Monday, September 3, 2012

1919 Tour de France

Route of the 1919 Tour de France

The 1919 Tour de France was the 13th edition of the race and was a total distance of 5,560 kilometres ( 3,450 miles). This was the first Tour de France since 1914. There was no race for four years because of World War I. 

World War I ended on November 11, 1918. With in days of the War's end the tour organizer, Henri Desgrange, began work on planning the race. France was in a terrible state. 8.4 million of the country's approximately 40 million had gone to war. Of the 8.4 million that had been mobilized 6.1 million had been killed or wounded. Several top riders of previous Tour de Frances had been killed during the war: Henri Alavoine, Lucien Petit-Breton, Octave Lapize, Francois Faber, Edouard Wattelier, Emile Englel and others.

The 1919 Tour de France was the slowest and had the lowest number of finishers in history. Only 10 of the 67 that started the race were counted as finishing. The average speed of the race was 24.06 kilometers per hour (14.95 miles per hour). The roads of France were in ruins and the racers lacked conditioning. The start of the race was only 7 months after the end of World War I. 

The bicycle manufacturers were in the same terrible state as the rest of France. None of them could afford to sponsor teams by them selves. So, they joined together and sponsored half of the riders under the name of "La Sportive". 

During previous Tour de Frances the riders were required to provide their own food. In 1919 the race organization supplied their food.

This Tour was eventful from the very beginning. Only 41 riders completed the 388 kilometer (241.09 miles) stage. The racers lacked conditioning due to lack of training. Francis Pelissier broke his fork at the beginning of the first stage and had to find a shop where he could repair it. He lost four hours while repairing his fork and any hopes at a high placing during the 1919 Tour de France. Francis Pelissier's brother, Henri Pelissier, was declared the winner of the first stage even though he finished second. Stage 1 winner Jean Rossius was penalized 30 minutes for giving Philippe Thys a drink. Assistance to other riders was absolutely forbidden.
Francis Pelissier winning the third stage of the 1919 Tour de France.

The Pelissier brothers, Francis and Henri were riding better than the rest at the beginning of the 1919 Tour de France. Henri won the second stage and Francis was second. They both finished well ahead of the rest of the racers. During stage 3 Henri was 45 minutes behind the field and wanted to quit the race. Tour organizer, Desgrange, convinced Henri to continue on. He chased the field for the next three hours and sprinted to second place. Francis Pelissier won stage 3. At the end of stage 3 Henri Pelissier said that he was a thoroughbred and the rest of the cyclists were work horses. His statement and attitude made the other racers angry. During the fourth stage, while the Pelissier brothers were changing their bikes, the other racers sped away from them. Desgrange would not let them work with other riders to regain the field and Henri lost more than 35 minutes and his brother Francis over three hours. The Pelissier bothers were mad at the tour organisation and abandoned the race. Eugene Christophe became the new leader in the general classification.
Henri Pelissier
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At the beginning of Stage 11 Henri Desgrange gave Christophe a yellow jersey so that he could be easily recognized amongst the other riders. There are a couple of theories as to why the jersey was yellow. One is that it was made of yellow material to match the color of the organizing newspaper, l'Auto. The other is that due to post war shortages yellow was the only color Desgrange could find enough material in to make jerseys in all sizes. Christophe didn't like wearing the yellow jersey and the other riders made fun of him calling him a canary. The Maillot
Jaune was born.
Eugene Christophe first to wear the yellow jersey.

The 1919 Tour de France had passed through the Alps and the Pyrenees mountains and Eugene Christophe was firmly in the lead. It looked as if Christophe would surly win the tour when disaster struck during stage 14. The fork on his bicycle broke. His fork had broken during the 1913 Tour de France and had been the reason for him not winning that years tour as well. As in 1913 he had to walk with his bicycle and make the repair himself. The rules stated that he couldn't receive any help at all while making repairs to his machine. There was a bicycle factory only a kilometer away, but Chistophe still lost 2 hours and 28 minutes and the Tour de France. Christophe had crashed earlier during the stage 9. It is believed that this weakened his fork. Stage 14 of the 1919 Tour de France, the stage in which his fork broke, contained approximately 100 miles of cobbled roads.

During the final stage Christophe suffered a number of punctures and lost an additional 28 minutes. 

The newspaper l'Auto felt bad for Eugene Christophe and awarded him the same prize money as the winner. In addition they took up a collection for him. The list of contributors was twenty pages long in the newspaper. Christophe receive a total of 13,310 Francs. Firmin Lambot, the winner of the 1919 Tour de France, received prize money of 5,000  Francs. 

1919 Tour de France Complete Final General Classification:
  1. Firmin Lambot (La Sportive): 231hr 7min 15sec
  2. Jean Alavoine (La Sportive) @ 1hr 42min 54sec
  3. Eugène Christophe (La Sportive) @ 2hr 26min 31ec
  4. Léon Scieur (La Sportive) @ 2hr 52min 15sec
  5. Honoré Barthélemy (La Sportive) @ 4hr 14min 22sec
  6. Jacques Coomans (La Sportive) @ 15hr 21min 34sec
  7. Luigi Lucotti (Bianchi) @ 16hr 1min 12sec
  8. Joseph Vandaele (La Sportive) @ 18hr 23min 2sec
  9. Alfred Steux (La Sportive) @ 20hr 29min 1sec
  10. Jules Nempon (JB Louvet) @ 21hr 44min 12sec

Firmin Lambot, first place in the 1919 Tour de France
Click here for more on Firmin Lambot.

Jean Alavoine finished second in the 1919 Tour de France.
Click here for more on Jean Alavoine.

Eugene Christophe finished third in the 1919 Tour de France.
Click here for more on Eugene Christophe.

Leon Scieur finished fourth in the 1919 Tour de France.
Click here for more on Leon Scieur.

Honore Bathelemy finished fifth in the 1919 Tour de France.
Click here for more on Honore Bathelemy.

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