1951 Tour de France

The 1951 Tour de France was the 38th edition of the Tour de France, taking place from 4 to 29 July. It consisted of 24 stages over 4,690 km (2,914 mi). The race started outside Île-de-France for the first time since 1926; a change that remained permanent beyond 1951 with the exceptions of 1963, 1983, 1984, 1986 and 2003.

1951 Tour de France
Route of the 1951 Tour de France followed counterclockwise, starting in Metz and finishing in Paris
Route of the 1951 Tour de France followed counterclockwise, starting in Metz and finishing in Paris
Race details
Dates4–29 July
Distance4,690 km (2,914 mi)
Winning time142h 20' 14"
Winner  Hugo Koblet (SUI) (Switzerland)
  Second  Raphaël Géminiani (FRA) (France)
  Third  Lucien Lazaridès (FRA) (France)

  Mountains  Raphaël Géminiani (FRA) (France)
  Team France
← 1950
1952 →

The race was won by Swiss cyclist Hugo Koblet. Koblet used his time-trial abilities to win large amounts of time. Dutch cyclist Wim van Est made fame, not only by becoming the first Dutch cyclist to lead the Tour de France, but more by falling down a ravine in the leader's jersey.


As was the custom since the 1930 Tour de France, the 1951 Tour de France was contested by national and regional teams. The three major cycling countries in 1951, Italy, Belgium and France, each sent a team of 12 cyclists. Other countries sent teams of 8 cyclists: Switzerland, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Spain. The French regional cyclists were divided into four teams of 12 cyclists: Paris, Île-de-France/North-West, East/South-East and West/South-West. The last team of eight cyclists was made up out of cyclists from the French North African colonies. In the end, Luxembourg only sent 7 cyclists, so altogether this made 123 cyclists. There were 68 French cyclists (of which 1 French-Moroccan and 7 French-Algerian), 12 Italian, 12 Belgian, 8 Dutch, 8 Spanish, 8 Swiss and 7 Luxembourgian cyclists.[1]

The teams entering the race were:[1]

  • Switzerland
  • Italy
  • Belgium
  • France
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • Spain
  • Paris
  • Île-de-France/North-West
  • East/South-East
  • West/South-West
  • North Africa

Route and stagesEdit

The 1951 Tour de France started in Metz; it was the second time after the 1926 Tour de France that the start of the Tour de France was not in or near Paris. Unlike than in previous years, the route was no longer around the perimeter of France, and the Massif Central mountains were visited for the first time.[2] There were two rest days, in Limoges and Montpellier.[3] The highest point of elevation in the race was 2,360 m (7,740 ft) at the summit of the Col d'Izoard mountain pass on stage 20.[4][5]

