I remember meeting Jean-Paul, , a prison governor, q, who told me about the project for a Penitentiary Tour de France. I thought this was a good project, because the challenge to detainees was really not simple, from a physical, sporting or mental point of view.
We both wanted to work with the "Osons les Défis" association to create the Penitentiary Tour de France in 2009. We were able to offer a new kind of medical and sporting integration project.
This was a chance for them to surpass themselves, commit to something in a group spirit and regain self-confidence, step by step... A kind of preparation for re-joining society.
The adventure began with a two-day course at Valenciennes remand centre, to meet the whole team and explain the benefits of such an approach.
A few weeks later, the group of 12 inmates and the same number of staff gathered at the start line for the Grand Départ. They set off from Decathlon's head office in Villeneuve d'Ascq for a saga of over 2,400km in 12 legs.
This project enabled a regional peloton to take part each day. A total of 240 inmates, 350 staff members (guard, management, administration, integration and probation staff, prosecutor, judge, director of the prefect's office, etc.) rode with the national peloton.
During the Tour de France and other big races, people go through difficult moments that they need to be able to endure and overcome in order to keep on moving forward. This challenge helped to raise participants' awareness of the importance of personal commitment when it comes to succeeding.
Following this adventure:
- 1 of the 12 inmates secured a fixed-term contract at a Decathlon store upon release
- 10 found a job upon release thanks to improved reintegration abilities
- 2 continued cycling as a hobby... with their buddies!
This challenge above all had the effect of raising awareness of the importance of personal commitment when it comes to succeeding... you can count on others, of course... but above all, you have to give yourself the means to succeed.
Story told by Cyril Saugrain, manager of the cycle department at the Decathlon store in Meaux and former professional cyclist.