From an interesting article about the 1919 Tour of the Battlefields bicycle race:
Tormented by hunger and cold, they pedalled on. Either side of the muddy roads the detritus of war was everywhere – twisted tree stumps, fields long since obliterated by shelling, concrete bunkers, mine and shell craters, wrecked gun carriages, clothing, bones. All around, belts of wire, trenches and duckboards zig-zagged in all directions, and hastily-erected crosses littered the landscape. And still the sleet and rain fell. And still the wind blew, unchecked by trees or hedgerows.
At 11.10 in the evening, 18 hours and 28 minutes after he set off from Brussels, Charles Deruyter crossed the finish line in Amiens. The man who finished in fifth place arrived at 8.00 the next morning, having spent an uncomfortable night sheltering in a trench somewhere on the Somme battlefield. The last-placed finisher took 36 hours to complete the 323km stage.
The article dryly notes that the race was run just one more time after 1919, and then only as a one-day event, since “the logistical problems of putting on a multi-stage race in a part of Europe that had almost no infrastructure were far greater than anyone had expected.”
Worth a read.
(Via sportsman extraordinaire Dan from Madison.)
2 thoughts on ““Saddles, Somme and snow: a tale of the toughest cycle race ever””
That was fascinating – I visited Verdun in 1985 – and it was a thoroughly haunted place.
Knowing a bit of the Somme I would think trying to camp there a year after th war would be almost unbearable.
For a look at it today…
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