1951 Tour de France

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1951 Tour de France
Tour de France 1951.png
Route of the 1951 Tour de France
Followed counterclockwise, starting in Metz and finishing in Paris
Race details
Dates 4–29 July 1951
Stages 24
Distance 4,690 km (2,914 mi)
Winning time 142h 20' 14" (32.949 km/h or 20.474 mph)
Winner  Hugo Koblet (Switzerland) (Switzerland)
Second  Raphaël Géminiani (France) (France)
Third  Lucien Lazaridès (France) (France)

Mountains  Raphaël Géminiani (France) (France)
Team France

The 1951 Tour de France was the 38th Tour de France, taking place from July 4 to July 29, 1951. It consisted of 24 stages over 4690 km, ridden at an average speed of 32.949 km/h.[1]

The race was won by Swiss cyclist Hugo Koblet. Koblet used his time-trial abilities to win large amounts of time. Dutch cyclist Wim van Est made fame, not only by becoming the first Dutch cyclist to lead the Tour de France, but more by falling down a ravine in the leader's jersey.

Changes from the 1950 Tour de France[edit]

The 1951 Tour de France started in Metz; it was the second time after the 1926 Tour de France that the start of the Tour de France was not in Paris. Other than in previous years, the route was no longer around the circumference of France, and the Massif Central mountains were visited for the first time.[2]


As was the custom since the 1930 Tour de France, the 1951 Tour de France was contested by national and regional teams. The three major cycling countries in 1951, Italy, Belgium and France, each sent a team of 12 cyclists. Other countries sent teams of 8 cyclists: Switzerland, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Spain. The French regional cyclists were divided into four teams of 12 cyclists: Paris, Ile de France–North West, East–South East and West–South West. The last team of eight cyclists was made up out of cyclists from the French North African colonies. In the end, Luxembourg only sent 7 cyclists, so altogether this made 123 cyclists.[3]

There were 68 French cyclists (of which 1 French-Moroccan and 7 French-Algerian), 12 Italian, 12 Belgian, 8 Dutch, 8 Spanish, 8 Swiss and 7 Luxembourgian cyclists.[4]

Race details[edit]

On the first stage, Hugo Koblet attacked almost immediately from the start. The peloton got back to him after 40 km (25 mi). Koblet stayed calm for the next stages, until the individual time trial in stage seven, which he won.[5] Initially, Bobet was reported to have won the time trial by one second. Koblet protested against the result, and argued that the intermediate timings showed that Bobet could not have won. The Tour de France jury agreed that Bobet's time was off by one minute, and Koblet was given the stage victory by 59 seconds.[2][6]

In the eleventh stage, Koblet attacked after 37 km (23 mi). He was followed by Louis Deprez for a short while, but when Deprez fell back, Koblet was on his own. It was a hot day, and the other cyclists did not believe that Koblet's escape had any chance. When the peloton heard that Koblet was already three minutes ahead, they started to chase him. They worked together for more than 100 km, but couldn't reach Koblet, who won the stage with a margin of more than two and a half minutes.[5] Directly after Koblet finished, he used a stopwatch to measure the time gap, because he did not trust the Tour's time keepers anymore.[2] The other cyclists were amazed that Koblet had been able to defend his lead against all the other cyclists.

If there were two Koblets in the sport I would retire from cycling tomorrow.[7]

Raphaël Géminiani

In the twelfth stage, Dutch cyclist Wim van Est escaped, won the stage and took the yellow jersey as leader of the general classification. He was the first Dutch cyclist to do so. Van Est was inexperienced in the mountains that showed up in the thirteenth stage, but did his best to defend his lead. Going up the Aubisque, Van Est punctured and lost time. He tried to gain back time on the descent by following Magni, a fast descender. Van Est could not follow, and crashed. He remounted and rode down again, but took too much risk and fell down a ravine. His fall was broken by trees, 75 meters down. Spectators helped him to climb back, by handing him a rope made from inner tubes.[8] In the next stage, Van Est fell down a ravine while defending his position, and had to abandon the race. Gilbert Bauvin took over the lead. Géminiani crossed the finish line first in that stage, but he was set back to fourth place by the jury.[9]

In the fourteenth stage, Coppi attacked. Koblet punctured, but chased back and reached Coppi, and outsprinted him to win the stage, and thanks to the minute bonification time as stage winner took over the lead.[2]

In the sixteenth stage, that seemed not too hard because there were almost no mountains, Coppi collapsed and lost more than half an hour. This was said to be caused by grief over his brother's death, although other accounts said it was because of food poisoning. His team mates and former rivals Gino Bartali and Fiorenzo Magni helped him until the end of the stage.[2]

