Once again Bottecchia

The early Tour in the mountains
The hazards of an early Tour de France: few specatators except wandering cows! Note the atrocious road surface.

As in 1924 Ottavio Bottecchia emerged winner of the Tour, though the crushing domination was not there. By now, Bottecchia was 31 (he had come to cycling late after serving as a soldier in the Great War and then earning a living as a bricklayer - hence the nickname, "Le maçon de Frioul" - the Friuli bricklayer) and the pedals didn't turn with their former speed.

Just as in 1924, Bottecchia won the first stage, and then added two more on the way to the Pyrenees. But this time he had a new challenger, the Belgian Adelin Benoît, riding for Thomann-Dunlop. The lead swapped between the two riders all the way to Bayonne, but then Benoît took what appeared to be a commanding lead after taking over eleven minutes from Bottecchia on the first Pyreneen stage - formerly Bottecchia's great stamping ground. The reply from the Automoto team was swift. Though it was Nicolas Frantz (Alcyon) who won in Perpignan, Lucien Buysse and Bottecchia were close behind, whilst Benoit lost three quarters of an hour. Despite incurring a ten minute penalty in the Alps for failing to sign in at a control, Bottecchia was untroubled from then on, even more so when Frantz disappeared from contention on the stage to Evian. By Paris, where Bottecchia won his fourth stage to end with a flourish, he was a convincing winner, with Buysse protecting his rear

This was Bottecchia's final throw of the dice. In 1926 he retired from the Tour in the Pyrenees. In 1927 he was gearing up for another ride when he was found battered and bleeding by the side of a road near his home in Italy. Nearby, his bike lay unscratched against a tree. Some hours later he died. Many stories were put about for his death. For example, a farmer admitted he had seen Bottecchia stealing grapes, had thrown a stone at him and accidentally killed him. But who eats grapes in June, when they are not ripe? Others thought that he had crashed, hitting his head - but how to explain the undamaged bike? The most likely explanation is that he was murdered, probably by Fascists - Bottecchia did not hide his socialist leanings in Mussolini's Italy - though even this theory cannot be proved, for even if Bottecchia did not agree all the time with Mussolini, he was certainly a role model for the "New Italy". Whatever, Italy's first Tour de France winner was dead, and nearly three quarters of a century on, there seems little hope now of establishing the cause.

Stage winners

 StageWinnerOverall Leader
Stage 1Paris - Le Havre, 381kmOttavio BottecchiaOttavio Bottecchia
Stage 2Le Havre - Cherbourg, 371kmRomain BellengerOttavio Bottecchia
Stage 3Cherbourg - Brest, 405kmLouis MottiatAdelin Benoît
Stage 4Brest - Vannes, 208kmNicolas FrantzAdelin Benoît
Stage 5Vannes - Les Sables d'Olonne, 204kmNicolas FrantzAdelin Benoît
Stage 6Les Sables d'Olonne - Bordeaux, 293kmOttavio BottecchiaAdelin Benoît
Stage 7Bordeaux - Bayonne, 189kmOttavio BottecchiaOttavio Bottecchia
Stage 8Bayonne - Luchon, 326kmAdelin BenoîtAdelin Benoît
Stage 9Luchon - Perpignan, 323kmNicolas FrantzOttavio Bottecchia
Stage 10Perpignan - Nîmes, 215kmThéophile BeeckmanOttavio Bottecchia
Stage 11Nîmes - Toulon, 215kmLucien BuysseOttavio Bottecchia
Stage 12Toulon - Nice, 280kmLucien BuysseOttavio Bottecchia
Stage 13Nice - Briançon, 275kmBartolomeo AymoOttavio Bottecchia
Stage 14Briançon - Evian, 303kmHector MartinOttavio Bottecchia
Stage 15Evian - Mulhouse, 373kmNicolas FrantzOttavio Bottecchia
Stage 16Mulhouse - Metz, 300kmHector MartinOttavio Bottecchia
Stage 17Metz - Dunquerque, 433kmHector MartinOttavio Bottecchia
Stage 18Dunquerque - Paris, 343kmOttavio BottecchiaOttavio Bottecchia

In a nutshell



1st: Ottavio Bottecchia, (Italy), Automoto-Hutchinson, 5430km in 219h 10' 18" (24.775km/h)
2nd: Lucien Buysse, (Belgium), Automoto-Hutchinson, @ 54' 20"
3rd: Bartolomeo Aymo, (Italy), Alcyon-Dunlop, @ 56' 17"
4th: Nicolas Frantz, (Luxembourg), Alcyon-Dunlop, @ 1h 11' 24"
5th: Albert Dejonghe, (Belgium), J.B.Louvet-Pouchois, @ 1h 27' 42"
6th: Théophile Beeckman, (Belgium), Thomann-Dunlop, @ 2h 24' 43"
7th: Omer Huyse, (Belgium), Armor-Dunlop, @ 2h 33' 38"
8th: August Verdyck, (Belgium), Christophe-Hutchinson, @ 2h 44' 36"
9th: Félix Sellier, (Belgium), Alcyon-Dunlop, @ 2h 45' 59"
10th: Federico Gay, (Italy), Meteore-Wolber, @ 4h 06' 03"

(49th: Fernand Besnier, (France), Touriste-Routier, @ 36h 10' 50")