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Henri Pélissier Photo Gallery
and Short Biography

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Palmares| Teams & Nicknames | Photos |

Henri Pélissier (January 22, 1889 - May 1, 1935) was the most talented of the racing Pélissier brothers and perhaps France's best rider in the years right after World War One. Francis Pélissier was a capable roadman and Charles was a fearsome sprinter, but it was Henri who won the Tour de France, thrice the Tour of Lombardy, twice Paris-Roubaix and Milan-San Remo.

Against his father's wishes he took up bike racing in 1908 and his talent was soon apparent. By 1910 Henri was winning races.

In late summer of 1911 cycling legend Lucien Petit-Breton invited Henri to race with him in Italy. Petit-Breton's instincts were spot-on, Pélissier won Firenze-Torino-Milano, the Giro di Lombardia (despite being in a crash with Costante Girardengo, earning the wrath of the tifosi) and Milano-Torino.

He served in the French army during the Great War and some think his already unstable personality tendencies were made worse by his time as a soldier.

After the war he continued is winning ways, winning Paris-Roubaix twice and the Tour de France.

Pélissier was unusual in his cerebral approach to his craft. He might be the first roadman to have trained for speed rather than pure endurance. Like Fausto Coppi two decades later, he took his diet and equipment seriously and was probably the most advanced racer of the era.

Paris–Roubaix: The Inside Story

But, he was Henri Pélissier, a man with a permanent chip on his shoulder. He never hid his contempt for his fellow racers and argued about everything, all the time. This cost him dearly because the man he chose to fight with most often was Henri Desgrange, the father and boss of the Tour de France. To make the Tour supremely difficult, Desgrange implemented a rule book of petty regulations that sorely tested the racers' will to finish. Pélissier spent his days riding the Tour in a state of continual rage, constantly bickering with Desgrange, a man as stubborn as Pélissier. Pélissier quit the Tour twice in protest against Desgrange's rules.

His abandonment in the 1924 Tour is legendary. A famous writer interviewed Henri as he sat in a railroad station cafe drinking hot chocolate. Pélissier complained of the terrible suffering the Tour imposed in the riders and of the drugs the racers took to mitigate their suffering. "We run on dynamite," he said.

In 1923 Henri decided to finish the Tour, no matter how angry he was (and he was always angry). He attacked his teammate Ottavio Bottecchia in stage 12, though Bottecchia was in Yellow. He left Bottecchia far behind that day and took the lead for good.

Pélissier viewed his profession through the lens of class war and thought his fellow riders badly paid, exploited workers. He tried to start a riders' union, but the racers were wary of Pélissier and feared angering their sponsors and race promoters.

Henri's wife Léonie killed herself with a pistol in 1933. Two years later, during a terrible row, he threatened his paramour Camille Tharault with a knife. Camille shot Pélissier with the same pistol Léonie has used to commit suicide. Camille pled self-defense and was given a year's suspended jail sentence.

Major victories and high placings:













Professional Teams:

1910: unknown
1911: raced as Individual
1912: Alcyon-Dunlop
1913: Alcyon
1914: Peugeot-Wolber
1919: JB Louvet, La Sportive
1920: Bianchi-Pirelli, JB Louvet, La Sportive
1921: JB Louvet, La Sportive, Bianchi-Dunlop
1922: Automoto-Wolber-Russel Cycles, JB Louvet-Soly
1923: Automoto-Hutchinson, JP Louvet-Soly-Dunlop
1924: Automoto
1925: Automoto-Hutchinson
1926-1928: Dilecta-Wolber

Nicknames: The Greyhound, the King of the Lombards, Iron Wire, String [Ficelle], the last two because he was so thin


Henri Pelissier in 1910

Henri Pélissier at the Parc des Princes velodrome at the end of the 1910 Tour de France des Independents.

Henri Pelissier in 1910

Henri Pélissier in 1910 showing his Thomann bicycle.

Henri Pélissier in 1913

Pélissier in 1913.

Henri and Francis Pélissier at the 1914 Paris-Roubiax

Francis and Henri Pélissier, perhaps in 1914.

Herni Pelissier and Oscar Egg in the 1914 Tour de France

1914 Tour de France: Pélissier and Oscar Egg on The col de Tortes.

Henri Pelissier in 1914

Pélissier after the 1914 Tour de France.

Henri Pelissier in 1917

Portrait of soldier Henri Pélissier in 1917.

Henri Pelissier in 1919

Pélissier in 1919, perhaps at the start of Paris-Roubaix, which he won that year.

Henri Pelissier

Henri Pélissier at the start in Versaille of the 1919 French championships.

Henri Pelissier wins the 1919 French Championships

Pélissier wins the 1919 French Championships.

Henri Pelissier as the winner of the 1919 French Championships

Pélissier at the end of the 1919 French Championships at the Parc des Princes velodrome.

Henri Pelissier

Again at the Parc des Princes velodrome on May 18, 1919, this time after Pélissier won Bordeaux-Paris.

Henri Pélissier

Another shot of Pélissier after he won Bordeaux-Paris.

Henri Pelissier in 1922

Pélissier at the start of the 1922 Circuit de Paris.

Henri Pelissier

Undated photo of Pélissier.

Francis and Henri Pélissier

Francis and Henri Pélissier.

Henri Pélissier repairs a falt in the 1923 Tour de France

1923 Tour de France, stage 12: Pélissier repairs a flat tire.

Francis and Henri Pelissier

1923 Tour de france, stage 15: Francis and Henri Pélissier joke while completing the stage.

Henri Pélissier in 1924

Pélissier in 1924, the year after he won the Tour de France.

Henri Pelissier

A kinder, earlier portrait of Pélissier.

Henri Pelissier in 1926 at the Criterium des As

Pélissier at the 1926 Criterium des As.

Henri Pelissier in 1931

Pèlissier in 1931 at the Vel d'Hiv'.

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