Saturday, January 10, 2009

An eyeful.

Braveheart with goggles at the ready.
From: The Unknown Tour de France.

For the past week I'm enduring a painful stye on my eyelid. Now, with the help of anti-biotics it's slowly healing. If it doesn't drain itself by next weekend, I'll have to go see a specialist for relief. That means lancing it. Crossing my fingers that it doesn't go that far. Which leads me to think of how much hardship racing cyclists had to endure back when there were unpaved roads...


During his riding days, the 1937 Tour winner, Roger Lepebie was particularly mindful of the terrible road conditions he encountered.  “The roads were dreadful. There were potholes that we used to call birds’ nests, pebbles, dust, gravel. We got lots of saddle sores because of the dirt, the cow dung. It was easy to get infected." said Lapebie.

Goggles were key in deflecting the copious amount of road grime from the riders' eyes. I'm sure styes were a common affliction back then. And, to think that something so practical would become a wonderful emblem of that era. The graceful Swiss star, Hugo Koblet, along with his matinee idol looks  gave cycling that added dimensional star quality. He was always seen with his patented goggles on his head or usually wrapped around his left forearm. 

Koblet's 1951 Tour:

Flamboyant: with goggles on.
www.scratch.tv.it

In 1950, Koblet became the first non-Italian  to win the Giro d'Italia before claiming victory in the Tour of Switzerland. His star was already rising as he entered the 1951 Tour de France. The 26 year old manhandled the 'stars' of the peloton; Geminiani, Coppi, Magni, Ockers into submission. On stage 11, Brive to Agen, the Swiss soloed to victory. After he crossed the finish line, he took time to look at his Swiss watch pulled a comb and sponge from out of his pocket to groom himself before meeting the astonished fans & journalists. He suavely collected five stages and was dubbed, 'The peddler of charm' by songster Jacques Grello and  'Apollo on a bike'  by L'Equipe. This classy rider rode into Paris as the 1951 Tour victor commanding a 22 minute lead over second place finisher, Raphael Geminiani. 

Style: 'Apollo on a bike.'
From: Cycling's Golden Age.

Months later, Koblet contracted a mysterious venereal disease in Mexico. He never was the same graceful rider again and retired in 1956. Then, in 1964, he left as fast as his star ascended crashing his Alfa Romero into a tree. Was it marital or debt problems? Suicide is suspected... 

Hugo Koblet was only 39!

'The pedaler of charm!'
From: Maillot Jaune.

4 comments:

carloesse75 said...

Hello! Apologize for my writing in English full of errors. I'm an Italian guy who looks a few blogs for information.
I would leave a positive comment on the post well done.
Thanks for your understanding
a greeting Carlo

Richard said...

Carlo,

Thank you very much!

AMR said...

Richard,
Thanks for the piece on Hugo Koblet. So many nice stories. With enough research, his story could become a nice book/movie.
Cheers,
AMR

Richard said...

AMR,

I'm glad you like it!

Koblet definitely had the 'James Dean' look. Lived fast died young. He would be a great subject for a book/movie!

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