de France concluded on 25th July 2010, 23 days after the cyclists started from Rotterdam. In all there were 21 days of racing and 2 rest days. Since 1975 the race has finished in Paris at the Champs Elysees. The route into Paris varies every year, but it now concludes with 8 laps of the Champs Elysees. In the past this used to be 10 laps. 

Traditionally the winner of the overall classification (yellow jersey) is settled before this last stage. The wearer of the yellow jersey at the start of the final stage therefore has the luxury of savouring the ride into Paris and has only to ensure that he does not meet with any mishap on the way. But there have been a couple of exceptions to this.

In 1979 Joop Zoetemelk attacked Bernard Hinault on the last stage, hoping to win enough time to claim the victory. But Hinault chased Zoetemelk down, and beat him for the stage victory and the overall prize.

In 1989 Laurent Fignon led Greg LeMond by 50 seconds coming into the final stage of the Tour. But that stage was a time trial and therefore, without violating any tradition, LeMond was able to overcome the deficit and win by 8 seconds. (Just the end of around 3300 kms of racing only 8 seconds separated the first two riders that year!!!)

This tradition of not attacking the wearer of the yellow jersey does not extend to the other classifications and on several occasions these have been settled on the last day in thrilling fashion.

The final stage starts with the race leader's team serving champagne, and there is a lot of joking and relaxed riding. But as the riders approach Paris the pace quickens, and around Champs Elysees the racing is really very intense for the stage victory and to settle the various classifications other than the yellow jersey.

The final stage of the 2010 Tour de France was won by Mark Cavendish, who became the first winner of consecutive Champs-Élysées stages. The Isle of Man sprinter won five stages in the 2010 Tour, more than any other rider, taking his career tally to 15 stage wins. and this year (i.e. in the 2011 Tour) he once again won 5 stages including the final (Champs Elysees) stage. He certainly deserves his nickname "the Manx Missile".

For Contador this was his third Tour de France victory, and the second time in a row that Andy Schleck had to finish a step lower than Contador on the winners' podium. Alessandro Petacchi won the sprinters classification (green jersey), Anthony Charteau won the king of the mountains classification (polka dot jersey), Andy Schleck won the best young rider classification (white jersey), and  Team RadioShack won the team competition.

To all of you who have been with me on my virtual journey...... thank you for your patience and encouragement.


  1. The sketch which you made of Obs. brings memories. In fact we made past this building in 1995 but we could not go in for some reason or other. Our intention was to visit Hospital Cochin a little far from it. Why Hospital Cochin ? for obvious connection. It turned out it had some connection with China than with Kerala. Most surprising was that the avenue that led to it bore the name of Edmond Rostand the author of Cyrano de Bergerac.

  2. so the tour comes to an end! nice sketch to end it with.

  3. Benny...I am surprised that in Paris Cochin is linked with China and not Kerala. Could it be that the final vowel "a" had fallen off in usage over the years?
    Thank you kb, and yes I am now done with the 2010 Tour and for the moment with cycling.

  4. I think the name Cochin was originally brought over from China. If I remember correctly it refers to a place in China. In the 13th century Chinese traders had a very flourishing trade with Kerala and trading post in Fort Cochin in particular. Then the Arab traders got rid of them and had monopoly. Marco Polo's time the entire pepper trade was controlled by them and their brokerage was very high. Arabs in course of time was replaced by Portuguese.
    Curiously enough a part of the Chinese fishing net is called by the name Cochin.

  5. Thanks Benny....that is very interesting.

  6. Very precise and beautiful drawings. Loved your blog.

  7. Thank you Rene, for looking and your gracious comment.