The story of the very first British team in the Tour de France


The day before the last stage of the Tour de France in 1955, the British Brian Robinson and Tony Hoar could not sleep. Behind them were 4,247 km of difficult races, accidents and punctures; three weeks of cobblestones, mountains and desperate pursuit. There are only 229 km to go, from Tours to Paris and a final sprint on the famous Parc des Princes track.

Robinson and Hoar turned and turned around all night. Earlier in the day, the two had raced in Tours at the end of a 68.6 km time trial from Chatellerault, Hoar beating Robinson by 1:22. But it was Robinson who held the advantage overall, being some 40 places higher in the general classification. Whether it was the adrenaline of a day spent racing against the clock or a nervous feeling of anticipation of becoming the first British drivers to complete the Tour, which kept them awake is unclear. Perhaps the two runners were restless and restless due to the noise of the post-stage evenings which lasted long into the night. “Tony Hoar and I hadn’t slept a bit when we embarked on this remarkable adventure,” said Robinson later, reflecting on the particular experience of the last stage of the Tour.

Finally, dawn finally broke. It was July 30, a Saturday. In the coming hours, the Tour would celebrate its second triple winner – Louison Bobet, who entered the race as the reigning double champion. Bobet had taken the yellow at the start of the last week and was almost five minutes ahead of Jean Brankart, second. Except for misfortune or collapse en route to Paris, the Frenchman, once considered too fragile for Grand Tour races, was nailed to claim his third Tour title

While Bobet was preparing to enter the record books, the Belgian Philippe Thys, the only other rider to have won three Tours (1913/14/20), was going to Paris from Auvergne, where he was on vacation, having received an invitation from the Tour organizers to make a presentation to Bobet and share a lap of honor. Perhaps the Belgian was unaware that, alongside the reported 50,000 spectators who filled the stadium stands, he would also witness the first runners from Great Britain crossing the ultimate finish line for cycling.

Steel receives a can as the race takes place in the Alps (Photo by Bert Hardy / Picture Post / Hulton Archive / Getty Images)


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