The Mont Ventoux was climbed in the seventeenth stage for the first time in Tour de France history. Bobet escaped and won the stage, while Koblet was able to stay with his competitors. After that stage, second-placed rider Géminiani was no longer trying to beat Koblet, but instead focussed on defending his second place against Bobet.[2]

Koblet stayed out of problems for the rest of the race, and won the time trial in the 22nd stage with a large margin; he even overtook Bartali who had started 8 minutes earlier.[2][10]


Stage results[3][11]
Stage Date Route Terrain Length Winner
1 4 July Metz – Reims Plain stage 185 km (115 mi)  Giovanni Rossi (ITA)
2 5 July Reims – Ghent Plain stage 228 km (142 mi)  Jean Diederich (LUX)
3 6 July Ghent – Le Tréport Plain stage 219 km (136 mi)  Georges Meunier (FRA)
4 7 July Le Tréport – Paris Plain stage 188 km (117 mi)  Roger Lévêque (FRA)
5 8 July Paris – Caen Plain stage 215 km (134 mi)  Serafino Biagioni (ITA)
6 9 July Caen – Rennes Plain stage 182 km (113 mi)  Édouard Muller (FRA)
7 10 July La Guerche-de-BretagneAngers Individual time trial 85 km (53 mi)  Hugo Koblet (SUI)
8 11 July Angers – Limoges Plain stage 241 km (150 mi)  André Rosseel (BEL)
9 13 July Limoges – Clermont-Ferrand Stage with mountain(s) 236 km (147 mi)  Raphaël Géminiani (FRA)
10 14 July Clermont-Ferrand – Brive Stage with mountain(s) 216 km (134 mi)  Bernardo Ruiz (ESP)
11 15 July Brive – Agen Plain stage 177 km (110 mi)  Hugo Koblet (SUI)
12 16 July Agen – Dax Plain stage 185 km (115 mi)  Wim van Est (NED)
13 17 July Dax – Tarbes Stage with mountain(s) 201 km (125 mi)  Serafino Biagioni (ITA)
14 18 July Tarbes – Luchon Stage with mountain(s) 142 km (88 mi)  Hugo Koblet (SUI)
15 19 July Luchon – Carcassonne Stage with mountain(s) 213 km (132 mi)  André Rosseel (BEL)
16 20 July Carcassonne – Montpellier Plain stage 192 km (119 mi)  Hugo Koblet (SUI)
17 22 July Montpellier – Avignon Stage with mountain(s) 224 km (139 mi)  Louison Bobet (FRA)
18 23 July Avignon – Marseille Plain stage 173 km (107 mi)  Fiorenzo Magni (ITA)
19 24 July Marseille – Gap Stage with mountain(s) 208 km (129 mi)  Armand Baeyens (BEL)
20 25 July Gap – Briançon Stage with mountain(s) 165 km (103 mi)  Fausto Coppi (ITA)
21 26 July Briançon – Aix-les-Bains Stage with mountain(s) 201 km (125 mi)  Bernardo Ruiz (ESP)
22 27 July Aix-les-Bains – Geneva Individual time trial 97 km (60 mi)  Hugo Koblet (SUI)
23 28 July Geneva – Dijon Stage with mountain(s) 197 km (122 mi)  Germain Derijcke (BEL)
24 29 July Dijon – Paris Plain stage 322 km (200 mi)  Adolphe Deledda (FRA)

Classification leadership[edit]

Stage General classification
Mountains classification Team classification
1  Giovanni Rossi (ITA) no award  ?
2  Jean Diederich (LUX)
3  Luxembourg
4  France
5  Serafino Biagioni (ITA)  Italy
6  Roger Lévêque (FRA)  ?
7  France
9  Raphaël Géminiani (FRA)
10  Bernardo Ruiz (ESP)
11  Raphaël Géminiani (FRA)
12  Wim van Est (NED) West–South West
13  Gilbert Bauvin (FRA)  ?
14  Hugo Koblet (SUI)  France
Final  Hugo Koblet (SUI)  Raphaël Géminiani (FRA)  France


General classification[edit]

The time that each cyclist required to finish each stage was recorded, and these times were added together for the general classification. If a cyclist had received a time bonus, it was subtracted from this total; all time penalties were added to this total. The cyclist with the least accumulated time was the race leader, identified by the yellow jersey. Of the 123 cyclists that started the 1951 Tour de France, 66 finished the race.

