Maurice Garin feature

All of the furore surrounding cheating in the Tour de France is nothing new. In the early days,...

Cheating is nothing new in the Tour

All of the furore surrounding cheating in the Tour de France is nothing new. In the early days, riders were involved in devious practices that make today's Tour stars seem like choirboys. The first winner of the event, Maurice Garin, was disqualified the following year trying to defend his title for catching a train instead of riding his bike. Les Woodland puts the 2006 Landis affair into some sort of historical context.

There's a historical irony in this Floyd Landis business. He'll be remembered, unless his lawyers can persuade us otherwise, as the biggest cheat in Tour history, the only man to have had his yellow jersey torn from his back.

But history will be wrong. The first big Tour cheat, Maurice Garin, would not only have failed any modern dope test but he also extended the concept of cycle-racing to include catching a train.

Nobody knows for certain that Maurice Garin waited at an out-of-the-way railway platform back in 1904. He wasn't caught with the ticket stubs in his pocket. But a while back I met a man, a gravedigger in Garin's home town of Lens in northern France, who knew him. The gravedigger was just a boy then and Garin an old man, but there was no doubt in the gravedigger's memory that Garin had admitted catching a train to skip round some tricky or boring bits of the course.

"He was amused by it," Maurice Vernaldé told me. "Not embarrassed, not after all those years, and he used to laugh and say 'Well, I was young…' and admit it. Maybe at the time he said he didn't, but when he got older and it no longer mattered so much…."

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