Friday, 12 July 2013

Friday Five: Le Tour Facts

Eugene Christophe, who rode his first TdF in 1906 and his last in 1925, when he was aged 40.
The other day while I was waiting to meet Him Outdoors in a cafe, I picked up a book of photos released to commemorate the 100th Tour de France. Of course, it may be the hundredth race this year, but it is not 100 years since the first one: Le Tour did not take place between 1915-1920 and 1940-45. It seems that only war can stop the tour. It was very saddening to read that so many young men of phenomenal athletic ability who had ridden this incredible race, including winners Lucien Petit-Breton, Francois Faber and Octave Lapize, were killed in the wars.

As I flicked through the photos, I was struck by many differences both great and incidental: every spectator in the early shots is wearing a hat, whereas none of the riders are wearing helmets. Some of the roads are now sealed as opposed to the gravel, and the towns have grown, but the mountains remain the same. And although the bikes are now made of carbon fibre and state-of-the-art gearing, they are still just a frame on wheels. The bike is an amazing invention, and France is a fabulous country through which to ride.

5 Tour Trivia Tidbits:
  1. The winner of the very first Tour de France (in 1903) was disqualified for taking the train - now that's blatant!
  2. Le Tour has finished in Bordeaux more than in any other city, other than Paris
  3. The first death at Le Tour occured in 1910 when Adolphe Heliere was stung by a jellyfish while bathing off the cost of Nice on a rest day
  4. Originally cyclists were allowed no outside assistance (pictures show them carrying their own spare tyres slung across their chests). In 1913 the forks of Eugene Christophe's bike broke in the Pyrenees. He carried his bike 14km to the nearest village to repair them at a forge. Unfortunately the lad operating the bellows was judged to have been helping and Christophe was given a four-hour time penalty. That 326km stage took him 17 hours and 44 minutes to complete. (The Swiss rider Celidonio Morini took 21 hours and 24 minutes)
  5. The starts were between midnight and 6am to allow the riders to finish in daylight hours.

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