In today’s CyclingTips Daily News Digest: Bicycle Coalition hopes to save cancelled Philly Cycling Classic with petition; Abuse of power in women’s cycling, an all too familiar story: Bridie O’Donnell; Jolien Verschueren ends season early; Corné van Kessel extends for two years; 1956 Tour de France winner Roger Walkowiak dead at 89; Former Australian track athlete says ‘experimental surgeries’ left her scarred; Bicycles shown in six Super Bowl advertisements; Teaser video for UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships; Peter Sagan training for the win; Video: Underwater spinning.
Your Wednesday Daily News Digest
Following the recent death of Ferdi Kübler in December, who was then the oldest living Tour de France champion, the title transferred over to Roger Walkowiak, who won the 1956 edition of the race. However, the Frenchman passed away Monday at the age of 89.
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Walkowiak’s Tour de France win was a contentious one. The then 29-year-old was not even supposed to be in the race, but was entered as a last-minute replacement on the regional Nord-Est-Centre team, representing the North-east and Centre of France, even though he was not from the region. He was part of a 31-rider breakaway on the seventh stage that gained 18 minutes on the peloton. He took the yellow jersey then, but since none of the riders were of any note, including Walkowiak, the peloton dismissed it as a fluke. He gave up the jersey a few days later but remained well placed as the race entered the final days in the French Alps.
A combination of tactics on stage 18, the final climbing day, helped him regain the lead as an attack by a rider going for the KOM blew up the field. He then held onto the jersey for the rest of the race. However, the public widely panned his win as undeserved. French newspaper L’Equipe called the finish-line applause “a lamentation,” and his surname inspiring the phrase à la Walko for an unmerited achievement.
Walkowiak rode a few more years and won a stage of the Vuelta a España in 1957. But he shied away from attention and stayed out of cycling after retiring from racing, choosing to farm sheep instead. He even went back to work at the factory he had apprenticed at before cycling when money was tight.
In an interview with Bicycling Walkowiak was largely unconcerned with how people viewed his Tour victory, saying “Hmm … Well, as Raphael Geminiani once said, ‘I wish I could have won just one Tour de France.'”