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Chairman Bill's History of the Tour de France:
the 1960s

How a Newspaper Promotion Became the World's Greatest Sporting Event

Index: origins and early years | 1910s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s

This excerpt is from "The Story of the Tour de France", Volumes 1 and 2. If you enjoy it we hope you will consider purchasing the books, either print or electronic. The Amazon link here will make either purchase easy.

1960. Jacques Anquetil won the Giro in May, beating Gastone Nencini by only 28 seconds. Anquetil not surprisingly took the lead in the Giro for good in the stage 14 68-kilometer time trial. Charly Gaul had tried to find his usual rabbit in the hat when he won the penultimate stage that took the race over the Gavia pass. But for the master climber of his age, it was too little too late. He finished the Giro in third place, almost 4 minutes behind Master Jacques. Neither Gaul nor Anquetil chose to ride the Tour that year. It's thought that Anquetil didn't want a repeat of 1959 with the loyalties of the team split between Roger Rivière and himself. The rivalry between the 2 had ended in disgrace for Rivière and Anquetil when they let Bahamontes win the Tour.

That left Roger Rivière the leader of the French team. Still, although Rivière had notable accomplishments on the track and he had won prestigious time trials, he had yet to notch a major stage race win. With riders like André Darrigade, Jean Dotto, Jean Graczyk and Henry Anglade on their team, if the French didn't win the Tour in 1960 it wasn't because their team lacked power. It would be because some other failing of theirs let another rider win.

The major challenge to the French would have to come from the Italians. Nencini was now at the apogee of his career. Nino Defilippis, Ercole Baldini, and Arnaldo Pambianco were great riders in their own right and as part of a team they were doubly formidable.

The British again had a team in the Tour. Most notably, this was the first Tour start for Tommy Simpson (the year before Simpson had moved from England, where road racing was almost unknown, to France). The move worked well for the ambitious Englishman. He won 7 minor races and came in fourth in the World Road Championships held in Zandvoort, Holland that year. Simpson was a man on the way up.

The Belgians had no shortage of horsepower. Jan Adriaenssens was third in 1956, wearing the Yellow Jersey for 3 days that year. In 1959 he had slipped to seventh, but was only 10 minutes behind the winner, Bahamontes.

The 1960 Tour went counter-clockwise, Pyrenees first. Continuing a long, although somewhat unsteady trend that began after the mammoth 5,745 kilometer 1926 Tour, the 1960 Tour was about 200 kilometers shorter than the year before. The 4,173 kilometers were divided into 22 stages (opening day was a split stage) giving an average stage length of 189 kilometers. This was roughly 20 kilometers longer than those of today but about 30 kilometers shorter than an average stage in 1950.

Belgian Julien Schepens won the first stage's 14-man sprint into Brussels. Nencini and Anglade, the alert veterans, were in this lead bunch while Rivière was in the first chase group, over 2 minutes back. It was the 27.8-kilometer individual time trial that afternoon that was really interesting. Rivière won, beating Nencini by 32 seconds and Anglade by 48. Because Nencini was one of the heads-up riders in the first stage, he donned the Yellow Jersey with Anglade second, 31 seconds back. Rivière was sitting in seventh place, 92 seconds behind. Rivière had the power to win races but he lacked the tactical know-how and brains to win. As Desgrange had said over a half-century before, cycle racing is a head and legs sport.

The next day 1959 winner Federico Bahamontes became ill and had to abandon.

The problems with the French team started on stage 4, but it would take a few days for the effects to become manifest. 6 riders including 2 French team members, Anglade and Graczyk along with Baldini and old Wim van Est made a successful break and beat a compact field to the finish by 6 minutes, 19 seconds. After coming so close in 1959, for the first time in his career Anglade was in Yellow. Rivière was in tenth place now, almost 8 minutes behind his teammate. Having come in second the year before and now in Yellow, one should have assumed that Anglade would at least be accorded a high level of protection within his own team.

It all came apart for the French on the sixth stage, 191 kilometers from St. Malo to Lorient in Brittany. Rivière attacked (one account says the move was initiated by Nencini) and took Nencini and the extremely capable Jan Adriaenssens with him. Alarmed, Anglade talked to team manager Marcel Bidot and asked Bidot to have Rivière stop his attack which was taking along 2 powerful riders who were fully capable of winning the Tour. Rivière ignored Bidot's pleas and powered on. He hated the easy-to-dislike Anglade (Anglade's nickname was "Napoleon") and had no intention of doing him any favors. The carnage from the effort was complete. The main pack containing Anglade finished 14 minutes, 40 seconds behind the Rivière group. Adriaenssens was now the Yellow Jersey with Nencini at 72 seconds and Rivière at 2 minutes, 14 seconds.

