This is a brilliant image - capturing the École Stéphanoise in 1909. The École Stéphanoise was the name given to Vélocio (Paul de Vivie) and his followers - a legendary group in French cycling history who did much to promote cycle touring and to develop the derailleur geared bicycle. This photo was taken outside the Auberge du Grand Bois, presumably after a good lunch. The Auberge du Grand Bois was (and may still be) at the top of the Col de Grand Bois - a fearsome hill near St-Étienne that was a favourite climb of Vélocio’s and was used to test many an early derailleur design.
The photo not only features Vélocio, but also Joanny Panel who went on to found Le Chemineau and Claudius Bouillier who is most closely identified with the l’ As and Super As derailleurs, but also is named on the patents of the Le Chemineau and Le Cyclo.
This postcard was published by Joanny Panel of Le Chemineau. On the back it carries a quote from Vélocio in 1926 saying that might be translated as ‘the Le Chemineau company has done more to propagate the multi-speed bicycle than all the other makers of gear systems’. My guess is that the postcard was published shortly after Vélocio’s death in 1930, and was part of an intense struggle between Joanny Panel of Le Chemineau and Albert Raimond of Cyclo to claim the right to inherit his mantle as the true keepers of the derailleur flame.