The heroes of the Tour de France

The Tour de France kicks off this weekend, 5th July, in Yorkshire and for three hard weeks 198 cyclists battle it out over 21 stages to be crowned the winner. In teams of 8, cyclists from around the world consider this the most prestigious event of the sport and celebrating its 111th year this year it looks to be as exciting as ever. Although the route changes slightly every year, it always ends in Paris, along the Champs Élysées. If you’re in Paris on the 27th July, for the final stretch, you might want to head down early for a part of the action. So, in homage to this legendary occasion; we’re taking a look at the French heroes of the Tour de France. Jacques Anquetil Anquetil was the first man to win the tour de France five times, in 1957, 1961, 1962, 1963 and 1964. One of the earliest legends of the race, he was the first French rider to wear the yellow jersey from start to finish. He gained the nickname ‘Monsieur Chrono’ from his ability to race against the clock. At a mere 19 years of age, this Normandy-born wild card became the unofficial time-trial champion of the world – so it’s not surprising he took the Tour de France by storm from his first year, in 1957, onwards. Famously he whistled across the finish line in 1959, as some conspired that he and his team mates were doing anything to prevent Henry Anglade to win in favour of the Italian Federico Bahamontes.... Henry Anglade Henry Anglade was another of France’s champions and turned professional in 1957 having been an engineer previously. Although he never won the Tour de France, he came second in 1959, beating his rivals Jacques Anquetil and Roger Rivière, but who had schemed behind his back to let the Italian win. Unpopular among his French cyclists, he was nicknamed Napoleon for his short stature and bossy temperament. Bernard Hinault Winning the Tour de France five times, in 1978, 1979, 1987, 1982 and 1985. Although not alone in his five-win victories, he is the only cyclist to have finished either first or second in each Tour he finished. To this day, he remains the last French cyclist to win the tour de France. Nicknamed ‘Le Blaireau’ because of his shaving brush appearance when he wore a hairband to cycle. Although he retired to go farming, he is still involved in the Tour de France organization and appears often at stage finishes to greet the winners. [gallery columns="5" ids="368,367,366,365,364"] Raymond Poulidor Racing the Tour de France up until he was 40 and completing a total of 12 races, he finished the race second three times (earning him the name ‘eternal second’) and third place five times. Racing against two great riders of the time, Jacques Anquetil and Eddy Merckx, he was the favoured underdog with a strong public support. At the age of 17 when he got his cycling license, he could only practice at night after a long 15hour shift on the fields during harvest, showing his determination to win and make it big in the cycling world. The legendary uphill battle of the two Frenchmen, Poulidor and Anquetil, where they were so close they were touching elbows and cycling into semi-conscious exhaustion, still lives down in history. However, famously Poulidor was quoted “no race, however difficult, goes on as long as a harvest”. Louison Bobet The first Frenchmen to win the Tour de France for three consecutive years, Bobet was an esteemed rider of the post-war period. Although he became Brittany’s champion of table tennis, his uncle, president of a cycling club persuaded to focus on his cycling. Winning sprint races and competing in youth championships, Bobet also is said to have cycled messages for the Resistance during WWII. In his first race, he went home early, unprepared for the toughness of the course however later, in 1953, 1954 and 1955 Louison scored a hattrick, winning the general classification three years in a row.

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