Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bordeaux - Paris

The Bordeaux-Paris professional bicycle race was first held in 1891 and the last edition was in 1988. It was one of the longest of Europe's classic single day races with a length of approximately 560km (350 miles). It started in northern Bordeaux in south-west France and finished in the capital city of Paris. It was often called the "Derby of the Road".

Tom Simpson in the 1963 Bordeaux- Paris Race. 

What make Bordeaux-Paris notable, besides the distance of the race, is that rides were allowed to be paced (slipstream or draft).  In the early editions racers drafted behind other riders not in the race that were riding on tandems or single bicycles. From 1931, pacing was by motorcycles  or small pedal assisted Dernys. Pacing was also briefly by cars. In the early races pacing was from the beginning in Bordeaux. In later events, it was part-way towards Paris. From 1946 to 1985, more than half the distance was paced, Dernys being introduced at Poitiers or Chatellerault, roughly half-way.
The organizers of the first Bordeaux-Paris planned on riders taking several days to finish the race. George Pilkington Mills won the first edition in 1891 riding continuously through the night to finish in just over a day.
George Pilkington Mills 1891

Louison Bobet winner of the 1959 Bordeaux-Paris Race.

Jacques Anquetil winning Bordeaux-Paris 1965.
Be sure and click here to learn more about Anquetil's amazing double in 1965.

Herman Van Springel in Bordeaux-Paris 1974. He won the race a record seven times from 1970 to 1981.

Bordeaux-Paris began to lose prestige in the 1980s. It required special training and clashed with riders' plans to compete in the Vuelta a Espana or Giro d'Italia stage races. Fields began to dwindle and the lst motor-paced version was 1985; three non-paced versions were held from 1986 but 1988 proved the last as a professional race.

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