Anglade's reaction to the day's events dripped with contempt for Rivière's stage-racing abilities. Speaking about the French team's chances, he prophesied "we've just lost the Tour." Anglade knew Rivière would ride defensively in the mountains, trying to stay with Nencini, and he further predicted that Rivière would come to grief trying to descend while holding Nencini's wheel. Anglade and the other professional riders with deep road experience knew exactly how dangerous Nencini was going downhill. Raphaël Géminiani had said, "the only reason to follow Nencini downhill is if you have a death wish." After the 1960 Giro Anquetil also gained a deep respect for Nencini's bike handling and passed on a warning to the other members of the French team.

Anglade himself was an excellent descender. He and Nencini had a personal race, man-to-man, down a mountain in Italy in 1959 to settle the question of who was the best living descender. Anglade beat the dangerous Italian but he had the measure of the man and had seen Rivière descend and come close to disaster the previous year as well. Anglade knew what he was talking about.

As the Tour traveled south down the western face of France Adriaenssens kept his lead. After stage 9 and at the foot of the Pyrenees, the standings stood thus:

1. Jean Adriaenssens
2. Gastone Nencini @ 1 minute 12 seconds
3. Roger Rivière @ 2 minutes 14 seconds
4. Jean Graczyk @ 2 minutes 15 seconds

Stage 10 had the Soulor and the Aubisque climbs. Nencini decided that this would be a good time to dispatch Rivière but the young Frenchman hung on grimly. When he was dropped on the first climb Rivière regained contact on of all places, the descent of the Aubisque. Rivière won the stage with Nencini second, the 2 riders finishing with the same time. Nencini was now the Yellow Jersey with Rivière at 32 seconds and Adriaenssens at 79 seconds. Fourth place Jozef Planckaert was at a distant 7 minutes, 8 seconds. It looked like a 3-way race from here on.

Rivière's plan was exactly as Anglade had described. He would stick like glue to Nencini through the road stages and beat him in the stage 19 time trial. At that point he was a 3-time world pursuit champion, had set the world hour record in 1957, and bettered it again in 1958. His Hour Record was so good that it stood for a decade. Rivière could be forgiven if he thought that he could easily take back a few seconds in an 83-kilometer time trial.

The next day, stage 11, had the Tourmalet, Aspin and the Peyresourde. On the final climb Nencini attacked and increased his lead over Rivière by a minute.

Stage 11, Nencini alone on the Peyresourde

The fourteenth stage took the Tour through the Cevannes, the mountains just south of the Massif Central. On the first of the day's 3 rated climbs, Nencini was the fourth man over the Col du Perjuret with Rivière glued to his wheel. Nencini dropped like a rock down the very technical descent. Rivière was unable to stay with Nencini and went off the side of the mountain and into a ravine. His back was broken from the fall. Rivière was never to ride a bike again. At first he blamed his mechanics but it turned out that Rivière was so doped with painkillers that he couldn't manage his downhill speed. By the early 1960s many riders were using a horrible cocktail of drugs: amphetamines as a stimulant, Palfium to kill the pain in their legs and then sleeping pills at night to counteract the amphetamines. It is generally thought that the Palfium caused his crash by making it impossible for Rivière to feel his brake levers.

After the tragic events of stage 14, here were the standings:

1. Gastone Nencini
2. Jan Adriaenssens @ 2 minutes 25 seconds
3. Graziano Battistini @ 6 minutes
4. Jozef Planckaert @ 8 minutes 14 seconds

Through the Alps the relative positions stayed stable. Anglade tried to shake things up but Nencini never faltered. In fact, the Italians improved their position when Battistini won stage 16 which went over the Vars and Izoard. He was now within about a minute of Adriaenssens and could probably smell second place.

Battistini secured second place the next day when he got into the winning group (which included Nencini and Anglade) of the seventeenth stage that went over the Lautaret, the Luitel and the Granier.

All that was left to overcome was the stage 19 time trial. Run from Pontarlier to Besançon it was almost as if someone had designed the 83-kilometer downhill course just for Nencini. He didn't win and he didn't need to. He had a solid 4 minutes on his teammate Battistini and almost 6 on Adriaenssens going into the time trial. His performance that day increased his lead over both.

Stage 12: The peloton crosses the Causse du Larzac, one of a series of limestone plateaus in the Massif Central.

From there, it was an easy 2 stages to Paris. All that Anglade had predicted after stage 6 had come to pass. Rivière, through his amateurish, grudge-driven riding had ended up handing the Tour to Nencini. That was 2 years in a row that Rivière's selfish riding had probably cost his team the victory. Nencini was a gracious winner. He gave the bouquet of flowers he earned for winning the Tour to the French team manager, Marcel Bidot to give to Rivière. It was a nice gesture to the man who had done the most, however inadvertently, to give Nencini his victory. The highest placed Frenchman was Raymond Mastrotto, sixth place at 16 minutes, 12 seconds. Ma foi!

