Thursday, August 25, 2011

Henri Cornet

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Henri Cornet

Henri Jardry called Henri Cornet was born in Desvres, France on August 4, 1884. He was a French cyclist who won the 1904 Tour de France. 

It's not known why he changed his name from Henri Jardy to Henri Cornet. He was a talented amateur, but little known beyond northern France and Belgium. It was his first year as a professional when he entered the second Tour de France in 1904. The organiser, Henri Desgrange, promoted his unknown competitors to readers of L'Auto, the newspaper he edited, by giving them nicknames. He called Cornet Le Rigolo, or "The Joker", for his sense of fun.

The Tour de France had proved a success when the first race was run in 1903 and both the competition between riders and the passion of the fans who supported them rose to sometimes dangerous proportions. Riders took trains and lifts in cars or had themselves towed by drivers. Fans beat up riders on the col de la Republique outside St-Etienne and dispersed only when Garin, one of the racers, fired his gun.

Other spectators threw nails on the road on the last day and Coronet rode the last 40 km on flat tires. After many complaints about widespread cheating, the top four finishers were disqualified by the French cycling union. It declared Cornet the winner although he had taken three hours more than Garin, the winner. 

Cornet is the Tour's youngest winner at 19 years 11 months and 20 days of age.

Henri Cornet never had further success in the Tour, dropping out in 1905 on the fourth day. He won Paris-Roubaix and finished second in Bordeaux-Paris in 1906, and came in eighth in the 1908 Tour de France. 

Cornet rode his last Tour de France in 1912, finishing 28th. He had repeated health problems, however, which brought his career to an end. He stopped racing with the start of World War I. He retired to work in the bicycle business and died after a hospital operation on March 18th, 1941 at the age of 56. A road in Prunay-le-Gillon is named after him.

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