|Desgrange set a number of cycling|
records as a young man and became
National Tricycle Champion in 1893
|Desgrange is frequently remembered|
as a humourless tyrant - but was that
description entirely deserved?
|Desgrange at the 1913 Tour (second from right with|
cigarette and long coat). Rural roads would not have
been much better when he set out to follow the race
for the final time in 1936
Desgrange underwent surgery on his prostate in 1936, requiring two operations either side of the Tour, and convinced his reluctant surgeon to agree to him attending in a car padded out with cushions and with a doctor in attendance. At that time, many roads outside of the centre of Paris were primitive, at best cobbled and at worst, unsurfaced tracks full of potholes and gulleys (in rural areas, they would remain as such until the Tour became televised, at which point local mayors began to find the money to modernise them so that the world wouldn't think their communities backward) and even in the first stage it became apparent that he wouldn't be able to continue. He attempted to continue through Stage 2, with a fever and in great pain, but was forced to give up. He retired that day, handing over L'Auto's editorship to Jacques Goddet and his daily column to a journalist named Charles Faurous, then traveled to his chateau. He died four years later at his villa on the Mediterranean.
Once back in Britain, he faced the same problem - but this time it was worse. On the way there he'd had just enough money to buy food and had carefully saved enough to do the same on the way there, but whilst in Germany temptation had got the better of him and he'd spent it all on a souvenir jacket. There was no alternative: he'd have to do it without eating. He couldn't, of course, and "only" managed 170 miles before he cracked and had to thumb a lift.
The following year, Hill set a new Hour Record for an outdoor track in Milan, covering 25 miles (40.23km). In 1976, when he was 60 years old, he cycled across North America. He claimed to have never smoked or consumed alcohol in his life. He rode his bike every day from the age of 13 until 2004, when he fractured his hip. He was Britain's oldest winner of an Olympic medal when he died aged 92 of pneumonia.
Wilfried Wesemael, winner of the General Classification at the 1979 Tour de Suisse, was born on this day in 1950 in Aalst, Belgium.
Other cyclists born on this day: Ted King (USA, 1983); Lisa Mathison (Australia, 1985); Georges Augoyat (France, 1882, died 1963); Anthony Williamsen (USA, 1880, died 1956); Mario Gentili (Italy, 1913, died 1999); Luigi Borghetti (Italy, 1943); Camilla Larsson (Sweden, 1975); Mikhail Kountras (Greece, 1952); Rolf Järmann (Switzerland, 1966); Annett Neumann (Germany, 1970); Craig Adair (New Zealand, 1963); Jaap ten Kortenaar (Netherlands, 1964); Niels van der Steen (Netherlands, 1972); Marcelo Greuel (Brazi, 1963); Walter Pérez (Argentina, 1973).