1960 Tour de France final General Classification:

1. Gastone Nencini (Italy): 112 hours 8 minutes 42 seconds
2. Graziano Battistini (Italy) @ 5 minutes 2 seconds
3. Jan Adriaenssens (Belgium) @ 10 minutes 24 seconds
4. Hans Junkermann (Germany) @ 11 minutes 21 seconds
5. Jozef Planckaert (Belgium) @ 13 minutes 2 seconds
6. Raymond Mastrotto (France) @ 16 minutes 12 seconds
7. Arnaldo Pambianco (Italy) @ 17 minutes 58 seconds
8. Henry Anglade (France) @ 19 minutes 17 seconds

Climbers' competition:

1. Imerio Massignan: 56 points
2. Marcel Rohrbach: 52 points
3. Graziano Battistini: 44 points

Points Competition:

1. Jean Graczyk: 74 points
2. Graziano Battistini: 40 points
3. Gastone Nencini: 35 points

1961 1961 Tour results

Anquetil had made a smooth win of his 1957 Tour. Illness and deep divisions within the French team had prevented a repetition of his impressive freshman victory. He wanted to ride the 1961 Tour but wanted no part of the stupidity (even if he had contributed to it) that had ruined previous French chances. He wanted a team that would ride for him and him alone. Team manager Bidot acceded to Anquetil's demands and recruited the riders Anquetil wanted. Henry Anglade, André Darrigade, François Mahé, Jean Forestier and Jean Stablinski gave the French team and Anquetil a loyal backbone. To make his intentions crystal clear Anquetil announced that he would take the Yellow Jersey the first day and hold it all the way to Paris. This was big talk from a man who had come in second in the Giro to Arnaldo Pambianco by almost 4 minutes just 2 weeks before, but he meant it.

Nencini wasn't entered but the Italian team had last year's Tour runner up, Graziano Battistini along with Guido Carlesi and Vito Favero. This was a team unlikely to defeat an Anquetil-led French team that didn't splinter but if the French faltered, the Italians would be able to step in. The Spanish sent two riders of note, José Perez-Frances and Fernando Manzaneque. Manzaneque was probably the most solid, consistent Iberian rider of the era, often earning very high placings. But big wins were rare for him.

And there was Charly Gaul. He rode for a Swiss/Luxembourg composite team but he disdained his teams as ineffectual. He rode on his own for himself. He depended upon delivering a blockbuster punch on a hard mountain day, preferably in cold weather. He was fourth in the 1961 Giro. He won the Giro's penultimate stage that took in the giant Stelvio climb but he could only gain 2 minutes on Pambianco. Sometimes Gaul could destroy the field in just a few kilometers, other times he seemed to have no power and would allow the gap to the leader to grow beyond repair. No one could predict when he would fly away but everyone knew that he was always capable of stealing a Grand Tour in a single day if the opportunity presented itself.

The 1961 Tour was clockwise starting at Rouen in Normandy, up to Belgium, then south through the Vosges and Chartreuse Mountains, followed by the Alps, Pyrenees and then north to Paris.

André Darrigade started the Tour about where he left off the year before. For the fifth time he won the opening stage and the first Yellow Jersey when he was the quickest of the 15 riders who successfully broke away. Joining Darrigade were Anquetil and Carlesi. Almost 5 minutes back with the peloton: Gaul, Battistini and Adriaenssens who were now already in a deep hole. Anquetil easily won that afternoon's 28.5-kilometer time-trial at Versailles. He beat Battistini by 2 minutes, 39 seconds, Gaul by almost 3 minutes and Adriaenssens by 3 minutes, 24 seconds. Anquetil had not only taken the Yellow Jersey on the first day and fulfilled his prediction, he had demonstrated his superb form and outstanding tactical sense.

The GC after the first day stood thus:

1. Jacques Anquetil
2. Joseph Groussard (teammate of Anquetil) @ 4 minutes 46 seconds
3. Guido Carlesi @ 5 minutes 25 seconds

Through the Vosges Mountains Carlesi maintained his time gap behind Anquetil. Spanish climber Fernando Manzaneque and French (now) regional rider Jean Dotto managed to insert themselves between Anquetil and Carlesi. Gaul was in twelfth place, 8 minutes, 13 seconds behind Anquetil. The French team patrolled the race, keeping everything under control. By the time the Tour reached stage 9, the first Alpine stage, the French team had won a total of 5 stages, Darrigade 2 of them. This was a very different French effort from the last 4 years.

