© Presse Sports
Far behind riders of the stature of Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Mark Cavendish, in the history of the Tour de France there have been almost three hundred men who only got a fleeting taste of glory. As the countdown to the start of the race on 7 July continues, is retracing the steps of 10 champions who clinched a single stage win. On the 1926 Tour de France, Belgium’s Jules Buysse won the opening stage of the edition dominated later by his big brother Lucien Buysse. One of the most demanding in the history of cycling…
It wasn’t a Tour like any other. For its 20th edition, the Tour and its 126 riders headed to Paris, but then they boarded a train at Gare de Lyon for the voyage to Evian for the first start in the history of the race outside Paris. On this day, water wasn’t just coming from the famous mountain source; the spa resort was under a downpour when the peloton gathered at two in the morning for an opening stage of 373 kilometres to Mulhouse. Two-time defending Tour winner, Ottavio Bottecchia was the pre-race favourite in the Automoto-Hutchinson team where among his team mates was the runner-up from the previous year, Lucien Buysse. But between Evian and Mulhouse, it was his 24-year old brother, Jules Buysse, who stole the headlines. In top form, the Belgian rider easily maintained the pace of the leaders and was in the leading group of five riders when Bottecchia, “The Bricklayer from Friuli” was dropped following three punctures, losing a significant amount of time. Later, Jules Buysse took advantage of the problems of the last rider on his wheel, Joseph Pé, to continue his solitary ride to victory… over 161 kilometres.
5,745 kilometres
At the conclusion of this day spent in the Jura and Alsace mountains, Jules Buysse donned the first Yellow Jersey of the 1926 edition, and the consequences were already imposing for his adversaries. The group of his first pursuers arrived in Mulhouse 13 minutes adrift, but it was even worse for the favourites. Lucien Buysse was at 25 minutes, Bottecchia was at 34 and Luxembourg’s Nicolas Frantz was 50 minutes down from the leader. And it was only the beginning. Two days later, the young Buysse was beaten soundly by his compatriot Gustave van Slembrouck, but the longest Tour in history at 5,745 kilometres, wasn’t finished delivering surprises. In the Pyrenees, the peloton experienced one of its cruellest days on the road from Bayonne to Luchon. This time, it was really the “the convicts of the road” that attacked on the Aubisque, Tourmalet and the Peyresourde in terrible weather conditions. In accordance with family tradition, Lucien Buysse put in a solo attack after 180 kilometres. There were only 143 more to ride. At Luchon, the gaps recorded were enormous and Bottecchia, who wasn’t at his best physically, retired like a large number of the riders. 54 from 76 finished the stage and several took a bus… without paying! The Yellow Jersey was now Lucien’s and he wore it wall the way to the Parc des Princes in Paris. This was the Buysse year.