sometimes you have to stop and smell the chamois butter

Sunday, January 23, 2011

hubs and toe clips - t.i.c.h.

First off, I'm blaming the weather.  It got all warm and sunny the past couple of days and it's very distracting.  I've been able to do things like pedal my bike and clean-up dog poo out of the backyard.  Because of all this fun I've been having,  I missed two important birthdays of the sport.
January 22

Way back in the day, like 1889, our boy Henri Pelissier was birthed.  Henri was one of four brothers from Paris, three of which went on to become professional cyclists.  Kinda like the Schlecks, but not really!  Now Henri was skinny as a rail back in his younger years and his friends would call him Ficelle, after the thin french bread (the word also means "string").  A stubborn sombitch, his dad gave him the boot when he was 16 and he vowed to become a pro.   He trained hard and ended up with some 29 career victories.  He took the Paris-Roubaix in 1919&1921, and won the Tour de France in 1923.  His bad temper fueled a long-standing feud with Hernri Desgrange, director of the Tour de France, over crappy pay and rider conditions.  After his retirement, home life was no better, as his wife took her life in despair in 1933.  Then three years later, he cut his mistress on the face during a heated argument.  She proceeded to grab the gun (that his wife had taken her life with no less) and pump five rounds in his ass.  Henri's hot temper was cooled for good.
It's thought that he may be responsible for the esteemed Pelissier hubs.  Or perhaps on of his brothers.  Regardless, the hubs were highly revered for a time.  I can remember an old school weight weenie dude named Laurie "Gram" Grice who had a pair.  "Light as air and smooth as silk."  Thanks Velo-orange for the hub pic.

Now preceding Mr. Pelissier by a few years was another iconic Frenchie.  Eugene Christophe burst out of the womb on 22 January 1885, wearing only a leather toe-strap.  Eugene started 11 TDF's, finished eight, won three stages and got a 2nd and 3rd overall.   He was the first leader of the Tour de France to wear the "maillot jaune" in 1919.  During a historic event in the 1913  Tour de France,  Christophe was descending the Tourmalet when his fork snapped.  After hiking eight miles through the woods, he came upon the next town and found a blacksmith.  Because the rules would allow no outside help, Christophe repaired his own fork and finished the stage.   In the 1910 Milan San-Remo, he earned the nickname "Le Vieux Gaulois" (the old Gaul) after plowing half-frozen through 30 cm of snow to a victory with comfortable lead.   His burliness continues with his 1909-1914, and again in 1921,  reign as French National cyclocross champion.  He is also thought to be one of the forefathers of cyclocross.
AND Christophe is thought to be the inventor of the toe clip.  In 1925 he sold his invention to the Poutrait-Morin company, where he remained Director (and rode his bike to board meetings) until his death in 1970.

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