Mythologies: Alphonse Steinès, the Tour de France and the Invention of the Pyrénées


If a lie lasts perpetually it’s virtually true
~ Séan Millar, ‘Blissful Can Be

The story of how the Tour de France got here to deal with the Col du Tourmalet within the Pyrénées for the primary time in 1910 is without doubt one of the most oft-told tales of Tour historical past. However how a lot of it’s true, how a lot of it actually occurred the best way we declare it occurred?

Half I – What the Historians Inform Us

In line with some, Alphonse Steinès set out for the Col du Tourmalet in January of 1910.(1) Others say it was a couple of weeks earlier than the beginning of that 12 months’s Tour, Might(2) or perhaps June.(3) Nearly all agree that Steinès’s intention was to persuade Henri Desgrange that the grand boucle ought to go to the Pyrénées, one thing the Father of the Tour was reluctant to allow. Nobody had ever raced over these mountains,(4) nobody knew if man was able to even driving over these mountains.(5) Steinès had lastly worn Desgrange down along with his badgering and, if he may present that the Tourmalet was satisfactory, it could be included within the itinerary of that 12 months’s race.(6)

Some say that, first, Steinès was advised to jot down about the opportunity of taking the race into the Pyrénées and Desgrange would then decide based mostly on the general public response to what he wrote.(7) That response exceeded expectations, with locals claiming the roads had been blocked by snow nearly the entire time and when not closed had been little greater than goat tracks.(8)

Steinès travelled all the way down to Pau,(9) nearly on the foot of the Tourmalet.(10) Both he drove himself the 700 kilometres south from Paris,(11) or he took the practice and employed a automobile regionally.(12) Or he travelled the Pyrénées on his bicycle.(13) Foreshadowing the hazard but to return he was advised {that a} Mercedes had not too long ago overturned making an attempt to cross the Tourmalet.(14)

Steinès sought out the superintendent of roads within the area, Blanchet,(15) who laughed on the suggestion of taking the Tour over the mountains, the roads then being too poor for 250 males on bicycles and their entourage.(16) Steinès promised that L’Auto would pay to organize the roads.(17) Blanchet requested for five,000 francs.(18) Steinès referred to as Paris and Desgrange supplied 3,000.(19) Or 2,000.(20) Or 1,500.(21) Or 500.(22) Blanchet promised the roads can be high-quality by July.(23)

Some say that final bit truly occurred months earlier than Steinès tried to cross the Tourmalet, as a part of an earlier reconnaissance journey.(24) Others say it occurred after he’d made it down off the Tourmalet.(25)

Steinès headed into the hills.(26) He crossed the Col d’Aspin, with some problem.(27) He began his ascent of the Tourmalet from Sainte-Marie-de-Campan,(28) on the north-eastern aspect of the mountain. Villagers advised him it was unimaginable to cross the Tourmalet,(29) that it was barely satisfactory even in July.(30) Ignoring these warnings he employed a neighborhood driver, Dupont,(31) and was pushed towards the summit however was stopped by snow blocking the street two kilometres from the highest.(32) Or it may have been three.(33) Or perhaps 4.(34) Or 5.(35) And even six.(36) Steinès pressed on alone and on foot.(37) The snow was 4 toes deep.(38) Many agree it was at this stage early night, six o’clock.(39) Or perhaps it was later.(40)

An area shepherd agreed to information him to the highest of the mountain.(41) It took Steinès two and a half hours to stroll the remaining kilometres to the summit.(42) There then adopted a collection of misadventures:(43) stumbles and tumbles in rivers and snowbanks,(44) leaving him chilly and moist and fearing for his life: he nearly killed himself,(45) setting off an avalanche and falling over a precipice and discovering himself buried in a snowdrift.(46) He ultimately made it off the mountain beneath his personal steam.(47) Or he was rescued by a search social gathering despatched out to search out him.(48) It was by then three within the morning.(49)

The next day – the day after he began his ascent or the day after that, nobody is obvious – a telegram was dispatched to L’Auto’s Montmartre places of work.(50) The wording varies from account to account however the fundamental gist all agree was that Steinès claimed the Tourmalet was completely satisfactory.(51) Some say it was a phonecall, not a telegram.(52) Upon receipt of the message Desgrange had the subsequent version of L’Auto embrace an article informing readers and riders that the route of the 1910 Tour would come with the Pyrenean cols of the Peyresourde, Aspin, Tourmalet, and Aubisque.(53) Nearly instantly greater than two dozen riders pulled out of the race.(54)

Steinès stored quiet about what actually occurred.(55)

That, roughly, is what the historical past books inform us at the moment: a narrative about Steinès convincing Desgrange in 1910 to incorporate the Pyrénées in that 12 months’s race, with quite a lot of embellishment surrounding Steinès’s go to to the Tourmalet. However what did biking followers know in 1910? What did readers of L’Auto know in regards to the Tour’s growth into the Pyrénées forward of the riders crossing the Col de Port and the Col de Portet d’Aspet on July 19 and the Col de Peyresourde, the Col d’Aspin, and the Col du Tourmalet together with the conjoined triplets of the Col du Soulor, the Col de Tortes, and the Col d’Aubisque on July 21?

To try to get a deal with on that now we have to start not with Steinès and the Tourmalet in June or Might or January of 1910, however with Henri Desgrange himself, in July of 1909, midway by means of that 12 months’s Tour de France.

Half II – Discuss of Issues to Come

July 20, 1909 – P-364 days

The primary inkling L’Auto’s readers had that the Tour would possibly quickly enter the Pyrénées got here throughout the seventh version of the race. The Tour had exited the Alps and was midway between the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts, working north of the Pyrénées by the use of Toulouse. A malaise appeared to fall over Henri Desgrange. “The Tour de France got here out of the mountains after the Estérel,” he wrote, “and our riders drag themselves miserably on nationwide roads, scorched by the solar.”

Forward lay the lengthy slog up the Atlantic seaboard earlier than the dash for house and even the grasp mythologiser appeared to search out it unimaginable to whip up enthusiasm for what was to return. The Tour had reached a turning level in that 12 months’s race however Desgrange additionally thought the race had reached a turning level in its historical past. And he advised his readers so: “subsequent 12 months now we have to go to Tunisia and Algeria, and to deal with the Pyrénées head-on as we deal with the Alps.”

Whereas Desgrange attributed his morose temper to the tedium of the racing since exiting the mountains – as soon as once more one rider was dominating the race, François Faber this time – we must always most likely additionally observe right here that the Tour had acquired a brand new rival. Throughout the border in Italy the Giro d’Italia had efficiently accomplished its first version lower than two months earlier. Desgrange couldn’t relaxation on his laurels. The Giro would power the Tour to up its sport.

1903: Col de la République (1,161m)
1904: Col de la République (1,161m)
1905: Ballon d’Alsace (1,178m); Col Bayard (1,246m)
1906: Ballon d’Alsace (1,178m); Col Bayard (1,246m)
1907: Ballon d’Alsace (1,178m); Col de Porte (1,326m); Col Bayard (1,246m)
1908: Ballon d’Alsace (1,178m); Col de Porte (1,326m); Col Bayard (1,246m)
1909: Ballon d’Alsace (1,178m); Col de Porte (1,326m); Col Bayard (1,246m)

Fairly what constitutes a climb within the early Excursions is a matter of debate, with Desgrange & co rewriting the race’s historical past to go well with their wants. The Ballon d’Alsace within the Vosges is, famously, the race’s first mountain, regardless of the presence of the Col de la République within the first two editions of the Tour. Formally the Tour solely went into the Alps in 1911, after tackling the Pyrénees in 1910, although it had been crossing the Col Bayard within the Dauphiné Alps since 1905.

September 30 – P-292 days:

The primary L’Auto’s readers knew for certain that the Tour would enter the Pyrénées got here two months later, on the finish of September when – throughout a 3rd of the entrance web page and nearly half of web page three – Desgrange supplied them a have a look at plans for 1910’s Tour de France, the eighth version of the race.

“The Tour de France will enter the Pyrénées, which it has solely been touching the sting of. The eighth stage will abandon its outdated path to Narbonne, and finish in Perpignan.

“Then, in a single leap, and in two phases succeeding one another at some point aside, the Tour de France will go from Perpignan to Bayonne. The primary stage will go from Perpignan to Bagnères-de-Luchon (289 kms), and the second from Bagnères to Bayonne (325 kms). These two phases will happen on July 20 and 21.”

NB: Bagnères-de-Luchon is Luchon. Bagnères is normally used because the shortened model of Bagnères-de-Bigorre however above refers to Luchon. Bagnères are thermal baths.

The Pyrénées paled as compared with the Alps when it got here to tourism, for all types or causes starting from transport infrastructure to snobbery. However over the course of the second half of the nineteenth century they been taking part in meet up with their Alpine cousins. Exterior of those that lived there, those that knew the Pyrénées knew them as locations of retreat, religious and medicinal, Lourdes and the spa cities – Luchon, Bagnères, Argelès, Eaux-Bonnes and many others – drawing in these searching for to cleanse physique or soul. The route thermale – impressed by Napoleon III, the one dethroned after the 1870/71 warfare with Prussia – linked the assorted spa cities. The Touring Membership de France – which promoted the rights and desires of cyclists, liaising with hoteliers and native communities to develop biking infrastructure – was engaged on a route Pyrénées, a community of roads stretching from one finish of the mountains to the opposite and taking travellers over all of the excessive cols.

Later in L’Auto’s article readers acquired extra element on the brand new Pyrenean phases: the Perpignan to Bagnères-de-Luchon stage would go through Quillan, Foix, the Col de Port, Saint-Girons, and the Col des Arts [a misprint of Col des Ares]; the Bagnères-de-Luchon to Bayonne stage would go through Arreau, Barèges, Argelès, Eaux-Bonnes, Oloron, Mauléon, and Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Aside from naming the Col de Port and (misnaming) the Col des Ares, not one of the different passes the riders must cross had been named. Utilizing the small print given and realizing the general distances of the 2 phases (289 kms and 325 kms, which remained unchanged when the Tour lastly reached the Pyrénées) readers with entry to a very good atlas – or native data – would have been capable of work out for themselves the key peaks the race can be climbing when the riders tackled these two phases ten months later.

The 1910 Tour would, for the first time, enter the Pyrénées, taking the riders from one end of the mountain range to the other, east to west.

The 1910 Tour would, for the primary time, enter the Pyrénées, taking the riders from one finish of the mountain vary to the opposite, east to west.
L’Auto / BnF

January 4, 1910 – P-196 days

L’Auto’s readers had been as soon as once more handled to a preview of the approaching Tour within the early days of 1910, at which level they had been knowledgeable of a minor modification to the itinerary: as an alternative of tackling the 2 Pyrenean phases back-to-back the riders had been to be granted a rest-day between the 2.

January 26 – P-174 days

The route of the 1910 Tour was once more revisited, this time with readers and riders being supplied with a listing of the controls riders must register at throughout the race, together with these for the brand new Pyrenean phases.

The First Étape du Tour – What May Have Been

February 4 – P-165 days

Legend has it that Henri Desgrange was morally against the derailleur. Varied apocryphal quotes on the topic have been attributed to him and whether or not he ever truly mentioned any of them or not is a matter for one more day. What we do know is that Desgrange did have fastened views on variable gears. And in February 1910 he proposed providing those that disagreed with him a problem.

“I’ve typically been accused of being the opponent of the multi-geared machine,” he wrote in L’Auto, “whereas I’ve all the time tried, quite the opposite, to make it clear that one couldn’t logically be in comparison with the opposite. The multi-geared machine is an instrument of touring, the machine of the boys of the Tour de France is a racing machine.”

