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November 2005
 
 

By Barry Boyce,
CyclingRevealed
Historian

 

 

 

 

 


 

Top 25 All Time Tours #16

1937- Tour Provides Great Racing Drama

CR Timeline 1937

Throughout Europe political tensions remained high as the 1937 Tour de France (TdF) prepared to start. The fascist propaganda machine got a huge boost when Italian dictator Benito Mussolini lifted his boycott of the Tour and hand picked Giro d'Italia winner Gino Bartali to lead the Italian national team. Gino “the Pious” Bartali was a young, extremely talented rider, who was known for great bicycle racing results not political philosophy. However, the political dealings of the time made him a pawn for the controlling fascist government of Italy.

After surviving the treacherous cobbled roads of northern France, L'enfer du Nord, Bartali began his challenge for the Maillot Jaune (race leader's Yellow Jersey). Stage 4 featured the first major obstacle of the Tour, the climb of the Ballon d'Alsace. Bartali finished second on the stage and moved into third in the overall classification. The drama was just beginning.

Bartli put his stamp on the race during the stage 7 climb of the great Col du Galibier. He won the climb and rode solo into Grenoble for the stage win. He finished over 2 minutes ahead of his main rivals and took the first Maillot Jaune of his career.

Riding brilliantly, Bartali initiated another breakaway on stage 8. He easily won the climb of the Col de Laffrey, when disaster struck. Descending the mountain, some 20 km from the finish in Briancon, Bartali's teammate lost control forcing the race leader over a barrier into a small river below. Dazed from the cold water and injured, Bartali remounted to finish the stage. He lost almost 10 minutes, but narrowly retained his race lead.

Sensing weakness Bartali's rivals began to attack the race leader on the next stage. By the finish of stage 9 in Digne, the beleaguered Bartali had lost 22 minutes and the Maillot Jaune. Injured and losing time on each stage, Bartali received orders from the Italian Federation to abandon the Tour.

A whole new race had emerged. Belgian Sylvere Maes had a 35 second lead on Italian independent rider Mario Vicini and 1 minute 22 seconds on Frenchman Roger Lapebie. Whispers in the peloton set the Belgian team strategy, “Get rid of Lapebie.”

The epic stage into the “Circle of Death” (the hardest day in the Pyrenees Mountains) came on stage 15 from Luchon to Pau. While warming up for the stage panic hit the French team, Lapebie's handlebars broke off in his hands. The broken bars had been mysteriously cut through by an act of sabotage. After frantic repairs, Lapebie just made it to the start of the stage. Demoralized, he began to lose time early in the stage. By the top of the Col d'Aspin (second of four climbs), Lapebie was more than 5 minutes behind the leaders. Fatigued and emotionally down the Frenchman slowed to abandon the Tour. From behind a persuasive teammate arrived and convinced Lapebie to continue. Steadily on the Col du Tourmalet (the last climb), an inspired Lapebie regained his energy and closed the gap. Aided by the race leader's late puncture, the French team with Lapebie in tow caught a tiring Maes nine miles from the finish in Pau. The rejuvenated Lapebie won the field sprint for second place and reduced Maes' lead to 1'33”. The joy of the moment was short lived, when race officials announced a 1 minute and 30 second penalty for having received a push on the ascent of the Tourmalet. Maes' lead doubled but despite the penalty, Lapebie sensed a weakness in the race leader. Lapebie and the French team planned the final push into Paris.

The Tour headed north toward Roger Lapebie's home in Bordeaux. Lapebie attacked early and gained valuable time after a Maes puncture. Several teammates and 2 independent Belgians accompanied the race leader in pursuit of the breakaway. Lapebie had a 2‘08” time gain over an emotional Maes. Shortly after Maes finished, the race officials assessed the Belgian a controversial 30-second penalty for illegal help from the 2 independent riders. Maes did retain his race lead, but by just 25 seconds.

A furious Maes appealed what he considered an unjust penalty. After heated discussions with race officials, his appeal was denied. Still wearing the Maillot Jaune Sylvere Maes and the entire Belgian team withdrew from the Tour before stage 17. The second placed Lapebie inherited the Maillot Jaune and ultimately the victory in Paris.

During the final stages Lapebie and the French team steadily increase the lead and in Paris he celebrated an emotional victory. Italian independent rider (touriste-routier) Mario Vicini finished on the podium in second place.

