Pélissier gets his revenge


"Pélissier doesn't know how to suffer. He will never win the Tour"
- Henri Desgrange, 1921

"The mountains seemed to sink lower, sunk by the victorious thrust of his muscle. More than a score of times on the most vicious gradients, hands on the tops of the bars, he looked down at the valley bottoms, like an eagle staring at his prey"
- Henri Desgrange, 1923

He had almost left it too late, but finally in 1923 Henri Pélissier got the Tour win he so sorely deserved. And Henri Desgrange, who in 1921 had written, "This Pélissier doesn't know how to suffer. He will never win the Tour de France" was forced to eat his words. By the finish of the race, Desgrange was writing "The mountains seemed to sink lower, sunk by the victorious thrust of his muscle. More than a score of times on the most vicious gradients, hands on the tops of the bars, he looked down at the valley bottoms, like an eagle staring at his prey".

The race started in typical Pélissier fashion: an early stage win at Brest, but also an early run-in with the curmudgeonly Henri Desgrange: Henri was penalised two minutes for discarding a tyre on the way to Les Sables d'Olonne, and eventually trailed in nearly thirty minutes down on the stage winner. Across the Pyrenees it was the veteran Jean Alavoine who made the running, overtaking a tiring Robert Jacquinot on the Peyresourde to win in Luchon by 16 minutes (Jacquinot just held on to second on the stage) and then winning the sprint into Perpignan. Alavoine won again into Nice, by which point Pélissier was third overall, but a seemingly distant thirty minutes behind the revelation of the race, his Automoto team-mate Ottavio Bottecchia, with Alavoine second.

The offensive began on the next stage. Choosing the false flat that precedes the Col d'Izoard to attack, Pélissier won by six minutes into Briançon. More importantly he took the lead after Bottecchia crumbled back to third overall, with Alavoine the constant point between the two Automoto men. The next stage was another Pélissier demonstration, as Henri won in the comapany of his brother Francis. Only Romain Bellenger stayed within ten minutes. Thereafter victory was assured. Bottecchia was second overall, but thirty minutes behind; Bellenger was at over one hour, and the progress of Pélissier back to Paris was triumphal. It was almost the last great victory in a career which had stretched back to well before the Great War.

Revelation of the race was undoubtedly Bottecchia, who suffered only one real day of weakness, at Briançon. "Bottecchia will suceed me" stated Pélissier at the end of the race. Once again, he was to be proved correct, though that story must wait another year!

Stage winners

 StageWinnerOverall Leader
Stage 1Paris - Le Havre, 381kmRobert JacquinotRobert Jacquinot
Stage 2Le Havre - Cherbourg, 371kmOttavio BottecchiaOttavio Bottecchia
Stage 3Cherbourg - Brest, 405kmHenri PélissierOttavio Bottecchia
Stage 4Brest - Les Sables d'Olonne, 412kmAlbert DejongheRomain Bellenger
Stage 5Les Sables d'Olonne - Bayonne, 482kmRobert JacquinotRomain Bellenger
Stage 6Bayonne - Luchon, 326kmJean AlavoineOttavio Bottecchia
Stage 7Luchon - Perpignan, 323kmJean AlavoineOttavio Bottecchia
Stage 8Perpignan - Toulon, 427kmLucien BuysseOttavio Bottecchia
Stage 9Toulon - Nice, 281kmJean AlavoineOttavio Bottecchia
Stage 10Nice - Briançon, 275kmHenri PélissierHenri Pélissier
Stage 11Briançon - Geneva, 260kmHenri PélissierHenri Pélissier
Stage 12Geneva - Strasbourg, 377kmJoseph MullerHenri Pélissier
Stage 13Strasbourg - Metz, 300kmRomain BellengerHenri Pélissier
Stage 14Metz - Dunquerque, 432kmFélix GoethalsHenri Pélissier
Stage 15Dunquerque - Paris, 343kmFélix GoethalsHenri Pélissier

In a nutshell

Results

Overall

1st: Henri Pélissier, France, 5386km in 222h 15' 30" (24.233km/h)
2nd: Ottavio Bottecchia, Italy, @ 30' 41"
3rd: Romain Bellenger, France, @1h 04' 43"
4th: Hector Tiberghien, Belgium, @ 1h 29' 16"
5th: Arsène Alancourt, France, @ 2h 06' 40"
6th: Henri Collé Switzerland, @ 2h 28' 23"
7th: Léon Despontin, Belgium, @ 2h 39' 49"
8th: Lucien Buysse, Belgium, @ 2h 42' 11"
9th: Eugène Dhers, France, @ 3h 26' 06"
10th: Marcel Huot, France, @ 3h 17' 06"

(48th: Daniel Masson, France, @ 48h 31' 07")