The Tour de France – originally scheduled to run from June 27 to July 19 – will now start on August 29 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look through the history books to profile 10 of the greatest riders from the race’s history.
Anquetil was the first man to win the Tour five times, taking victory in 1957, 1961, 1962, 1963 and 1964, with a Tour-Vuelta double in 1963 and a Giro-Tour double in 1964. After emerging as a strong amateur, Anquetil broke the prestigious Hour Record while on national service in the French army, teeing up the professional career that would soon follow. Riding in a very different era, Anquetil never denied doping, saying during a television debate: “Leave me in peace; everybody takes dope”. Anquetil died in 1987 from stomach cancer, aged 53.
Regarded as the first great rider of the post-war era, Bobet was the first to win the Tour in three consecutive years as he dominated from 1953 to 1955. Having taken up cycling after serving in the army during World War II, Bobet’s introduction to the Tour was an inauspicious one as his 1947 debut ended in an early withdrawal and earned him the nickname ‘cry-baby’ as he wept at the difficulty of the race. But he returned a year later to spend two days in yellow and finished third in 1950 to point to far greater potential. He won the 1955 Tour despite saddle boils which required surgery and which Bobet said made him a lesser rider for the rest of his days. After missing the 1956 and 1957 Tours, he returned in 1958, finishing seventh, but was no longer able to compete for yellow.
‘The Basset Hound’ was the first three-time winner of the Tour and a man who would no doubt have contended for or won many more but for the First World War. The Belgian’s first win came in 1913 despite him suffering a broken fork and incurring a 10-minute penalty when he stopped at a bike shop for repairs. He won again in 1914 but, with the intervention of war, had to wait until 1920 for his third. Tour organiser Henri Desgrange wrote: “France is not unaware that, without the war, the crack rider from Anderlecht would be celebrating not his third Tour, but his fifth or sixth.”
Raymond Poulidor never won the Tour de France but he rode his way into its legend during his long rivalry with Jacques Anquetil. ‘Pou-Pou’ became known as the ‘Eternal Second’ as he finished second three times and third five times, riding on to the age of 40 in his hunt for the yellow jersey – a garment that would always elude him. Poulidor came closest in 1964, losing by only 55 seconds to Anquetil after the two men rode themselves to exhaustion on the Puy de Dome. But with every failure, Poulidor’s popularity with the French crowds only grew, even as he was competing with a compatriot, and by the time of his death last year he was arguably France’s most popular ever rider.