Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Louison Bobet: First rider to win the Tour de France in three successive years

Bobet leads a group on a climb during the Tour de France

Louis ("Louison") Bobet , born in Brittany, France March 12 1925, was a great French road cyclist. He was the first great French rider of the post-war period and the first rider to win the Tour de France in three successive years, from 1953 to 1955.

Bobet was born one of three children above his father's baker's shop near Rennes. His father gave him a bicycle when he was two and after six months he could ride it 6 km. He raced in his local area and won four events for unlicensed riders in 1941.

Bobet is said to have carried messages for the Resistance during the second world war. After D-Day he joined the army and served in eastern France. He was demobilised in December 1945.

He applied for a racing licence on leaving the army and by error was sent one for an independent, or semi-professional. He benefited from the right to compete against professionals as well as amateurs. He came second in the Brittany championship and rode the national championship in Paris. Bobet left the field to catch two riders who had broken clear. He dropped one and out sprinted the other to become national champion. He turned professional for Stella, a bicycle factory in Nantes, in 1946.

While racing the Tour de France in 1953 Bobet left the field behind on a stage that crossed the Vars. He climbed the Col d'Izoard alone on roads still rutted and strewn with stones. He won that day by more than five minutes in Briancon, took the yellow jersey, then won the time trial and finished the Tour with a 14 minute lead.

The 1954 Tour de France started fast and didn't ease up. Bobet took the lead after four days, then lost it on day eight. The jersey changed hands until Bobet again dominated on the Izoard. Winning the time-trial cemented his lead and he got to Paris 15 minutes before his closest competition. He then left the Stella team after eight years to ride for Mercier. The team rode bicycles carrying Bobet's name and sold by him but made in the Mercier factory in St-Etienne.

Bobet won the Tour de France in 1955 but with a saddle boil that needed surgery. "His flesh was full of holes", said a report. "Dead tissue had to be removed to within several millimetres of vital organs. Nobody dared speak the word 'cancer". Bobet believed that enduring the sores during the Tour made him a lesser rider for the rest of his life.

Bobet's career effectively ended when the car carrying him and his brother Jean crashed outside Paris in the autumn of 1960. He had several businesses after he stopped racing, including a clothing shop, but he became best known for investing in and developing the little-known seawater health treatment of thalassotherpy. He used this when recovering from his car crash.

He fell ill and died of cancer the day after his 58th birthday, March 13, 1983.

Louison Bobet climbing

Louison Bobet

Loison Bobet climbing on a road that looks more like cycl0-cross than road racing

No comments:

Post a Comment