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Great Cyclists of the Tour de France: Gustave Garrigou

Gustave Garrigou was one of the first great riders in the Tour de France. In his short but accomplished career, he was able to win the Tour de France once, and finish on the podium a total of six times. Although Garrigou’s career ended over 90 years ago, he remains one of the beloved French cyclists in the legendary history of the Tour de France. Gustave Garrigou was born on September 24, 1884, and lived until 1963, when he passed away at the age of 78. He made his debut in the Tour de France at age 22, the same year he won at Giro di Lombardia and Paris-Brussels. His first Tour de France went similarly well, although he wasn’t able to win.

Garrigou was able to win stages 10 and 12, but wasn’t able to gain much on the leader, Lucien Petit-Breton, as he finished right behind Garrigou. The race itself was a wild one, memorable because Émile Georget was close to winning before being penalized because he borrowed a bicycle. The next year, Garrigou entered the 1908 Tour de France with high hopes, only to perform worse than in the previous years. Garrigou won no stages of the Tour de France that year, and ended up finishing a disappointing fourth, while Lucien Petit-Breton won again. The 1909 Tour de France brought more disappointment for Garrigou as well as French cycling fans, as it was the first year that a French cyclist didn’t win the race.

Garrigou finished second again (although he won a stage), and was the top French finisher of the race, with Lucien Petit-Breton not competing. Garrigou also won a stage the next year at the 1910 Tour de France, but still failed to win, finishing third to earn another podium finish. In 1911, it was finally Garrigou’s turn to shine, though not solely because of his own performance. Garrigou’s greatest asset in this Tour de France was his determination and grit, as this was the most grueling edition yet. Some of the stages required even the fastest of the field to race nearly 18 hours to complete, and only a third of the field ended up completing the race. Among those to quit were previous winners Lucien Petit-Breton, François Faber and Octave Lapize. Another cyclist, Paul Duboc, was in a good position to win and had been victorious in four stages, but fell ill. All of these circumstances conspired to help Garrigou win his first and only Tour de France. He won two stages in the process. The next year, Garrigou’s team, Alcyon hired a new rider to assist Garrigou in repeating his win from the previous year.

Unfortunately for Garrigou, the teammate (Odiel Defraye) clearly established himself as the more capable rider early on, and he ended up winning himself. At this point, it just seemed to be Garrigou’s luck, as he was almost always the bridesmaid, but nearly never the bride. Garrigou gave one more good effort to win his second Tour de France in 1913, but finished 8 minutes, 37 seconds behind Philippe Thys, despite winning a stage. Garrigou’s last appearance, in 1914, resulted in a fifth place finish three hours behind the winner (Philippe Thys, again), although he again one a stage. Garrigou would then retire, although he would be remembered by followers of the sport for years to come. He was the Charlie Brown of cycling for a time, always blending into the background, with only periodic success. Still, his win in 1911, along with his other solid finishes and podium appearances, allow him to be mentioned in an elite category among professional cyclists past and present. PPPPP Word Count 616.


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