The 2017 Tour de France Preview
This year, the 104th Tour de France starts on July 1 in Düsseldorf, Germany, which is also the date of Canada’s 150th birthday. To help celebrate this auspicious occasion, let’s start our annual preview of la Grande Boucle with look at some great moments
The Canadian cycling magazine guide to the year’s biggest cycling event
Great Canadian Moments at the Tour 1937
Pierre Gachon becomes the first Canadian and North American to race the Tour de France. On June 30, 1937, Pierre Gachon, a six-day racer born in France who emigrated to Canada, was the only non-european to start the 31st edition. It was the era of national teams, and some were larger than others. The Belgians, Italians, French and Germans fielded 10 riders. Great Britain/canada consisted of two Brits and Gachon. Alas, the Canadian didn’t finish the first stage, a 263-km expedition from Paris to Lille.
Alex Stieda becomes the first North American to wear the yellow jersey. On the split Stage 2 of the 1986 edition there was an 85-km road race in the late morning and a 55-km team time trial in the afternoon. Alex Stieda, riding for the upstart 7-Eleven team, launched a solo attack in the road race and later found company in five riders. Even though he finished fifth, the Vancouver rider amassed enough time bonuses to pluck the yellow jersey from the shoulders of Thierry Marie, Système U’s prologue specialist. The team time trial was a puncture and crash-filled disaster for 7-Eleven with Stieda unable to hold his squad’s tail. The Canadian found himself 5:10 in arrears of Marie, now back in yellow, only hours after hitting such great heights.
1988 and 1990
Steve Bauer wears the maillot jaune in two editions. Now BMC’S director of VIP services, Bauer first pulled on the yellow jersey in 1988 after winning Stage 1. He had the leader’s jersey a total of five days before relinquishing the prized garment to eventual race winner Pedro Delgado following the stage to Alpe d’huez. Bauer reached his and Canada’s general classification pinnacle in that Tour with fourth. Two years later while riding for 7-Eleven, he donned the yellow jersey for a total of nine days, with the race lead shifting to Ronan Pensec after a summit finish in the Alps. Bauer ultimately finished 27th.
Svein Tuft earns the lanterne rouge. There has long been a tradition in the Tour de France of celebrating the last rider in the general classification, bestowing upon him the honorary title of lanterne rouge, after the light on a train’s caboose. In 2013, once Svein Tuft completed his first Tour, he became the first North American to earn the lanterne rouge, coming last in 169th place. Two years later, Tuft was “runner-up” to Sébastien Chavanel in the unofficial category. The rider from Langley, B.C., who turned 40 in May, has been in at least one Grand Tour throughout the past five years with Orica.
Ryder Hesjedal battles for Alpe d’huez glory. While Ryder Hesjedal won the 2012 Giro d’italia and took two Vuelta a España stage victories in his career, the Tour de France wasn’t always kind to the Victoria rider. Injuries from a crash forced him out of the 2012 Tour. Seventh place in 2010 (later changed to fifth) was his only top-10 finish in seven attempts. He never wore the yellow jersey.
Hesjedal’s greatest Tour moment, however, was a pitched battle with Thibaut Pinot on the storied slopes of Alpe d’huez in 2015. The duo was part of a four-man move that shook loose on the Croix de Fer to pursue a leading trio. With about 7.3 km of Alpe d’huez left to climb, Pinot and Hesjedal were the leaders. Hesjedal tried to dash away from the Frenchman – forcing a gap for 200 m – but Pinot parried the thrust and flew solo about a kilometre later. Nairo Quintana was getting the better of Chris Froome that day in a last ditch attempt to pull back time. Despite big digs by the Cannondale-garmin rider, Hesjedal found the Colombian slipping past with about 2.5 km remaining. Quintana finished runner-up to an exultant Pinot.