|Route of the 1912 Tour de France|
Riders flipping their rear wheels to change gears at the beginning of a climb.The only significant change to the bicycles, compared to the ones used in the previous years Tour de France, was to the drive train. In 1912 freewheels were allowed to be used. The year that racers were required to ride fixed gear bicycles is a component of Tour history that has been lost. We do know that in earlier years riders did ride with freewheels. A couple of racers used experimental systems to change gears. After the conclusion of the 1912 Tour Henri Desgrange, the Tour de France race organizer, quickly forbid the use of gear changing mechanisms. They would not be allowed to be used in the Tour de France again until 1937.
1912 Tour leaders on the Aubisque
The Alcyon team had the pre-race favourite, Gustave Garrigou, the winner of the previous Tour de France. To help him, they hired Odile Defraye, who had performed well at the 1912 Tour of Belgium. At first, the Alcyon team did not want to select Defraye, but the Belgain representative of Alcyon posed commercial threats and Defraye was selected.
The first stage was won by Charles Crupelandt. Defraye finished 14th, while Garriou finished in 21st place.
The second stage, a 388-kilometer run from Dunkirk to Longwy saw Lucien Petit-Breton crash out of the Tour again. This time he hit a cow. Alcyon's Odile Defraye won the stage, putting him in second place in the General Classification, 1 point behind JB Louvet's Vincenzo Borgarello. Defraye's win came a the expense of the Alcyon team's designated leader, Gustave Garrigou. Garrigou punctured because of nails spread on the road by vandals.
Defraye was the first Belgian who had a serious chance to win the Tour de France, so all the Belgians in the race, regardless of their team were helping him. The help was strictly against the rules.
After the 9th stage Octave Lapize, disheartened by the authoritative way he was dropped and collusion between the Belgian racers helping Defraye, abandoned the Tour midway through the 10th stage. Lapize told reporters: "How can I fight in conditions like these? Everybody is working for Alcyon. The Belgians are all helping Defraye whether they belong to his team or not. I've had enough of it and I'm pulling out."
Eugene Christophe, who dominated in the Alps with three consecutive stage victories, including the longest solo breakaway ever of 315 kilometers (196 miles) and had shared the lead after his third stage victory, became the second-placed cyclist after Lapize quit. Christophe was not a good sprinter, so he had to break away from Defraye to win back points. With all the Belgians helping Defraye, he could not do this anymore. He could pose no real threat, and Defraye won the overall victory unchallenged. If the Tour de France was decided on time instead of points, Christophe would have led the race until the final stage, where he accepted his loss and allowed the group including Defraye to ride away.
The final 1912 Tour de France General Classification:
- 1. Odile Defraye (Alcyon) 49 points
- 2. Eugene Christophe (Armor) 108
- 3. Gustave Garrigou (Alcyon) 140
- 4. Marcel Buysse (Peugeot) 147
- 5. Jean Alavoine (Armor) 148
Click here for more information on Odile Defraye.
Click here for more information on Eugene Christophe.
Click here for more information on Gustave Garrigou.
Click here for more information on Marcel Buysse.
Click here for more about Jean Alavoine.