Je publie ci-dessous un extrait du livre de Chris Sidwells, "A race for madmen, the extraordinary history of the Tour de France" à propos de Bordeaux-Paris de 1896.
“Paris-Brest-Paris was the longest road race in this new sport, so long that after the first one they didn’t organise another for ten years, but by the late 1890s there were several other long-distance races: Bordeaux-Paris was nearly 600 kilometres. Plus there were 24-hour races on velodromes, and some that lasted six days. No rest was officially set aside in these races – the clock kept running. If a rider wanted to sleep he did so in his own time, as the race went on around him.
Anyone who could stay awake and keep going had a significant advantage over the rest, a fact that led some riders to experiment. The 1896 Bordeaux-Paris was won by a Welhshman, Arthur Linton. At Tours, just over half-way through the race, an eyewitness described Linton coming through the contol point “with glassy eyes and tottering limbs and in a high state of nervous excitement”. The eyewitness, whose name has been lost, was working as an assistant to a man hired by Linton called “Choppy” Warburton.
Warburton, a former professional runner, now earned his living as a trainer of professional runners and cyclists. It was a lucrative business. Linton was of Welsh minong stock and cycling was his path out of the pits. When Linton won he earned money. Warburton’s training produced results, so Linton paid him a percentage of his winnings. The higher Linton finished in a race, the more they both earned. But training didn’t just mean proscribing a number of miles to be ridden at such and such a pace; Warburton advised his clients on what to eat and looked after them when they raced and trained in other ways too.
The eyewitness in Bordeaux-Paris says that Lindon staggered on, just about maintaining his lead, but later, at Orleans, he stopped again. The Welshman was in a really bad way and on the verge of collapse. Warburton delved into the big black bag he always carried with him and administered various substances to Linton. From that moment the racer was renewed. He rallied, gained 18 minutes more on the second-placed rider and won the race. However, Linton died a few months later, the cause of death given as typhoid. He was 24.
Even young people as fit and strong as Linton did die of typhoid in those days, so his death can’t be laid unequivocally at Warburton’s door although people have tried to do so. However, the story suggests that Choppy’s black bag contained things a lot stronger than smelling salts and mineral water.”
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