Monday, December 12, 2011

Georges Speicher

Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Georges Speicher leading up the Tourmalet during the 1933 Tour de France

Georges Speicher (Paris, June 8, 1907 - January 24, 1978) was a French cyclist who won the 1933 Tour de France, and the 1933 World Cycling Championship. He was the first to win both of these races in the same year, and also the first French World Champion. 

Speicher had never ridden a bicycle before he turned 18 years of age. In the post World War I years his sport was boxing. He was an up and comming boxer when he came upon cycling quite by accident. He answered an add for employment and got the job as a courier for deliveries by bicycle. He had never even learned to ride a bicycle. The first day he pushed the bike with his left foot and used the right foot to balance the bike.
Georges Speicher first started racing at the age of 22 as a member of the prestigious Bicycle Club Santa Clara. Only three years later in 1932 at the age of 25 he rode his first Tour de France and finished the race in eighth place. 

In 1933 Speicher rode his second Tour de France, winning three stages and finishing in first place over all. The World Cycling Championship were to be held in France only about 20 days after the final stage of the Tour de France. He had not planned on racing the World Championship because of the extreme fatigue he experienced after winning the Tour. 

When one of the French riders fell ill and was not able to race the World Championship, it was decided to ask Georges Speicher to take his place. At first they could not locate him. Finally he was found in a Theater at midnight on Saturday Night August 12, 1933. The World Championship race was to be held on the morning of Monday August 14, 1933. On Sunday the 13th, Speicher went to the factory of his sponsor, Alcyon, to pick up a new bicycle. 

Monday morning at the start of the race Speicher attacked as soon as they left from the starting line on a new bicycle he had never ridden. He was joined by three other racers. The break was eventually caught. As soon as they were caught he attacked again. At this point there was 78 miles to go (125 km). He won the race and was 5 minutes and 33 seconds ahead of the second place rider. Speicher had cover the 155 miles (250 km) course at an average speed of 22 mph (35.5 mph). 

Georges Speicher was the French National Cycling Champion during the years 1935, 1936 and 1939.

Georges Speicher in the front.
Georges Speicher fixing a flat during the 1934 edition of Paris-Roubaix

Below is a short video of the 1933 Tour de France.
Even if you can't understand the commentary, it's interesting to get an idea of the race - spectators,roads, bikes and riders.

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