Aldo, I'll post this on the list if you don't mind. Many thanks for posting the Henri Pelissier picture I really appreciate it. Have always been fascinated by the coureurs who gave their names to equipment. I think Pelisseur bars are one of the most comfortable bends ever made. Now the words that follow are not mine but they give me a chance to practice my keyboarding skills and keep my finger joints from stiffening. Paris - Roubaix, 1921 "These Pélissiers are beginning to exasperate me", complained Henri Desgrange early in 1921, "never again will they appear on the front of the newspaper". Thus spoke the owner of l'Auto, and he was a powerful enemy to have, for the paper served as organsiser of many of the great French races of the day, not least of which was the Tour de France itself. Yet after "La Pascale" of that year, it was that very same paper which carried the headline "The thoroughbred triumphs: Victory of the best". For once again the last word had gone to the Pélissiers, stunning victors against the odds in the Queen of the Classics.
The four Pélissier brothers were born and bought up in Paris and at an early age became infatuated by le vélo. The eldest did not survive the Great War, but Henri, Francis and Charles all went on to illustrious careers. At that time most professional riders were engaged by a team for what Henri considered a monthly pittance; little more than a bike, a jersey and a few francs per day to survive on (in 1919, when he won Paris - Roubaix, Bordeaux - Paris and the French Championship, Henri was still serving as a soldier). To Henri's mind such a system was grossly unfair; riders should be paid by their results, allowing the best riders to make some semblance of a living wage. Henri and Francis demanded such a contract from their sponsors; not surprisingly they were refused. Accordingly the two brothers entered the 1921 Paris - Roubaix as free agents, with no team support. Defeat would surely mean the end for both of them, having cut themselves off from even what little the sponsors of the day would pay. The 27th March was to be an historic day whatever the outcome.
The early stages of the race saw a break by the veteran Jules Masselis, one of few of the pre-war generation still alive to renew peaceable battles on bikes. By the hill at Doullens, however, he had been re-caught, with the two Pélissiers, Eugène Christophe and René Vermandel leading the bunch. At Doullens, by pre-arrangement, Henri took off with his brother on his wheel; at the top they were followed at some distance by Romain Bellenger, then Vermandel and Emile Masson, then Léon Scieur and Hector Tiberghien. For the rest it was all over as those seven riders rode away from the fragmented bunch.
At the front the two Pélissiers drove on, impervious to those behind, a real do or die effort. First to lose contact were Bellenger and Masson, victims of punctures over the rough cobbles. Tiberghien succumbed next, then on the outskirts of Carvin Léon Scieur faltered, blinded, it was said, by the dust raised by the following cars in what was a dry edition of the race.
Nonetheless, Vermandel remained, a formidable adversary for even the Pélissiers, as his recent victory in the Tour of Flanders showed. Many times Francis - the weaker sprinter of the two brothers - tried to get away, but always to no avail. But eventually the relentless high pace and attacking began to bear fruit as Vermandel weakened. He pleaded with the brothers not to drop him, but they had staked to much on the race to be taken in by such entreaties. Taking one side of the road each, the brothers attacked in turn until, finally, at Hem, Henri was able to escape to a rapturous victory in Roubaix. In the streets of the town it was Francis' turn to attack in an effort to join his brother, but a puncture decided otherwise, and he was re-caught by Vermandel. No sooner had this occurred than Vermandel himself punctured, letting the furiously chasing Scieur catch the pair of them. Puncture or no puncture however, Francis was not about to let such an opportunity slip; perhaps he remembered 1919, when an attack of hunger knock had deprived the brothers of a previous double. Whatever, Francis took the sprint for second ahead of Scieur and Vermandel.. "The victory of the best" wrote Desgrange, inwardly fuming as outwardly he ate his words.
"He will never win the Tour", wrote Desgrange later, "he doesn't know how to suffer". Once again Henri Pélissier was to prove the ascetic Desgrange wrong, winning by six minutes over the Izoard to Briançon and holding on to his lead to the finish of the 1923 Tour de France. Yet the following year Henri was once again in trouble; penalized for discarding a jersey midway through a stage, Henri and Francis and their teammate Maurice Ville withdrew in protest from the race. In a restaurant in Coutances, they poured out their troubles to a sympathetic reporter, Albert Londres: "We are treated like beasts in a circus", Henri claimed, "The day will come when they will put lead in our pockets, because they will claim God has made man too light". Heading his piece "Les Forçats de la Route" (The Convicts of the Road), Londres coined perhaps the most famous phrase ever used to describe a cyclist; but more importantly the convergence of many factors meant that contracts and conditions slowly began to improve from then on; in no small measure, the Pélissier's fabulous 1-2 in Roubaix three years before had set the train in motion. Sadly such changes were not enjoyed by the eldest brother. After he retired, Henri slowly went mad, and was shot in 1936 by his lover; two years before, his wife had shot herself. A half-forgotten figure now from the dusty recesses of history, Henri Pélissier's name deserves to be ranked in the very first echelon of the sport. Finally a quiz how many riders have won Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in the same year? He are two clues Eddy Merckx never and only two nationalities. I will post the answer on Sunday night
Thats all for now. Keep those wheels spinning, in your memories if not still on the road. Be lucky Mick Butler Huntingdon UK.