|Stage 10, 1926 - Bottecchia, who will not finish the stage,|
struggles through difficult conditions on Izoard
Automoto's Ottavio Bottecchia was most fans' favourite as he'd won in 1924 and 1925, but many others fancied Alcyon's Adelin Benoit who had surprised everyone with a stage win and five days in the maillot jaune in 1925. A classic battle was expected, but as tends to be the way in the Tour de France it turned out far better than anyone had hoped. Right from the first stage unexpected things happened, beginning with a perfect solo break by Jules Buysse (brother of Marcel, who won six stages in 1913, and Lucien, who had finished in second place overall in 1925) that saw him win the stage with an advantage of thirteen minutes. Stage 2 ended with a bunch sprint won by little-known Belgian rider Aimé Dossche, who had picked up his first professional contract with Automoto at the the start of the year but seems to have switched to Christophe (which, like Automoto, was co-sponsored by Hutchinson at that time) before the Tour; so the GC remained virtually unchanged. Then in Stage 3 Gustaaf van Slembrouck managed to grab a lead that kept him in the maillot jaune for six days.
During Stage 3, Lucien Buysse received news that his infant daughter had died but, after thinking things over, decided to honour his family's request that he continue and try to win a stage that could be dedicated to the memory. Stage 4 was perhaps too soon and went to Félix Sellier instead; Stage 5 to Adelin Benoit. Another little-known Belgian named Joseph van Daam won Stage 6 after judges declared that Sellier had broken race regulations (van Daam would win two more later on, so he was much more famous when the race ended), then Nicolas Frantz won Stage 7; since Frantz had finished fourth in 1925 and showed enormous promise, instantly made him a favourite too (he's have to wait another year for the first of his two overall victories, however). Van Daam won Stage 8, this time on his own merit, then Frantz took Stage 9. The race had truly begun now, with a new challenger making things difficult for Bottecchia and Benoit.
|One of the Tour's more inexplicably iconic images: a cow watches Jules Buysse|
By 18:00, only ten men had arrived at the finish line and Desgrange was becoming concerned, perhaps worried that bears did have a taste for cyclists after all. He sent race organisers out in cars to search of the missing men and before long some had been located, in various states of exhaustion, strung out along the route. A full 24 hours after the stage had begun, 47 of the 76 starters had crossed the line, at which point it was decided that all riders would be permitted an extra 40% of the winning time (6 hours and 48 minutes) in which to finish as the standard cut-off time in which all riders must finish in order to escape disqualification would leave a field so depleted it would reduce competition and make for a boring race. The remaining 22 were disqualified. Incredibly, despite the harsh stage, only one rider abandoned: Bottecchia. The stage had been so difficult that judges had turned a blind eye when some of the riders had arrived at the end of the stage by bus and when a member of the public confessed that he had carried some riders to the finish line in his car but insisted they'd been in such a poor state he had done so through altruism rather than being offered money, officials declined to disqualify the riders - and paid the man for helping them.
|Buysse leads over the Tourmalet, Stage 11|
For the first time, not one single stage had been won by a Frenchman (this wouldn't happen again until 1999). Desgrange, who wanted the race to be a spectacle of every-man-for-himself heroism; he was, therefore, not at all pleased with the tactics employed by the teams in an effort to survive the superhuman distances involved in the 1926 Tour. As a result, all but three of the flat stages in 1927 were run as team time trials. Buysse said that he would win again in 1927, but Automoto experienced financial difficulties and, as his best years were gone by the time they could afford to send a team back to the Tour, 1926 was his only victory. Bottecchia decided to retire following his problems on Stage 10. One year later he was dead, possibly due to murder at the hands of Italian Fascists.
A climber of considerable repute, Wegmann does better in races that favour the grimpeurs. He won the King of the Mountains at the 2004 Giro d'Italia, the 2005 GP San Francisco with its two 18% climbs and the GP Miguel Indurain in 2006 and 2008. He won the National Championships in 2007 and 2008.
Considering their geographic position between cycling-mad Italy and Eastern Europe - who, while not quite as passionate as the tifosi, do enjoy a bike race - the Greeks are strangely under-represented in the annals of cycling history. One name that does show up is that of Zafeiris Volikakis, who was born in Volos on this day in 1990. While he has been successful primarily in track competitions at home, he also won a silver medal in the Team Sprint at the 2006 European Junior Championships and a bronze at the Worlds the same year, also placing 17th in the Keirin at the 2010 Worlds (his team were 13th in the Sprint) and third for the Keirin at the Moscou track meet in 2011 (his older brother Christos was first).
Belgian cyclo cross rider Dieter Vanthourenhout was born in Brugge on this day in 1985 and won the National Debutants Championship in 2001, then the Juniors a year later. In 2006, he was third at the Under-23 Nationals and has added podium finishes in several races since.
Other births: Rita Razmaitė (Lithuania, 1967); William Morton (Canada, 1880); Hailu Fana (Ethiopia, 1967); Eduardo Cuevas (Chile, 1951); Eduardo Trillini (Argentina, 1958); Ilias Kelesidis (Greece, 1953, died 2007); Adrian Timmis (Great Britain, 1964 ); Noël de la Cruz (Cuba, 1968); Zsigmond Sarkadi Nagy (Hungary, 1955); Antón Villatoro (Guatemala, 1970); Émile Demangel (France, 1882, died 1968); Mohd Rizal Tisin (Malaysia, 1984); Michael McCarthy (USA, 1968); Ahrensborg Claussen (Denmark, 1895, died 1967).