Saturday, April 6, 2013

100 editions of the Tour de France 1913

1913 Peugeot ridden by Philippe Thys BEL
The race follows an anticlockwise course around France and creates the formula that last to today of anticlockwise routes in odd years and clockwise in even years. The Tour also reverts to elapsed time as the way of deciding the winner, rather than points.
Peugeot were to take the first three places plus 5th and 7th.

The 1913 Tour is most famous for the story of Christophe, his broken forks and the penalty he was given when a 7 year old boy help him by pumping the bellows while Christophe worked at the repairs in a blacksmiths forge.
Actually the story seems to have been over emphasized since he was only docked 10 minutes, and even that was later reduced to 3, especially considering that he'd lost over three hours on the repairs. More interesting is the story that after the stage Peugeot took the forks away and claimed that they'd been damaged in an accident with a car, while Christophe made no mention of a crash. Clearly Peugeot thought that there was a better marketing story around a car crash being responsible for the breakage than them giving way due to the stresses of the terrible road conditions.

This was the first Tour where gears started to be used in anger and by 1914 they'd become commonplace, with most riders opting for Eadie two speed hubs. In 1913 Petit-Breton was using a Sturmey-Archer two speed hub but despite being able to shift on the fly he was still outclimbed by riders who were flipping their rear wheels to change between the two gears, notably Thys and Buysse, but it was early days for the geared hub and internal losses cancelled out the time gained. 

Another interesting story is that Tour history states that in 1919 Christophe was the first wearer of the yellow jersey, whereas Thys claimed that he was awarded the jersey during this addition. He says he was initially reluctant to wear it, stating that it made him a more obvious target for his rivals but after pressure from his Peugeot team, who saw the marketing potential, he eventually relented. The garment wasn't the slick tailored item of today and needed a knife taking to it to ensure his head passed through the neck hole.

Firmin Lambert on th Aubisque. Note the road conditions.
Faber and Garrigou on the Galibier

100 editions of the Tour de France, 1912

1912 Alcyon ridden by Odile Defraye BEL
1912 followed the formula of the 1911 Tour, which many saw as the first 'modern' Tour, setting the tone for all future editions, though with stages like the marathon 470k and 16 hour haul from La Rochelle to Brest it still owed much to those earlier events. 15 stages and 14 rest days is not something we see today, though at least they lifted the ban of freewheels (some of the facts around this are lost in history because earlier editions allowed freewheels but at some point they were outlawed. Desgrange tinkered with the rules in the same way they do in F1 today).
Jean Alavoine took advantage of the rules change and in fact rode with an early gear changing device which helped him to win three stages.

10 teams of 5 lined up at the start with the rest of the 131 man field being independent riders. Petit-Breton was riding for Peugeot, who were back after their self imposed boycot of the race, though he was again unlucky, this time quitting after crashing into a cow.

Eugène Chrstophe finished second overall, though he could've won if not for the points system that favoured more conservative riders, and on the way took a stage after possibly the longest breakaway in Tour history. Attacking in the Alps and taking in the Télégraphe and Galibier he stayed away for 315k and finished 30 minutes ahead of Defraye.

Riders on the Aubisque during a rain soaked 326k and 14 hour stage
In the end Defraye won easily when the other Belgian riders helped him even though they were on other teams. The French La Française team was so upset by this blatant rule breaking they quit the the race. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

100 editions of the Tour de France 1911

1911 Alcyon ridden by Gustave Garrigou FRA
1911 was the year the Tour hit the Alps, and the organisers didn't mess about, creating a course that took in the Galibier and Télégraphe. It might make us modern day mortals feel better knowing that there was only one rider who managed to ride the whole of the Galibier, but of course he only had the one gear.

Two teams dominated the race with Alcyon and La Français both fielding 2 previous Tour winners.
But there was to be drama before the victor was crowned. Firstly, a challenger to Garrigou, Paul Duboc was heading the race on the queen stage from Luchon to Bayonne, a 326k haul over the Peyresourde, the Aspin, the Tourmalet and finally the Aubisque when he fell ill after taking a drink at the feed station. 

It was assumed that Duboc had been poisoned. At first the suspicions fell on Garrigou because he had the most to lose from a Duboc victory. It is now thought that perhaps the bottle given to Duboc at the sign in contained the poison and that François Lafourcade, who had ridden so well in the mountains of the previous years Tour, may have concocted it. It is now universally accepted that Garrigou was innocent, but at the time the partisan crowds were out fro blood. In the later stages, as the Tour entered Duboc's region around Rouen someone put up signs along the road;

"Citizens of Rouen! If I had not been poisoned, I would be leading the Tour today. You know what to do when the Tour passes through Rouen tomorrow."

Legend has it that Garrigou was given a bodyguard and even wore a false mustache (which seems unlikely since he is sporting a splendid mustache of his own in every photo that I've seen).

despite these difficulties and a strong La Française team, who placed riders in 2nd, 3rd and 4th overall, Garrigou went on to win the Tour with a good points advantage.

Garrigou on the Galibier