Lefèvre, it seems, had not been expecting his editor to stoop so low as to ask him for an idea and he hadn't bothered to spend any time considering the issue; he said later that he had to think fast and blurted out the first thing that came into his mind. "Let's organise a race that lasts several days, longer than anything else. Like the six days on the track, but on the road." Desgrange pondered this for a moment or two.
"If I understand you correctly, petit Géo," he replied, "you're proposing a Tour de France?"
The name and concept had been used before for automobile races, but it was the first time that it had been used in the sport with which it would forever be associated. By the end of the first Tour the following year, L'Auto's circulation had trebled. Five years later, figures hit 250,000 and by 1923 they'd reached half a million a day. Desgrange was not at first convinced that the Tour would be a success and stayed away for the first year but later, when it showed signs of becoming much bigger and more profitable than anyone ever imagined, he was happy to take full credit for it. Many authors, historians and fans alike tell us to never forget that it's a lowly 23-year-old reporter that we should really thank for what has become the greatest sporting event the world has ever seen. However, this may not in fact be the case: L'Auto had organised an earlier race, Paris-Brest-Paris (a single-stage 1,200km event) in 1901 and had enjoyed a big upturn in sales as a result. It seems unlikely, therefore, that Lefévre was the only man to have thought of a bike race; it is far more likely that somebody else - possibly Desgrange - had already suggested a long-distance race as one option and the group was trying to think of a way in which their new event could be made different from all those that had come before. It may be the case, therefore, that despite over a century of claims that Lefévre, rather than Desgrange, was the true "Father of the Tour," it may in fact have been first thought up by Desgrange after all - or possibly even by somebody else altogether.
Monique van der Vorst
|Monique van der Vorst|
(image credit: Rabosport)
Once in a while, though, miracles happen too. Perhaps the greatest example of that is the story of Monique van der Vorst. Born on this day in 1984, van der Vorst developed a problem with her legs during childhood needed an operation. Something went wrong and, aged just 13, she was left paralysed in both legs.
She learned to ride a handcycle, a vehicle both steered and powered by the hands and arms. She became good at it. So good, in fact, that she won two silver medals at the Paralympic Games.
In March 2010, now aged 25, her handcycle was rammed by another cyclist who lost control while traveling at high speed. What could so easily have been another tragedy turned out to be something very different - as she recovered from the crash, van der Vorst began to feel a tingling sensation in her legs, the first sensation she'd had in them for 12 years. Slowly but surely, full feeling returned and with the help of a physiotherapist she was able to learn to walk - and, before too long, ride a conventional bike.
In November 2011, Rabobank announced that it had signed van der Vorst up to its new Women's Team for the 2012 season. With them, she will race alongside riders such as Sarah Düster, Annamiek Van Vleuten and the team's star rider Marianne Vos, widely acclaimed as the best cyclist in the world.
Graeme John Miller, the New Zealand professional cyclist who retired at the age of 42 due to a back problem and then returned to competitive cycling six years later, winning the Sinclair Packwood Memorial Road Race in 2008, is 51 years old today. Earlier in his career, Miller won two gold medals in the 1990 Commonwealth games. Happy birthday, Graeme - here's to many more successful years!
Happy birthday to Northern Irish cyclist Michael Hutchinson, who set a new record for completing 30 miles in 55'39" in 2011 and has been 50 mile National Time Trial champion since 2000. With 51 time trial titles to his name, he comes second in greatness only to the legendary Beryl Burton with 97.
The Tour of Rwanda should be starting today in the African nation - however, since their website is down and no other sites seem to have any information, this is not confirmed!
Other births: Joni Silva Brandao (1989); Noel Martin Infante (1989); Tyler Day (1989); Dominique Stark (1988); Eloy Teruel Rovira (1982); Linea Fredang (1982); Daizon Mendes (1981); Jean Zen (1981); Crystal Anthony (1980); Gijs Strating (1990); Mark Christian (1990); Marta Bernini (1963); Jianren Man (1988); Christoph Pfingsten (1987); Joelle Numainville (1987); Martijn Knol (1987); Wilson Zambrano Larrota (1980); Rhae Christie Shaw (1975); Petra Zehentner (1973); Silvija Latozaite (1993) Takahiro Yamashita (1985); Kahlen Young (1984); Sue Forsyth (1984);