Headline April 28, 2018/ '' ' WORLD'S ZONES ROUGES ' ''


KILLING FIELDS OF 1914 - 18......................

ON JULY 1, 1916, 100,000 British and allied troops went over the top.
By nightfall 60,000 of them had been killed or wounded.

The carnage continued for 141 days, inflicting more than one million casualties

THE ZONE ROUGE was an area designated by the French government as so badly damaged by gas and shells that it would never be fit for cultivation or human habitation.

Starting and ending Strasbourg, the race careered - sometimes plodded through Alsace, Lorraine, Luxembourg, Belgium and France.

Riding in the Zone Rouge is about a cycling ride worth taking.

All this was through the country that was destroyed by war and reeked of death. As the Michelin guidebook of that year put it :
''Thousands of shells, shell-casings-rifles and machine guns lie scattered about Corpses are occasionally seen.''

The competitors, of course, brought the culture of the cyclist. They carried spare tyres around their necks, - did their own repairs and-

And were fortified by selection of substances.

Tom Isitt  points out that it was an era where cyclists took so many drugs that  on one occasion a  stage winner could not stand unaided.

He also details the ingredients of the Pot Beige, an interesting concoction to sustain the cyclist :  alcohol, cocaine, caffeine, amphetamines, heroin and analgesics with sometimes the merest soupcon of strychnine

It is not clear precisely what the Zone Rouge competitors took, but it would be a harsh judge who denied them anything of consolation. The race was brutal and never resurrected after its singular staging in 1919.

Isitt, though, replicated parts of it more than 100 years later.

His attempt at authenticity were rendered impossible as some of the roads no longer exist. He compounded this, wavering from the one true road by occasionally taking a more scenic route, jumping a train or deciding that enough, just sometimes, can be enough.

This is not to question Isitt's credentials as the routinely bonkers cyclist. At 55, he insists that 70 miles a day in a bike is very easy, cycles on after cracking ribs and fixes his gears with the sort of enterprise that could only have been learned from 1960s Blue Peter.

I swear there was one moment he was going to mend his handlebars with the aid of a sticky backed plastic and an empty bottle of Fairy Liquid. But that might just be me and the Pot Beige.

But Isitt is undoubtedly a character.

His drive, wit and curiosity inform Zone Rouge. He admits, too : ''I also have an alarming disregard for my own safety and well-being, a misplaced sense of invulnerability and biking for an adrenaline rush.''

This confession comes at a particular sombre time when Isitt is cycling through a battlefield and ponders what made his grandfather and great uncle volunteer and serve on the killing fields of 1914-18.

Chirpy with waiters and waitresses, mischievous with the contents of a breakfast buffet, Isitt is gently profound and genuinely moving when considering the battles, the fallen and the graves that lie over acres of the Zone Rouge and beyond.

''My heart raced and I felt a strange sense of urgency and dread,'' reports Isitt as he ventures on to the battlefield of the Somme on a beautiful May morning.

On July 1, 1916, 100,000 British and allied troops went over the top.

By nightfall, 60,000 of them had been killed or seriously wounded. The carnage continued for 141 days, inflicting more than one million casualties.

This was the story of Zone Rouge where towns and cities were razed, civilians executed and soldiers obliterated to such an extent that they can only be listed as missing more than a century on.

There is the fun and obsession of cycling at the heart of this book. But there is a recognition,too, that its excesses are largely innocuous and can be life enhancing.

Malevolent madness, on the contrary, is the preserve of wider mankind and continues to colour the world with Zone Rouges.

With respectful dedication to the Grandparents, Parents, Leaders, Students, Professors and Teachers of France, Belgium, Alsace, Lorraine, Luxembourg, and then the world.

The World Students Society thanks Herald Scotland.

See Ya all prepare for Great Global Elections and ''register'' on The World Students Society : wssciw.blogspot.com and Twitter- !E-WOW! - the Ecosystem 2011:

''' Deeply Deadly '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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