That elementary distinction however, Desgrange proposed letting the mutli-geared cyclo-tourists pit themselves in opposition to the boys of the Tour on their single-geared machines, on the identical terrain, on the identical day. Particularly, the second and more durable of the 2 Pyrenean phases, from Bagnères-de-Luchon to Bayonne. If a ample variety of cyclo-tourists expressed an curiosity, then the race – or sportive, we must always most likely name it, it being a proto-Étape du Tour – can be on.

In a brief article within the Touring Membership de France’s month-to-month journal in Might Desgrange’s supply was rejected, the TCF noting that the Tour’s guidelines permitted the usage of multi-geared machines, albeit with a primitive type of gearing: “those that we thought had been our adversaries have grow to be our supporters and our participation within the Luchon-Bayonne stage is ineffective, the professionals themselves being liable for offering the proof we needed in favour of gearing.”

Half III – Throughout the Pyrénées with Ravaud and Abran

Might 17 – P-63 days

Again then, street racing was nonetheless within the shadow of monitor, and would keep there for a lot of extra years to return. Individuals went to the races after they had been on, or examine them, however there wasn’t many street races demanding their consideration. For French riders, the important thing street races of the early a part of 1910 – and their winners – had been the next:

March 27 – Paris-Roubaix (267 kms) – Octave Lapize (Alycon)
April 3 – Milan-Sanremo (289 kms) – Eugène Christophe (Alcyon)
April 17 – Paris-Menin (306 kms) – Cyrille Van Hauwaert (Alcyon)
Might 1 – Paris-Bruxelles (400 kms) – Maurice Brocco (Legnano)*
Might 8 – Nationwide championships, France (100 kms) – Émile Georget (La Française)
Might 14 – Bordeaux-Paris (590 kms) – Émile Georget (La Française)
Might 18 to June 5 – Giro d’Italia (2,890 kms) – Carlo Galetti (Atala)
June 5 to 19 – Tour of Belgium (1,742 kms) – Jules Masselis (Alcyon)

* Lapize was initially declared the winner of Paris-Bruxelles however following a criticism lodged by the Legnano crew Brocco, who initially completed seventh, was promoted to first.

La Française’s poster celebrating Émile Georget’s victory in twentieth edition of Bordeaux-Paris. The Derby of the Road was, at this stage, the high point of the early season. While today Liège-Bastogne-Liège (1892) is celebrated as ‘la doyenne’ in 1910 it wasn’t even on the calendar. Nor was the even older Milano-Torino (1876).

La Française’s poster celebrating Émile Georget’s victory in twentieth version of Bordeaux-Paris. The Derby of the Street was, at this stage, the excessive level of the early season. Whereas at the moment Liège-Bastogne-Liège (1892) is well known as ‘la doyenne’ in 1910 it wasn’t even on the calendar. Nor was the even older Milano-Torino (1876).

With so few alternatives accessible to them to race on the street, the celebs of the day additionally raced on the monitor, and with Desgrange’s newly refurbished Vélodrome d’Hiver having opened in February they’d much more alternatives to do this than in earlier years.

Three of these early season races – Paris-Roubaix, Paris-Bruxelles, and Bordeaux-Paris – had been organised by L’Auto. As soon as the final was out of the best way all eyes within the Rue du Faubourg places of work of the paper turned to the Tour, with riders invited to enroll in participation within the race.

‘L’Auto’, May 17, Riders were invited to register for the eighth Tour

‘L’Auto’, Might 17, Riders had been invited to register for the eighth Tour
L’Auto / BnF

Even earlier than the massive street races of the spring had peaked with Bordeaux-Paris and L’Auto had referred to as upon riders to submit their entries, the work of organising the Tour was already nicely underway, with Georges Abran – the person whose pistol shot had began the riders of the primary Tour on their manner – driving the route of the race. Abran’s job was to establish prematurely any issues the race would possibly encounter and to liaise with locals: glad-handing mayors, assembly L’Auto’s native stringers, and checking out who would man the controls the riders must register at (with a purpose to show they had been following the total route of the race and never taking shortcuts).

Abran filed reviews from the street as he was chauffeured round France, the primary coming from Roubaix on April 15. Foul climate was the order of the day from the outset and would observe him as he made his manner across the route of the race, a job that may take him two months to finish. As he headed east from Paris he travelled on roads soaked by floods. On the Ballon d’Alsace – the primary actual climb of the race – he encountered snow on the summit, as he did atop the Col de Porte. Earlier than arriving in Good he needed to detour, a landslide having taken away a piece of street. It was a foul climate 12 months, the Seine breaking its banks in Paris in January and the snow-blighted Milan-Sanremo in April happening in historical past as one in every of biking’s hardest days within the saddle.

Georges Abran and his driver Oscar Sauvenière in their Dunlop-shod Impéria

Georges Abran travelled round France in an Impéria car pushed by Oscar Sauvenière and supplied by the Belgian producer Adrien Piedboeuf. In each report filed from the street the automobile, and its Dunlop-supplied tyres, acquired lavish reward.
L’Auto / BnF

On the day L’Auto opened registration for the Tour Abran was en path to Perpignan, on the Mediterranean aspect of the Pyrénées, the place he was to be joined by his colleague Charles Ravaud. The 2 had been resulting from cross the Pyrénées collectively and would offer their readers with extra element of what the riders would face come July 19 and 21.

Might 20 – P-60 days

Ravaud and Abran will be seen because the Mason and Dixon of Tour de France route surveying (with the legendary Alphonse Steinès such a bigger than life determine that he fulfils the roles of Lewis and Clark in a single man). With simply two months to go earlier than the Tour’s riders would deal with the route, on Might 19 the intrepid duo got down to cowl the primary half of the primary Pyrenean stage, driving from Perpignan to Saint-Girons. The next day’s paper carried a report of their journey:

“we set off this morning for Saint-Girons, the place we arrived with out incident, after having crossed Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet, Quillan, Col de Portet (1,400 metres altitude), Col de Babourade, Col d’El-Teil [probably Col del Teil], Lavelanet, Roquefort, Foix, Tarascon-sur-Ariège, Col de Port (1,249 metres), Massat and Saint-Girons.”

NB: The reference above to the Col de Portet is an error. Most probably Ravaud and Abran meant to discuss with the Col du Portel, which comes shortly after Quillan, however solely climbs to about 600m. There are a number of Cols de Portet additional to the west of Quillan, none of which climb to 1,400m. That altitude determine probably comes from the Col de Portel, which comes after Foix and rises to 1,432m.

As was ordinary with these columns the report then changed into an advertorial for the Impéria car and its Dunlop tyres:

“Regardless of the rain, regardless of the snow, the automobile and the tyres behaved splendidly and we, Abran and I, had been capable of admire some of the stunning panoramas on the earth. What roads! What descents!”

Ravaud and Abran accomplished the route of the primary stage the next day (Might 20), reporting to L’Auto’s readers that “Nothing can depict the gorgeous difficulties of the stage.” True to their phrases, nothing was mentioned of the route past that, not even a point out of the Col de Portet d’Aspet or the Col des Ares. Readers must wait a number of days to find out about them.

When L’Auto did return to the lacking mountains Ravaud and Abran’s report learn like a vacationer’s postcard:

“The glaciers of the Pyrénées appeared to us scintillating beneath a single ray of solar, having made its gap within the threatening clouds; the sight of the valley of Saurat – marvellously inexperienced, profound, very good – tore from us cries of admiration; our valiant riders will maybe not have time to take pleasure in such a spectacle on the day when they’ll compete within the ninth stage of the Tour; however allow them to be reassured, Abran and I’ve, prematurely, loved it for them.”

It wasn’t all simply sight-seeing: L’Auto’s intrepid explorers warned riders to be cautious of the wild animals that made the Pyrénées so fearsome. Not the stuff of legend, the hungry bears over from the Spanish aspect of the mountains or the eagles sufficiently big to pluck a person off his bicycle. No, this was the extra prosaic hazard of the cows and the horses and the sheep that roamed the roads of the Pyrénées as in the event that they owned them.

Loose cows on the Col de Portet d’Aspet

Wild animals had been an ever-present hazard within the Pyrénées as Charles Crupelandt (#29, Le Globe), Octave Lapize (#4, Alcyon) and Émile Georget (#15, Legnano) found when climbing the Col de Portet d’Aspet throughout the 1910 Tour
La Vie au Grand Air / BnF

On the third day of their passage throughout the Pyrénées Ravaud and Abran reached Bagnères-de-Bigorre, the place they had been laying up having didn’t cross the Col d’Aspin within the first a part of the route of the second Pyrenean stage:

“Abran and I are in Bagnères-de-Bigorre, though this charming city doesn’t seem on the itinerary of the tenth stage of the Tour de France, which works from Bagnères-de-Luchon to Bayonne. The fault lies neither in our great Impéria, nor within the comfortable Dunlop with which it’s shod, however within the snow which nonetheless obstructs, presently of the 12 months, the highest of the Col d’Aspin.

“After leaving Bagnères-de-Luchon, we cleared the Col de Peyresonde (1,333 meters) with out incident, crossed Bordeyres [Bordères-Louron] and Arreau and started to climb the Col d’Aspin (1,492 meters).

“There was solely us and tall and cramped partitions of snow, and we couldn’t cross the summit the place eight meters of snow was piling up. The street was gone! To our nice remorse, we had to return down and attain Bagnères-de-Bigorre by La Barthe-de-Neste, thus making a detour of 47 kilometres.

“Tomorrow we are going to return to the route of the stage in Sainte-Marie and attempt to cross the Col du Tourmalet (2,122 meters).”

NB: The altitudes given in these reviews fluctuate in accuracy. The Col de Peyresourde is definitely 1,569m. The Col d’Aspin is near its fashionable top (1,489m), as is the Col du Tourmalet (2,115m)

Placing their readers’ minds at relaxation, Ravaud and Abran reported that snow at excessive altitude in Might and June was not sudden however that by July it could be melted, leaving clear passage for the Tour.

On the fifth day of their odyssey Ravaud and Abran reached Bayonne on the western finish of the mountain vary, having needed to make greater than 200 kilometres of detours – and after including an additional day to their journey – of their try to hint the route of the Tour’s two new phases:

“The torrential rain couldn’t overcome our resistance. The roads not existed within the mountains. They’d disappeared beneath avalanches of snow and swollen rivers, it was unimaginable to observe your entire route. The Col du Tourmalet, which pierces the sky at greater than 2,100 meters in altitude, didn’t need to be violated any greater than did the Aspin.”

The Col du Soulor, Col de Tortes and Col d’Aubisque – a three-for-the-price-of-one Pyrenean ordeal – had been additionally left unviolated, nonetheless being impassable, with numerous detours wanted to take Ravaud and Abran on to Bayonne.

The Pyrénées crossed – albeit with important gaps – Ravaud returned to Paris, leaving Abran to finish his reconnaissance of the rest of the Tour’s route alone save for the presence of his driver, Oscar Sauvenière, of their borrowed Impéria with its Dunlop tyres.

Charles Ravaud and Georges Abran

Charles Ravaud, left, in {a photograph} from 1906, and Georges Abran, proper, in {a photograph} from 1910. Ravaud was a senior author at ‘L’Auto’ – he acquired a by-line – whereas Ravaud was the Tour’s Inspector Normal

Might 26 – P-54 days

Upon Ravaud’s return to Paris, L’Auto once more sought to reassure riders and readers that the snow that had blocked his and Abran’s passage within the Pyrénées wouldn’t be a difficulty come July:

“Presently of 12 months, it’s regular for snow to stay on the excessive peaks. There have additionally been reviews of torrential rain and floods. Nonetheless, if our comrade Ravaud and our inspector basic Abran couldn’t cross the Cols d’Aspin, Tourmalet and Aubisque, it doesn’t observe that in July we won’t cross them. No, these Pyrenean phases will definitely be powerful, however they won’t be unimaginable. Quite the opposite, good climate will convey good roads and the Tour de France – brushing the Iberian Peninsula, after having touched Belgium, Luxembourg, Lorraine, Switzerland, Italy and the Atlantic Ocean – would be the actual Tour de France, essentially the most colossal occasion on the earth.”

