I enjoyed kicking your ass at the weekends. We’d do the messenger thing, and party till five in the morning at some party or club… Then at 6am, I’m on the start line: I win 50 bucks, and go take all my buddies from that party the night before out to breakfast. They’re all waiting for me, so I had to win. It was one of those pressure things – like, “You’d better win some money ‘cause you’re buying breakfast!”
NELSON VAILS - FORMER NYC MESSENGER AND INDIVIDUAL SPRINT SILVER MEDALLIST AT THE LA OLYMPICS.
CHECK OUT HIS STORY - AND THE NEW T-SHIRTS AND PRINTS OF HIM - AT URBAN HUNTER.
"HIS HANDS WERE FROZEN AND HE WAS UNABLE TO DO THE REPAIR SO HE TORE THE TYRE OFF WITH HIS TEETH"
IN CASE YOU THOUGHT THIS WEEK WAS BAD. TRY THE 1921 PARIS-TOURS:
The Paris-Tours race of April 18th, 1921, was one of the all-time most difficult events in cycling history. The 85 starters who lined up that morning would face 342 kms of violent snow squalls, freezing rain, and massive winds. Only 8 riders would finish - the last man, Frenchman Pierre Herbette, came in alone, four hours and 21 minutes after the winner, Francis Pélissier (Fra). Here we see Francis Pélissier leading his brother Henri, and Belgians Louis Mottiat and Albert Dejonghe, struggling through heavy snow between Chatres and Châteaudun. Henri would quit the race at the feed station in Châteaudun. Francis Pélissier covered the 342 kms in 14h56’20”. Mottiat was second at 1’32”, with Eugène Christophe (Fra) in third at 1’40” and Dejonghe in fourth at 9’10”……
……The Paris-Tours route was lengthened after 1919, they added a detour through Chinon thus adding the hilly lanes on the south bank of the Loire up to the finish at Tours. This race normally had good weather and was known for high speeds, all changed in 1921 as the picture depicts. It snowed. Nearly half of the peloton climbed off at Chartres leaving the Pellissier’s, Louis Mottiat and Albert de Jonghe to race ahead. At Chateaudun conditions were so dreadful even for the iron man Henri Pellissier. He took off his cape and handed it to his brother Francis. He wore two capes for the rest of the race! Legend has it that this swop was done in a cafe over a glass of Martinique Rum. Whilst this was happening Eugene Christophe caught the leaders by a superhuman effort, typical of the man who thrived on hard days. He went clear. Meanwhile Pellisier had several stops to repair his bike and himself but he chased hard and caught him three times, with Mottiat, the only other rider in the chase, who was struggling to hang on. Finally Pellissier got clear by a couple of minutes but he then punctured. His hands were frozen and he was unable to do the repair so he tore the tire off with his teeth. Riding on the rim, Pelissier caught Christophe once more and then dropped him on the climb out of Azay-le-Rideau finishing alone.”
EXCELLENT RADIO PROGRAMME ‘THE LIMITS OF ENDURANCE’ HERE FROM NPR’S RADIOLAB, WHICH INTERVIEWS JURE ROBIC - WHO HAS SADLY PASSED AWAY - ABOUT HIS RACE ACROSS AMERICA TRIUMPHS. HE DESCRIBES IN DETAIL THE HALLUCINATIONS HE EXPERIENCES - IT’S FAIRLY HARROWING.
IT ALSO INCLUDES A PRETTY TOUGH TRIATHLETE WHO IN HER FIRST RACE SHAT HERSELF AND HAD TO PULL HERSELF ACROSS THE LINE USING HER FINGERS.
NOT THAT I APPROVE OF TRIATHLETES, MIND, BUT YOU’VE GOTTA BE PRETTY SOUND IF YOU PUSH YOURSELF UNTIL YOUR LEGS STOP WORKING.
OK, IT HAS BEEN POINTED OUT THAT MEIFFRET ACTUALLY KNEW HOW TO PUT HIMSELF ON THE LINE.
HE WAS THE FIRST MAN TO RIDE AT OVER 200KPH ON A BIKE, AND WHEN HE DID SO, HE HAD THIS NOTE IN HIS POCKET:
"In case of fatal accident, I beg of the spectators not to feel sorry for me. I am a poor man, an orphan since the age of eleven, and I have suffered much. Death holds no terror for me. This record attempt is my way of expressing myself. If the doctors can do no more for me, please bury me by the side of the road where I have fallen."