Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Roger Riviere

Roger Riviere

Roger Riviere (1936 – 1976) was a French track and road bicycle racer. He raced as a professional from 1957 to 1960.
Riviere started his racing career as a track rider at the old velodrome in St-Etienne. At the age of 19 he beat Jacques Anquetil for the French national pursuit championship at the Parc des Princes velodrome in Paris. That year, 1957, he also won the world pursuit championship and turned professional. He also set the hour record in 1957 on September 18th at the Vigorelli Track in Milan. Riviere set the new hour record at 46.923km (29.157miles).

He again won the world pursuit championship in 1958 at the Parc Des Princes Velodrome in Paris. On September 23, 1958 he beat his own hour record and became the first rider to exceed 47 kilometers in an hour (29.20 miles). This new record lasted nine years.
Roger Riviere receiving a kiss after winning stage 6 of the 1960 Tour de France.

The 1960 Tour de France was the fourth time Roger Riviere would compete in this race. He was one of 14 riding for France that year. Riviere had a personal war with Henry Anglade, another French rider. Riviere won the opening time trial, but after stage 4 Anglade was wearing the leader's yellow jersey. Despite his teammate leading the race Riviere attacked 112 km from the finish of stage 6. He beat Anglade to the end of the stage by 14 minutes. Only 3 other riders could keep up with Riviere when he attacked. One of those riders was Gastone Nencini of Italy. Riviere won the stage and Nencini moved into the overall lead. 

Riviere followed Nencini wherever he went. He only had to stay with him until the final time trial and beat him by 1 minute and 38 seconds to win the 1960 Tour de France. The first of the 3 mountain passes of the 14th stage was the Col du Periuret. Nencini was the fourth man over the climb with Riviere glued to his rear wheel. Nencini flew down the very technical descent. Riviere hit a low wall and was thrown down the slope of the mountain. Riviere was taken by helicopter to the hospital in Montpellier. He had broken two vertebra in his spine and his legs were paralyzed. He never regained use of his limbs. His bicycle was found with the forks bent back and the frame badly twisted.
Roger Riviere is brought up from the ravine after his terrible crash.
Doctors found pain-killers in Riviere's pockets and more in his body. Riviere at first blamed his mechanic and said his brakes were faulty. He said "I pulled them on but they didn't work". His bike was examined and the brakes were found to be working fine. He withdrew the accusation after being criticized. He later sold the story of his drug use to a newspaper, admitting he had taken Palfium during the climb of the  Col du Periuret . Palfium is a painkiller that could have affected his reflexes and judgement

Many riders at this time had fallen into the bad habit of taking amphetamines and pain killers to numb their legs from the pain of the long hard races. At night they would take sleeping pills to counteract the amphetamines and allow them to sleep.

Riviere admitted taking amphetamines and solucamphor during his hour record in 1958 - including tablets during the attempt. He said he had an injection of solucamphor and amphetamine before the start and swallowed several amphetamine tablets.

Roger Riviere lived the rest of his life in a wheelchair, considered an 80 per cent invalid. He opened a restaurant in Saint-Etienne called 'Le Vigorelli', after the Velodrome Vigorelli in Milan where he twice set the world hour record. It failed and he opened a garage, and finally a holiday camp in the Rhone Valley. Those too failed.

Riviere died of throat cancer at the age of 40.

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