Stage characteristics and winners[6][3][7][8]
Stage Date Course Distance Type Winner
1 4 July Metz to Reims 185 km (115 mi)   Plain stage   Giovanni Rossi (SUI)
2 5 July Reims to Ghent (Belgium) 228 km (142 mi)   Plain stage   Jean Diederich (LUX)
3 6 July Ghent (Belgium) to Le Tréport 219 km (136 mi)   Plain stage   Georges Meunier (FRA)
4 7 July Le Tréport to Paris 188 km (117 mi)   Plain stage   Roger Lévêque (FRA)
5 8 July Paris to Caen 215 km (134 mi)   Plain stage   Serafino Biagioni (ITA)
6 9 July Caen to Rennes 182 km (113 mi)   Plain stage   Édouard Muller (FRA)
7 10 July La Guerche-de-Bretagne to Angers 85 km (53 mi)   Individual time trial   Hugo Koblet (SUI)
8 11 July Angers to Limoges 241 km (150 mi)   Plain stage   André Rosseel (BEL)
12 July Limoges Rest day
9 13 July Limoges to Clermont-Ferrand 236 km (147 mi)   Stage with mountain(s)   Raphaël Géminiani (FRA)
10 14 July Clermont-Ferrand to Brive 216 km (134 mi)   Stage with mountain(s)   Bernardo Ruiz (ESP)
11 15 July Brive to Agen 177 km (110 mi)   Plain stage   Hugo Koblet (SUI)
12 16 July Agen to Dax 185 km (115 mi)   Plain stage   Wim van Est (NED)
13 17 July Dax to Tarbes 201 km (125 mi)   Stage with mountain(s)   Serafino Biagioni (ITA)
14 18 July Tarbes to Luchon 142 km (88 mi)   Stage with mountain(s)   Hugo Koblet (SUI)
15 19 July Luchon to Carcassonne 213 km (132 mi)   Stage with mountain(s)   André Rosseel (BEL)
16 20 July Carcassonne to Montpellier 192 km (119 mi)   Plain stage   Hugo Koblet (SUI)
21 July Montpellier Rest day
17 22 July Montpellier to Avignon 224 km (139 mi)   Stage with mountain(s)   Louison Bobet (FRA)
18 23 July Avignon to Marseille 173 km (107 mi)   Plain stage   Fiorenzo Magni (ITA)
19 24 July Marseille to Gap 208 km (129 mi)   Stage with mountain(s)   Armand Baeyens (BEL)
20 25 July Gap to Briançon 165 km (103 mi)   Stage with mountain(s)   Fausto Coppi (ITA)
21 26 July Briançon to Aix-les-Bains 201 km (125 mi)   Stage with mountain(s)   Bernardo Ruiz (ESP)
22 27 July Aix-les-Bains to Geneva 97 km (60 mi)   Individual time trial   Hugo Koblet (SUI)
23 28 July Geneva to Dijon 197 km (122 mi)   Stage with mountain(s)   Germain Derycke (BEL)
24 29 July Dijon to Paris 322 km (200 mi)   Plain stage   Adolphe Deledda (FRA)
Total 4,690 km (2,914 mi)[9]

Race overviewEdit

General classification winner Hugo Koblet pictured on stage one

On the first stage, Hugo Koblet attacked almost immediately from the start. The peloton got back to him after 40 km (25 mi). Koblet stayed calm for the next stages, until the individual time trial in stage seven, which he won.[10] Initially, Bobet was reported to have won the time trial by one second. Koblet protested against the result, and argued that the intermediate timings showed that Bobet could not have won. The Tour de France jury agreed that Bobet's time was off by one minute, and Koblet was given the stage victory by 59 seconds.[2][11] Koblet's rival Raphaël Géminiani after the stage said: "If there were two Koblets in the sport I would retire from cycling tomorrow."[12]

In the eleventh stage, Koblet attacked after 37 km (23 mi). He was followed by Louis Deprez for a short while, but when Deprez fell back, Koblet was on his own. It was a hot day, and the other cyclists did not believe that Koblet's escape had any chance. When the peloton heard that Koblet was already three minutes ahead, they started to chase him. They worked together for more than 100 km, but couldn't reach Koblet, who won the stage with a margin of more than two and a half minutes.[10] Directly after Koblet finished, he used a stopwatch to measure the time gap, because he did not trust the Tour's time keepers anymore.[2] The other cyclists were amazed that Koblet had been able to defend his lead against all the other cyclists.

In the twelfth stage, Dutch cyclist Wim van Est escaped, won the stage and took the yellow jersey as leader of the general classification. He was the first Dutch cyclist to do so. Van Est was inexperienced in the mountains that showed up in the thirteenth stage, but did his best to defend his lead. Going up the Aubisque, Van Est punctured and lost time. He tried to gain back time on the descent by following Magni, a fast descender. Van Est could not follow, and crashed. He remounted and rode down again, but took too much risk and fell down a ravine. His fall was broken by trees, 75 meters down. Spectators helped him to climb back, by handing him a rope made from inner tubes.[13] In the next stage, Van Est fell down a ravine while defending his position, and had to abandon the race. Gilbert Bauvin took over the lead. Géminiani crossed the finish line first in that stage, but he was set back to fourth place by the jury.[14]

In the fourteenth stage, Coppi attacked. Koblet punctured, but chased back and reached Coppi, and outsprinted him to win the stage, and thanks to the minute bonification time as stage winner took over the lead.[2] In the sixteenth stage, that seemed not too hard because there were almost no mountains, Coppi collapsed and lost more than half an hour. This was said to be caused by grief over his brother's death, although other accounts said it was because of food poisoning. His teammates and former rivals Gino Bartali and Fiorenzo Magni helped him until the end of the stage.[2]

