Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Albert Champion

Albert Champion

Albert Champion (1878-1927) was a French bicycle racer. In 1908 he founded the Champion Ignition Company to make spark plugs in Flint, Michigan. In 1909 the name changed to AC Spark Plug Company, after his initials.

Champion won the third edition of Paris-Roubaix in 1899. His win came as a surprise because he was known as a talented track racer. The 1899 Paris-Roubaix was paced by small motorcycles.  Track racers were accustomed to this and it worked in Champion's favor. After his win he traveled to the United States to earn money racing on the velodromes. (track racing at this time was more profitable than professional baseball) He raced behind motorcycles and earned a comfortable living. Champion earned enough money to be able to afford a race car. 

In the United States Champion was involved in a crash that left one of his legs two centimetres shorter than the other. He accommodated this on the bike by using crank arms of different lengths. He returned to France and won a 50km race on the Buffalo track in Paris and in 1904 became the national motor-paced champion. The race reopened the wound to his leg and he was taken to the hospital in Boucicant. While in the hospital he saw another fellow rider brought in with injuries from a crash at 90 km/h (approximately 56 mph). Seeing this ended Albert Champion's bicycle racing career.

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