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The cheekiest Tour stage win

The 1960 Tour came to a halt for Charles de Gaulle.

The 1960 Tour came to a halt for Charles de Gaulle. (Image credit: AFP)

We've all known the feeling. The race is coming to an end and you sense that, even if you're not going to win, something's going to go right for you. And then you feel your rim bumping along the road. You know that sensation? Well, this is a story to bring you fresh heart when it happens to you... Cyclingnews' Les Woodland recounts how one rider's misfortune turned lucky.

We have to go back to the start of the Swinging Sixties, literally the start because this is the Tour de France of 1960. Sharpeville is a town the world suddenly knows because South African troops have fired on an African gathering; an American spy plane has been shot down over the Soviet Union and the world Summit is off; Britain has just made its last steam engine... and the Tour is making its last run with national teams.

In France Charles De Gaulle was the epitome of French hautocracy, a giant president blessed with a wonderfully large nose with which to look down at the rest of the world. A patriot, a pragmatist and a bit of a bike fan, the general. When someone asked what he thought of news that perhaps Jacques Anquetil took dope to help him win the Tour, he answered with words to the effect of: "And what does that matter if it makes the world watch the French flag flying?"

Charles de Gaulle spent his working week in the Élysée in Paris and his spare time in a village called Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, where he lived with his dowdy wife and drove her crazy by playing military music on the record player all day.

On Saturday, July 16, 1960, two days after Bastille day, Colombey-les-Deux-Églises was on the route of the Tour as it headed from Besançon to Troyes. To the French in and around the race, it could only be that the choice was deliberate. Nobody much else knew or cared, as we'll see.

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