Friday, July 13, 2007

Tour de France: Roadside repairs

"Wheels, please be true to me"

Do you think you have bad luck? Do you think the world is unfair? Do you think the same things happen to you over and over again?

I don't know what Eugène Christophe was thinking, but if he had such thoughts it would be understandable.

In 1912 when the winner was decided by points and not time, Christophe could not beat the participating belgians who cooperated. If the total time had been deciding he would have been in the lead until the last stage when he sat up and rolled into Paris, finishing second. Because of this the rules changed in 1913 and the overall time became the deciding factor.

The next year the frenchman returned and had a promising position to win overall but while descending down the mountain Tourmalet his fork broke. He walked down the 10 km to the village Sainte-Marie-de-Campan carrying the bike and found the local forge, where he began to repair the fork. Several hours later he was done and could finish the stage on his working but fragile fork almost four hours after the winner. But since the rules stated until 1923 that the riders had to do all repairs on their own and he had been assisted by a boy who pumped the forge's bellows, he got an additional 10 minutes penalty. He finished in seventh place in Paris.

In 1919, after the intermission of the tour during the first world war 1915 - 1918, Eugène Christophe led the race from the fourth to the 13th stage , when his fork broke once more in the second last stage. Despite a two and a half hour delay, he managed to take third place overall.

But his bad luck with mechanical failures still wasn't over. In 1922 his, guess what, fork broke on the mountain Galibier...

Even though he started le Tour 11 times, he never won it. He was close to several times, but not close enough. He was the first ever to wear the leader's yellow jersey though when it was introduced in 1919.



LS said...

At least the poor bikers didn't have to mine the iron ore and melt it for their repairs. This Tour de France must have been even more an ordeal than I ever knew! This is great reading, write more O.K.!!!!

LS said...

Question - did they have to carry all parts with them during the whole race too? Like that tire on his head?

O.K. said...

"Question - did they have to carry all parts with them during the whole race too? Like that tire on his head?"

No, but they had to do all the repairs themselves. I suppose they could buy spokes, tires, rims etc. if needed. If you look at the earlier pictures you'll notice that they all have inner tubes slung around their shoulders in case of a flat.

The wheel that the rider carries on his back is seriously warped, maybe he kept it to fix it later?

LS said...

So they carried inner tubes and a pump too? Or did they have to blow the tires up with their mouths?

I guess the rules are different today. I can't imagine them sitting there soldering a gear together on the side of the road.

O.K. said...

Not to mention how hard it is to solder carbon fiber.