NB: Lorraine was at this stage nonetheless a scar on the French psyche, occupied by the Germans for the reason that Franco-Prussian warfare of 1870/71

Half IV – It Can’t Be Achieved, It Has Been Achieved

Having first introduced the 1910 Tour’s route in September 1909 – together with its extension into the Pyrénées – and having revisited a few of these particulars in January 1910, and having in February invited cyclo-tourists to simply accept the problem of driving a proto-Étape du Tour, L’Auto then ignored the Tour for the subsequent two months or so, permitting the early-season races and different non-cycling occasions to take satisfaction of place within the paper. From mid-April by means of to mid-June Abran’s postcards from the street appeared. From mid-Might by means of to mid-June previews of the person phases had been printed. Alongside these L’Auto additionally ran frequent reviews of who had signed on to take part within the race, together with occasional dialogue of the race’s guidelines. Little by little the stress – anticipation – was ratcheted up.

By and enormous the protection in L’Auto was all optimistic and even when it was unfavourable – even when Ravaud and Abran had been unable to drive the total route of the brand new phases – readers and riders had been assured that each one can be nicely come July. Exterior of L’Auto not one of the main periodicals gave the Tour a second thought. In June the primary actual criticism of the route appeared, within the pages of L’Auto.

June 7 – P-42 days

Joseph Tucker Burton-Alexander was a kind of dilettante British sportsmen whose wealth exceeded his talents. The cash got here from household lands in Pavenham, close to Bedford, which he mortgaged with a purpose to fund his passions for trains, vehicles and powerboats. As a racing driver, L’Auto in 1905 – forward of the Gordon Bennett race, by which he DNF’ed – famous that he was gifted however reckless. A declare backed as much as some extent by his motor racing palmarès, scant as it’s. Along with engine-powered pursuits Burton – he tended to drop the hyphenated half of his surname – had additionally completed some mountaineering in Switzerland, throughout his time in Cambridge on the flip of the century (1899 and 1900).

Burton enters our story when, in June of 1910, he wrote to L’Auto from his Revel residence, the Chatâteau de Gandels, providing himself as one thing of an professional on the mountains:

“I’m at present right here, in an excellent home with a park of 5 hectares and I reside right here days of unimaginable calm and serenity. That’s great. On the horizon, I’ve on daily basis the view of the grandiose Pyrénées, however due to the dangerous climate I couldn’t go close to Abran and Ravaud who handed a couple of tens of kilometres from my residence.

“I’m stunned to have seen you select the Perpignan-Bayonne route on your Excursions de France.

“I do know the entire nation. You might be daring in L’Auto.”

Burton went on to elucidate all that was flawed within the route from one aspect of the Pyrénées to the opposite.

“The descent from the Col du Portet d’Aspet is harmful and slippery even in summer season.

“After Luchon your audacity goes past the boundaries. There are at least 4 passes. It’s a bit a lot.

“Peyresourde shouldn’t be straightforward, the descent is dangerous in summer season as a result of the bottom is friable and sandy, particularly within the decrease bends.

“Aspin is hard and when it’s sunny you’re uncomfortable there. The descent requires warning.

“Regardless of this, the king of all passes is the Tourmalet, which your colleagues had been unable to do due to the snow. Nicely! I’m prepared to supply 100 francs to the rider who will climb the Tourmalet with out dismounting. The climb is horrible. The descent is extraordinarily harmful.”

Two views of the road up the Tourmalet

Two views of the street up the Tourmalet, from Charles Freeston’s 1912 ebook, ‘The Passes of the Pyrenees’. In 1911 Freeston had been accompanied by JT Burton as the 2 drove over a number of Pyrenean cols in Burton’s 18 HP Austin.

Desgrange, all the time desperate to take each franc supplied in primes for his riders, accepted the problem supplied by Burton. And nicely he would possibly, realizing as he did the historical past of biking over the King of All Passes. Readers of L’Auto unfamiliar with that historical past had been reminded of it a couple of days later, when L’Auto printed a response to Burton’s missive.

“I learn Mr Burton’s imprudent wager the opposite day.

“Definitely sure, his 100 francs can be received, and by a number of, I hope! Let him do not forget that in 1902, on the TCF’s occasion, there have been three of us who climbed totally by bicycle, and twice in a row, the well-known Col du Tourmalet.”

The letter was signed A Benoît and he was referring to the Touring Membership de France’s Touring Bicycle Contest, held in August 1902. That occasion despatched the riders over a circuit that went from Tarbes to the Col du Tourmalet – by the use of Lourdes and Barèges – then as much as Bagnères-de-Bigorre, again to Lourdes by the use of Loucrup after which again over the Tourmalet once more and as much as Bagnères earlier than heading house to Tarbes, for a complete of 215 kilometres.

Map (inset) and profile of the Touring Club de France’s 1902 event that took in a double ascent of the Tourmalet

Map (inset) and profile of the Touring Membership de France’s 1902 occasion that took in a double ascent of the Tourmalet

The TCF’s occasion is extra vital than historical past books – which barely point out it – counsel. Among the many riders to participate had been a number of professionals who had already received a few of the greater street races of the time and who would go on to characteristic in early Excursions: riders like Hippolyte Aucouturier, Jean Fischer, Rodolfo Muller, and Édouard Wattellier. There was additionally Hippolyte Figaro who rode beneath the mononym Vendredi and was the primary Black rider to start out and end Paris-Roubaix. And there was Marthe Hesse, who in addition to driving up the Tourmalet in 1902 as a part of the TCF occasion additionally rode up Mont Venuoux the next 12 months.

Marthe Hesse

On this advert fromL’Auto’ Marthe Hesse congratulated the agency of Glaezner & co on their WFW hub – to which Paul de Vivie (Velocio) had added a 3rd gear – which she had utilized in her ascents of the Col du Tourmalet and Mont Ventoux
L’Auto / BnF

The TCF occasion wasn’t actually a race, as such, it was a check of the bikes the riders rode. They had been checked earlier than the trip and once more after, the target being to street check the bikes and choose which machine was finest, not which rider. For all that Desgrange wish to bang on about la tête and les jambes – the pinnacle and the legs – the boys within the TCF thought it was le vélo that mattered most. Writing in regards to the occasion in 1902 Desgrange famous that the TCF “treats bicycles as anatomical elements.”

The TCF’s event as seen in the pages of ‘La Vie au Grand Air’

The TCF’s occasion was nicely reported in lots of papers with ‘La Vie au Grand Air’ printing quite a few images from it.
La Vie au Grand Air / BnF

The TCF’s trip up the Tourmalet in 1902 was not the primary time cyclists had tackled the mountain. Whereas the TCF typically inspired riders to jot down up their journeys for public sharing – they’d have beloved Strava – not each bicycle owner has the ego to assume their exploits are in any manner value sharing, besides with associates over a drink, and so there’ll doubtlessly have been rides that went unrecorded. However one group of riders with ego aplenty got here from the the London Bicycle Membership and in 1879 they took on the Tourmalet and the Aubisque, together with a number of different Pyrenean cols, and spilled loads of ink writing about it of their membership’s gazette.

Theirs was simply one in every of three accounts of journeys to the Pyrénées that appeared within the LBC’s gazette in 1879, essentially the most adventurous of the three, the opposite two sticking to decrease passes. The creator of the account, Norman Morris, didn’t supply a lot element on the bikes used, save to say that his group had a spare machine, a 52-inch Stassen. Of the opposite two journeys, one detailed the bicycles used: 56-inch and 54-inch machines from the Coventry Machinist Firm. Massive wheels. Over-geared for climbing.

A lot of Morris’s account includes he and his clubmates strolling their bikes up and down mountains, with their passages of the Tourmalet and the Aubisque extra akin to hikes than bike rides. Nonetheless, the truth that even within the period of the high-wheeler cyclists had been drawn to the best peaks of the Pyrénées is value noting.

One other vital level is available in a remark made by Morris in regards to the nature of the street over the Aubisque:

“I’ve recently heard the street over the Col d’Aubisque referred to as a ‘mule monitor;’ this isn’t appropriate, for it’s a common carriage street, as is proved by the truth that some American associates of ours drove over it the day earlier than we had been there; and furthermore I affirm that no actual Pyrenean mule monitor can be utilized by a bicycle.”

Half V – The Roadbook

From Might 17 by means of June 16 L’Auto handled readers and riders to previews of the approaching Tour de France’s fifteen phases.

The Tour at this stage was nonetheless largely ridden by riders working independently of the key producers, fending for themselves. Of the 110 riders who would ultimately take the beginning within the 1910 Tour solely 30 had been driving for the key marques – Alcyon, Legnano, Le Globe – whereas the remainder had been (within the official parlance) isolés (or, informally, the déshérités, the disinherited, or the disadvantaged). An isolé may signify a producer however they couldn’t be supplied with the identical help these driving in groups acquired, comparable to mechanics and soigneurs. This allowed a small producer like, say, Armor, to have riders driving in its title and producing publicity however with out the expense of getting to take care of them.

An isolé on the descent of the Aubisque

‘L’Auto’ did generally let just a little humour creep its previewing of the 1910 Tour, with this cartoon exhibiting an ‘isolé’ carrying his personal baggage on the descent of the Aubisque. It ought to go with out saying that, in actuality, carrying your personal baggage was – even for Desgrange – taking issues a bit too far and riders’ suitcases had been transported from lodge to lodge for them.
L’Auto / BnF

The pages of L’Auto had been a key manner of giving riders data on the race, particularly the isolés. It was like publishing piecemeal what would in time grow to be the Tour’s roadbook. The person whose job it was to jot down most of it was Charles Ravaud, which is partly why he joined Georges Abran when he was arranging marshals and many others for the Tour’s two new Pyrenean phases. For Ravaud that was a analysis journey.

For essentially the most half Ravaud’s previews had been considerably utilitarian accounts of the route of every stage: lists of cities and distances, with particulars of the place the controls had been to be situated. The next, as an example, is the roadbook’s entry for the second of the 2 Pyrenean phases.

Tenth Stage


July 21, 1910 – Depart at 03:30 hrs

Notice. – Riders are suggested, particularly between Bagnères and Argelès, to watch out of the cows and different massive animals that roam freely on the roads.

BAGNÈRES-DE-LUCHON, 0 kms – Rider sign-in. Signing-in will happen be on the Hôtel de la Paix and the departure can be from the Place Carayon-Latour, beneath the path of Mr Paul Dupont, our correspondent, assisted by Mr Puch.

Saint-Aventin (6 kms), take the trail on the fitting resulting in Bourg-d’Oeil. Gernu (9 kms), Col de Peyresourde (12), Estavielle (18), Avayau (21), Bordères (24); on the entrance to Bordères don’t cross the Louron Bridge.

ARREAU, 30 kms – Flying management on the Café de Londres, beneath the path of Mr Peyroutin, L’Auto’s correspondent, assisted by Mr Ratio. On the exit of the village, observe the 2 bends within the street.

Col d’Aspin (41), Espiadet (46), Payole (48), Sainte-Marie-de-Campan (54); on the church, flip left to start the ascent of the Tourmalet; L’Auto’s correspondent, Mr Dantis. Cabadeur (57), Gripp (58), Col du Tourmalet (69).

BAGNERES-LES-BAINS, 82 kms – Flying management, Hôtel Richelieu et d’Angleterre, beneath the path of Mr Lanne-Camy, L’Auto’s correspondent. The descent may be very arduous earlier than the management.

Betpouey (86), Luz-Saint-Sauveur (90), L’Auto’s correspondent, Mr Poucy; flip proper, then left instantly after the Hôtel de Londres. Pont-de-Hiladaire (95), Pont-de-Villelongue (101), Soulom (102), Pierrefite-Nestelas (103), Adast (105).

