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Oldest surviving Tour de France victor dies

Roger Walkowiak, winner of the 1956 Tour, has died aged 89

Josh Cunningham
7 Feb 2017

Roger Walkowiak, a Frenchman of Polish heritage, and the winner of the 1956 Tour de France, has died at the age of 89. He was the oldest surviving Tour de France victor - a title he inherited with the passing of Ferdi Kübler in December, and hands on to Federico Bahamontes. 

After turning pro in 1950 and gaining podium placings at both Paris-Nice and the Criterium du Dauphine, Walkowiak's Tour victory in '56 was nontheless an unexpected one. The fading stars of Louison Bobet, Fausto Coppi and Hugo Koblet were all absent, and the nascent talent of Jaques Anquetil was yet to be realised. Walkowiak himself was not even due to start the race, only being called up to the Nord-Est regional team late after Gilbert Bauvin - who would go on to finish 2nd - had a late promotion to the French national team. 

Walkowiak took the jersey after slipping into an early breakaway, finishing 18 minutes up, and slipping into the GC lead. Some tactical genius from him and his team then allowed the jersey to be loaned out and change shoulders a few times, before a decisive mountain stage in the Alps - won by Charly Gaul - saw him take it back again after finishing in a group containing Bahamontes. The ride gave Walkowiak four minutes over second placed Bauvin, of which he lost half in the final time trial, but it would prove an insurmountable lead, and Walkowiak won the Tour. 

So although unexpected, nobody could say that Walkowiak's win was undeserved. He got his chance and made the most of it, with no lack of bravery or skill. 

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