The Mont Ventoux was climbed in the seventeenth stage for the first time in Tour de France history. Bobet escaped and won the stage, while Koblet was able to stay with his competitors. After that stage, second-placed rider Géminiani was no longer trying to beat Koblet, but instead focussed on defending his second place against Bobet.[2] Koblet stayed out of problems for the rest of the race, and won the time trial in the 22nd stage with a large margin; he even overtook Bartali who had started 8 minutes earlier.[2][15]

Classification leadership and minor prizesEdit

The time that each cyclist required to finish each stage was recorded, and these times were added together for the general classification. If a cyclist had received a time bonus, it was subtracted from this total; all time penalties were added to this total. The cyclist with the least accumulated time was the race leader, identified by the yellow jersey.[16] Of the 123 cyclists that started the 1951 Tour de France, 66 finished the race.

Points for the mountains classification were earned by reaching the mountain tops first.[17] The system was almost the same as in 1950: there were two types of mountain tops: the hardest ones, in category 1, gave 10 points to the first cyclist, the easier ones, in category 2, gave 6 points to the first cyclist, and the easiest ones, in category 3, gave 3 points. Raphaël Géminiani won this classification.[6]

The team classification was calculated by adding the times in the general classification of the best three cyclists per team.[18] It was won by the French team, with a large margin over the Belgian team. The other three teams that started, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and North Africa, did not finish with three cyclists so were not eligible for the team classification. The Souvenir Henri Desgrange was given in honour of Tour founder Henri Desgrange to the first rider to pass the summit of the Col du Lautaret on stage 21. This prize was won by Gino Sciardis.[19] The special award for the best regional rider was won by eighth-placed Gilbert Bauvin.[3]

Classification leadership by stage[20]
Stage Winner General classification
Mountains classification[a] Team classification
1 Giovanni Rossi Giovanni Rossi no award
2 Jean Diederich Jean Diederich
3 Georges Meunier Luxembourg
4 Roger Lévêque France
5 Serafino Biagioni Serafino Biagioni Italy
6 Édouard Muller Roger Lévêque
7 Hugo Koblet France
8 André Rosseel
9 Raphaël Géminiani Raphaël Géminiani
10 Bernardo Ruiz Bernardo Ruiz
11 Hugo Koblet Raphaël Géminiani
12 Wim van Est Wim van Est West/South-West
13 Serafino Biagioni Gilbert Bauvin
14 Hugo Koblet Hugo Koblet France
15 André Rosseel
16 Hugo Koblet
17 Louison Bobet
18 Fiorenzo Magni
19 Armand Baeyens
20 Fausto Coppi
21 Bernardo Ruiz
22 Hugo Koblet
23 Germain Derijcke
24 Adolphe Deledda
Final Hugo Koblet Raphaël Géminiani France

Final standingsEdit

General classificationEdit

Final general classification (1–10)[21]
Rank Rider Team Time
1   Hugo Koblet (SUI) Switzerland 142h 20' 14"
2   Raphaël Géminiani (FRA) France + 22' 00"
3   Lucien Lazaridès (FRA) France + 24' 16"
4   Gino Bartali (ITA) Italy + 29' 09"
5   Stan Ockers (BEL) Belgium + 32' 53"
6   Pierre Barbotin (FRA) France + 36' 40"
7   Fiorenzo Magni (ITA) Italy + 39' 14"
8   Gilbert Bauvin (FRA) East/South-East + 45' 53"
9   Bernardo Ruiz (ESP) Spain + 45' 55"
10   Fausto Coppi (ITA) Italy + 46' 51"

Mountains classificationEdit

Final mountains classification (1–10)[22]
Rank Rider Team Points
1   Raphaël Géminiani (FRA) France 60
2   Gino Bartali (ITA) Italy 59
3   Fausto Coppi (ITA) Italy 41
  Hugo Koblet (SUI) Switzerland
  Bernardo Ruiz (ESP) Spain
6   Lucien Lazaridès (FRA) France 37
7   Jean Robic (FRA) Paris 23
8   Bernard Gauthier (FRA) France 22
  Jean Dotto (FRA) East/South-East
10   Robert Buchonnet (FRA) East/South-East 18