ARGELES-GAZOST , 109 kms – Fastened management on the Café de Cercle, Place de la Mairie, beneath the path of Mr Paul Genthien, L’Auto’s correspondent, assisted by Mr Cachon; on the entrance to the village take the left flip.

Arras (112), Aucun (118), Marsous (119), Arrens (121), Col de Soulon [should be Soulor] (129), Col de Tortes (134), Col d’Aubisque (139), Gourette (143).

EAUX-BONNES, 149 kms – Flying management on the Hôtel de Londres, beneath the path of Mr Deletté, L’Auto’s correspondent.

Laruns (155), Bielle (164), Louvie-Juzon (167), L’Auto’s correspondent, Mr Chesserand; don’t cross the bridge and go away by the fitting on the street to Lurbe. Arudy (172), Buzy (177), Herrière (185).

OLORON-SAINTE-MARIE, 191 kms – Fastened management on the Hôtel de la Poste, Place Gambetta, beneath the path of Mr Moura, L’Auto’s correspondent, assisted by Mr Chambot (observe the tracks of the small departmental tramway so far as Mauléon).

Sainte-Marie (192), Féas (202), Ance (203), Aramots (207), Lanne (210), Montory (216), Tardets (221), Troisvilles (223), Saint-Etienne (226), Gotein (230).

MAULEON, 234 kms – Flying management on the Café du Commerce, Place Croix-Blanche, beneath the path of Mr Jaurgain, L’Auto’s correspondent, assisted by the SA Mauléonais.

SAINT-JEAN-PIED-DE-PORT, 272 kms – Fastened management on the Café Teillagory, on the nook of the bridge, beneath the path of Mr Tellagory, L’Auto’s correspondent. On the exit, flip proper within the path of Bayonne, leaving on the fitting the street to Saint-Étienne-de-Begorry.

Ascarrat (274), Eyharce (284), Ossès (288), L’Auto’s correspondent Mr Mendiboure. Bidarray (292), Loubrosson (299), Cambo (307), L’Auto’s correspondent M. Louis Dessarps. Ustarritz (313).

BAYONNE, 326 kms – Fastened management. The end can be on the street to Cambo, 2 kms from the city. The group can be held again by 400 metres of rope barrier. Armed with a ticket, riders will signal the shape on the Brasserie Schmidt, Place de la Liberté. All of the operations of the management can be beneath the path of Mr Saint-Vanne, L’Auto’s correspondent, assisted by the VC Bayonne-Biarritz and by Mr Elysseiry. Within the night there can be a reception within the headquarters of the VCBB and a competition within the Place d’Armes.

Such utilitarian descriptions had been high-quality the place phases had already appeared in earlier Excursions. For the brand new Pyrenean phases, nonetheless, extra data wanted to be conveyed to each readers and riders. This was significantly true for the climbs. On this regard Ravaud supplied extra particulars in a collection of articles that appeared between Might 24 and June 3. These had been then supplemented on June 9 and 10 by a neighborhood cyclo-tourist, Émile Moutin, who supplied an in depth report of the route of the second and more durable Pyrenean stage, Bagnères-de-Luchon to Bayonne. Taking all these reviews collectively, we are able to summarise what readers and riders would have discovered in regards to the main climbs that had been about to make their début within the Tour.

Col de Port (1,249m)

Earlier than 1910, the Col de Porte (1,326m) within the Chartreuse mountains of the Isère was the reference level for the Tour’s grimpeurs. Previewing the race’s new phases on Might 24, Ravaud wrote that “the Col de Porte is nothing in comparison with the Pyrenean passes.” The primary of these passes – the primary main one, above 1,000 metres – was the Col de Port, one of many two cols particularly named by L’Auto when the route of the 1910 Tour was introduced in September 1909.

Little or no was mentioned of the climb – which begins in Tarascon-sur-Ariège – save that it wasn’t very tough initially “however after the primary kilometre, it steepens terribly to grow to be very arduous within the village of Saurat, situated a couple of third of manner up the climb” after which, in accordance with Ravaud, “the street is misplaced in imposing lacets alongside the mountain.” The descent to Massat (12 kms) was described as being quick and harmful.

Col de Portet d’Aspet (1,074m 1,069m)

Beginning in Audressien, the climb to the Col de Portet d’Aspet was reported to pitch as much as 10-11% within the village of Ogribet and 13-14% within the village of Portet d’Aspet. Some automobiles, Ravaud reported, would most likely have to take the turns close to the highest of the climb in reverse.

Profile of the first part of the Luchon to Bayonne stage

This profile of the primary a part of the Luchon to Bayonne stage, protecting the primary 150 kms to Laruns, didn’t seem in ‘L’Auto’ till July 19. It provides some concept of how powerful the Peyresourde, Aspin, Tourmalet and Soulor-Tortes-Aubisque had been, supplementing the written descriptions that had been printed a month earlier than.
L’Auto / BnF

Col de Peyresourde (1,545m 1,569m)

Starting in Bagnères-de-Luchon – the place to begin of the second of the brand new Pyrenean phases – the Col de Peyresourde served up some tough hairpins quickly after leaving the city. A collection of lacets lined the ultimate three kilometres of the climb which, general, Ravaud described as being much less powerful that the Col de Portet d’Aspet.

Émile Moutin supplied extra element, saying the climb was 10-12% at first, pitching as much as 15% however then settling all the way down to 4-5% as you climbed up by means of Saint-Aventin and Garin, till you got here to the ultimate hairpins which kicked as much as 7-10%. All advised, Moutin gave the Peyresourde a median gradient of 6.5% for 14 kilometres of climbing. A few of the lacets on the descent, Moutin warned, wanted to be approached with warning.

Col d’Aspin (1,497m 1,489m)

The Col d’Aspin was the primary of the Pyrenean passes Ravaud and Abran had been unable to cross, due to snow. From the knowledge he had gathered from locals, Ravaud advised L’Auto’s readers that it was a dozen kilometres lengthy with a median gradient of seven%, with the descent just like the climb.

Moutin was capable of supply extra element, placing the typical gradient at 6.6%, with the 12 km climb gaining 800m in altitude. “The primary kilometre is mild,” Moutin wrote, “however as quickly as you cross a small bridge you strategy the primary lacet of about two kilometres at 10% with the bend on a rock. Be careful for skidding! The ascent may be very curious, the street curls up on itself, you cross the identical level half a dozen instances, however rising increasingly more.” The seven kilometre descent all the way down to Payolle was described as straightforward at first however when you entered the wooded space it grew to become extra harmful.

Col du Tourmalet (2,122m 2,115m)

Although unable to climb it himself due to the snow, Ravaud described the Tourmalet as essentially the most improbable climb. “Ranging from 910 metres,” Ravaud wrote, “the riders will climb as much as 2,122 metres above sea stage, in the course of glaciers, dominated by the imposing Pic du Midi de Bigorre and its observatory”.

Moutin once more had extra to supply than merely repeating the native vacationer workplace’s guidebook. The primary eight kilometres of the climb, he reported, climbed at a median of 4-5% and took you as much as the Gripp waterfall. You then confronted a 3 kilometre lengthy hairpin taking you above the waterfall, with the gradient right here kicking as much as 7-8%. After that the primary glaciers appeared and the summit was lastly reached by the use of a collection of bends the place, in accordance with Moutin, the gradient reached 18-20%.

The Peyresourde, Aspin and Tourmalet as profiled in the roadbooks of recent Tours.

The Peyresourde, Aspin and Tourmalet as profiled within the roadbooks of latest Excursions.

Col du Soulor (1,550m 1,474m) / Col de Tortes (1,650m) / Col d’Aubisque (1,710m 1,709m)

Of all of the climbs that premiered within the 1910 Tour, the ‘one’ of the Soulor–Tortes–Aubisque has undergone essentially the most change, with the Tortes closed to automobiles and now a mountain climbing path. In 1910 the gap between the Soulor and the Aubisque was 11 kms, at the moment, with out the Tortes, it’s solely eight.

Just like the Aspin and the Tourmalet, Ravaud and Abran had been unable to cross these three passes and consequently Ravaud had little to say about them, apart from that between them they lined 46 kilometres of street and took the riders from 464 metres altitude in Argelès-Gazost to above 1,700 metres on the high of the Aubisque.

Moutin’s report advised L’Auto’s readers that the primary 11 kilometres of the climb, from Argelès to Arrens, climbed at a mild 3-4%. “To succeed in the Col de Soulor, at 1,550 meters, the street climbs for eight kilometres by innumerable lacets and bends at acute angles, which the uncommon automobiles solely strategy by reversing. The typical slope is 9%, that’s to say that a few of the bends attain 15% and 20%.”

After the Soulor, Moutin wrote, you handed by means of a brief tunnel minimize by means of the rock of the mountain earlier than reaching the Tortes and after that the Aubisque itself. In these final 11 kilometres the street floor was simply rocky scree, with grass rising in it. Whereas the grass rising within the street attested to the dearth of visitors, there was nonetheless a canteen atop the mountain, serving these vacationers that did cross.

Past the roadbook…

One thing not defined in L’Auto was that the world across the Aubisque supported forestry and mining enterprises. Additionally not mentioned was that, as with all of the cols on the route thermale, throughout the vacationer season (July to September) shuttle companies taking vacationers from one spa city to the subsequent crossed the excessive peaks a number of instances per week. Wild and distant they could have been however unexplored they weren’t.

The waterfall of Gripp was just one of the things that attracted tourists to the Col du Tourmalet

The waterfall of Gripp was simply one of many issues that attracted vacationers to the Col du Tourmalet

Between them, Ravaud and Moutin gave some concept of what would face the riders when the Tour reached the Pyrénées within the third week of July, even when they left so much to the creativeness. Those that had been critical about their Tour possibilities wanted extra concrete data.

Half VI – The Tourmalet Levelling Syndicate

June 16 – P-33 days

Again within the eighteenth century, again when Louis XIV sat on the French throne, the Solar King’s grandson ascended to the throne in Spain, prompting Louis to assert that the Pyrénées had ceased to exist. Least ways in which’s what Voltaire claimed and it’s not like we’ve ever acquired something to do with him flawed. L’Auto reminded its readers of Louis whereas reporting information that members of the Alcyon-Dunlop crew – together with their directeur sportif Alphonse Baugé, his driver Gauderman, and a few isolés – had been heading to the Pyrénées with a purpose to see for themselves what would face them when the Tour reached the excessive mountains 4 weeks later.

Earlier than hitting the hills, the Alcyon riders deliberate driving the third of the Tour’s new phases, Nîmes to Perpignan (216 km), which at the moment we’d take into account a transition stage main into the mountains. A few days later L’Auto carried a report of their trip and famous they had been having a straightforward time of it, “rolling on velvet” because the paper put it. Life within the Pyrénées can be just a little bit harder, L’Auto predicted, and the riders would quickly have to “pull on their handlebars”.

June 17 – P-32 days

Alphonse Baugé, his Alcyon riders and their two friends crossed the Col de Port within the morning of their second day on the street. L’Auto’s man on the bottom in Lavalnet met them for lunch and reported that they wouldn’t be crossing the Col de Portet d’Aspet till the next day, having determined to interrupt the Perpignan to Bagnères-de-Luchon stage into two elements.

June 19 – P-30 days

Two days later Baugé wrote from Bagnères-de-Luchon, a letter straight addressed to L’Auto’s Charles Ravaud:

“My pricey Ravaud,

“Are you aware that outdated music: Montagnes Pyrénées, you’re my loves!… Nicely, I guarantee you that it isn’t our riders who will sing it.

“Ah! my good friend, the place the hell does Mr Desgrange take us? In fact, it’s horrifying, and I’m satisfied that by no means has knowledgeable bicycle owner acquired himself into form on related roads.

“What hills, and particularly what descents! It’s ‘Looping the Loop’; it’s a lovely ‘Circle of Demise’, it’s an avalanche of damaged brakes, of tires torn off or punctured by flints, in two phrases: it’s horrifying!

