|Pelissier in 1919, the year he won his first|
Born in Paris on this day in 1885, Henri Pélissier was the second of four cycling brothers, of whom three (himself, Charles and Francis) would become professional (Jean, the oldest, died at Argonnes in the First World War). Henri would race in all but two of the peace-time Tours de France between 1912 and 1925, failing to finish all of them except for 1914 when he came second to Phillipe Thys and 1923, which we won after Ottavio Bottechia failed to change his gear in time (in those days, gear shifts were achieved by getting of the bike, removing the rear wheel, flipping it around and placing the chain over the differently-sized cog on that side before retightening the wheel and continuing; so a missed gear change could result in the loss of many minutes rather than seconds) and Jean Alvoine abandoned after a crash. He also won the Giro di Lombardia three times, Paris-Roubaix twice, Milan-Torino, Milan-San Remo, Bordeaux-Paris, Paris-Tours and Paris-Brussels.
His career began by chance after he happened upon twice Tour winner Lucien Petit-Breton one day whilst out walking. Petit-Breton asked him if he'd be willing to join his team to race in Italy - and since the team would depart that day, Pélissier had six hours in which to decide and organise himself. Having little going for him at time - his rather disagreeable personality had caused his father to kick him out of the family home - he decided very quickly that he may as well grab his chance and went. He lost that first race, but won the Giro di Lombardia in 1913 partially through luck: a huge crash 400m from the finish line involved many riders including Pélissier, but he was not hurt and jumped back on his bike before sprinting to the line. The crowd was upset that their local hero Costante Girardengo had lost and decided Pélissier was to blame; a mob climbed onto the track and savagely beat him until he managed to clamber into the judges' tower to safety, where he waited while 80 policemenset about controlling his attackers.
|Henri Pelissier with brother Francis - the only rider to stay|
with him after he punctured in the Tour
His wife, Léonie, suffered much and entered a deep depression, leading to her suicide in 1933 when she shot herself with her husband's revolver. Three years following her death, he took a new lover named Camille "Miette" Tharault who was 20 years younger than him. He treated her no better - during a row one day, he attacked her with a knife and slashed her face. She, however, was made of sterner stuff than poor Léonie: she ran upstairs and grabbed the gun with which her predecessor had committed suicide but, instead of killing herself, took it back down to kitchen and shot her husband five times. After the killing was investigated, she was given a 12-month suspended sentence which, court officials said, was the closest they could come to releasing her without charge under the laws of the time.
|At Paris-Roubaix, 1919|
|Henri Pelissier in the 1923 Tour de France|
The other riders may have felt insulted by his carthorses and thoroughbreds comment, but he had a point - and it's possible that he genuinely did wish to improve their lot.
(image credit: Masestela06 CC BY-SA2.0)
He wasn't, of course - cyclists of that calibre don't come along so often - but he proved nevertheless to be a very talented rider indeed and won the Vuelta a Espana in 1998. He would take 3rd in the Giro d'Italia in 1996 and 2nd in 2001, 9th in the Tour de France in 1996 and 4th in 1997 and, in addition to his later victory, come 2nd in 1995 Vuelta., as well as the 1994 Vuelta a Asturias, the 1996 Tours of Romandia and Galicia, the Euskal Bizikleta in 1997 and 1998 and a list of other races.
Andre Tchmil was born today in Khabarovsk, Russia before moving to Ukraine (then part of the USSR) as a boy with his family. He showed sufficient talent in his early years to be enrolled in a specialist cycling school, one of the sports academies found in Eastern Europe and the USSR before glasnost that were designed to turn out outstanding athletes who could go to the Olympics and bring back glory. Jens Voigt, Jan Ullrich and Viatcheslav Ekimov were students at similar academies. When the USSR broke up, he became a Ukrainian citizen but rode for the Italian Alfa-Lum team, then emigrated to Belgium in 1998. He rode in five Tours de France but finished only two, failing to win a single stage, but became a highly respected Classics specialist with a particular aptitude for the harsh cobbled races; winning the Ronde van Vlaanderen and in 1994, the hardest Classic of them all, Paris-Roubaix. He also won the Road Race World Cup in 1999. Tchmil was still going in 2002 at the age of 39 when he sustained an injury to his thigh in the Three Days of De Panne, bringing his racing career to an end. He has worked in various capacities since retirement, acting as a team consultant before running a UCI cycling facility and then, in 2006, becoming the Minister of Sport in the government of Moldova, the country in which his sport academy had been located. In 2009, he became directeur sportif of the Russian-based Team Katusha.
Other cyclists born on this day: Lee Vertongen (New Zealand, 1975); Dan Frost (Denmark, 1961); Preben Isaksson (Denmark, 1943, died 2008); Carl Lüthje (Germany, 1883); Uwe Messerschmidt (Germany, 1962); Miguel Pérez (Mexico, 1934); Marcelo Alexandre (Argentina, 1963); Renan Ferraro (Brazil, 1962); Sid Taberlay (Australia, 1980); Nikolay Kovsh (USSR, 1965); Nikos Angelidis (Greece, 1977); Lorang Christiansen (Norway, 1917, died 1991); Robert Lechner (Germany, 1967); Sava Gerchev (Bulgaria, 1914); Reinier Cartaya (Cuba, 1981); Paolo Pedretti (Italy, 1906 died 1983); Abraham Olano (Spain, 1970).