24 July 1919 – In the 1949 Tour, Kübler attacked in the Alps, putting the great Bartali and Coppi in trouble. Ultimately punctures cost him what would have been a legendary win but the buccaneering move was noted and he was later described a “devil of a rider”. The next year, Ferdi Kübler rode to Tour glory.
Preceded only by success in his homeland, his 1950 win set in motion his most prolific period. Consecutive victories in 1951 and 1952 in both Liège-Bastogne-Liège and La Flèche Wallonne, a feat unmatched by any other rider before or since, as well as the 1951 World Championships, marks out his immense one-day ability racing alongside stage race wins.
For all his wins Kübler is perhaps best remembered for an exchange with Raphaël Géminiani on Ventoux in 1955. As Kübler prepared to attack, Géminiani warned: “Careful Ferdi, the Ventoux is like no other.” His rider replied, “And Ferdi is champion like no other.” Kübler became delirious on the upper slopes and had to be pointed the right way. He pulled out that night and never rode the Tour again. 1950 Tour de France: After repelling Louison Bobet, who had declared “it’s victory or nothing,” on the last day in the Alps, Kübler smashed the final TT to win the Tour by more than nine minutes. Tour de France: 1950 Tour de Suisse: 1942, 1948, 1951 Tour de Romandie: 1948, 1951 Liège-Bastogne-Liège: 1951, 1952 La Flèche Wallonne: 1951, 1952 World Champs: 1951 Bordeaux-Paris: 1953 Milano-Torino: 1956 The quagmire which is the 1984 Paris-Roubaix is the essence of Sean Kelly. He’s towing them, literally, all day, and one by one the rest just… capsize. On 14 March 1984, John James ‘Sean’ Kelly won his third of seven editions of Paris-Nice. Three days later he lost Sanremo, outgunned by a chemicallyenhanced Francesco Moser. The next weekend he won all three stages of the Critérium International but was second again at the Ronde. Nobody dared work with him so Johan Lammerts inexplicably stayed away.
That evening a chastened Sean Kelly flew to Bilbao and the following morning won the opening stage of the Vuelta al País Vasco. Then he won two more and, on 6 April, clinched the general classification. Two days later he won Paris-Roubaix, then LiègeBastogne-Liège the next weekend.
L’Équipe wrote: “He seems not to feel the pedals at all. Rather that he simply waits for the others to collapse, whereupon he will become the winner. If they have the courage or temerity to stay with him, he will simply ride away from them in the finish. On days like these there is no race at all. He is imperious, magnificent…”
Really, it’s a wonder he took ‘only’ nine Monuments, a Vuelta and four green jerseys. Moreover how on Earth, given his dominance of one-day races, did he fail to win a rainbow jersey? Sean Kelly. The mind boggles…