The Replacement

As a little child, he would sit in the garden and watch his mother ride on her bike. She was the local postwoman in Sedrina, a little town in the hills near Bergamo. He did not have his own bike; there was no money to buy one. His mother would take him often with her, letting him ride on her bike. She often sent him off to deliver the post for the houses in the hills, because she knew he would be faster than her. It was his father, though, that took him to races in the region, which developed his passion for cycling even more. His father could not affort a bike for his son, although he saw that his son had a growing talent. One day at his work one supplier could not pay in cash. A bicycle was given instead. Immediately  he gave this bike to his son and the son could now join the local cycle club.

This son won the Tour de France in 1965. His name is Felice Gimondi. He was only 22 years old. In the year before he won the Tour de l’Avenir. Nobody expected that he could be capable of winning the Tour de France so soon in his career. He was still recovering from the Giro d’Italia in 1965, in which he became third. That was a surprise already for many riders, fans and journalists. Nevertheless, he was added to the list of riders for the Tour de France, after one of his teammates got ill. His orders from the team boss were to help the other riders for a couple of stages and then he would drop out. Things turned out differently. Adorni, his teammate and leader of the team, dropped out after stage nine with stomach aches. Gimondi became the new leader and also claimed the yellow jersey that day. His biggest rival in the remaining days were Raymond Poulidor and Gianni Motta, but they could never make a serious attempt on his position. He was simply better than them in the mountains. Poulidor finished 2nd in the general classification. Gimondi became one of the youngest Tour de France winners. This was the only overall win in the Tour de France, but later in his career he claimed the victory of three Giro’s and one Vuelta. In 1965 he was lucky enough to be the replacement for another teammate and thus he earned one of the greatest victories of his career.


The podium of the Tour de France 1965: Raymond Poulidor, Felice Gimondi and Gianni Motta / © La Gazzetta dello Sport

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