Stage 9 had 4 big climbs, finishing with the Col de Porte. Gaul took off on the second climb, the Granier. He crashed on the descent of the third climb, the Cucheron, but pressed on to win alone. It was a wonderful stage win but he could only take 100 seconds out of Anquetil who finished with Manzaneque, Junkermann and the Italian climber Imerio Massignan. Carlesi came in almost 2 minutes behind the Anquetil group. The second Alpine day with the Croix de Fer and Mount Cenis changed nothing in the important standings. Anquetil still had 5 minutes on second place although now that runner-up was Manzaneque. Even after the Maritime Alps there were no significant tactical moves or changes to the times. After stage 12 with the Alpine stages finished, the General Classification stood thus:

1. Jacques Anquetil
2. Fernando Manzaneque @ 5 minutes 37 seconds
3. Charly Gaul @ 6 minutes 33 seconds
4. Guido Carlesi @ 7 minutes 43 seconds
5. José Perez-Frances @ 8 minutes 14 seconds

There were 2 massive climbing stages in the Pyrenees left. So far Anquetil had been able to contain Gaul. The first of these hard stages was the sixteenth, 208 kilometers from Toulouse to a new summit, Superbagnères. With the Ares, Portillon and the 1,800-meter high climb to Superbagnères, Gaul should have been able to deal the French a hard blow. But nothing happened. Gaul finished with Anquetil. Why? Who knows? Gaul didn't always attack when his opposition thought he would. Perhaps he was still hurting from his crash. His performances were erratic and unpredictable and by now his best years were behind him. And so now it was down to 1 mountain stage.

The top of the climb to Superbagnères. From left to right: Gaul, Anquetil and Junkermann

Stage 17 was again Charly Gaul territory with the Peyresourde, Aspin, Tourmalet and the Aubisque climbs. Again Gaul held his fire. 24 of the best riders (including Anquetil, Manzaneque and Gaul) finished together, 4 minutes behind Eddy Pauwels, André Foucher, and Marcel Queheille. With 4 stages left and only a time trial left between the riders and Paris, Anquetil had the Tour about sewn up.

Stage 17: Anqueil, standing on the pedals in the center, controls things on the Tourmalet.

As expected Anquetil did win the stage 19 time trial, beating Charly Gaul by almost 3 minutes over the 74.5-kilometer course. While Gaul hadn't excelled in the mountains, his time trial skills, unusual in a specialist climber, were still intact and allowed him to get second in the stage and move up to second place in the General Classification. So going to Paris with 2 stages to go, here were the standings:

1. Jacques Anquetil
2. Charly Gaul @ 10 minutes 2 seconds
3. Guido Carlesi @ 10 minutes 6 seconds

With the standings between Gaul and Carlesi that tight Gaul should have been alert for trouble. Sure enough, the plucky Italian detached himself from the main group on the way to the finish at the Parc des Princes velodrome in Paris and took over second place.

Final 1961 Tour de France General Classification:

1. Jacques Anquetil (France): 122 hours 1 minute 33 seconds
2. Guido Carlesi (Italy) @ 12 minutes 14 seconds
3. Charly Gaul (Luxembourg) @ 12 minutes 16 seconds
4. Imerio Massignan (Italy) @ 15 minutes 59 seconds
5. Hans Junkermann (Germany) @ 16 minutes 9 seconds
6. Fernando Manzaneque (Spain) @ 16 minutes 27 seconds

Anquetil had fulfilled his prediction. He acquired the Yellow Jersey on the first day and kept it the rest of the Tour. While a wonderful accomplishment, it's not the same as winning the first stage and then holding the lead to the finish. This has only been done by Garin (1903, and 1904 before being relegated), Thys (1914), Bottecchia (1924), Frantz (1928) and Romain Maes (1935). Taking the lead on the second stage and holding it to the end has been done 5 times: Pottier (1906), Faber (1909), Thys (1920), Scieur (1921), Magne (1934), Anquetil (1961). Note that the great Philippe Thys is on both of these lists. Today the Prologue time trial is often won by a short-distance power specialist who cannot compete in the mountains, making a start-to-finish Tour win unlikely to occur in the foreseeable future.

Climbers' competition:

1. Imerio Massignan: 95 points
2. Charly Gaul: 61 points
3. Hans Junkermann: 48 points

Points competition:

1. André Darrigade: 174 points
2. Jean Gainche: 169 points
3. Guido Carlesi: 148 points

1962. The Story of the 1962 Tour de France has been moved to the 1962 Tour results page.

1963. The Story of the 1963 Tour de France has been moved to the 1963 Tour results page.

1964. The Story of the 1964 Tour de France has been moved to the 1964 Tour results page.

1965. The Story of the 1965 Tour de France has been moved to the 1965 Tour results page.

1966. The Story of the 1966 Tour de France has been moved to the 1966 Tour results page.

1967. The Story of the 1967 Tour de France has been moved to the 1967 Tour results page.

1968. The Story of the 1968 Tour de France has been moved to the 1968 Tour results page.

1969. The Story of the 1969 Tour de France has been moved to the 1969 Tour results page.

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