"After a gruelling Giro d’Italia, I am targeting a full-blown assault on the Vuelta a España in August. However, since no-one has ever completed the official triple crown of cycling, including the likes of Merckx, Hinault and Indurain, I am also attempting le Tour in a bid for undisputed glory. It will only be a mini-Caravan, focussing on the decisive mountain stages. And so, I present to you le petit tour de la barbe."
– Beardy McBeard
Fun facts about le Tour de France
Some of the stuff that may or may not make it into the Tour de France cycling news...
France has the most wins by a country, with 21 French cyclists winning 36 Tours between them. It has been a while, though, with the last win by a Frenchmen coming in 1985 when the Badger, Bernard Hinault, pulled rank over a spring-heeled Greg LeMond.
The most recent Tour de France win by a Frenchman would have been 1989, had it not been for an inspired final time trial effort by LeMond to topple perhaps cycling’s best ever mullet - belonging, of course, to everyone’s favourite cycling fashion antihero, the balding, bespectacled and, often, headband-sporting, Laurent Fignon (RIP). After a fascinating battle through the mountains, Fignon held a seemingly unassailable 50 second lead over the returning LeMond (who rode with 35 shotgun pellets in his body, after being shot by his brother-in-law), only to see LeMond chase the time trial specialist down to win by 8 seconds (the narrowest TdF margin ever). Fignon, quite understandably, collapsed and wept. At least LeMond is a French sounding name...
The winner of the first Tour de France in 1903, Maurice Garin, was also the first over the line in 1904 (by a small margin over Lucien Pothier - who had also finished 2nd the year before). However, both riders (along with a host of others) were soon disqualified and Garin stripped of his title, after dozens of competitors and witnesses recounted stories of mob beatings (in support of local/regional riders), riders being assisted by motorbikes, cars and, in Garin’s case, trains during the mountain stages, as well as competitors laying thumb tacks and pulling revolvers on each other. Garin himself said “I'll win the Tour de France provided I'm not murdered before we get to Paris”.
The 1904 race was eventually awarded to Henri Cornet, who had finished more than 3 hours behind Garin on account of riding the last 40km on flat tires (due to nails thrown onto the road by spectators). At just 19 years old, Cornet remains the youngest ever winner of le Tour.
1947 winner Jean Robic outrageously collected lead-filled bidons at the top of cols to weigh him down for faster, gravity-assisted descents. Furthermore, this dastardly Frenchman relied on time bonuses from stage wins to secure victory (with second-placed countryman Edouard Fachleitner finishing the Tour in a faster total time) and an attack on the final stage (against tradition) to topple the rather unpopular Pierre Brambilla. He had never led in the race until that point.
Finally, one of my favourite cycling quotes, often attributed to my man Hinault, regarding entering the Tour de France: “An amateur should think long and hard before attempting one of these stages, 2 would probably necessitate a visit to a doctor, 3 would require a psychiatrist – anymore and you should be checking that person has written a will.” It’s a bit like that with the Caravan as well, running non-stop for 3 weeks, averaging over 16 hours and 2 packs of grissini a day.
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