“And, it appears, Luchon to Bayonne is even worse!”

Luchon to Bayonne was the massive one, the one with the Col de Peyresourde, the Col d’Aspin, the Col du Tourmalet, and the Col d’Aubisque all to be climbed. The 4 mountains we at the moment assume make up the Circle of Demise. However right here you might have Baugé, after solely getting over the Col de Port and the Col de Portet d’Aspet, already invoking the picture of the Circle of Demise. What that has to do with what we at the moment consider because the Circle of Demise is one thing for one more day, once we will go looking for the supply of the Circle of Demise.

The Circle of Death - a feat of acrobatic cycling

The Circle of Demise was a precursor of the Wall of Demise with the added hazard of being suspended within the air. It rose to recognition in 1903 and had been revived a number of instances earlier than 1910, on either side of the Atlantic
La Vie au Grand Air / BnF

Baugé’s report back to Ravaud went on:

“Nicely, my pricey Ravaud, I swear to you that an American looking forward to sensational spectacle won’t ever have seen something just like that of the passage of the Pyrénées by the Tour de France, and this passage will definitely stay legendary within the annals of biking sport.

“And to assume {that a} King has been discovered to inform us that there have been no extra Pyrénées: what had been they like in these days?”

Baugé went on to precise concern for the isolés and seemed ahead to tackling the Tourmalet (“Faber would really like us to cease on the high of the Tourmalet for 3 or 4 days in order that he can go up and down it three or 4 instances a day”) and closed his letter promising an replace in a few days.

June 20 – P-29 days

Lanne-Camy from Barèges – L’Auto’s not too long ago appointed stringer within the space – had excellent news for L’Auto, its readers, and the riders of the Tour de France:

“BAREGES, June 20 – The street is extraordinarily dangerous within the Tourmalet, however you possibly can cross. We’re impatiently awaiting the riders of the Alcyon-Dunlop crew. – Lanne-Camy.”

June 21 – P-28 days

Writing from Argelès-Gazost Alphonse Baugé reported that Lanne-Camy was in error in claiming that the Tourmalet was open. Very a lot in error.

“My pricey Ravaud,

“We’re leaving in an hour for Oloron-Sainte-Marie, and earlier than that, I want to write you a couple of traces about our stage yesterday. I would wish ten pages and likewise the time to jot down, to let you know about this ordeal of the 13 males (six Alcyon, 5 Legnano and the 2 isolés who will signify the Armor model, Ernest Paul and [Charles] Cruchon) who however needed to cross the Tourmalet. I can be extra eloquent once we get to speak.

“For at the moment, it’ll suffice to let you know that [Louis] Trousselier fell right into a swollen river, that [Georges] Cadolle suffered a fall which may have been critical following a slip within the snow on the descent to Barèges, and that each one my riders arrived exhausted at Barèges.”

“The street on the Tourmalet doesn’t exist. It’s misplaced beneath six to eight metres of snow. The poor devils, after an especially painful climb, had been obliged to descend the formidable slope seated on the snow, holding their machines behind them to brake, having connected themselves to the wheels with both their stockings or with handkerchiefs.

“They scampered down like this, with naked toes, and arrived at three-thirty in Barèges, having travelled 13 kilometres in 4 hours, with 10 kilometres of descent. It was there that we caught up with them once more, Gauderman and I having – such as you – been obliged to go round by the use of Lourdes.”

Baugé went on to say that he anticipated circumstances to be simply as dangerous on the Aubisque and that his riders can be again in Paris in a few days, with he following a day or two behind them.

Signatures of the riders who took on the Tourmalet

The Tourmalet Levelling Syndicate: seven days earlier than Alphonse Steinès’s a lot mythologized misadventures on it, the Tourmalet served up trials and tribulations to a 13-strong group of riders comprising six members of the Alcyon squad (François Faber, André Blaise, Georges Cadolle, Gustave Garrigou, Marcel Godiver and Louis Trousselier), 5 members of the Legnano crew (Lucien Petit-Breton, Maurice Brocco, Maurice Decaup, Émile Georget, and Fixed Ménager), and two ‘isolés’ representing the Armor model (Charles Cruchon and Ernest Paul). Becoming a member of the riders was the Alcyon ‘directeur sportif’ Alphonse Baugé and his driver, Gauderman. Different riders reported to be heading for the Pyrénées included: Henri Alavoine, driving as an ‘isolé’; Henri Cornet – the final man standing when the 1904 Tour’s outcomes had been reshuffled – who was driving as a part of Le Globe’s Tour crew; and Augustin Ringeval, one other ‘isolé’.
L’Auto / BnF

June 23 – P-26 days

Arriving at Gare d’Orsay at eight o’clock within the morning of June 23 the riders had been met by L’Auto, with Charles Ravaud interviewing them. They advised him that it was appalling to make them cross the Tourmalet, and that they’d horrible reminiscences of the Pyrenean passes. Even earlier than they’d reached the snowline they’d been struggling, with some getting off and strolling, whereas others tried to hold on to Baugé’s automobile.

“Lengthy earlier than the summit of the col they discovered the snow, and the street gone! Happily, three road-menders took it upon themselves to information them up the mountain. With out this sudden assembly, they might have been obliged to return all the way down to Sainte-Marie-de-Campan.

“Baugé advised you about their descent. The riders from Alcyon and Legnano confirmed it to me. Cadolle, slipping on the snow, nearly fell off a precipice. Trousselier tumbled right into a river. There have been many damaged brakes, and above all a variety of worn pads. In brief, within the riders’ reminiscence, evidently no race has ever taken such a tough route.

“The ordeal started once more on Tuesday with the three passes of Goulor [Soulor], Tortes and Aubisque. Our riders needed to cling to Baugé’s automobile to climb it. They lined 36 kilometres in seven hours. It is sufficient to underline the improbable effort they should have produced.

“All got here again to us in fine condition and hoping that the passage can be simpler, within the Pyrenean passes, on July 21.

“We’re satisfied that their hope will come true. In any case, if probability would have it that, opposite to earlier years, the Tourmalet and the Col d’Aubisque had been as impassable as they’re presently, we’d take into account modifying the route in the end.”

That L’Auto would publicly take into account at this late stage – the beginning of the Tour was simply ten days away – modifying the route of the race is one indicator of simply how critical they took the phrases of the Alcyon and Legnano riders. However earlier than accepting the necessity to make any adjustments to the route of the race L’Auto supposed to play another card:

“Our collaborator Steinès can be leaving shortly to evaluate the state of the roads and he’ll put together a really detailed report for us upon his return. Nonetheless, it’s infinitely possible that the route of the tenth stage won’t endure any modification, as a result of many vacationers and particularly Mr Moutin, who not too long ago described the Pyrenean passes for us, are unanimous in telling us that the col can be freed from snow by the point the race reaches it. One month nonetheless separates us from the second when the riders of the Tour de France can be referred to as upon to try the assault on the Pyrénées. By then the snow could have totally melted. So let’s not beat ourselves up an excessive amount of and as an alternative merely file the Alcyon and Legnano groups’ scouting of the route of the brand new phases as another feat to the credit score of the longer term rivals of our nice journey.”

To the general public, Ravaud and his colleagues in L’Auto had been placing as calm a face on it as they might. Contained in the places of work on the Rue du Fabourg, nonetheless, issues had been removed from calm. In 1910 readers of L’Auto weren’t conscious of simply how panicked issues had grow to be: that story would take a couple of years to seep out.

Half VII – The Steinès Model

June 28 – P-21 days

Throughout 5 days – June 28 by means of July 2 – L’Auto printed Alphonse Steinès’s account of his adventures within the Pyrénées.

Steinès arrived in Bagnères-de-Luchon on June 27. “This morning, a radiant solar flooded the peaks,” he wrote. “All of the snow round Luchon is gone and the roads are being restored.” Along with one in every of L’Auto’s not too long ago appointed stringers within the space – Paul Dupont, who can be serving to with the stage end in Bagnères-de-Luchon – he met with a person referred to as Darrespen, one of many engineers with accountability for roads and bridges within the native space. Steinès was assured – and he in flip reassured L’Auto’s readers – that each one was nicely and all roads can be open in time for the principle vacationer season, working from July by means of September.

Extracting a promise from Darrespen that the roads to be travelled by the Tour would obtain explicit consideration Steinès and Dupont, aboard a 16 HP Dietrich pushed by Isidore Estrade-Berdat, got down to cross the Col de Peyresourde, the Col d’Aspin, the Col du Tourmalet and the Col d’Aubisque. “I’ll telegraph you this night the results of our explorations,” he wrote in a message despatched earlier than leaving Bagnères-de-Luchon, “however as of now I can let you know that a lot has been exaggerated this fashion and that with claims that it was straightforward to cross when others mentioned it was unimaginable. It’s neither unimaginable nor straightforward, it’s merely doable.”

Reaching Campan within the afternoon Steinès was capable of dispatch an replace to Paris: “We have now simply crossed the Col de Peyresourde and Aspin. They’re each great and I ponder the way it acquired in anybody’s thoughts that the riders of the Tour wouldn’t climb these mountains.” Steinès and his two travelling companions then headed for a date with future, an evening a lot misremembered.

June 29 – P-20 days

On June 29 L’Auto’s readers had been advised that Steinès had crossed the Tourmalet on foot and that additional particulars would observe in the end. The information had reached Paris by the use of temporary dispatch despatched by Lanne-Camy, the hotelier in Barèges who had not too long ago been appointed one of many paper’s stringers. His message was reproduced in full:

BAREGES, 28 juin – Alphonse Steinès a passé le Tourmalet, à pied, hier soir, à 10 heures – Lanne-Camy

BAREGES, 28 June – Alphonse Steinès crossed the Tourmalet on foot final night time at 10 o’clock – Lanne-Camy

How Lanne-Camy transmitted his message to ‘L’Auto’ isn’t told but the most likely method is by telegraph, to the address – Vélauto-Paris – that had appeared in the paper’s masthead since its inception in 1900.

How Lanne-Camy transmitted his message to ‘L’Auto’ isn’t advised however the most definitely methodology is by telegraph, to the deal with – Vélauto-Paris – that had appeared within the paper’s masthead since its inception in October 1900.
L’Auto / BnF

The identical day that that message was reported, L’Auto additionally reported {that a} 38 HP Minerva car with six individuals on board had efficiently crossed the Tourmalet. Shortly they’d cause to doubt the accuracy of that report.

July 1 – P-18 days

It was July 1 earlier than L’Auto’s readers discovered what had befallen Steinès on the Tourmalet, with the person himself writing an in depth account of his Pyrenean adventures. By that point the paper had already knowledgeable them that he had efficiently crossed the Col d’Aubisque too and would quickly be returning to Paris, job completed.

Steinès’s account of his night time on the Tourmalet was each dramatic and poetic.

“Have been I to reside to be 100 I might all the time keep in mind the journey of my wrestle in opposition to the mountains, the snow, the ice, the clouds, the ravines, the darkness, the chilly, in opposition to isolation, in opposition to starvation, thirst, in opposition to – in a nutshell – every thing. All that Baugé wrote, all that the riders advised Ravaud, is correct. Nothing was exaggerated. As it’s now, it’s insanity to try to cross the col.

“The lads of the mountains warned me that I couldn’t cross. However on leaving Paris I had promised our Director to see for myself, and I needed to get by means of in any respect prices; I practically paid for this reckless folly with my life.”

Steinès’s try to drive over the Tourmalet was halted two kilometres from the summit. A shepherd was tending a herd of cows close by. Steinès quizzed him on the state of the cross. Deciding that the shepherd’s responses had been too obscure Steinès resolved to search out out for himself. Leaving his driver and his travelling companion – Estrade and Dupont – to take the Dietrich again down the mountain Steinès, guided by the shepherd, set out on foot for the summit. It was seven o’clock within the night.

