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The 5 Best Tour de France Moments

To celebrate the tour's 100th edition, we picked the race's five most iconic moments.

Above: Maurice Garin (right) poses after winning the first Tour de France in 1903. (He was stripped of the title a year later for cheating.)
(Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
tour de france 1903

To celebrate the tour's 100th edition, we picked the race's five most iconic moments.

Above: Maurice Garin (right) poses after winning the first Tour de France in 1903. (He was stripped of the title a year later for cheating.)

1958: The Comeback

During the final stage in the Alps, some 15 minutes down on leader Raphael Geminiani, Charly Gaul launched what seemed like a suicide attack at the beginning of a mountain stage. It was pouring rain and bitter cold—¬exactly the kind of conditions the Luxembourg rider preferred. He led the peloton over three climbs, then shredded the day’s breakaway; one defeated rider wept before being picked up by an ambulance. Gaul crossed the finish at Aix-les-Bains ten minutes ahead of the next racer, putting him only 28 seconds behind Geminiani. Two days later, he would capture the yellow jersey for good.

16th Arrondissement adult athlete bicycle bicycle race bicycle racer bicycling bicyclist biker Caucasian ethnicity Charly Gaul competition competitor cyclist Europe European France group group of people Œle-de-France Luxembourgian male men Parc des Princes Paris people prominent persons race racer racing riding Right Bank sports Tour de France vehicle Western Europe Western European culture Western European descent winners

1967: The Casualty

Mont Ventoux is perhaps the Tour’s most feared climb—because it’s steep, long, and barren as the moon. But mostly because it killed a man. In 1967, Briton Tom Simpson toppled over less than two miles from the summit and collapsed from a heart attack by the side of the road. His last words to the team mechanic were reportedly “Go on, go on.” Tests later showed that he had alcohol and amphetamines in his system, which pressured officials into enforcing doping rules that had been enacted a year earlier.

adult Angers athlete bicycle race bicycle racer bicyclist biker British Caucasian ethnicity competition competitor cyclist English Europe European facial expression France half-length loss Maine-et-Loire male men Pays de la Loire people portrait profile prominent persons race racer racing side view smiling sports Tom Simpson Tour de France tragedy Western Europe Western European culture

1986: The Payback

In 1985, a young Greg LeMond was in a break away that would have won him the yellow jersey, and possibly the Tour, when his French team, La Vie Claire, ordered him back to help team leader Bernard Hinault. His chance would come next year, he was told. And he believed it—until 1986, when Hinault, forced to co-lead the team with LeMond, attacked him repeatedly. During Stage 17, LeMond launched his own attack, pulling ahead on a daring descent and finishing nearly three and a half minutes in front of Hinault. The duo battled the next day on Alpe d’Huez, but Hinault was unable to break away, and they crossed the finish line together. LeMond went on to win the yellow jersey, the first (and, officially, the only) American to do so.

(AFP/Getty Images)

2003: The Shortcut

During the scorching-hot ninth stage of the 2003 Tour, when temperatures reached 95, Spaniard Joseba Beloki, on a fast descent, skidded on melted pavement and went down hard. Two bike lengths behind, Lance Armstrong, in the yellow jersey, reacted instinctively: he skirted Beloki and rode into an adjacent field—and kept going. He rattled across the furrows, dismounted, vaulted a ditch, and leaped back onto his bike in time to catch the chasing group.

joseba beloki spain fall 9th stage lance armstrong shortcut field

2010: The Survivor

German rider Jens Voigt, who’d been forced to abandon the 2009 Tour after a vicious crash, totaled his bike after falling during a descent of the first climb in Stage 16. Desperate and aware that the cars had already passed, he borrowed a kids’ bike from the juniors race that was following the Tour, waved off the sag wagon, and rode furiously for 12 miles—blood smearing his ripped jersey—until he picked up a bike his team had left for him. He finished the stage just ahead of the cutoff time and rode into Paris five days later in 125th place.

jens Voigt germany tour de france 2009 crash

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