Roger Walkowiak

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Roger Walkowiak
Walkowiak in 2008
Personal information
Full nameRoger Walkowiak
Born(1927-03-02)2 March 1927
Montluçon, France
Died6 February 2017(2017-02-06) (aged 89)
Vichy, France
Team information
Rider typeAll-rounder
Professional teams
1956Saint-Raphaël–R. Geminiani–Dunlop
1960Saint-Raphaël–R. Geminiani–Dunlop
Major wins
Grand Tours
Tour de France
General classification (1956)
Vuelta a España
2 individual stages (1956, 1957)

Roger Walkowiak (pronounced [ʁɔ.ʒe wal.kov.jak]; 2 March 1927 – 6 February 2017) was a French road bicycle racer who won the 1956 Tour de France. He was a professional rider from 1950 until 1960. He died on 6 February 2017 at the age of 89.[1]

The 1956 Tour de France[edit]

From 1930 the Tour de France had been contested by national and regional teams. Roger Walkowiak was recruited for the French regional Nord-Est-Centre team, representing the North-east and Centre of France, despite coming from Montluçon in the South-West. He was the only rider available at late notice to replace an original team member, Gilbert Bauvin, who had been promoted to France's main team.

Walkowiak escaped on the 7th stage from Lorient to Angers in a group of 31 riders that won that day by over 18 minutes. The advantage was enough to give him the yellow jersey of the overall race lead. At this stage the race's stars did not consider this 'insignificant' rider to be a risk.

Walkowiak lost the jersey to Gerrit Voorting at the end of stage 10 which took some of the pressure off his shoulders. In the Pyrenees Belgium's Jan Adriaensens took the lead. At Aix-en-Provence (stage 15) Dutchman Wout Wagtmans took the jersey, but Walkowiak was still well placed.

On the Alpine stage 18 (TorinoGrenoble), the climbing specialist Charly Gaul (Luxembourg), who had lost a lot of time in the flat stages, attacked to try and win the King of the Mountains competition (which he eventually did, beating Federico Bahamontes). Gaul's attack split the field; Wagtmans lost 16 minutes and Walkowiak took back the yellow jersey after losing only 8 minutes to Gaul on the day.

For the last four stages, Walkowiak defended his lead, reaching the finish at the Parc des Princes on 28 July just over a minute ahead of Gilbert Bauvin. The race was won in a then record speed of 36.268 km/h.

Walkowiak winner at the Parc des Princes

Walkowiak's win was poorly received by the professional peloton and the public. "The applause sounded like a lamentation", the organiser, Jacques Goddet, wrote in L'Équipe. The crowd was disappointed that the race had been won by an unknown and not by the rising star Jacques Anquetil, who had decided against riding. Walkowiak became the second rider to win the Tour without winning on any of the individual day's stages that make up the race.

Nevertheless, Jacques Goddet always considered Walkowiak his favourite winner, calling him an all-rounder who had used his legs to win and his head to secure his winning position. France, however, remained unimpressed and for many years, Walkowiak's name passed into the language, so that do something "à la Walko" meant to succeed unexpectedly or without panache.

That reaction depressed Walkowiak. He rode the Tour the following year, but slipped from top of the field to almost the bottom. He rode the Tour of Spain, the Vuelta a España, in 1957 and won a stage, raced a further two years and then retired to run a bar in the area from which he had left, as an unknown, to win the Tour de France. When even his customers teased him about winning the Tour, he lost confidence still more and went back to working on a lathe in the car factory in Montluçon that had employed him as a young man.

It took many years to persuade Walkowiak that there was merit in what he had done and, though he lived quietly in south-west France, he did talk about the day he became the unknown who won the world's greatest cycling race. After the death of Ferdi Kübler on 29 December 2016, Walkowiak was for a short while the oldest Tour de France winner still alive. Following Walkowiak's death in February 2017, the oldest living Tour winner was Federico Bahamontes, who won the Tour in 1959.[2]

Career achievements[edit]

Major results[edit]

3rd Tour de Dordogne
2nd Tour de l'Ouest
3rd G.P de Vals-les-Bains
2nd Paris-Côte d'Azur
3rd Tour de l'Ouest
2nd Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré
1st Overall Tour de France
1st Stage 13 Vuelta a España
3rd Circuit du Cher
1st Stage 8 Vuelta a España
2nd Boucles du Bas-Limousin
3rd Tour du Sud-Est
3rd Tour de l'Aude
3rd Circuit d'Auvergne

Grand Tour results timeline[edit]

1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958
Stages won
Mountains classification
Points classification N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Tour de France 57 DNE 47 DNE DNF-11 1 DNF-18 75
Stages won 0 0 0 0 0 0
Mountains classification NR NR NR 6 NR NR
Points classification N/A N/A NR NR 16 NR NR
Vuelta a España N/A N/A N/A DNE DNE DNF 15 DNE
Stages won 1 1
Mountains classification N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Points classification N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1 Winner
2–3 Top three-finish
4–10 Top ten-finish
11– Other finish
DNE Did not enter
DNF-x Did not finish (retired on stage x)
DNS-x Did not start (not started on stage x)
HD Finished outside time limit (occurred on stage x)
DSQ Disqualified
N/A Race/classification not held
NR Not ranked in this classification

Tour de France[edit]

  • 1951 – 57th
  • 1953 – 47th
  • 1956 – 1st
  • 1958 – 75th


  • Woodland, L., Yellow Jersey Companion to the Tour De France, Yellow Jersey Press, London 2003 ISBN 0-224-06318-9
  • The Tour De France: The Official Centennial 1903 – 2003, Weidenfeld Nicolson, London 2004 ISBN 1-84188-239-9


  1. ^ "Tour de France. Roger Walkowiak, vainqueur en 1956, est décédé", 7 February 2017.
  2. ^ "Tour de France. Roger Walkowiak, vainqueur en 1956, est décédé", 7 February 2017.

External links[edit]