International Cycle Sport | October 1968 | Issue No 6 | Page 5
Non-vintage Bordeaux - Paris
By J B Wadley
Like the 1968 Tour de France, the 1968 Bordeaux-Paris was at least assured a different ending from that of its predecessors. Instead of the Tour’s final yards being ridden at the Parc des Princes, they were covered at the Municipal track on the other side of Paris. This year’s Bordeaux-Paris should have finished there, too, but the ‘Cipale had long since been booked by the newspaper "Humanite" for an international meeting contested by riders of federations not affiliated to the UCI. Bordeaux-Paris, therefore, finished on a big new housing estate at Massy, a southern suburb of Paris.
In both cases not only was the final venue different, but the scenes most unusual. First we had swarms of Janssen supporters streaming across the track centre to hoist their hero on high, Janssen the man who had already won a world championship, Paris-Nice, Bordeaux-Paris and Paris-Roubaix.
Then at Massy we had a journalistic scrum round the winner of Bordeaux-Paris, Emile Bodart, the man who had already won nothing.
We often say that a man has won nothing when, in fact, he has won quite a lot. "What did Jean Robin ever win except the Tour de France?" we ask. The answer is that although he didn’t win a classic, there is a long list of quite important victories to his name if, in the same vein, we query what Raphael Geminiani won apart from a Premier Pas Dunlop and a French pro road championship, we find many worthwhile firsts.
But in Bodart's case Nothing meant Next to Nothing. Twenty wins in four years as an amateur. Sixty sixth in the 1965 Tour de l’Avenir in which Mike Cowley was 20th, Colin Lewis 28th and Terry West 30th. Half a dozen kermesse wins as a professional. At the finish of Bordeaux-Paris at Massy, the Press, Radio and Television turned their attention from the unknown man who had won, to the very well known rider who had lost. But hardly had Rolf Wolfshohl begun to answer our questions than he slumped unconscious on to the road - his second fall of the day, the first being at full speed behind the Derny, a crash which probably cost him the race.
This Bordeaux-Paris finished on a one-mile circuit, and while Bodart was being steered towards the Mayor of Massy and the pretty girl with the flowers, the second man Delisle was being interviewed, and people were looking after Wolfshohl, other riders were completing their four laps of the circuit.
In fourth place came Beugels, 15 minutes behind Bodart.
In fifth place came Fore, 19 1/2 minutes down.
In sixth place came Nobody.
Yes, a very different Bordeaux-Paris!
When talking about the sad happenings of the 1920’s, our Irish friends refer to the n as "The Troubles". In France they are calling the less tragic strifes of May "Les evenements", and it was because of these that Bordeaux-Paris was postponed until September 8th.
This was the first and chief cause for the 67th Bordeaux-Paris being different. Before the season had even started Directeurs Sportifs had chosen men for "The Derby" and drawn up a programme to bring them into peak condition for the race. Among them was Michael Wright of the Bic team, whose preparation included the Tour of Spain, in which he won two stages. But by September, with the Tour de France in his legs and other long races, Michael was not in shape for Bordeaux-Paris. The same applied to several other of the original candidates.
Bordeaux-Pans has always had a good prize list, and this year the awards were 1st £900, 2nd £450, 3rd £225, 4th £130, 5th £90 6th £70, 7th £50, 8th £45, 9th £35, 10th £25, 11-14th £18 each. Enough to attract the customers, eh? Not a bit of it. The organisers found that the race was going to cost them 3 x £18 less than expected because only 11 names appeared on the card, whereas 16 could have been accepted.
Where were all the big names? Oh, in various parts of the continent riding on the track and in criteriums. Weren’t they interested in the most glamorous of all cycling classics? No. Why not? Because September is the Golden Month for men who have made news in the Tour de France. A time when there is a new, world champion’s name to appear on the bills, when star names are needed to promote Revenge matches.
Georges Van Coningsloo, Belgium, Bic
Ferdinand Bracke, Belgium, Peugeot
Raymond Delisle, France, Peugeot
Eddy Beugels, Holland, Mercier
Raymond Riotte, France, Mercier
Emile Bodart, Belgium, Pelforth
Bernard Guyot, France, Pelforth
Bernard Van de Kerckhove, Belgium, Pelforth
Michel Grain, France, Bic
Rolf Wolfshohl, Germany, Bic
Noel Fore, Belgium, Flandria
In Paris on Saturday morning, the day before Bordeaux-Paris, I read L'Equipe over breakfast. Under the Criteriums in the Cyclisme pages I learned that the same afternoon local boy Pingeon would be "welcoming" Janssen and Poulidor to a 100 kms event (round a 1-km circuit) at Bourg in Burgundy. Then the attraction at Laval (350 miles away) on Sunday was a similar event, the contracted riders including four Tour de France winners: Anquetil, Aimar, Pingeon and Janssen. Almost certainly these stars had three similar engagements earlier in the week, with probably four or five in the next seven days. Janssen’s contract money for the week would be at least £1,250, Anquetil’s half as much again. To ride Bordeaux-Paris, and prepare seriously for it, Janssen would have had to cancel all those lucrative rides in order to chance winning £900 in Bordeaux-Paris. When he no doubt would have had to pay that £900 in damages to the Criterium promoters for breach of contract.
