Forty-three years ago last Friday, on the 2nd November 1964, Hugo Koblet died in a dreadful car crash when his Alfa Romeo left the road and h urtled into a pear tree. He was killed instantly, having suffered mult iple injuries. Was it an accident or suicide?
Like many fans of continental road racing I have only ever thought of Ko blet as the handsome, elegant Swiss racing cyclist who rode his La Perle bi ke to victory in the 1951 Tour de France. The instantaneous picture th at my mind always conjures up when his name is mentioned is of Koblet, a "b oyau" wrapped around his shoulders, his "maillot" decorated with the Helvet ian white cross..combing his blond wavey hair. I think that there is even a sepia picture somewhere in one of the old "But et Club" magazines, showing Koblet, sitting up at the front of the peloton, combing his hair.
Coincidence played an interesting role in my recent stay in France. On o ne Thursday I was picking up an early 80s Lejeune bike from a second-hand w arehouse, when I decided to browse through the book-shelves to search out a nything old books on cycling. I was in luck when I noticed the brown spine of a slimmish volume, bearing just the words "Hugo Koblet", and then in muc h smaller print "Jean-Paul Olivier" now better known as the historian of th e Tour de France. Two days and several chapters of the book later. I was to find myself huddled up in the front seat of a lumpy old Renault van, equipped with a squeaky-voiced SatNav system, being driven to investigate a bike that was claimed to be that very same La Perle that Hugo Koble t had used to ride to victory in that 1951 Tour de France.
As my chauffeur, Lorenzo, but better known as "rocvale" on USA Ebay, thr eaded the vehicle along busy roads skirting the eastern outskirts of Paris, hurling abuse at the TomTom's shreaks every time it located a speeding cam era, I sat back and tried to conjure up those mental images of that 1951 Ju ly edition of "Miroire de Cyclisme" and very importantly the details of THA T best known of all La Perles that was about to be revealed to my "co llaborateur" -in-chief and myself "tres prochainement".
Yes..Koblet rode a big frame..like Fausto..I was sure of the handlebar e nd controls..probably a Brooks saddle..and he was using one of those newly introduced Campagnolo rear mechs.....Large or small flange hubs...? Alloy c otterless or steel cottered chainset..?
Come on, Aldo..give me a break...you must have that photo somewhere in y our archives.
Norris Lockley...Settle UK..where the remembered suspense of a sunny Par isian afternoon, spent in wonderful company..is all too present..
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