An amazing photo from the 1953 Tour de France: Atop the misty heights of the Col du Tourmalet, a legendary pass in the challenging Pyrenees, thousands of enthusiastic spectators eagerly gathered. Their anticipation reached a fever pitch as a group of cyclists burst into view, swiftly traversing the mountainous terrain.
This electrifying spectacle marked the onset of the annual Tour de France, a breathtaking cycling extravaganza spanning a grueling 4,465 km over 21 intense days. Millions of avid fans lined the route, cheering on their cycling heroes as they raced through picturesque towns that vied for the honor of hosting the Tour or providing a resting place for the athletes.
Such was the fervor of the spectators that in times past, they had been known to go to great lengths to assist their favorite riders. Some daring souls even doused the cyclists with invigorating cold water to combat the heat of competition, while others offered a helpful push to propel them forward.
1953 Tour de France
The 1953 Tour de France marked the 40th edition of this illustrious cycling event, spanning from July 3rd to July 26th. Over the course of this grueling competition, cyclists traversed a challenging route comprising 22 stages, covering a staggering distance of 4,476 kilometers (2,781 miles).
This historic edition of the Tour witnessed the remarkable triumph of Louison Bobet, the first of his three consecutive victories. Initially, internal strife within the French national team posed a challenge for Bobet, but as the team rallied together, he overcame regional standout Jean Malléjac in the mountainous terrain.
Notably, 1953 heralded the introduction of the points classification, which awarded the coveted green jersey to its leader. This inaugural title was claimed by Fritz Schär.
Innovations and adjustments to the Tour’s format were implemented. Only a single time trial was featured, compared to the previous year’s two. The time bonus for the first cyclist to crest a mountain summit was abolished, and there were fewer mountain stages. Additionally, the number of cyclists per team was expanded from 8 to 10. These changes stirred controversy, as they appeared to favor French riders, much to the detriment of the reigning champion, Fausto Coppi, who had excelled in time trials and mountain stages the previous year.
The 1953 Tour de France continued the tradition of national and regional teams, with seven national teams comprising 10 cyclists each from Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and France. France further bolstered its presence with five regional teams, each comprising 10 cyclists, representing Île-de-France, Center-North East France, South-East, West, and South West. With one Luxembourgian cyclist opting not to start, the race commenced with 119 determined cyclists.
Notably absent from the race was the defending champion, Fausto Coppi, for reasons shrouded in mystery. Speculation surrounded his absence, ranging from potential injuries to disagreements within the Italian team or directives from the Tour organizers. This left the stage open for favorites such as Hugo Koblet and the eventual victor, Louison Bobet, to captivate cycling enthusiasts worldwide.
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