Disenchanted with his results as a 19-year-old competitive cyclist, Emile Fromet de Rosnay gave up on his junior career.
Back then, he felt he was at a crossroads between chasing a pro cycling career and pursuing academics.
Twenty-one years later, he’s found a way to marry both, as he’s launched a University of Victoria course for the 100th anniversary of the Tour de France (FRAN 325). The race runs June 29 to July 21. The faculty of humanities culture course, which started on June 24, is completely online.
Though de Rosnay is not an academic expert on the Tour, it does fall into context in his areas of focus as a specialist in 19th century French literature and culture, post-colonial studies and digital humanities.
The UVic assistant professor of French literature and culture has also been mad about the Tour de France since he was a boy growing up in Toronto.
“For me it all started in the summer of 1985. I was inspired by that year’s Tour de France, (American) Greg Lemond vs. (Frenchman) Bernard Hinault.”
Lemond was on the rise and Hinault won his fifth and final title, the last Frenchman to win the Tour.
It’s the first run for FRAN 325 and without a hard cap for online courses, there are 150 students enrolled, which breaks the record for a French department class, de Rosnay said.
Students can use it for electives and other credits.
“It’s a flipped classroom design where the students drive what they want to learn with their own questions,” he said.
One student is a geography major looking at creating an app based on the Tour, while another is Jamie Mackenzie, a pro rugby player who was part of Canada’s team at the Rugby World Cup in 2011. Mackenzie has shared insights on the class Twitter hashtag, #tdf325, as one elite athlete analyzing another discipline.
“Its not a lecture-style course. Together the students and I will collaborate. Students will post reactions to reading assignments in a forum and on Twitter,” de Rosnay said.
Though many of the students are from out of town, those in the area are encouraged to meet up for race viewings at the Hub and Spoke, a “pop-up café” at 425 Simcoe St.
It’s a café solely created to view the Tour de France with a coffee in the morning, or a craft brew during the replay at night.
If anyone has any questions about the peloton, de Rosnay can help there, too.
He’s spent thousands of hours racing and though his best results have come from track cycling, the 40-year-old remains an avid road cyclist.
He’s currently a member of the local Russ Hays/Accent Inns team and recently won a stage in the two-day Tour de Bloom in Wenatchee, Wash. De Rosnay’s greatest year so far came in 2009 when he won bronze in two events at the Canadian Track Cycling Championships.
It’s an impressive achievement, considering De Rosnay, at one point drifted completely out of the cycling world. He endured a transformative moment as a 250-pound doctorate student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.
“One day I was out of breath from walking up the stairs. I was unfit and fat. That was a life-changing moment. I remember thinking: ‘I used to be a top-10 swimmer (for my age group) in the country. What happened?’”
His passion for the world’s greatest cycling race helped him get back on the bike and back into racing in 2005.
“I think with cycling, you can wear out from the mental and physical toll, and by not competing in (my 20s), I believe I’ve avoided that. Maybe I could have gone pro. If I did, I probably would have doped, knowing the way it all happened, if that opportunity had come to me.
Tour de France 325
Hot topics for the course:
– Ryder Hesjedal, the Victoria native who is a favourite to finish on the podium. De Rosnay is hoping to line up a live chat with Hesjedal for the class.
– Doping, which challenges the sport of cycling at every turn
– Curious? Snoop the course webpage at tdf325.wordpress.com or follow on Twitter with #tdf325