Cycling History

I am fortunate that I am able to combine my interest in history with my love for cycling. Cycling has a rich and fascinating past that has produced countless yarns.

I have added this page to the blog so that readers who share this interest can easily find relevant posts. Of course, these few tales don't come close to representing a history of cycling. They are simply explanations of things I have read about and then found the time to write about. I hope to see this section grow in the future.

The Dreyfus Affair and the Tour de France
It's well known (amongst bike nerds) that the Tour de France was started by a newspaper as a way to boost sales. What's less known is the fact that the Dreyfus Affair led to the very creation of said newspaper.

Le Coq Sportif
This year, Le Coq Sportif (The Sporty Rooster) will replace Nike as the supplier of jerseys for Le Tour de France. This got me thinking about why there is a sporting brand named after a flightless bird.

The Full Cycle is the autobiography of British cyclist Vin Denson and it is one of the most charming cycling books I've ever read. It overflows with youthfulness, innocence and old-world determination. Vin Denson isn't famous but he was certainly an excellent cyclist, possibly even great. Amongst others, he won stages of the Giro and the Dunkirk 4-Days race and the overall in the 1965 Tour of Luxembourg. He was also the super-domestique for riders such as Rik Van Looy, Jacques Anquetil and Tom Simpson.

Jacques Anquetil
Jacques Anquetil was the closest thing to a rock star the cycling world has ever seen. So close, in fact, that he probably would put a few rock stars to shame if he'd ever had the chance. There were women, mansions, speed boats and benders. His biography, Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape, as well as being an excellent read, has to be one of the great titles of all time (I'm a big fan of a good pun).

A Sunday in Hell
If you've got 90 minutes to spare, I can think of worse ways of wiling it away than by watching A Sunday in Hell (directed by Jørgen Leth). It follows the 1976 Paris-Roubaix and makes for some really fascinating viewing.

Merckx, Coppi & the Giro d'Italia
A name that immediately stands out as an equal to Merckx in the history of the Giro is Fausto Coppi. He also won five Giris. What's more, between his first and subsequent four victories was a forced hiatus from racing thanks to WWII. There is little doubt he would have notched up a few more without that little hiccup. What's more, he actually is a legend, being dead and all. And he's Italian.

Gino Bartali and the 1948 Tour de France
The great Italian, Gino Bartali entered the 1948 Tour for the first time since he won it a full decade earlier. After twelve stages of racing, it didn't look like he would repeat his victory, as he languished over 21 minutes behind the leader, Frenchman Louison Bobet.

Henri Pélissier
He had an impressive palmarès with wins in the Giro di Lombardia, Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, Bordeaux-Paris, Paris-Brussels, Paris-Tours and the Vuelta al País Vasco. But despite various stage victories and podium finishes, he was only able to win one Grand Tour, the 1923 Tour de France.

Ottavio Bottecchia
The 1924 Tour was won by Ottavio Bottecchia who was the first Italian ever to do so. What's more, he was also the first cyclist to take the yellow jersey on stage one and keep it all the way through Paris.

1989 Tour de France 
In most walks of life, 80 seconds isn't all that much. In cycling, it's heaps. Indeed, it was one tenth of that amount that separated Laurent Fignon and Greg LeMond in the 1989 Tour after three weeks of racing. This 8 second time difference still stands as the closest Tour de France ever.

In 1903, the newspaper L'Auto invented the race as a way to boost sales. Without radio or television, reporters were free to wax lyrical about the feats of the riders, be they true or not.

No comments:

Post a Comment