Not that the Big Names would flock to Bordeaux-Paris if they were free. At one time the winner of The Derby was assured a fat lot of contracts for track and Criterium racing, but Tom Simpson found that his 1963 victory brought him little extra income apart from the initial prize money and sponsors’ bonuses. A Tour stage win is much more important to the organisers of the August and September circuits. It was through striving for such success in the 1966 Tour that Tom crashed on the descent of the Galibier and had to retire next day. And a stage win at Carpentras may have been his only aim on that tragic 13th of July last year.
And so, instead of the men on the 1968 Bordeaux-Paris card being the Big Names of the Season. They were the small. Not a Derby, but a consolation race, for someone of desperation. No. 1 was Van Coningsloo, last year’s winner in record time, now banned for racing for two years in his own country because of a doping offence. If he did not win again sponsors and promoters would be finished with him, and his career would be over. Bracke, apart from his Tour third, had done nothing on the road this year. Riotte had broken a collar-bone in the Tour, was hoping B-P would enable him to save something from a disappointing season. Fore, 36 years of age, was on the point of retiring from the sport.
Only Wolfshohl, winner of Paris-Nice, had achieved anything on the road during the year.
I had not journeyed to Paris especially to see "The Derby", and as I read L'Equipe on the Saturday morning I was tempted to go to Laval to see the Criterium! Eventually I decided on B-P and took the train to Chatelierault, where the paced section starts.
The 11 riders left Bordeaux at 1-30 a.m., and according to schedule, should have been at Chatellerault at 8-52, with 162 miles covered. But that schedule was made out for 22 mph, and it was no surprise to learn, over our coffee and croissants, that after a misty night with a slight head wind, they were nearly an hour behind schedule.
It was almost ten o’clock, when the 11 Derny men got their little motors buzzing like bees, and were soon pacing their men towards Paris at thirty miles an hour.
Fifty miles later Grain retired, followed quickly by Van Coningsloo, Bracke and Guyot. Within another 50, Riotte and Van de Kerkhove were out too. Only five men left in the race.
But those five men were making a fine race of it. Beugels and Delisle were away in the lead, pursued by this unknown Bodart at a minute or so. Wolfshohl was coming fast from behind, with veteran Fore steadily bringing up the rear.
Beugels was the first in difficulty at the front, and he was soon absorbed by Wolfshohl. When the German caught Delisle and Bodart, we expected his pace-maker to give him a breather for a bit, but instead he went right by the pair of them and into a two minute lead. This seemed to be it. There were now only 45 miles to go, and Wolfshohl looked a certain winner. Then suddenly, there he was, a heap on the road, with a car wheel over his bike and all but over his body, too (later Wolfshohl said it was his own fault—he was having a rough time and his wheel touched the Derny mudguard).
By the time he had recovered from the shock of the fall and mounted a spare machine Wolfshohl was only a minute ahead of Delisle who had dropped Bodart. The German was no longer the smooth pedaller we had seen a few minutes ago, and Delisle was soon up to him, and by. So was Bodart. Wolfshohl rallied, and at the foot of the Dourdan Hill the three were together.
Dourdan, so often the decisive point of Bordeaux-Paris, the place where Tom Simpson dropped them all in 1963. Was the first man to the top also going to win again this time? If so, then that man was going to be Delisle, for the now groggy Wolfshohl was dropped and Bodart seemed to be in trouble, too. But for once Dourdan was wrong. Bodart came back and in his turn drew away from Delisle—a man, incidentally, has also not won anything great at all—and carried on to become the biggest outsider to win The Derby of the Road.
And well he deserved to do so, this lightly built French-speaking Belgian. He was about the only one of the 11 starters who had trained especially for the event, whereas Bracke, Guyot and co. had just taken it in their stride. He can’t be a complete outsider, because he has finished third and fifth in Belgian pro championships, and they are more savagely contested than most world titles. But his Directeur Sportif, Maurice De Muer was confident he would do well, though hardly expecting him to score the third consecutive win for Pelforth-Lejeune (Janssen won in 1966, Van Coningsloo last year).
Next year I hope the race will be back to its proper date in May, that it will be taken more seriously by all concerned, and that Bodart will have won something other than the 1968 Bordeaux-Paris by then.