Team classificationEdit

Final team classification[23]
Rank Team Time
1 France 426h 47' 36"
2 Belgium + 44' 37"
3 Italy + 1h 22' 16"
4 East/South-East + 1h 48' 00"
5 West/South-West + 2h 15' 38"
6 Switzerland + 2h 49' 55"
7 Spain + 4h 45' 19"
8 Île-de-France/North-West + 5h 30' 39"
9 Paris + 6h 05' 29"


Hugo Koblet would be unable to defend his title in the 1952 Tour de France, as he was injured. After that, Koblet never reached the heights that he was able to reach in 1951. Second-placed Géminiani said that he regarded himself as the winner, because Koblet did not count because he was not human.[2]

Van Est, who fell down a ravine wearing the leader's yellow jersey, starred in an advert for watch-making company Pontiac, that said "His heart stopped but his Pontiac kept time."[13]


  1. ^ No jersey was awarded to the leader of the mountains classification until a white jersey with red polka dots was introduced in 1975.[17]


  1. ^ a b "The history of the Tour de France – Year 1951 – The starters". Tour de France. Amaury Sport Organisation. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h McGann & McGann 2006, pp. 159–165.
  3. ^ a b c Augendre 2016, p. 42.
  4. ^ Augendre 2016, p. 178.
  5. ^ "Twee ton voor Tour-karavaan" [Two tons for Tour caravan]. De Waarheid (in Dutch). 2 July 1951. p. 5 – via Delpher.
  6. ^ a b "38ème Tour de France 1951" [38th Tour de France 1951]. Mémoire du cyclisme (in French). Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  7. ^ Zwegers, Arian. "Tour de France GC top ten". CVCC. Archived from the original on 10 June 2009. Retrieved 4 December 2009.
  8. ^ "The history of the Tour de France – Year 1951 – The stage winners". Tour de France. Amaury Sport Organisation. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  9. ^ Augendre 2016, p. 109.
  10. ^ a b Jones, Graham (August 2006). "Great Escapes". Cycling revealed. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  11. ^ "Koblet vencedor en la etape contra reloj - Se comprobó el error de cronometraja que había dado ganador a Bobet por un segundo" (PDF). Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). 11 July 1951. p. 1. Archived (PDF) from the original on 6 October 2019.
  12. ^ McGann & McGann 2006, p. 177.
  13. ^ a b Podofdonny (25 October 2004). "Cycling Legends - Pédaleur de Charme". Daily Peloton. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  14. ^ "37ème Tour de France 1951 - 13ème étape" (in French). Mémoire du cyclisme. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  15. ^ "37ème Tour de France 1951 - 22ème étape" (in French). Mémoire du cyclisme. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  16. ^ Nauright & Parrish 2012, pp. 452–453.
  17. ^ a b Nauright & Parrish 2012, p. 454.
  18. ^ Nauright & Parrish 2012, p. 455.
  19. ^ "Tour de France 1951: Spaanse klimmer Ruiz won de etappe der vijf grote Alpentoppen" [Tour de France 1951: Spanish climber Ruiz won the stage of the five major Alpine peaks]. Limburgs Dagblad (in Dutch). 27 July 1951. p. 3 – via Delpher.
  20. ^ van den Akker, Pieter. "Informatie over de Tour de France van 1951" [Information about the Tour de France from 1951]. TourDeFranceStatistieken.nl (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 2 March 2019. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  21. ^ a b "The history of the Tour de France – Year 1951 – Stage 24 Dijon > Paris". Tour de France. Amaury Sport Organisation. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  22. ^ "La Vuelta Ciclista a Francia" [The Cycling Tour of France] (PDF). Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). 29 July 1951. p. 3. Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 October 2019.
  23. ^ "Het eindigde als een Vlaamse Kermis" [It ended up as a Flemish Fair]. Gazet van Antwerpen (in Dutch). 30 July 1951. p. 10. Archived from the original on 4 October 2019.


External linksEdit

  Media related to 1951 Tour de France at Wikimedia Commons