Eugène Christophe Photo Gallery
Eugène Christophe (January 22, 1885 - February 1, 1970) is one of the legends of cycling. While his list of victories isn't particularly long, like Raymond Poulidor, he is famous for what he didn't win.
He turned professional in 1904 (no one seems to know what teams he rode for during his first first two years as a pro). He rode the Tour de France for the first time in 1906 a came in a credible ninth, getting third in the fifth stage. In 1909 he was ninth again and claimed another third place in a stage.
He won the 1910 Milano-San Remo, one of only four finishers out of 63 starters. His race was a horrific frozen Calvary. Second place Giovanni Cocchi came in an hour after Christophe finished. So terrible was the cold, Christophe said it took years for him to recover from the ordeal. Les Woodland tells the whole fascinating story of Christophe's Milano-San Remo in Cycling's 50 Craziest Stories.
After the cheating scandal of the 1904 Tour de France, Tour de France boss Henri Desgrange switched from elapsed time to points to calculate the winner. That system was still in place in the 1912 edition. Belgian Odile Defraye (with illegal help from other Belgians) won on points, but Christophe, the stronger but perhaps less tactically astute rider, had a shorter elapsed time. Under modern rules Christophe would have won the 1912 Tour.
Starting in 1913, Tour went back to calculating the winner using his elapsed time.
In 1913 Christophe was the virtual Yellow Jersey when his forks broke as he descended the Tourmalet. Tour rules said a rider had to perform his own repairs. Christophe hiked down to the town of Ste.-Marie-de-Campan at the bottom of the mountain and worked for hours at a blacksmith's forge repairing his fork. Because of the switch to using time instead of points, Christophe had lost the Tour.
In 1919 Journalists asked for some way to distinguish the Tour's leader since in the immediate post-war years all the good riders were sponsored by the manufacturers' consortium, La Sportive and wore grey jerseys. A yellow jersey was given to Christophe, then leading the Tour, making him the first official maillot jaune. In 1914 Philippe Thys had also been given a yellow jersey, but the records documenting Thy's wearing the yellow jersey were lost.
Christophe was leading the 1919 Tour by a half-hour with just two stages to go. During the penultimate stage Christophe had his forks fail. Again his Tour was lost.
Christophe had another pair of forks break on the Galibier in the 1922 Tour, but at least this time he wasn't leading.
Christophe was French Cyclo-cross Champion (then called cross cyclo-pédestre) seven times.
For all of his misfortune, he never betrayed a sense of bitterness. He was beloved by the French, who called him The Old Gaul (Le Vieux Gaulois) because of the big mustache he sported early in his career.
Christophe licensed his name to the firm of Poutrait-Morin (now known as Zéfal) to make steel toe clips, which are still sold today. Like many famous racers, he also had his own brand of bikes, for which he rode from 1923 to 1926.
Major victories and high placings:
1909: French Cyclo-cross Champion, Paris-Calais
1910: Milano-San Remo, French Cyclo-cross Champion
1911: 2nd in Tour of Belgium, French Cyclo-cross Champion
1912: 2nd in Tour de France with 3 stage wins, French Cyclo-cross Champion
1913: French Cyclo-cross Champion
1914: French Cyclo-cross Champion, Polymultiplée
1919: 3rd in Tour de France and first official wearer of Yellow Jersey
1920: Bordeaux-Paris, Paris-Tours, 2nd in Paris-Roubaix
1921: French Cyclo-cross Champion, Bordeaux-Paris, 2nd in Paris-Brest-Paris
1912: La Française-Diamant
1919-1921: La Sportive
1922: Automoto-Wolber-Russell Cycles
1925: JB Louvet-Pouchois
Nicknames: Cri-cri, The Old Gaul (Le Vieux Gaulois)
Eugène Christophe early in his career. Note the single-sided hub and no rear caliper brake.
Undated photo of Eugène Christophe
Eugène Christophe at the Parc des Princes after the 1912 Tour de France
Eugène Christophe before the start of the 1913 Tour de France
Eugène Christophe, probably in the 1913 Tour.
1913 Tour de France in the Pyrenees: Phillipe Thys, Eugène Christophe, Marcel Buysse and Gustave Garrigou
The famous building that held the blacksmith's shop where Christophe repaired his fork in 1913. Note the placque on the wall facing the road. Initially Christophe's name was misspelled. Les Woodland photograph
Christophe ready to race
Christophe in an undated photo, but with the front caliper brake, it should be no earlier than 1913
Christophe in the Pyrenees, don't know what year.
1919 Tour de France: Christophe is the first official yellow jersey.
1920 Tour de France: Christophe in the Pyrenees.
Christophe demonstrates cyclo-cross technique
Christophe entered the Tour de France 8 times, starting in 1906.
Christophe in the 1925 Tour de France.
Christophe in the 1925 Tour de France
A poster for Christophe bicycles, which are promised to be as popular as the rider himself.