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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 June, 2003, 13:02 GMT 14:02 UK
1947-1956: Post-war rivalries
Robinson was 29th in 1955
Brian Robinson: One of first two British riders to finish
Tour founder Henri Desgrange died in 1940.

During World War II the German occupying forces tried to persuade his successor Jacques Goddet to hold the race but he refused.

When the conflict ended Goddet wanted the race to return as soon as possible.

But he still called the 1947 race an act of faith amid the post-war shortages.

The result - Frenchman Jean Robic's win - improved morale and confirmed the government's decision to allow the Tour to break rationing rules.

But the Breton's victory was also due to him having a more plentiful supply of food parcels than rival Rene Viatto.

And the French success did not last, as one of the great cycling rivalries of all time - between two Italians - got into full swing.

TOUR WINNERS
1947: Jean Robic (Fra)
1948: Gino Bartali (Ita)
1949: Fausto Coppi (Ita)
1950: Ferdi Kubler (Swi)
1951: Hugo Koblet (Swi)
1952: Fausto Coppi (Ita)
1953: Louison Bobet (Fra)
1954: Louison Bobet (Fra)
1955: Louison Bobet (Fra)
1956: Roger Walkowiak (Fra)

Gino Bartali, already a Tour winner in 1938, was a devout Roman Catholic who believed in traditional methods and hard work.

Fausto Coppi, a former British prisoner of war, was an atheist with a mistress and a willingness to innovate professionally.

Both men lost much of their career to the war, but their bitter rivalry made post-war cycling as thrilling as anything before the conflict.

Much of it occurred at the Giro d'Italia, which Bartali won three times and Coppi five.

Bartali enjoyed more success before his great rival came along.

The 10-year gap between his two Tour wins is still a record.

Coppi won the Giro in 1940 but did not enter the Tour until 1949.

Despite wartime delays, he did not wish to test himself until he was ready - and 29 years old.

Louison Bobet
Bobet won three times in the era

The debut was worth waiting for - unless your name was Bartali.

The defending champion, winner by 26 minutes in 1948, lost by more than 10 in 1949.

Coppi's second win, in 1952, eclipsed even that margin - a full 28 minutes ahead of the runner-up - and included the first stage win on L'Alpe d'Huez.

Fausto in Italian means lucky, yet he missed the 1950 Tour because of injury.

And when his brother was killed racing in early 1951 he was in no fit state to finish better than 10th.

While Bartali lived until the year 2000, Coppi died of malaria, aged just 40, in 1960 after a visit to Africa.

The 1952 Tour was Coppi's last, as "il campionissimo" chose to concentrate on his beloved Giro.

The following three years saw the first straight hat-trick of Tour wins.

Louison Bobet sealed this historic three-in-a-row between 1953 and 1955.

DURING THIS ERA
After two years of domination French fans caused the Italian riders to withdraw in 1950 after knocking off Bartali in the Alps
1950 and 1951 remain Switzerland's only victories in the race
1952 saw the first televised racing - and the first climb of L'Alpe d'Huez
1955 saw Brian Robinson and Vin Denson become the first Britons to finish the race

Like so many of the French greats, Bobet was a Breton.

He later swore by thalassotherapy - seawater therapy - to heal ills.

But whatever he used for training or medication, it proved a success.

He won in 1953 thanks to an amazing ride over the Alpine Izoard climb and, despite a row over bonuses in the French team.

The Izoard provided him with victory again in 1954 but he lost the same stage in 1955, and instead had to rely on his strength over the gruelling Mont Ventoux.

Among the French star's great rivals was Swiss 1950 Tour winner Ferdi Kubler.

He completely underestimated the harsh Ventoux to allow Bobet the chance to kill off his Tour chances on that stage and seal his hat-trick victory.

Injury prevented the hat-trick hero's attempt at a fourth.

But this was a French golden age and they were to continue their run of victories with another record-breaker and a new great rivalry.





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