The sky was blanketed in cloud and a sepulchral silence enveloped the mountain. They had been in a wasteland of snow, snow that had been hardened by the chilly in order that it was attainable to stroll on it. Occasionally the snow gave manner beneath Steinès. It took an hour to cowl the 2 kilometres to the summit, recognized by a trig level, exhibiting an altitude of two,133 metres, just a little increased than the mountain is measured at the moment.

Trying down towards Barèges Steinès may see that the snow prolonged additional than the 2 kilometres it lined on the Sainte-Marie-de-Campan aspect. It was by then seven days for the reason that riders from Alcyon and Legnano had had their very own journey on this mountain and all hint of their passage was gone. The sunshine was fading – it was by now eight o’clock – and Steinès’s garments had been soaked by the snow. The shepherd advised him he may take him no additional and needed to return to his cows.

“Have you ever ever felt in your life an immense despair, an immeasurable vacancy, this indefinable factor that one feels in entrance of the unknown and that one should understand when one sees demise coming? Sure! Nicely, that’s how I felt. I first beg my shepherd to not go away me like this, to not abandon me in these Siberian steppes, on this snowy desert the place I might not dare to take a step, as a result of I might threat breaking my bones, on this nation that I don’t know, the place there’s neither path nor monitor, on this cross which is frequented by bears who come from Spain. After having begged, I threaten, and I consider that if I had been carrying a revolver I might not have hesitated to make use of it. We defend ourselves as finest we are able to when life is at stake, and I noticed very clearly that mine was. Nothing helped; he ran away, disappearing within the snow.”

Steinès acquired down on all fours, to crawl down the mountain. He tumbled, head over heels. Rolling, falling, crawling, he descended 4 kilometres down the mountain. Having hermetically sealed his pockets he was capable of extract some matches and light-weight one, with a purpose to examine the time on his watch. However it had stopped at 8:20. By now it should be 9, or ten. He continued, guided by the sound of water falling. Out of the blue he noticed tracks within the snow.

“It’s the wake of a bicycle wheel. Secure! Sure, saved! I observe this monitor on all fours, touching it with my finger. A stroke of excellent fortune!”

After a kilometre he got here out of the snow and onto the street. He rose and ran, as quick as his legs may carry him. A kilometre, no extra. Then he collapsed with fatigue.

“I sit down by the aspect of the street and, alone, deserted within the limitless night time, I cry, I cry profusely. I consider every thing: of my household, who consider I’m in a very good lodge chatting with different travellers; of my colleagues little question busy getting ready a shaggy dog story for the paper. Let’s dry these tears. Let’s go!”

Forward he spied a light-weight. And two shadows within the mild. Gendarmes. He made himself recognized to them. Informed them the story of his adventures. They took him to the Hôtel Richelieu. He was in Barèges. The lodge run by L’Auto’s not too long ago appointed stringer for the world, Lanne-Camy. The person who, the subsequent day, despatched the message to L’Auto we’ve already learn. His baggage within the Dietrich, Steinès borrowed a change of garments from the hotelier.

“Ten minutes later, I used to be seated in entrance of a lavish dinner. It was half previous ten within the night. The opposite travellers got here and stared at me like I used to be a circus freak. I’m the gentleman who has crossed the Tourmalet at night time. They’ll be speaking about it for a very long time in Barèges and the encompassing space.”

A century and extra on, they’re nonetheless speaking about it in Barèges, and far additional afield too, albeit in a a lot mutated type.

The  Hôtel Richelieu et d’Angleterre in Barèges, run by Lanne-Camy, still stands today.

The Hôtel Richelieu et d’Angleterre in Barèges, run by Lanne-Camy, nonetheless stands at the moment.

Recovered from his exertions, on June 29 – his third day within the Pyrénées – Steinès crossed the Col d’Aubisque, which was reported in L’Auto the next day: “Nicely! We have now simply crossed it, the one that everybody mentioned was impassable; now we have simply crossed the Col d’Aubisque.” Persevering with, Steinès summed up his complete journey: “Let the riders know that out 16 HP Dietrich, with its Bergougnan tyres, has handed and subsequently a bicycle will have the ability to cross. It’s bodily attainable to cross all of the cols which can be on the route chosen by our editor-in-chief. It was essential to show it and to show it in an irrefutable manner. It’s completed.”

July 2 – P-17 days

Three days later a full report of the crossing of the Aubisque was printed in L’Auto. Beginning out from Argèles-Gazost, Steinès and his travelling companions – L’Auto’s stringer in Bangères-de-Luchon, Dupont, and their driver, Estrade – had been knowledgeable that the street over the Aubisque was nonetheless closed. Wanting extra data he detoured 50 kilometres north, to Pau, with a purpose to speak to the person with general accountability for roads and bridges all through the Basses-Pyrénées division (France’s equal of counties). There he was advised that the clearing of the street over the Aubisque had been accomplished two days beforehand.

Somewhat than returning to Argèles-Gazost and crossing the the mountains east to west, the identical because the Tour would, Steinès as an alternative went to Eaux-Bonnes and crossed the mountain west to east. This enabled him to then head to Tarbes after crossing the Aubisque, the place he supposed to satisfy the chief engineer for the Hautes-Pyrénées division.

Shortly after reaching Eaux-Bonnes and commencing the ascent of the Aubisque – from the underside of what, for the riders, can be the descent of the mountain – the climate took a flip for the more severe:

“It’s a deluge: raindrops the dimensions of saucers, hail the dimensions of pigeons’ eggs, snow, every thing is combined up. It’s extraordinary. We not dare transfer ahead. Torrents of water descend the naked mountain, carrying rocks. There’s nowhere to shelter. We stoically climate the storm.”

The storm weathered, Steinès and his companions started their ascent. Timber blocking the street needed to be cleared. They climbed by means of a piece the place nothing separated the sting of the street from the void under: “On one aspect a precipice whose depth can fluctuate between two and 300 metres; no railings, no boundary stones, not the slightest ledge to point the place the street ends and the precipice begins. And it lasts for kilometres.”

They handed a street crew working to restore the injury completed by landslides and many others. Ultimately they reached the col itself, the place sheep, goats, and cows roamed freely. “These herds occupy your entire street and don’t dream of letting us cross. Why would they hassle. They’re at house right here. We’re the intruders.”

Within the passage between the Aubisque and the Soulor, through the Tortes, the street was in an indescribable state of disrepair. “That is the place we totally understand the devastation completed by the cruel winter that has simply ended. There’s nonetheless snow all over the place, and there can be nonetheless when the riders come, however the street is cleared, and in some locations we drove between two partitions of snow.”

The descent all the way down to Argèles-Gazost – what for the riders would the climb of the Soulor – Steinès thought was in good situation, albeit considerably daunting for the various activates the street.

His job accomplished Steinès reported that he was returning to Paris.

His conferences in Pau and Tarbes with the chief engineers for Basse-Pyrénées and the Hautes-Pyrénées departments served as bookends to a visit that had begun three days earlier than in Bagnères-de-Luchon the place Steinès had met one of many individuals liable for roads and bridges within the space, Darrespen. He was a conducteur des ponts et chaussées, an engineer answerable for the upkeep of roads and bridges working on the stage of a supervisor. Over the course of his journey Steinès met a number of different supervisors. There was Freche, in Arreau, who had accountability for the Col d’Aspin. Lesparre in Bagnères-de-Bigorre, who handled the Col du Tourmalet, as did Lartigue in Luz-Saint-Sauveur on the opposite aspect of the mountain. In Argèles there was Gassan, additionally liable for a part of the Tourmalet, in addition to the Col d’Aubisque. In Larans there was Meheut, who shared accountability for the Aubisque.

Of all of the individuals he met, it’s the chief engineer in Pau who has gone down in legend, along with his request for five,000 francs to convey the street over the Aubisque as much as an acceptable normal for the Tour to cross it. That a part of the story, although, was not made recognized to readers of L’Auto in 1910.

Earlier than transferring on to taking a look at how we acquired from what Steinès wrote in L’Auto to the model of the story we inform at the moment, a fast recap of Steinès’s model of the story.

Steinès arrived in Bagnères-de-Luchon on Monday, June 27. He met with one of many engineers liable for roads and bridges within the space, Darrespen. He was accompanied by one in every of L’Auto’s not too long ago appointed stringers within the space, Paul Dupont. In a Dietrich pushed by Isidore Estrade-Berdat they set out for the mountains. From Campan later within the day Steinès reported that they’d crossed the Col de Peyresourde and the Col d’Aspin and had been en path to the Col du Tourmalet.

On Tuesday, June 28, Lanne-Camy reported to L’Auto that Steinès had crossed the Tourmalet the earlier night time.

On Wednesday, June 29, Steinès crossed the Aubisque, met with the chief engineers for the Hautes-Pyrénées and Basse-Pyrénées departments and ready to return to Paris.

Every of those occasions was reported in L’Auto the day after they occurred: Steinès’s arrival in Luchon on the June 28, Lanne-Camy’s message on June 29, the crossing of the Aubisque on June 30. On July 1 and July 2 L’Auto supplied extra element of Steinès’s ascents of the Tourmalet and the Aubisque. On July 3 the 1910 Tour de France commenced.

Throughout all of that reporting there’s one notable absence: there was no telegram from Steinès claiming the Tourmalet was satisfactory.

Half VIII – Forging a Legend

Some hypothesis. Have been you to be advised that, simply 4 days earlier than the beginning of the 1910 Tour de France, Alphonse Steinès was negotiating with the chief engineer of the Hautes-Pyrénées division with a purpose to have a street constructed over the Col d’Aubisque, you wouldn’t consider it. And also you shouldn’t, as a result of it didn’t occur. However Steinès did meet that man a couple of days earlier than the beginning of the Tour. It simply wasn’t to get a street constructed. It was to make sure that an present street was totally repaired forward of the arrival of the Tour’s riders three weeks later.

As an alternative of approaching the story from that angle, nonetheless, some have determined {that a} street was constructed and since that’s such a colossal endeavor then it should have been constructed lengthy earlier than the Tour’s arrival. And they also’ve despatched Steinès to the Pyrénées in January. Some have even taken the date of Steinès precise go to – June 27 – and determined that that should be a typo and it was actually January 27.

Partially, I think about, that’s how we acquired from the story Steinès initially advised then to the story we inform now: like Eric Morecambe’s try to play Grieg’s Piano Concerto, our model has all the fitting notes, however not essentially in the fitting order. We’ve additionally jazzed it up a bit, including element from different tales and improvising new parts. Most notably we’ve stored Steinès on the mountain till three o’clock within the morning and we’ve reworked a message despatched by Lanne-Camy right into a telegram despatched by Steinès.

We’ve been in a position to do that – have had to do that, even – partly as a result of a lot of L’Auto’s historical past acquired misplaced within the second world warfare and partly as a result of truly going again and studying accessible copies of L’Auto has been such a tough job to undertake till not too long ago. It’s solely in the previous couple of years that Gallica has made made L’Auto accessible on-line to all of us, regardless of the place we’re on the earth, eradicating the necessity to go to Paris to learn the paper.

That’s a beneficiant studying of what has occurred, a straightforward excuse for the lies advised by many within the title of historical past. The fact is that that we’ve turned Steinès’s story into the whispers sport, each telling of the story totally different, distorted. However it’s not simply us, at the moment. Even within the Twenties Steinès’s adventures on the Tourmalet had been being twisted this fashion and that in accordance with the tastes of the teller. Take, as an example, a model of the story that appeared in La Pédale in 1924.

Even by 1924 the story of Steinès’s night on the mountain was changing in subtle ways as this version, from an issue of ‘La Pédale’ shows.

