Velogal's Blog

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Just read in the news that The Angel of the Mountains, Charly Gaul, has died from a pulmonary embolism. I was fortunate to be at the Tour de France Village Depart on July 10, 2003, where Charly made a rare public appearance to meet his many, many fans and sign autographs. I took several photos, including the one above, and he was gracious enough to sign a couple of Champion cards for me.

Here is what I wrote in the July 10, 2003 Velogal Tour de France Report on the Lance Armstrong website:
An interesting and poignant moment for me today was being with Charly Gaul for a few minutes in the Village Depart. He is a sweet, frail man who is so loved and respected by the French, and everyone at the Tour. He is called Monsieur Charly, which is to honor him, and everyone wants his autograph. He signs everything very carefully and with such a gracious, warm smile.

Charly signed each autograph with a slow, careful and spidery signature. He was very meticulous and precise, writing in a tiny, straight line. Charly was patient and gracious with the photographers who rushed to the Champion hosting area. Both photographers and fans crowded around the white patio table and chairs, jostling for position. Charly Gaul was quiet, humble and unpretentious. He kept his head down and concentrated on his task - didn’t interact much with the fans, but was smiling and kind to everyone. He was basically a recluse after his retirement around 1964, and lived in Luxembourg. So his appearance at the Tour was very, very special.

Charly Gaul won the Tour de France in 1958, and won the Mountain Jersey in 1955 and 1956. He won several stages in the Tour in the 50’s. He was victorious in the Giro d’Italia in 1956 and 1959 - the first non-Italian to win the Giro twice. The major races then were often contested by National teams, and Charly, being from such a small country, was often without support, or had pretty poor domestiques. He often basically raced on his own...

One of his best known victories was in the 1956 Giro d’Italia. By the end of Stage 16, he had won two stages, but was only in 24th position and over fifteen minutes behind. In the Dolomites, from Merano to Trente, it was cold with freezing rain. Charly loved the cold and rode well, but heat was not for him. So he was in his element. He attacked on the Rolle climb, and gained a two minute lead at the top.

Now get this.... Charly’s brakes gave out on the long, dangerous descent and did he stop? No, he used his feet to slow down. Everyone passes him and he loses six minutes by the time he gets to the bottom. The rain turns into freezing snow, bitter-assed cold, and one-by-one, the many riders abandon. Charly never gives up and passes the remaining riders, and wins the stage by eight minutes. He wins the Giro two days later....

Farewell, Monsieur Charly.... Ride with the Wind...


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home