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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, February 8, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

I was trying to daydream, but my mind kept wandering. - Steven Wright

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Roger Walkowiak dies, was 1956 Tour de France winner

Roger Walkowiak, winner of the 1956 Tour de France, died Monday, February 6, 2017 at the age of 89.

From The Story of the Tour de France:

Walkowiak was the second man, after Firmin Lambot in 1922, to win the Tour de France without winning a single stage.

Roger Walkowiak

Many thought Walkowiak an unworthy winner. He never did anything as well again. He didn’t finish the 1955 or the 1957 Tours and came in seventy-fifth in 1958. But people who denigrate Walkowiak’s win fail to understand the nature of racing. We have a method of determining who is worthy of the Yellow Jersey: it uses a watch. If the favorites are too interested in watching each other and let a break go, then they are the unworthy ones.

Writers concentrate on Walkowiak’s time gain in the one early break. His win was far more than that. He and his manager Ducazeaux carefully laid out a plan to win the Tour and executed it perfectly. They did it during the fastest Tour to date, 36.27 kilometers per hour.

Bernard Hinault said, “There are people who say that Walkowiak should not have won the Tour. They should have been on that Tour! He took the jersey, he lost it and he regained it. Then, he was there every day. No one has the right to say it was given to him. He was not a thief. The Tour is not a gift.”

Walkowiak

Walkowiak enjoying his Tour de France win

The Tour win might not have been a blessing to Walko. He took what he thought to be the public’s dismissal of his victory very hard. The man who had dropped Bobet on the Côte de Laffrey in 1955, when Bobet was at his apogee, and then won the Tour de France the next year never did anything great on his bike again. He owned a bar after retiring from racing but felt that his customers had nothing good to say about his racing. Unhappy, he went back to working in a factory, unwilling to even discuss his Tour win for years. Only late in his life would he talk about it. What a shame.

Roger Walkowiak

The 1956 Tour's 17th stage. Federico Bahamontes leads Stan Ockers and Walkowiak.

In retrospect, we now know he was a superb athlete at the top of his form who executed a perfect race to win the final Yellow Jersey.

Rest in peace Roger.

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