Even by 1924 the story of Steinès’s night time on the mountain was altering in refined methods as this model, from a difficulty of ‘La Pédale’ exhibits.
La Pédale / BnF

Ravaud having didn’t cross the entire Pyrenean cols to be included within the Tour, in accordance with La Pédale’s telling of the story, Steinès was despatched south to see what the story was. He crossed the Peyresourde and the Aspin. He acquired to inside three kilometres of the highest of the Tourmalet earlier than snow stopped him. He set out on foot and three hours later he reached the col. Two metres of snow stuffed the street as he began his descent to Barèges. It was by now darkish. Twenty instances Steinès nearly stumbled off the street into nothing. Twenty instances his blood ran chilly with fright. He sat within the snow and cried like a baby for his mom. He resumed his descent, utilizing matches to mild his manner. After they ran out he acquired down on all fours and crawled down the mountain. Lastly he reached Barèges, at 9 o’clock within the night.

By the point that Victor Breyer (briefly) touched upon Steinès’s adventures of the Tourmalet, in a 1950 version of However et Membership, he had closed the hole between Desgrange turning into satisfied of the necessity to enter the Pyrénées and Steinès being despatched to evaluate the situation of the Tourmalet and the Aubisque, leaving the impression that one had shortly adopted on the heels of the opposite.

These tellings of the story are simply two examples of the best way by which the story will be seen to vary over time. Two later variations of the story appear to be vital steps in the best way now we have arrived on the model of the story now we have at the moment: a model present in Marcel Diamant-Berger’s Histoire du Tour de France (1959); and a model present in Pierre Chany’s Fabuleuse Histoire du Tour de France (1983).

Diamant-Berger’s ‘Histoire du Tour de France’

Diamant-Berger offered episodes from the Tour’s historical past as dialogues, or monologues, people on the coronary heart of the totally different tales providing their account of historical past. Some assert that the ebook relies on authentic interviews however there’s nothing in it to verify that and the contents of the Steinès story counsel this declare is mistaken

The Diamant-Berger Model

In Diamant-Berger’s model it’s the start of 1910 when Steinès convinces Desgrange to take the Tour into the Pyrénées. The plan is introduced in L’Auto and there’s a public outcry. Steinès is distributed to recce the route. When he arrives within the Pyrénées – no date is given however this should nonetheless be early in 1910 – he’s advised a Mercedes with 4 individuals in it had overturned the earlier week.

Steinès travels to Pau to satisfy the person answerable for roads and bridges, Blanchet, with a purpose to speak to him in regards to the Aubisque, which he has simply come from. Blanchet desires 5,000 francs to convey the street as much as the usual wanted to let the Tour cross it. Steinès calls Paris, speaks to Desgrange. He presents 1,500 francs. Steinès talks him as much as 2,000 and guarantees Blanchet he’ll discover the remainder someplace. Blanchet guarantees to start out work on the street the subsequent day. Steinès returns to Paris, leaving the Tourmalet to be tackled one other day.

He returns to the Pyrénées a month earlier than the Tour and heads to Saint-Marie-de-Campan, the place he has lunch within the inn reverse the church. The proprietor tells him he doesn’t know if the Tourmalet is open but. Somebody is available in and says the street is open. One other individual says the street continues to be closed. Steinès decides to test it out for himself. Dupont, from Bagnères-de-Bigorre, is his driver. Three kilometres from the summit they encounter snow. After one other 500 or 600 metres the street is blocked. Dupont says that it will convey out the bears from Spain, to eat the French livestock. It’s six o’clock.

Steinès units out on foot. Inside a kilometre the snow is greater than 4 metres deep. He sees within the distance shepherds guarding sheep. He asks one in every of them to information him to the col. It takes two-and-a-half hours to cowl the remaining two kilometres. Evening is falling, a cloudy sky blocking out the celebs. Steinès asks the shepherd to take him all the way down to Barèges however he refuses and returns to his sheep. Steinès does the mathematics: it’s 19 kilometres to return the best way he got here, 14 kilometres all the way down to Barèges. He heads for Barèges.

The snow collapses beneath him and he slips off the aspect of the street. His toes get moist in a rivulet. He climbs again up onto the street. He makes use of the sound of a river to information him. The snow begins to clear. He comes throughout a kilometre marker, sits on it and cries. He continues. He sees lights within the distance. The outskirts of Barèges. They’ve had a phonecall from Sainte-Marie-de-Campan, a number of groups of guides are out on the lookout for him. It’s three o’clock.

He’s taken to Lanne-Camy, L’Auto’s native correspondent. Has a heat tub and borrows a change of garments. Sits down to a different meal. Has a sleep. When he awakes he tells Lanne-Camy he should telegraph Desgrange. He’s requested what he’ll say. He pauses for thought. Writes: ‘Henri Desgrange. L’Auto. Paris. Handed Tourmalet, cease. Excellent street, cease. Completely doable.’

« Henri Desgrange. L’Auto. Paris. Passé Tourmalet, cease. Très bonne route, cease. Parfaitement faisable. »

Diamant-Berger’s model of the telegram that by no means was.

Jacques Legris in conversation with (left to right) Jean Bobet, Pierre Chany, Antoine Blondin and Daniel Pautrat. June 1966. Chany’s ‘Fabuleuse Histoire du Cyclisme’ and ‘Fabuleuse Histoire du Tour de France’ have become key sources for a certain class of English-language Tour historian.

Jacques Legris in dialog with (left to proper) Jean Bobet, Pierre Chany, Antoine Blondin and Daniel Pautrat. June 1966. Chany’s ‘Fabuleuse Histoire du Cyclisme’ and ‘Fabuleuse Histoire du Tour de France’ have grow to be key sources for a sure class of English-language Tour historian.
Paul Harle / INA / Getty

The Chany Model

The second model of the story comes from the fabulist Pierre Chany, who for greater than 30 years was L’Équipe’s chief biking author. His aptly titled Fabuleuse Histoire du Tour de France (1983) – a vibrant and ingenious historical past of the Tour – takes Diamant-Berger’s model of the story and provides new parts to it.

It’s the start of 1910 when Steinès convinces Desgrange to take the Tour into the Pyrénées. Steinès heads south, to Eaux-Bonnes on the backside of the Col d’Aubisque. He will get the story of the Mercedes. Goes to Pau. Meets the person answerable for roads and bridges who desires 5,000 francs to type out the street over the Aubisque. Steinès wires Paris. Desgrange presents 2,000 francs.

Steinès heads to Sainte-Marie-de-Campan, the place he goes to the inn reverse the church. He’s advised the street over the Tourmalet isn’t normally open till July. Steinès decides to test it out for himself. Dupont, from Bagnères-de-Bigorre, is his driver. 4 kilometres from the summit they’re stopped by snow. It’s six o’clock.

Steinès units out on foot. Quickly the snow is greater than 4 metres deep. Evening falls. He crosses the col. Begins the descent. Disappears right into a snowdrift. Falls right into a stream. Sees the lights of Barèges. Meets L’Auto’s correspondent, Lanne-Camy, on the outskirts of the village. Lanne-Camy has been alerted by Dupont to be looking out for him, a number of groups of guides are out looking for him. It’s three o’clock.

Bathtub. Meals. Sleep. Steinès prepares a telegram for Desgrange: ‘Handed Tourmalet. Cease. Excellent street. Cease. Completely satisfactory. Cease. Signed: Steinès.’

« Passé Tourmalet. Cease. Très bonne route. Cease. Parfaitement praticable. Cease. Signé : Steinès. »

Chany’s model of the telegram that by no means was.

Steinès returns to Paris. Conceals what actually occurred. Tells Desgrange that he’s ready a brand new route for the Tour, one which bypasses Toulouse and goes as an alternative to Perpignan, from the place the race will cross the Pyrénées by the use of Bagnères-de-Luchon earlier than tackling the Peyresourde, Aspin, Tourmalet and Aubisque en path to Bayonne. The information is printed the subsequent day in L’Auto. Different papers condemn Desgrange for a harmful and far-fetched initiative.

Half IXThe Steinès Model, Revisited

To complicate this story considerably, now we have a second account from Steinès of his adventures within the Pyrénées. This appeared in early 1959 in {a magazine} printed by L’Équipe, the successor to L’Auto. This account heaps confusion upon the model Steinès first supplied in 1910, starting with its headline: “Alphonse Steinès (86 years outdated), the person who satisfied Henri Desgrange to take Tour into the mountains tells us how he made the street over the Aubisque for 3,000 francs!”

Georges Abran (with his back to the camera), Alphonse Steinès and François Faber at the 1911 Tour de France.

Georges Abran (along with his again to the digicam), Alphonse Steinès and François Faber on the 1911 Tour de France, on the Promonade des Anglais in Good. Like Faber Steinès was a Luxembourger. He labored at ‘L’Auto’ between 1900 and 1918 having joined Desgrange’s paper from ‘Le Vélo’. Over the course of the subsequent decade he reported for ‘Le Petit Journal’. ‘Le Matin’ and ‘Le Journal’. He then grew to become the Touring Membership de France’s press officer. In addition to reporting, his duties at ‘L’Auto’ included drawing up the route the Tour would observe every year. He died in 1960, lower than a 12 months after writing about taking the Tour into the Pyrénées for ‘L’Équipe’.
La Vie au Grand Air / BnF

This account begins by referring to the difficulties of convincing Desgrange to make adjustments to the Tour. “With persistent obstinacy,” Steinès wrote, “I managed to persuade the ‘patron’, Henri Desgrange, {that a} Tour de France ought to observe the the roads closest to the borders, whether or not they be plains or mountains. It was a primary victory that was to offer the race a lustre it didn’t but have. There was a lot vanity to handle, so many pursuits, that Desgrange hesitated for a very long time.”

Steinès’s first success had are available 1905, with the ascent of the Ballon d’Alsace. In 1907 he had satisfied Desgrange to take the race into the occupied territories of Alsace and Lorraine, with a stage that completed in Metz. He additionally took the race deeper into the foothills of the Alps.

These successes weren’t all warmly acquired. In 1907 the Touring Membership de France mocked the Tour’s temerity, criticised it for its failure to embrace the excessive passes of the Galibier, Izoard, Vars and Allos on France’s jap borders, and for not venturing into the mountains that shaped the southern border.

Although little criticism of the Tour’s entry to the Pyrénées appeared in L’Auto in 1910 – and nearly none appeared in some other paper – Steinès claimed that, from the second it was introduced that the Tour would cross the Peyresourde, Aspin, Tourmalet and Aubisque, they acquired an avalanche of letters heaping insults upon them. Whether or not that was in September 1909, when the route of the race was introduced however with out naming the principle cols to be crossed, or after Might, when Ravaud and Abran had tried to traverse these passes, shouldn’t be advised. The one essential letter L’Auto did publish was the one which got here from JT Burton in early June.

Steinès was capable of recall the contents of one of many letters acquired:

“‘So that you don’t know that the roads of which you converse don’t exist? If there’s a good one on the Tourmalet there’s none on the Aubisque. It’s a easy path by which loggers convey tree trunks down the mountain, pulled by groups of oxen.”

These trunks, Steinès defined, dug holes within the street, holes deep sufficient to bury a person in. Although, in fact, when he wrote in 1910 of driving over the Aubisque Steinès didn’t point out any holes deep sufficient to bury males in. Possibly to explain them so was simply an exaggeration for impact, one thing we are able to’t assist letting potholes convey out in us at any time when we speak of them, then or now.

This letter quoted by Steinès led to a stormy argument with Desgrange, who not needed to listen to in regards to the cols of the Pyrénées. “Nonetheless,” Steinès wrote, “I acquired the higher of his aversion to the excessive passes and, that very same night, I set off with my bike to reconnoitre the contested elements of the route.”