Final general classification (1–10)[3]
Rank Rider Team Time
1  Hugo Koblet (SUI) Switzerland 142h 20' 14"
2  Raphaël Géminiani (FRA) France +22' 00"
3  Lucien Lazaridès (FRA) France +24' 16"
4  Gino Bartali (ITA) Italy +29' 09"
5  Stan Ockers (BEL) Belgium +32' 53"
6  Pierre Barbotin (FRA) France +36' 40"
7  Fiorenzo Magni (ITA) Italy +39' 14"
8  Gilbert Bauvin (FRA) East–South East +45' 53"
9  Bernardo Ruiz (ESP) Spain +45' 55"
10  Fausto Coppi (ITA) Italy +46' 51"

Mountains classification[edit]

Points for the mountains classification were earned by reaching the mountain tops first. The system was almost the same as in 1950: there were two types of mountain tops: the hardest ones, in category 1, gave 10 points to the first cyclist, the easier ones, in category 2, gave 6 points to the first cyclist, and the easiest ones, in category 3, gave 3 points. Raphaël Géminiani won this classification.[3]

Final mountains classification (1–10)[7][12]
Rank Rider Team Points
1  Raphaël Géminiani (FRA) France 66
2  Gino Bartali (ITA) Italy 59
3  Fausto Coppi (ITA) Italy 41
3  Hugo Koblet (SUI) Switzerland 41
3  Bernardo Ruiz (ESP) Spain 41
6  Lucien Lazaridès (FRA) France 37
7  Jean Robic (FRA) Paris 23
8  Bernard Gauthier (FRA) France 22
8  Jean Dotto (FRA) East–South East 22
10  Robert Buchonnet (FRA) East–South East 18

Team classification[edit]

The team classification was calculated by adding the times in the general classification of the best three cyclists per team. It was won by the French team, with a large margin over the Belgian team.

Final team classification[7][12]
Rank Team Time
1 France 426h 47' 36"
2 Belgium +44' 37"
3 Italy +1h 22' 16"
4 East–South East +1h 48' 00"
5 West–South West +2h 15' 38"
6 Switzerland +2h 49' 55"
7 Spain +4h 45' 19"
8 Île-de-France–North West +5h 30' 39"
9 Paris +6h 05' 29"

The other three teams that started, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and North Africa, did not finish with three cyclists so were not eligible for the team classification.

Other awards[edit]

The special award for the best regional rider was won by eighth-placed Gilbert Bauvin.[13]


Hugo Koblet would be unable to defend his title in the 1952 Tour de France, as he was injured. After that, Koblet never reached the heights that he was able to reach in 1951. Second-placed Géminiani said that he regarded himself as the winner, because Koblet did not count because he was not human.[2]

Van Est, who fell down a ravine wearing the leader's yellow jersey, starred in an advert for watch-making company Pontiac, that said "His heart stopped but his Pontiac kept time."[8]


  1. ^ Augendre, Jacques (2009). "Guide Historique" (PDF) (in French). Amaury Sport Organisation. Archived from the original on 2009-10-03. Retrieved 4 December 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h McGann, Bill; McGann, Carol (2006). The Story of the Tour De France. Dog ear publishing. pp. 159–165. ISBN 978-1-59858-180-5. 
  3. ^ a b c d "37ème Tour de France 1951" (in French). Memoire du cyclisme. Retrieved 4 December 2009. 
  4. ^ "Tour-Giro-Vuelta". www.tour-giro-vuelta.net. Retrieved 4 December 2009. 
  5. ^ a b Jones, Graham (August 2006). "Great Escapes". Cycling revealed. Retrieved 1 March 2010. 
  6. ^ "Koblet vencedor en la etape contra reloj - Se comprobó el error de cronometraja que había dado ganador a Bobet por un segundo". El Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). 11 July 1951. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c James, Tom (14 August 2003). "1951: Brive - Agen: Koblet's grand exploit". Veloarchive. Retrieved 4 December 2009. 
  8. ^ a b Podofdonny (25 October 2004). "Cycling Legends - Pédaleur de Charme". Daily Peloton. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  9. ^ "37ème Tour de France 1951 - 13ème étape" (in French). Memoire du cyclisme. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  10. ^ "37ème Tour de France 1951 - 22ème étape" (in French). Memoire du cyclisme. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  11. ^ Zwegers, Arian. "Tour de France GC Top Ten". CVCC. Archived from the original on 2009-06-10. Retrieved 4 December 2009. 
  12. ^ a b "1951: 38e editie". Tourdefrance.nl. 30 December 2003. Retrieved 4 December 2009. 
  13. ^ Augendre, Jacques (2009). "Guide Historique" (PDF) (in French). Amaury Sport Organisation. Retrieved 4 December 2009.