Friday, August 2, 2013

100 editions of the Tour de France, 1919

1919 La Sportive ridden by Firmin Lambert BEL
For the 1919 race several of the big name bike manufacturers, including Peugeot, Alcycon, Automoto, La Français and Labor formed the 'La Sportive' team to try to stop the increasing salary demands of the top riders and to reduce the costs for an industry on its knees after the hostilities. La Sportive would last three Tours (all of which they won, unsurprisingly since they equipped half the peloton). La Sportive was opposed by the J.B. Louvet company, which fielded its own team led by the Pelissier brothers, Henri (who went on to win the Tour in 1923) and Francis.

The war had taken it's toll on the country, with over 6 million either dead or wounded. The riders had suffered too, with many killed in action, and the remaining ones were obviously totally unprepared for such a test. It was and still is, the slowest ever Tour at 24.06 kph though despite that there were only 10 finishers.

It seems trivial to talk of the actual racing when great campions, like Peit-Breton, François Faber, Octave Lapize to name but three were lost in the war, but the racing went on and it's a credit to those who dragged themselves around the war torn roads of France that year.

It's also widely credited as the Tour that introduced the yellow jersey though recent research seems to suggest that it was actually first seen in the previous, 1914, race.

Eventually it was Fermin Lambert who prevailed but Christophe had ridden another great race, though yet again succombed to numerous crashes, punctures and another set of broken forks!

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