Lacking from this account are some vital factors. That Ravaud and Abran had didn’t cross the Aspin, Tourmalet, and Aubisque in Might. That Lanne-Camy had advised L’Auto the Tourmalet was open on the identical day that the Alcyon and Legnano riders discovered it buried deep in snow. That, when the Alcyon and Legnano riders returned to Paris, they had been interviewed by Ravaud and it was instantly introduced that Steinès was being despatched to the Pyrénées to report on the true state of the roads over the excessive passes. This maybe is the largest drawback with this 1959 account: it’s problematic not a lot for the issues it says however for the issues it leaves unsaid. The gaps it leaves for others to fill.

With these parts overlooked, we get one thing very near the model advised by Diamant-Berger and Chany, each of whom embrace the argument with Desgrange in regards to the situation of the street over the Aubisque, with Desgrange lecturing Steinès on the injury completed to the street by the forestry employees.

Some of the similarities between the version of the tale told by Marcel Diamant-Berger and that told by Pierre Chany are striking, to say the least.

A few of the similarities between the model of the story advised by Marcel Diamant-Berger and that advised by Pierre Chany are putting, to say the least.

“As I had promised the ‘patron’,” Steinès’s 1959 account continued, “so I left with my bicycle to reconnoitre the 4 passes, from the place I nearly didn’t got here again alive. The occupation of a journalist has its dangers, is typically deadly. I had the dreadful expertise of that. The guides in Barèges can testify to this. I nonetheless undergo at the moment, at 86, the implications of it.”

Steinès’s account of his night time on the Tourmalet is right here lowered to a single paragraph:

“I need to return to my tragic misadventures on Tourmalet the place, at night time, within the darkness, I used to be misplaced and alone within the icy desert, struggling and never desirous to die on a hostile and unknown mountain, at an altitude of two,255 meters, lined with a thickness of 4 meters of snow, over an extent of ten kilometres. Groups of guides from Barèges and Sainte-Marie-de-Campan, who went to my rescue, didn’t discover me. I saved myself alone, however not with out problem and never with out horrible risks, after having lived for hours on finish in mortal anguish, with out help, and within the sinister and nocturnal silence of the excessive mountains.”

Steinès’s story then jumps to the Aubisque:

“Having crossed the 1,750m Col d’Aubisque and stopped at Gourette for a snack – Gourette at the moment was solely an antimony mine with a modest canteen, whereas at the moment it has grow to be a well-known winter sports activities resort – I slept that night time in Eaux-Bonnes. There I discovered that, a couple of days earlier, a giant Mercedes that had, like me, needed to cross the cross – however as an alternative of being on a bicycle, it was on 4 wheels with 4 passengers together with the motive force – had skidded on the free street floor, and crashed 400 metres under. The automobile was in items and the travellers in a greater world. 4 lifeless, it throws a chill, particularly if you’ve come near assembly the grim reaper two days earlier than.”

Steinès by his earlier account – and supported by a short message despatched to L’Auto by one in every of this two travelling companions – had crossed the Aubisque west to east, beginning in Eaux-Bonnes. After descending to Argèles-Gazost he had headed to Tarbes to satisfy the chief engineer of the Hautes-Pyrénées division, who had general accountability for the Col du Tourmalet. He had already been to Pau earlier within the day to satisfy the chief engineer of the Basses-Pyrénées division, who had general accountability for the Col d’Aubisque. To get again to Eaux-Bonnes that night time should have concerned greater than 250 kilometres of driving in at some point.

Returning to Pau the next day, that may be reconciled with what we’ve beforehand been advised. Steinès’s first go to to Pau was in consequence of being advised that the Aubisque was nonetheless closed. Informed it had been opened two days earlier than he was then capable of go and see for himself what state the street was in. Involved by what he noticed, it isn’t unreasonable for him to have returned to Pau the subsequent day with a purpose to speak to the chief engineer about getting the street repaired.

In his 1959 account, Steinès supplied this tackle his assembly with chief engineer in Pau:

– You recognize of the accident with the Mercedes? The street shouldn’t be satisfactory.

– I do know all of that. It’s essential to repair the street. The riders will cross there in a month. Perceive me nicely: they’ll cross.

– However it’s unimaginable! To start with I’ve no finances!

– If it’s a query of cash, we’ll present it for you; however they’ll cross.

He requested the chief engineer to see if he may get Paris on the cellphone, and to ask for the places of work of L’Auto, and the ‘patron’ himself, Desgrange.

“Half a century in the past, you couldn’t get a name from Pau to Paris in a single or two minutes like at the moment. After an hour the bell rang and – oh miracle! – I had Desgrange on the road. I gave him a brief – very brief – account of my journey throughout the Pyrénées, assuring him that each one was nicely, that the Tourmalet was very tough, very doable for a median bicycle owner, and can be so as in a month as a result of males had been already engaged on eradicating the snow. Furthermore, our correspondent in Barèges would preserve us knowledgeable. Good! As for the Col d’Aubisque, clearly the street was not very satisfactory, however I used to be discussing that with the chief engineer of roads and bridges for the entire of the Basses-Pyrénées division. He not having a finances for the upkeep of the routes thermales I promised we may assist him.”

Desgrange requested how a lot was wanted. Steinès mentioned it could price about 5,000 francs. Desgrange advised him to supply 500. At which level the decision was abruptly minimize off. Steinès promised the engineer that, as soon as again in Paris, he would work on Desgrange and get him to extend his supply. He succeeded in growing it to 1,500 francs. The chief engineer was capable of finding sufficient to match that and Steinès reported that, at a price of three,000 francs, repairs had been carried out on the street protecting the second half of the climb of the Col du Soulor and the passage over the Col de Tortes to the Col d’Aubisque.

“Nicely! pricey readers and associates, it’s with this modest sum of three,000 francs that the work to enhance the street over the Aubisque, between Arrens and Gourette, was undertaken the very subsequent day, with me watching on. It’s due to this very modest sum of cash that we had been capable of take the Tour over this route some had deemed unimaginable, and with nice success. And it was, and nonetheless is, due to this that the routes thermales, beforehand not nicely maintained, have grow to be nationwide roads, and these days rank among the many most stunning and picturesque roads in France.”

Steinès’s personal declare of getting the street between the Aubisque and the Soulor improved is markedly extra modest than what L’Équipe claimed in its headline, which steered {that a} street was constructed from scratch. How modest is Steinès’s declare that it’s due to the Tour that the route thermale grew to become as widespread because it did? That’s more durable to evaluate. As talked about earlier, the Touring Membership de France had by 1910 already been working for a number of years on selling a route Pyrénées. Books like CL Freeston’s 1912 Passes of the Pyrenees present that motor automobiles additionally performed a job in popularising the Pyrénées. The Tour alone was not liable for what adopted in subsequent years. However on the identical time I don’t assume it’s an exaggeration to assert that the Tour performed a serious half in that.

Gallicagram is a tool that allows users to search the archives of the Bibliothèque National de France in order to graph the popularity of different search phrases over time. This graph gives some indication of how the popularity of the Col du Tourmalet and the Col d’Aubisque increased notably after 1910.

Gallicagram is a instrument that permits customers to go looking the archives of the Bibliothèque Nationwide de France with a purpose to graph the recognition of various search phrases over time. This graph provides some indication of how the recognition of the Col du Tourmalet and the Col d’Aubisque elevated notably after 1910.

Between these two accounts by Steinès – from 1910 and 1959 – now we have most all the key parts of the story we inform at the moment, albeit in a unique order and with a couple of additions drawn from elsewhere. Probably the most notable hole within the story is why we preserve him on the Tourmalet till three within the morning when, by his personal account – and by Lanne-Camy’s message telegraphed to L’Auto – he was off the mountain by ten o’clock and consuming a meal by ten-thirty. Different variations of the story advised earlier than 1959 might at some point assist clarify how we got here to invent that a part of the story.

Alphonse Steinès (1873-1960), from an 1898 photograph.

Alphonse Steinès (1873-1960), from an 1898 {photograph}. Within the phrases of Victor Breyer, Steinès’s improvements within the Tour “reworked the chrysalis that had already grow to be a butterfly into an eagle.”
Jules Beau / BnF

Half XThe Abridged Model

  • As early as July 1909, a full 12 months forward of the Tour’s first Pyrenean phases, Henri Desgrange was indicating that the 1910 Tour would enter the Pyrénées;
  • The route of the 1910 Tour was introduced in September 1909, with two phases within the Pyrénées included. Alphonse Steinès has to have satisfied Desgrange to take the Tour into the Pyrénées earlier than that;
  • The Tour’s route by means of the Pyrénées was scouted by Charles Ravaud and Georges Abran in Might 1910 with common reviews of their progress showing in L’Auto;
  • Ravaud adopted these reviews with detailed descriptions of the 2 new Pyrenean phases, whereas a neighborhood cyclo-tourist, Émile Moutin, added further element on the second and more durable of the 2 phases;
  • The specter of bears within the Pyrénées might have been actual nevertheless it was the specter of the cows, horses, sheep, and pigs that freely roamed the roads that L’Auto felt riders wanted to be warned about;
  • L’Auto printed only one letter criticising their selection of Pyrenean climbs, although Steinès claimed they acquired many extra. Not one of the different papers or magazines criticised L’Auto;
  • The Touring Membership de France had already despatched riders over the Col du Tourmalet in 1902, together with Hippolyte Figaro, the primary Black rider to start out and end Paris-Roubaix, and Marthe Hesse, one of many ladies driving in these days whose title continues to be recalled. Riders within the TCF occasion additionally included a number of professionals whose names we at the moment nonetheless recall for his or her participation in early Excursions;
  • It was following the Alcyon crew’s recce of the Col de Port and the Col de Portet d’Aspet that Alphonse Baugé first used the time period Circle of Demise to discuss with any of the mountains within the Pyrénées;
  • Six riders from the Alcyon crew, together with 5 from Legnano and two isolés, had their very own misadventures within the snow on the Tourmalet and had been compelled to descend to Barèges on their backsides with their bikes held behind them to behave as brakes. One rider practically slipped off the street into the abyss under whereas one other fell right into a river;
  • Steinès was dispatched to the Pyrénées and arrived in Bagnères-de-Luchon on June 27. After having crossed the Peyresourde and the Aspin throughout the day, that night he set off up the Tourmalet accompanied by Paul Dupont and their driver Isidore Estrade-Berdat. It was seven o’clock when he deserted Dupont and Estrade and began strolling. By ten-thirty he was again in civilisation and consuming a meal within the Hôtel Richelieu in Barèges;
  • Whereas it’s true that search events had been despatched out to search for him, Steinès made it down off the Tourmalet beneath his personal steam;
  • Steinès’s telegram is a fiction. The precise message was despatched by Lanne-Camy and easily mentioned that Steinès had arrived in Barèges having crossed the Tourmalet on foot;
  • Having crossed the Tourmalet Steinès then tackled the Aubisque and had a gathering in Pau with the chief street engineer for the entire of the Basse-Pyrénées division. He needed about 5,000 francs to convey the street between the Soulor and the Aubisque as much as the usual Steinès desired. Desgrange supplied 500 francs, Steinés was subsequently capable of enhance that to 1,500 francs, with the chief engineer securing matching funds;
  • It was solely on the finish of his journey, with all of the cols handed, that Steinès discovered {that a} Mercedes with 4 individuals on board had not too long ago crashed on the Aubisque killing all on board;
  • A full account of Steinès’s journey to the Pyrénées, together with his night time on the Tourmalet, was printed in L’Auto over a number of days instantly after;
  • A lot of the model of the story we inform at the moment seems to return from a 1959 ebook by Marcel Diamant-Berger, which was later copied and added to by Pierre Chany within the Nineteen Eighties.

Subsequent: Assassins of the Aubisque!

My thanks go to: Tom Isitt, whose 2017 Rouleur article, ‘Fact or Lies’, kicked off this try to take a look at the much less fictitious historical past of how the Tour found the Pyrénées (at this distance we might by no means know the reality however we are able to dismiss these accounts which can be patently false); and to Max Leonard whose personal analysis unearthed an important portion of the story advised above, which he graciously shared with me. Go raibh mile maith agat.







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