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August 2005
 
 

By Barry Boyce, CyclingRevealed
Historian

 

 

Francois Faber

 

 

 

 


 

Top 25 All Time Tours #21

1909- Invasion of the Foreigners

CR Timeline 1909

The ever-growing popularity of the Tour de France (TdF) began to spread across the countries of Europe. Similar types of stage races were started throughout the European community. The Tour of Belgium was in full swing and the first Giro d'Italia started May 13, 1909, but the TdF was where they all came to compete with the best. 1909 marked the first large-scale entry of foreign stars.

The first non-French “stage” winner was as early as the 1903. This was not the norm and the next foreign “stage” winner was not until Francois “Giant of Colombes” Faber (Lux) (6'2” and 200 pounds) won stage 3 in 1908. The French dominance of their Tour began to wane as the foreign invaders began to flex their muscles. Faber became the great sensation of the 1908 Tour by winning four stages and finishing second overall. “The giant of Colombes” had established himself as the star of the future.

The TdF of 1909 was a pitted a strange battle between “Mother Nature” and Francois Faber. The cold temperature, rain, snow and wind were added to the already demanding race schedule to make this Tour the most difficult since its start in 1903 and perhaps the most difficult of all time. The 22-year-old Faber crushed all comers. Somehow as the weather got worse, Faber got better.

After losing the sprint on stage one to Belgian Cyrille Van Hauwaert (Belgium's first ever stage winner), Faber rode the next five stages in grand style. The venues for the races in the early days of the Tour were some times paved in the city but most times were dirt roads of the country side that were difficult to pass on the best of conditions. During substantial rain storms the paved roads, with poor drainage, would flood. This caused the riders to navigate through hub deep flows of water. On the rural dirt roads the rain would turn to passage into muddy ruts.

These five stages from Roubaix to Nice gave Faber his chance to excel. His first win in 1909 was on the 398 km stage 2. He completed an extraordinary 200 km solo breakaway in freezing rain, literally danced from rut to rut on the muddy rural roads. The condition seemed to inspire him, not hinder him.

Stage 3 gave the TdF a new legendary story. The stage started in 4 degree Celsius (39F) and in freezing rain and Faber attacked again. He broke clear of the peloton and soloed 110km for the victory. Coming into Belfort, Faber alone for the stage win snapped the chain off his bicycle in the last kilometer of the race and had to run the final distance pushing his bicycle. Despite the mishap, he still managed a ten-minute margin of victory. His Alcyon team manager called him “the God who came down to ride a bicycle.”

This superstar's legend was growing larger. Over 3,000 fans showed up at the start line at 2am for stage 5 in Lyon to see Faber. The stage featured another day of wild weather. It was also a wild day for the race leader. Faber set a blistering pace up the Col de Porte and dropped all the contenders. On the day only two solo crashes slowed his effort. He was blown off the road by a very strong wind, and comically, an errant attack by a misbehaving horse that knocked him down and kicked his bicycle away. A master of adversity, Faber remounted and went on to a five-minute stage victory in Grenoble. The victory in Grenoble gave Faber four win in a row tying the Tour record set in 1906 by Rene Pottier.

The next was Grenoble to Nice on stage 6, including the rugged climbs of Col Bayard and Col de Laffrey. With relative ease Faber won both climbs and rolled into Nice for a record setting fifth stage win in a row. There were 20,000 fans lining the road, cheering wildly as their superstar finished the stage with a one-minute lead and the record setting fifth victory.

Faber's all-round consistence and domination of the first half of the Tour, gave him enough points to ride comfortably into Paris for the overall victory. Francois Faber became the first foreign winner of the Tour de France.

TdF 1909 Recap

Stage and Distance

Stage Winner

Race Leader

Stage 1 PARIS-ROUBAIX, 272 km Cyrille Van Hauwaert (Bel) Cyrille Van Hauwaert (Bel)
Stage 2 ROUBAIX-METZ, 398 km Francois Faber (Lux) Francois Faber (Lux)
Stage 3 METZ-BELFORT, 259 km Francois Faber (Lux) Francois Faber (Lux)
Stage 4 BELFORT-LYON, 309 km Francois Faber (Lux) Francois Faber (Lux)
Stage 5 LYON-GRENOBLE, 311 km Francois Faber (Lux) Francois Faber (Lux)
Stage 6 GRENOBLE-NICE, 345 km Francois Faber (Lux) Francois Faber (Lux)
Stage 7 NICE-NIMES, 345 km Ernest Paul (Fra) Francois Faber (Lux)
Stage 8 NIMES-TOULOUSE, 303 km Jean Alavoine (Fra) Francois Faber (Lux)
Stage 9 TOULOUSE-BAYONNE, 299 km Constant Menager (Fra) Francois Faber (Lux)
Stage 10 BAYONNE-BORDEAUX, 269 km Francois Faber (Lux) Francois Faber (Lux)
Stage 11 BORDEAUX-NANTES, 391 km Louis Trousselier (Fra) Francois Faber (Lux)
Stage 12 NANTES-BREST, 321 km Gustave Garrigou (Fra) Francois Faber (Lux)
Stage 13 BREST-CAEN, 415 km Paul Duboc (Fra) Francois Faber (Lux)
Stage 14 CAEN-PARIS/Parc des Princes, 251 km Jean Alavoine (Fra) Francois Faber (Lux)

TdF Champion: Francois Faber (Lux)

Starters: 150

Finishers: 55

Distance: 4,497 km

Average: 28.658 km/h

 

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