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H.S. Toulouse

Monsieur Directeur

Henri Saturnin Toulouse was born sometime in June 1830. The exact date is unknown. On July 1, 1830, an old widow called Antoinette Lefevre found a baby boy on the steps of St. Sernin in Toulouse, wrapped in swaddling silk clothes, embroidered with initials "H". She named him Henri and took him to a local orphanage.

Little Henri had a difficult childhood. Constant fights and rivalries awakened a competitive and entrepreneurial spirit. He soon discovered that petty theft and scams would take him nowhere and decided to nurture honest work instead. Working as a tinker and cooking pot repairman he travelled around France, and hard work soon bore fruit. His trade was such a success that, within a year, he managed to earn his first million as well as graduate from Law and Business Economics at Oxford University.

However, young Henri wanted more. His interests lay in art, history, architecture, and chemistry. Henri attended evening classes at the Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in Paris, where he shared a school desk with a certain Gustav Eiffel. These two young men had big plans. Construction of steel structures - particularly bridges and towers - was their main area of interest. But successful as he was, he still wasn't happy...

Henri Saturnin Toulouse loved sports, speed and excitement. He wanted to influence the masses; publish his own thoughts and opinions. The next logical step for him could only be the establishment of his own newspaper Liberté, Vitessé, Fraternité (Freedom, Speed, Brotherhood).

In 1894 the Dreyfus affair shocked France. As a foreign trained lawyer, Henry quietly participated in Dreyfus’ defence, and after he was sentenced to life imprisonment on Devils Islands, Henry sat with Émil Zola in a local restaurant, co-writing an open pamphlet "J`accuse!" appealing for his release.

At the end of the 19th century he re-named his newspaper to "Le Vehicle" and introduced a revolutionary novelty - the entire back page was devoted to sports news!

In 1903 Henri came up with the idea to organise the ultimate cycling race across France, naming it after the cycling legend Francois Pélotone - "Pélotone". He was unanimously voted its director and on the day of his 73th birthday, July 1st, he officially started the race.

Monsieur Directeur - Pelotone game
H.S. Toulouse