Lagazzettadellabici's Blog

April Snowstorm at Paris-Tours

Posted in Uncategorized by lagazzettadellabici on March 12, 2010

The Paris-Tours race of April 18th, 1921, was one of the all-time most difficult events in cycling history. The 85 starters who lined up that morning would face 342 kms of violent snow squalls, freezing rain, and massive winds. Only 8 riders would finish – the last man, Frenchman Pierre Herbette, came in alone, four hours and 21 minutes after the winner, Francis Pélissier (Fra).

Here we see Francis Pélissier leading his brother Henri, and Belgians Louis Mottiat and Albert Dejonghe, struggling through heavy snow between Chatres and Châteaudun.
Henri would quit the race at the feed station in Châteaudun. Francis Pélissier covered the 342 kms in 14h56’20”. Mottiat was second at 1’32”, with Eugène Christophe (Fra) in third at 1’40” and Dejonghe in fourth at 9’10”.
5th Fernand Moulet (Fra), at 58’40”
6th Louis Heusghem (Bel), at 1h04’40”
7th Joseph Muller (Fra), at 2h44’00”
8th Pierre Herbette (Fra), at 4h21’00”
From “Le Miroir des Sports” No.383/42, 21 April 1921.
Addendum – In 1921 the Pélissier brothers raced for “JB Louvet”.
More info – Mick Butler sent in this addition to the story. Thanks again, Mick! “Just a little bit of info to add to the picture. Louis Heusgem had a brother Hector they both rode for “La Sportive”. Joseph Muller “Delage”. Louis Mottiat “La Sportive.” Not sure about the Pelissier’s could have been Automoto? Perhaps someone can answer this. The Paris-Tours route was lengthened after 1919, they added a detour through Chinon thus adding the hilly lanes on the south bank of the Loire up to the finish at Tours. This race normally had good weather and was known for high speeds, all changed in 1921 as the picture depicts. It snowed. Nearly half of the peloton climbed off at Chatres leaving the Pellissier’s, Louis Mottiat and Albert de Jonghe to race ahead. At Chateaudun conditions were so dreadful even for the iron man Henri Pellissier. He took off his cape and handed it to his brother Francis. He wore two capes for the rest of the race! Legend has it that this swop was done in a cafe over a glass of Martinique Rum. Whilst this was happening Eugene Christophe caught the leaders by a superhuman effort, typical of the man who thrived on hard days. He went clear. Meanwhile Pellisier had several stops to repair his bike and himself but he chased hard and caught him three times, with Mottiat, the only other rider in the chase, who was struggling to hang on. Finally Pellissier got clear by a couple of minutes but he then punctured. His hands were frozen and he was unable to do the repair so he tore the tire off with his teeth. Riding on the rim, Pelissier caught Christophe once more and then dropped him on the climb out of Azay-le-Rideau finishing alone.”
“Henri won in 1922 and Louis Mottiat in 24.”
“Henri Pellissier turbulent life had a tragic end. His wife committed suicide in 1933. Two years later his girfriend Camille shot him five times during a violent row, the gun she used was the same pistol that his wife Leonie had used to end her life.”
“Francis Pellissier became a team manager and made a habit of winning Bordeaux-Paris. Charles Pellissier won a record 8 stages in the 1930 Tour and went on to become a popular figure in France.”

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