Christophe in Yellow - but not in Paris


Christophe - like René Vietto and Raymond Poulidor after him - is justly celebrated as a plucky eternal second, more famous for gallant failure than many of his ostensibly more successful rivals

Just as in 1913, Eugène Christophe could count himself unlucky to lose the Tour, though now he is probably better remembered than overall winner Firmin Lambot.

The Tour started missing three ex-winners: François Faber, the Giant of Colombes, had died in the Foreign Legion, "Tatave" Lapize had died in an air fight whilst "The Argentine", Lucien Petit-Breton had died in a car crash behind the front lines. These losses notwithstanding, the line up still boasted the likes of Philippe Thys, already a double-winner of the race; Odile Defraye, winner in 1912; future winners Léon Scieur and Henri Pélissier, and perpetual Tour regulars Jean Alavoine, Lucien Buysse and his brother Marcel - and, of course, Firmin Lambot and "Le vieux gallois", Eugène Christophe.

At first things went well for Christophe. The atrocious roads and poor state of fitness of most riders meant that after three stages only twenty five were left in the race. The two Pélissier brothers had made much of the early running, but when Christophe finished in the front group at Les Sables d'Olonne, Henri Pélissier was thirty five minutes back, and Christophe was the new leader. Fellow veteran Jean Alavoine, one of the Tour's first great climbers, won both the big Pyreneen stages, but Christophe maintained a comfortable thirty minute lead all the way across the Midi and up through the Alps. At the start of the stage in Grenoble, Tour Organiser Henri Desgranges presented him with a yellow jersey to make him stand out from the rest of the bunch (though by this stage, the "bunch" was just eleven riders!) and Christophe held onto this new symbol through eastern France to Metz. Then, on the penultimate stage, disaster struck. Once again Christophe's forks broke. Once again he effected repairs, but to no avail: by the stage finish in Dunkerque, he had lost 2½ hours to stage winner Firmin Lambot, who thus took over the lead. Christophe's bad luck didn't stop there: a record number of punctures on the final stage to Paris saw him drop to third overall behind Alavoine.

Christophe was destined never to win the Tour, but perhaps the first Maillot Jaune had the last laugh. Proclaimed in Paris as the moral victor, he was awarded a prize equal to Lambot. And whilst Lambot is nowadays a half-forgotten figure in the Tour's history, Christophe - like René Vietto and Raymond Poulidor after him - is justly celebrated as a plucky eternal second, more famous for gallant failure than many of his ostensibly more successful rivals.

Stage winners

 StageWinnerOverall Leader
Stage 1Paris - Le Havre, 388kmJean RossiusHenri Pélissier (see notes)
Stage 2Le Havre - Cherbourg, 364kmHenri PélissierHenri Pélissier
Stage 3Cherbourg - Brest, 405kmFrancis PélissierHenri Pélissier
Stage 4Brest - Les Sables d'Olonne, 412kmJean AlavoineEugène Christophe
Stage 5Les Sables d'Olonne - Bayonne, 482kmJean AlavoineEugène Christophe
Stage 6Bayonne - Luchon, 326kmHoneré BarthélémyEugène Christophe
Stage 7Luchon - Perpignan, 323kmJean AlavoineEugène Christophe
Stage 8Perpignan - Marseille, 370kmJean AlavoineEugène Christophe
Stage 9Marseille - Nice, 338kmHoneré BarthélémyEugène Christophe
Stage 10Nice - Grenoble, 333kmHoneré BarthélémyEugène Christophe
Stage 11Grenoble - Geneva, 325kmHoneré BarthélémyEugène Christophe
Stage 12Geneva - Strasbourg, 371kmLuigi LucottiEugène Christophe
Stage 13Strasbourg - Metz, 315kmLuigi LucottiEugène Christophe
Stage 14Metz - Dunquerque, 468kmFirmin LambotFirmin Lambot
Stage 15Dunquerque - Paris, 340kmJean AlavoineFirmin Lambot
  1. Rossius got a 30 minute penalty for illicitly helping Thys, which gave the overall lead to second-placed Henri Pélissier

In a nutshell

Results

Overall

1st: Firmin Lambot, Belgium, 5560km in 231h 07' 15" (24.056km/h)
2nd: Jean Alavoine, France, @1h 42' 54"
3rd: Eugène Christophe, France, @2h 26 31"
4th: Léon Scieur, Belgium, @2h 42' 15"
5th: Honeré Barthélémy, France, @4h 14' 22"
6th: Jacques Coomans, Belgium, @15h 21' 34"
7th: Luigi Lucotti, Italy, @16h 01' 12"
8th: Joseph Van Daele, Belgium, @18h 23' 02"
9th: Alfred Steux, Belgium, @20h 29' 01"
10th: Jules Nempon, France, @21h 44' 12"