Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Birth of a Legend

Tour de France 1952 Alpe d'Huez
Tour de France 1952 Alpe d'Huez
The year that Rajon launched an audacious attempt to attract guests to his ski lodge was the birth of a legend. Even though at first the climb to the Alp d'Huez was looked at rather skeptically Dutch Mountain has become a Tour staple. This year unfortunately they have decided to steer clear of this giant in favour of the Pyranee's. The riders will probably not be too dissapointed as the 21 switchbacks never mark an easy day on the Tour. From the start riders knew that d'Huez needed respect and bandied pump's at any rider daring to try and make a break for it. In these days riders requested in a gentlemanly manner if they could go for a stage from a long way out and Coppi mentions that not one rider came up to him. It seems from the beginning the riders had a feeling the last 15km would be the decisive part of the day and stored all the energy they could.
In the pciture are the days protagonists. Riders rode for their countries in these years and Robic, pictured trailing Coppi, launched the first attack. He tried to take his team mate Raphael Geminiani up to the stage victory. Coppi meanwhile had it in his mind to wait on that day. He supposedly did this for three reasons: 1) He would not have to break his rythm 2) He would see who his main rivals were 3) He could demoralize the attackers by later jumping onto their wheel.
After the two Frenchmen had been away 3km Coppi made his move and with a lighning turn of speed was on their wheel. This must have fit all three of his criteria of holding back. It must have been terribly demoralizing seeing how easy he came up to them and had in the same move isolated his main rivals of the day.
Coppi climbing in the big chain ring for 7km pulling Robic behind him until with 6km to go he launched his move. Robic unable to stay on the Campionissimo's wheel could only watch as he pulled away. Coppi new he had dropped him because he could no longer hear the heavy breathing and tires crushing the gravel rode behind him. As light as an angel he shot up the Alpe d'Huez moving into the yellow jersey that he kept to the end. As a side note he was the only rider to win on d'Huez and then go on to win the overall until Armstrong came along almost 50 years later.

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