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[an error occurred while processing this directive] banner Tuesday, 5 June, 2001, 17:11 GMT 18:11 UK
1930-1939: Adapt to survive
1903-1914 1919-1929 1930-1939 1947-1956 1957-1966
1967-1977 1978-1984 1985-1990 1991-1995 1996-2000

The controversies of the 1920s and the overt commercialism of the Tour put many people off the race when this new decade dawned.

The lack of French success also did not help the race in its homeland.

The Tour in the early days
Early Tours had become dominated by teams

There were experiments with team time trials and then national squads in the late 1920s, including substitute riders coming "off the bench" if someone was injured.

But these were cosmetic changes and still left teams run by cycle-makers in charge, an appalling situation for race founder Henri Desgrange.

He believed 1929 winner Maurice Dewaele had won by default, because of his teams' strength rather than individual ability.

After almost three decades the Tour's father announced radical changes for 1930:

  • Cycle manufacturers' teams were replaced by national squads of eight riders, picked by Desgrange and paid by the Tour itself
  • Everyone would ride identical bikes
  • A publicity caravan was introduced to make up the cash shortfall from the absence of the cycle-makers and their teams.

The 1930 changes had a happy result for the French, uniting a group of exceptional riders in a common national cause.

Home riders took the first five Tours of the 1930s, with two wins each for Andre Leducq - "le joyeux dédé" ("the happy dude") - and for "le taciturn" Antonin Magne.

Such were the home country's riches that by 1934 Magne's second victory was not universally popular - many thought the wrong Frenchman had won.

  Tour winners
1930 Andre Leducq (Fra)
1931 Antonin Magne (Fra)
1932 Andre Leducq (Fra)
1933 Georges Speicher (Fra)
1934 Antonin Magne (Fra)
1935 Romain Maes (Bel)
1936 Sylvere Maes (Bel)
1937 Roger Lapebie (Fra)
1938 Gino Bartali (Ita)
1939 Sylvere Maes (Bel)

Young rider Rene Viatto won three stages but was forced to help Magne in the overall standings.

The whole of France shared the 20-year-old's tears as they read how he had cried when forced to ride back up a mountain to help Magne repair his machine.

The young rider never achieved such heights again and World War II cut short his chances of winning a Tour.

  During this era
The most long-lasting of the 1930 changes was the publicity caravan
Radio coverage also began in 1930
The first experiments with time bonuses took place in 1932 -the top three on each stage got up to four minutes
In 1935 Maes wore the yellow jersey throughout the race
Bartali was not allowed to defend his title in 1939 - with Europe on the brink of war, the Italians were prevented from competing

Before the conflict, the Belgians ended the French glory years.

And there were further changes before the end of the 1930s.

Many had said the win by lacklustre Dewaele in 1929 was because his team leader had been unable to change his broken bicycle after an accident.

Desgrange rejected such thinking, and was deaf to calls to allow a weaker rider to lend a strong team-mate a machine.

But he relent over technological changes which even the most humble cyclo-tourist had taken on board.

Until 1937, popular new Derailleur systems were not allowed.

This design, which lives on to this day, allowed riders to change gears without removing their wheels.

Until then competitors had to get off and turn their wheel around every time the road changed from uphill to downhill.

The result of the change? Another French winner - Roger Lapebie.

Not surprisingly - since his time off the bike was cut so much - the triumphn was in the fastest average time to date.

Future developments

Of the 1930 changes only the publicity caravan and the changes in gears have survived.

National teams disappeared in the 1960s, another era in which the Tour proved itself adaptable to circumstances and difficulties.

Rules over use of the same bike were rapidly relaxed - France's Georges Speicher won after designing an improved braking system as early as 1933.

But what this decade proved was that the Tour had learned how to adapt to survive.

1903-1914 1919-1929 1930-1939 1947-1956 1957-1966
1967-1977 1978-1984 1985-1990 1991-1995 1996-2000

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