Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lead out man!

Jean Robic.

Frenchman, Jean Robic stood almost 5 feet tall and weigh a scant 132 Ibs. Maybe because it was due to the 'Napoleon complex,' that made this tiny athlete an obnoxious & spiteful personality of the peloton. He wasn't dashing or even good looking. Fellow riders called him, 'Biquet' or kid goat. And after fracturing his skull at the 1944 Paris-Roubaix he started to wear a leather helmet. And with huge ears sticking out, he was called, 'tete de cuir' or leather head. Journalists already endured him, 'le farfadet de la lande Bretonne' - the hobgoblin of the Brittany moor. His 'popularity' was just beginning...

The 1947 Tour was dubbed, 'the Liberation Tour,' as a new France emerged from out of the ashes of the war. Robic was twenty-five, his first Tour, a newlywed, rode for the lesser western regional team, and had the right amount of cockiness to challenge sentimental favorite, Rene Vietto. The tiny Robic rode on a 19 inch frame, turning very long 172 mm cranks while pushing 44X21. He won three stages and was at the top of GC. On the final stage Robic attacked dropping his main rivals including the race leader Pierre Brambilla and won the Tour into the Parc des Princes without having worn the yellow jersey. L'Equipe named Robic, Jean le hargneux - the fierce. Post war France had a new hero.

Leatherhead in the mountains, 1947 Tour.

In the 1953 Tour, Pyrenee stage to Luchon, his climbing was still good but he was too light to gain time on the downhills. With the help from his director sportif, his aluminum water bottles were filled with lead. At every summit, Robic was handed what appeared to be a 'normal' bottle ...only to rocket him down into victory in Luchon. The next day he crashed and withdrew from the race. He rode the Tour again in 1954, '55 and '59 without finishing.

In 1980, Jean Robic tragically died in a car accident on his way home from celebrating the Tour victory of Joop Zotemelk. He was only 59!

Robic mania, 1947 Tour.
All from: 'Cycling's Golden Age.'

5 comments:

Jason B said...

That's a great photo of Jean Robic, he looks like a real character!

Craig Ryan said...

Wow, where do you find this stuff? Thanks again for another great post.
Craig

Groover said...

That's such an interesting character. I have heard the name before but did know nothing about him. I was wondering the same as Craig. How do you know all this wonderful stories?

Richard said...

Hi Craig & Groover:

I read everything about cycling and enjoy researching it. I have been fortunate with the fine folks I've met along the way. They help fuel the fire.

One could say that it's an addiction, but I'm not looking for help!

No One Line said...

I love tiny little Robic! Lead-filled water bottles... nice.

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