Here is your daily champion:
The greatest of them all, the Cannibal: Eddy Merckx
Here keeping an eye on Poulidor while reaching down to shift in ’72.
Here is your daily champion for Stage 1:
Maurice Garin, le fou
Winner of the first Tour de France in 1903, Garin was also the first to be stripped of his title (for his 1094 win) for cheating: ’Stories spread of riders spreading tacks on the road to delay rivals with punctures, of riders being poisoned by each other or by rival fans. Lucien Petit-Breton said he complained to an official that he had seen a rival hanging on to a motorcycle, only to have the cheating rider pull out a revolver.’ He may also have taken a train.
Here is your daily champion for Stage 2:
Greg LeMond, who never really had a nickname
Three-time winner of Tour de France in 1986, 1989, and 1990. I’m putting him here on day 2 because a) Kadri’s finish today reminds me of Lemond’s 8-second win in 1989 and b) LeMond was my hero when I was a kid and c) I don’t care about his post-cycling career, the guy won three! Shown here after the 1985 Paris-Roubaix (not the Tour), but how great is that picture?
Here is your daily champion for Stage 3:
Napoleon Bonaparte, clearly indicating that the race will be decided in the mountains
Born August 15, 1769, in Ajaccio on Corsica, Napoleon was never in fact exiled back to his home island.
Here is your daily champion for Stage 4:
Because his son Nicholas had a chance (a long shot, but still) to take the yellow jersey today when it looked like Saxo-Bank could pull ahead of Orica. Stephen Roche won the ‘triple crown’ in 1987: the Tour, the Giro, and the World Championship. Only Merckx has also done it. Shown here winning the Worlds for Ireland.
Here is your daily champion for Stage 5:
Fausto Coppi, 'Il Campionissimo'
Only won the Tour twice in ’49 and ’52 (his best years were during the war when the Tour was suspended), and was once described as 'willowy and pigeon-chested,' but a legend all the same.
Here is your daily champion for Stage 6:
François Faber, ‘The Giant of Colombes’
The first non-Frenchman to win the tour (a non-European wouldn’t win until Greg LeMond in 1986 and then Cadel Evans in 2011), Faber won in 1909 in commanding fashion, winning a record (still) five consecutive stages.
Here is your daily champion for Stage 7:
Frederico Bahamontes, ‘The Eagle from Toledo’
Winner of the Tour in 1959 and considered one of the greatest climbers who ever lived. Great piece on Velominati (quickly becoming my favorite cycling site) on Bahamontes’s prima donna attitude, which isn’t reserved for sprinters.
Here is your daily champion for Stage 8:
Lucien Van Impe, ‘de kleine van Mere’ (the Little Guy from Mere)
Winner of the Tour in 1976 and King of the Mountains in 1971, 1972, 1975, 1977, 1981, and 1983.
Here is your daily champion for Stage 9:
‘Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you.’
Hall of Famer. Born today in 1906 in Mobile, Alabama.
Here is your daily champion for Stage 10:
Winner in 1937 and controversial for a couple reasons, Lapébie was the first rider to win in the multi-gear era. That year the Tour was 4,415 kilometers — this year it's a full 1,000km shorter. I’d love to have a jersey like that.
Here is your daily champion for Stage 11:
Laurent Fignon, ‘The Professor’
Winning a time trial in the ’82 Tour.
Battling Hinault in ’84.
Winner in ’83 and ’84. Forever associated with a certain individual time trial on the Champs Élysées, Fignon was a fighter, headstrong and proud, and a great rival in the age of great rivalries. He died too young in 2010 and all was forgiven.
Here is your daily champion for Stage 12:
Leducq at right with hands on hips, with the Belgian Georges Ronsse.
Here is your daily champion for Stage 13:
Winner in ’34. Wikipedia:
Magne led from the second day and his team won 19 of the 23 stages. His hopes looked over when he broke a wheel on the descent from l'Hospitalet to Ax-les-Thermes in the Pyrenees. He was rescued by the youngest rider in his team, René Vietto, who handed him his own wheel despite being in third place himself. Next day Magne again had trouble. Vietto was just ahead of him on the Col de Portet d'Aspet, turned and saw his leader waving a wheel and rode back down the hill to hand him his own. Vietto wept by the roadside as he waited for another wheel. Magne won the Tour and France dominated it but Vietto, who finished fifth, was the hero.
Here is your daily champion for Stage 14:
Gino Bartali, Il Pio, ‘Gino the Pious’
I knew nothing about Bartali. Winner of the tour in 1938 and 1948 (bridging the WW2 gap). He conspired against Mussolini, using his bike fame to carry messages and documents to the Italian Resistance.
1938, stage 14: Bartali is first over the Col de Vars.
1940 Giro: Bartali leads his great rival Coppi on a break.
’In 1943 Bartali, who had already won the Tour de France once and the Giro d’Italia twice, was assigned to the traffic police by the fascist regime, before leaving the job on 8 September,’ according to the UCI. ’That was when he went underground, choosing to help persecuted Jews by smuggling identity photos to a convent that produced counterfeit papers.
’As far as the soldiers who guarded the road between Florence and San Quirico, near Assisi, were concerned, Bartali was merely on a 380-km training run. In fact, valuable documents were hidden inside the frame and saddle of his bicycle.’
The story is recounted in Road To Valor.
Here is your daily champion for Stage 15:
Winner in ’53, ’54, and ’55 and one of the three greatest French champions. Bobet won the stage on Mont Ventoux in ’55.
Nice account from master framebuilder Dave Moulton.
Here is your daily champion for Stage 16:
Miguel ‘Big Mig’ Indurain
He won five consecutive Tours de France from 1991 to 1995. Indurain may not have been the most exciting racer, but you don't win the Tour without strength and will, let alone five, let alone five straight. Quiet and modest, he was a different kind of champion, but man could he ride.
Did you know he rode for Spain in the Los Angeles Olympics, the race Alexi Grewal won?
Here is your daily champion for Stage 18:
Bernard Hinault, ‘The Badger’
‘I race to win, not to please people.’
Five-time winner. 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982 and 1985. World champion. Stage race winner and single day winner and punch thrower. Opinionated, aggressive, domineering — everything you love to see in a champion. The quintessential Frenchman.
The great 1986 Tour, with Hinault and LeMond battling all the way up Alpe d’Huez. Some say the greatest Tour ever:
Here is your daily champion for Stage 19:
Charly Gaul, L’Ange de Montange, ‘Angel of the Mountains’
Considered one of the greatest climbers of all time, rival of the great Bahamontes. Winner of La Grande Boucle in 1958, he was always better when it rained.
Here is your daily champion for Stage 20:
Tour winner in 1957, 1961, 1962, 1963, and 1964. Calculating as all time trialers are, Anquetil was a master stage racer who was the first to win all three Grand Tours. He was elegant, handsome, a winner but also a champion. He also once claimed that his primary aim was to make money in cycling, which may or may not have been in defensive reaction to the public’s preference for Poulidor.
Please email me if you own the copyright to any of the above images and would like an image credit or link, or it you do not want them displayed. Thanks.