TdF 1986 Recap

Stage and Distance

Stage Winner

Race Leader

Stage 1 PARIS-LILLE, 263 km

Jean Majerus (Lux)

Jean Majerus (Lux)

Stage 2 LILLE-CHARLEVILLE, 192 km

Maurice Archambaud (Fra)

Jean Majerus (Lux)

Stage 3 CHARLEVILLE-METZ, 161 km

Walter Generati (Ita)

Marcel Kint (Bel)

Stage 4 METZ-BELFORT, 220 km

Erich Bautz (Ger)

Erich Bautz (Ger)

Stage 5a BELFORT-LONS LE SAUNIER, 175 km

Henri Puppo (Fra)

Erich Bautz (Ger)

Stage 5b LONS LE SAUNIER-CHAMPAGNOLE, 34 km TTT

Sylvere Maes (Bel)

Erich Bautz (Ger)

Stage 5c CHAMPAGNOLE-GENEVA (Sui), 93 km

Leo Amberg (Sui)

Erich Bautz (Ger)

Stage 6 GENEVA (Sui)-AIX LES BAINS, 180 km

Gustaaf Deloor (Bel)

Erich Bautz (Ger)

Stage 7 AIX LES BAINS-GRENOBLE, 228 km

Gino Bartali (Ita)

Gino Bartali (Ita)

Stage 8 GRENOBLE-BRIANCON, 194 km

Otto Weckerling (Ger)

Gino Bartali (Ita)

Stage 9 BRIANCON-DIGNE, 220 km

Roger Lapebie (Fra)

Sylvere Maes (Bel)

Stage 10 DIGNE-NICE, 251 km

Felicien Vervaecke (Bel)

Sylvere Maes (Bel)

Stage 11a NICE-TOULON, 169 km

Eloi Meulenberg (Bel)

Sylvere Maes (Bel)

Stage 11b TOULON-MARSEILLE, 65 km TTT

Gustave Danneels (Bel)

Sylvere Maes (Bel)

Stage 12a MARSEILLE-NIMES, 112 km

Alphonse Antoine (Fra)

Sylvere Maes (Bel)

Stage 12b NIMES-MONTPELLIER, 51 km

Rene Pedroli (Sui)

Sylvere Maes (Bel)

Stage 13a MONTPELLIER-NARBONNE, 103 km

Francesco Camusso (Ita)

Sylvere Maes (Bel)

Stage 13b NARBONNE-PERPIGNAN, 63 km

Eloi Meulenberg (Bel)

Sylvere Maes (Bel)

Stage 14a PERPIGNAN-BOURG MADAME, 99 km

Eloi Meulenberg (Bel)

Sylvere Maes (Bel)

Stage 14b BOURG MADAME-AX LES THERMES, 59 km

Mariano Canardo (Esp)

Sylvere Maes (Bel)

Stage 14c AX LES THERMES-LUCHON, 167 km

Eloi Meulenberg (Bel)

Sylvere Maes (Bel)

Stage 15 LUCHON-PAU, 194 km

Berrendero Julian (Esp)

Sylvere Maes (Bel)

Stage 16 PAU-BORDEAUX, 235 km

Paul Chocque (Fra)

Sylvere Maes (Bel)

Stage 17a BORDEAUX-ROYAN, 123 km

Erich Bautz (Ger)

Roger Lapebie (Fra)

Stage 17b ROYAN-SAINTES, 37 km

Adolph Braeckeveldt (Bel)

Roger Lapebie (Fra)

Stage 17c SAINTES-LA ROCHELLE, 67 km

Roger Lapebie (Fra)

Roger Lapebie (Fra)

Stage 18a L'ROCHELLE-L'ROCHE SUR YON, 81 km TTT

Roger Lapebie (Fra)

Roger Lapebie (Fra)

Stage 18b LA ROCHELLE-RENNES, 172 km

Paul Chocque (Fra)

Roger Lapebie (Fra)

Stage 19a RENNES-VIRE, 114 km

Raymond Passat (Fra)

Roger Lapebie (Fra)

Stage 19b VIRE-CAEN, 59 km ITT

Leo Amberg (Sui)

Roger Lapebie (Fra)

Stage 20 CAEN-PARIS/Parc des Princes, 234 km

Edward Vissers (Bel)

Roger Lapebie (Fra)

BEST CLIMBER PRIZE

Felicien Vervaecke (Bel)

TdF Champion: Roger Lapebie (Fra)

Starters: 98

Finishers: 46

Distance: 4,416km

Average: 31.768 km/h

Best Climber Category:

1. Felicien VERVAECKE (Bel) * 114 pts

2. Mario Vicini (Ita) 96 pts

3. Sylvere Maes (Bel) 90 pts *

* Abandoned during stage 17a, but the rules of the time allowed an abandoned rider to claim the climber's prize.



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