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Heroics at the Tour de France

Cyclist magazine
6 Jul 2016

An act of heroism can turn some riders into legends. Christophe, Barthélémy, Bartali, and Simon are four of them.

Christophe and the broken forks


Eugene Christophe snaps his forks at the 1913 Tour de France

After Stage 5 of the 1913 Tour Eugène Christophe was second, but on the way down the Tourmalet he collided with a car and broke his forks. The rules prevented riders accepting outside help, so he walked for 14km to find a forge, repaired his bike, then completed the stage, only to be docked 10 minutes for letting a boy work the bellows. He lost the Tour but cemented his legend.

Related: See what's coming up in our Tour de France route guide

Riding through the pain

Even though he didn’t even make the podium, fans in Paris carried Honoré Barthélémy on their shoulders after the 1920 Tour de France finished for his show of courage. During the eighth stage he crashed heavily, dislocating his wrist, breaking his shoulder and bursting an eye. Nonetheless he rode the next seven stages and 2,500km to Paris, finishing eighth.

Call to arms

In 1948, Italian hero Gino Bartali was sitting a lowly seventh after Stage 12. That evening Italian prime minister Alcide De Gasperi rang Bartali to say the communist leader Palmiro Togliatto had been shot and the country was on the brink of chaos. The PM asked Bartali to win stages in an attempt to reunite the country. He duly won four on the way to his second overall Tour triumph.

Simon’s ordeal

All was going well for Pascal Simon in 1983 as he took yellow on Stage 10. However, he crashed the following day and fractured his shoulder blade. He forced himself to finish the stage and fended off attacks for an entire week until Stage 17, where he finally abandoned, still in yellow. The Tour was won by Laurent Fignon who, out of respect, had refused to attack Simon.

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