Friday File: Tip of the cap: The mechanics, Agostinho and back to the origins

Mechanics. Tour de France

Truly the un-sung heroes of cycling are the mechanics...

1969 Tour de France: the dawn of  the great Joaquim Agostinho. 
In his debut Tour; 8th place, winner stages 5 and 14.

Joaquim Agostinho was as tough as they come more in the mode of the hard men of northern Europe who dominated cycling in the sixties and seventies. Agostinho was from temperate Torres Vedras in Portugal, turned pro at 27 and died as a result of racing accident at 41. Let's talk about how tough he was. He rode as a messenger during the Portugese Colonial War, it was his captain who discovered him. When he carried messages and took him two hours to ride 50km when others took five. 

"A rider of average height but with the build of a rhinoceros."
- Pierre Chany, cycling historian.

Team owner, Jean De Gribaldy asked him to join his Frimatic team in France for his debut in the 1969 Tour de France. Eddy Merckx also made his debut in the Tour was worried...

"Agostinho was the rival who worried him most, indeed the only rival who had worried him at all. He loved the Tour de France. There were few other races which he took seriously, indeed he race relatively little during an average season - enough to pay for and maintain life's dream, but no more. On the roads of the Tour, nobody ever knew when he would suddenly burst into action. He might be quiet for days on end, when suddenly the racing fever would grip him, not always in the mountains, and away he went. When he went, those with serious ambitions went with him, knowing that, otherwise, they would see him no more until the end of the stage. He didn't take cycling too seriously. It had brought him wealth and security, had allowed him to buy and stock a large farm about 20 miles from Lisbon. The farm and his family were his life; cycling was his hobby. When he was riding the Tour d'Indre-et-Loire once, news reached him that 20 cows had been stolen. Off he went, in mid-race, back to Portugal to organize a posse to hunt the cattle, charting a light plane for himself to direct the search."
- Pierre Martin, jounalist.

Built like a sprinter he was very gifted climber. Perhaps his finest ride was his solo win at Alpe d'Huez in 1979. Agostinho rode the Tour 12 times, finishing 11 made the top 10 eight times, won 4 stages and stood on the podium twice. 

Agostinho died tragically in 1984 in the Tour of the Algarve crashing at the end of a stage hitting a dog loose on the course. He got up and finished the stage, dazed he walked to an ambulance. Eventually it was discovered he had fractured his skull and fell into a coma and subsequently died.

2018 Tour, back to the origins...

For the Classic loving fans.

Stage nine of the 2018 Tour de France will have 15 sectors (21.7km) of exciting pave (Arras to Roubaix). The following stage will see the wary riders combat two kilometres of gravel road, midway through a challenging mountain stage. That section of road is on the Plateau des Gileres after the riders finish a six kilometre climb of 11 per cent. Stage 17 is only 65km will be exciting with three classified climbs and a summit finish of the Col de Portet.