Former Tour de France winner and world champion Ferdinand (Ferdi) Kubler has died at the age of 97, Swiss website schweizer-illustrierte.ch reports. Kubler, who was the oldest living Tour de France champion, had been suffering ill health in recent years and while he was able to spend Christmas at home with his family, he passed away in hospital in Zurich on Thursday after falling sick with a cold.
"Ferdi fell asleep peacefully, with a smile on his face," his wife Christina told schweizer-illustrierte.ch.
Kubler, born in 1919 in the municipality of Mathalen in the north of Switzerland, turned professional in 1940. His early career was hampered by the Second World War and he predominantly raced at home in Switzerland. His first appearance at the Tour de France came in 1947, where he won two stages and got a taste of what was to come when spent a day in the yellow jersey. He missed out in 1948 but came back the following year to add a further stage win to his palmares.
It proved third time lucky for Kubler in 1950 as he went on to take the overall classification of the race, beating Stan Okers and future three-time champion Louison Bobet. He was the first Swiss rider to take home the fabled yellow jersey, with Hugo Koblet – Kubler’s biggest rival –becoming the second a year later.
Kubler’s career really took off after the Tour victory and he went on to take the rainbow stripes at the following season’s World Championships in 1951, adding to the bronze and silver he’d already collected. He also found success at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, La Flèche Wallonne, the Tour de Suisse, the Tour de Romandie and Bordeaux-Paris. 1950 would be his only Grand Tour victory despite two further podium finishes at the Tour and two at the Giro d’Italia.
In 1955, his career fell under a cloud of suspicion when commissaires found doping products in his room after he was seen zig-zagging up Mont Venotux at the Tour de France. He would always deny doping but retired at the end of the season. In 1983, he was elected Sportsman of the Century in his native Switzerland and in 2010 he was honoured with a lifetime achievement award.