Buysse was rewarded by being allowed to win Stages 11 and 12 (he'd also been promised half the money Bottecchia earned in the race), though in the latter both men missed a control post (riders were required to sign a log, proving they'd stuck to the parcours and not taken any shortcuts) and were penalised ten minutes. Nevertheless, at the end of the stage Bottecchia had a 27' advantage over nearest rival Frantz, and when the Luxembourger lost a further 37' due to a puncture on Stage 14 his race was over. Bottecchia won in 219h10'18", Buysse was 54'20" slower for second place. Bottechia also won the meilleur grimpeur, an award given by L'Auto to the rider judged to have performed best in the mountains before the introduction of the King of the Mountains competition in 1933, but it would be his last Tour victory - he returned in 1926 but abandoned in the Pyrenees; then in 1927 he was found lying unconscious by the side of a road not far from his home in Peonis and died eleven days later.
In 1966, the Tour covered 4,303km over 22 stages - much longer than modern editions, but considerably shorter than 1925 (in 1925, the average stage length was 301.6km, in 1966 195.6km. Many people make the mistake of believing that this is an indication that the riders in the early 20th Century were a much tougher breed than post-Second World War, but they forget that average speeds - 24.775kph in 1925, 36.76kph in 1966 - have risen dramatically. Also, in 1925 the riders had a rest day almost every other day; in 1966 they had only two).
|Poulidor, the man who saw the future
"I was strolling down the corridor in ordinary clothes when I came across two guys in plain clothes. They showed me their cards and said to me ...
"You're riding the Tour?" - "I said: 'Yes'."
"You're a rider?" - "I said: 'Yes'."
"OK, come with us."
I swear it happened just like that. They made me go into a room, I pissed into some bottles and they closed them without sealing them. Then they took my name, my date of birth, without asking for anything to check my identity. I could have been anyone, and they could have done anything they liked with the bottles."
The testers managed to catch a few other riders, some of whom refused to provide samples next day, riders staged a protest by getting off their bikes and shouting abuse - mostly general abuse directed at anybody who would listen, but much of it directed at Tour doctor Pierre Dumas (whom, they claimed, should be tested for wine and aspirin in case he was using them to cope with the demands of his job, too) and some directly targeting Poulidor for submitting himself to the test. " "After that, they did me no favours in the peloton," he later remembered.
Rudi Altig won the first stage in much the same way that he won so many of his track victories, getting his head down and hammering away at the pedals until it was time to stop and get back off the bike again, and the small lead he gained proved unexpectedly sufficient to keep him in the maillot jaune for ten stages; at which point the race reached the Pyrenees. Meanwhile, Jacques Anquetil was steadily improving his time, hotly pursued as ever by Poulidor who was even more furious than usual with his great rival in the wake of a Stage 2 crash, which Anquetil used as an opportunity to attack. Poulidor made it back to the main group but was understandably not at all happy, Anquetil called him a cry-baby and said he needed to "learn how to stay upright on his bike."
Jan Janssen, Lucien Aimar and a small group they'd recruited to help took a serious bite out of Anquetil's time during Stage 10 from Bayonne to Pau, while Tommaso de Pratook the stage win and earned his one and only day in yellow. Guido Marcello Mugnaini, who had come fourth overall the year before, won the next day but without taking the leadership, allowing Jean-Claude Lebaube his own single day in yellow; then Altig took Stage 12. By this time, the small lead he had in the first few stages had long been eroded away and so as the race left the mountains for two stages and a time trial on the flatlands, the lead passed into the hands of his countryman Karl-Heinz Kunde who kept it for five stages.
|The memorial to Jacques Goddet, high up on
Of course, Goddet may have been effectively signing his own death warrant had he have refused permission for this to happen; it has also been argued that a controlling interest in L'Auto's shares was owned by a consortium of German businessmen, in which case Goddet would have had very little say in the paper's editorial direction and might not in fact have personally supported Pétain at all. Far more damning meanwhile is the fact that before the war he had hired out his Vélodrome d'Hiver to be used for fascist meetings and then, when France was occupied, permitted it to be used by the Nazis for the temporary imprisonment of 13,000 French Jews who remained there in horrible conditions before being transferred to concentration camps - only 300 of them survived the war. It is possible that his hand was forced by those German businessmen, of course. It's also possible that he was not a Nazi sympathiser but was an antisemite; the two do not necessarily go hand-in-hand (there have been many left-wing antisemites in history and it works both ways - Oskar Schindler saved 1,200 Jewish lives, but he was a supporter of other Nazi policies and joined the party of his own free will). After the war, L'Auto (which, incidentally, had been established as an anti-Drefus paper after the Army captain - who was Jewish - had been falsely convicted of trumped-up charges fueled at least partly by the rampant antisemitism of the times) was forced to close for continuing to publish during the Occupation, as were many other newspapers and magazines. Goddet responded by creating L'Equip, the paper that is still printed today and is one of the first points of call for Tour-related news, but due to his association with L'Auto could not be listed as being a part of it even though he had an office at the paper's headquarters until the final years of his life.
|Mark Bell, 1960-2009
Bell's amateur career was nothing short of spectacular, with some 200 victories. In 1979, he joined the Athletic Club de Boulogne-Billancourt and rode alongside Robert Millar, Scotland's greatest ever cyclist. He began to show talent on the road at about the same time and in 1981 became National Road Champion and won two stages in the Milk Race, as the Tour of Britain was then known. He became the first foreign winner in the history of the Étoile de Sud in 1983 and then a year later rode in the Olympics - that race, however, proved to be a disaster. He had been told that the course was flat, whereas in reality in included one very challenging hill and for all his talents, Bell was most definitely not a climber. He abandoned the race.
