Up until a couple of years ago, you would have been hard-pressed to find a person in Brazil who saw the Tour de France as anything other than, at best, a curious curiosity. But the list of stars that have competed on the French bike race include three-time champion Lance Armstrong, one-time race favorites Diego Ulissi and Guillermo Moreno, and three-time French champion and native Brazilian Cadel Evans.
Now, the year’s first visit of the Tour to Brazil is also marking the debut of the yellow jersey, and clashes between its usage on the bike and some traditions of Brazilian culture are simmering.
The yellow jersey is seen by most as a symbol of corrupt, corrupting elites, while in Brazil the same garment is traditionally worn by athletes who are not allowed to participate in the Tour de France. By some measures, this came to a head last month at the recent Mountain Bike World Championships, when Brazilian technical director Darwin Atapuma wore his national team jersey. “I have not seen anything like this before, and it felt great,” he said. “Cycling is a way for me to express my culture and I had to do it in this way.” But afterward, the International Cycling Union ordered him to make a “symbolic change.” His symbol would be on his back.