Having turned professional in 1985 to join the Falcon team, he came third in the National Road Race competition. He joined Team Raleigh the following season and won it; his superb sprinting ability showing itself when, as race official and future British Cycling president Brian Cookson remembers, "he simply rode away from some of the greatest names in the sport." He also came second in the Tom Simpson memorial that year, then joined Emmelle-MBK before retiring at the end of the 1988 season.
Life after retirement was not at all kind to Bell. He suffered from poor health and became an alcoholic, which made some of his medical issues worse. In 2008, he said that he "was on top of" his alcoholism, meaning that he had made an effort to bring it under control and, at the time, was managing to do so, like all alcoholics never knowing whether this the end of the war or just another battle. He also revealed that he was suffering from damage caused by deep vein thrombosis in his left leg and required a shoulder joint replacement due to osteomyelitis, an infection of the bone marrow. Sadly, his body gave out before he did and he died on the 30th of January 2009, aged 48.
Toni Merkens, born in Cologne in this day in 1912, began his career in cycling as an apprentice to Fritz Köthke who, at that time, was one of Germany's top frame builders. By his early 20s he had begun to make an impact on racing, especially on the track, and became National Amateur Sprint Champion in 1933, 1934 and 1935. He won a gold medal for the 1,000m Sprint at the 1936 Berlin Olympics in extremely dubious circumstances - he had clearly been seen to grab the Dutch rider Arie van Vliet's clothing, pulling him back and forcing him into second place; but the German judges ignored it. It was only when the Dutch team launched an official complaint' leaving them no choice but to act, that they penalised him 100 Reichmarks.
|Before the war, Merkens was a popular rider in England.
He's seen here at Herne Hill in 1936, in third place behind
Dennis Horne (1) and Jack Sibbit (2). The identity of the
German in fourth place is unnown
Merkens' own political beliefs seem to be unknown and we can no more condemn him for being a Nazi than we can say for certain that he wasn't one - his apparent willingness to assist in the great Fascist propaganda exercise that the 1936 Games became suggests he may have had leanings that way, but at that time the German public had yet to discover just how evil the regime was. Secondly, many cyclists with no political leanings at all opposed the Nazis because they banned the six-day races that provided much of a track rider's income; and we should also ask why someone with such obvious symbolic value as Merkens was sent to the dreaded Eastern Front which saw some of the worst fighting and conditions of the war. Nevertheless, we can be glad that he was one of only a very few cyclists to have competed in a jersey emblazoned with a swastika.
|Hein Verbruggen, looking - as he quite often
did - rather like a schoolboy who can't quite
believe he's got away with his latest mischief
In 2008, investigative journalists from the BBC uncovered documents apparently showing that under Verbruggen, the UCI had received payments equal to approximately US$5 million from Japanese race organisers, which the broadcaster claimed was a bribe or reward for backing the inclusion of keirin in the Olympics. Verbruggen continues to deny the claims, and the UCI ignored the BBC's requests for an explanation. In 2010, Floyd Landis - then undergoing a doping investigation - claimed that Verbruggen had accepted a bribe worth US$100,000 from Lance Armstrong to submerge a failed anti-doping test said to have occurred in 2002, also saying that there would be no documentary evidence of the payment. However, the UCI - now under Verbruggen's successor Pat McQuaid - was able to produce documents showing that they had in fact received two payments, one to the tune of US$25,000 from Armstrong personally which was used to develop new anti-doping controls for junior races and one of US$100,000 paid by Armstrong's management company that had been used to purchase a Sysmex blood testing machine. That the UCI was so open in admitting that it had in fact received the payment Landis alleged, provided evidence proving it had and then also proved a second payment that had not been previously been mentioned in the case is considered by most to be indication that nothing dishonest had taken place; though McQuaid is on record as stating that in his opinion Verbruggen's decision to accept the payments was a mistake.
Simon Richardson, born in Bristol on this day in 1983, came second at the National Under-23 Cyclo Cross Championship in 2004 and won the 2005 National Cross-Country Mountain Bike Championship before switching to road racing. In 2009 he won Rás Tailteann and in 2012 he was fourth at the tough Lincoln International GP.
José Maria Yermo, who would become famous simply as Yermo, was born in Guecho, Spain on this day in 1903. He originally competed in athletics and set new National records for the long jump and triple jump, then turned to soccer and played for the national team five times. After that, he became a cyclist and represented Spain at the World Championships and the 1928 Olympics.
John Kenneth Middleton, born in Coventry on this day in 1906, competed in the same Olympics as Yermo and won a silver medal as part of the second-placed team in the Team Road Race. He died on the 24th of January, 1991.
Other births: Per Christiansson (Sweden, 1961); Rolf Morgan Hansen (Norway, 1961); Yermo (Spain, 1903, died 1960); Valdemar Nielsen (Denmark, 1879, died 1954); Zbigniew Woźnicki (Poland, 1958, died 2008); Tadashi Ogasawara (Japan, 1955); Bruno Götze (Germany, 1882, died 1913); Ilmari Voudelin (Finland, 1896, died 1946); John Middleton (Great Britain, 1906, died 1991); Luigi Consonni (Italy, 1905, died 1992); Fernand Gandaho (Benin, 1968); Juan Sánchez (Spain, 1938).