Hugo Koblet (pronounced [ˈhuːɡo ˈkoːblɛt]; 21 March 1925 – 6 November 1964[1]) was a Swiss champion cyclist. He won the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia as well as competing in six-day and pursuit races on the track. He won 70 races as a professional.[2] He died in a car accident amid speculation that he had committed suicide.

Hugo Koblet
Koblet at the 1956 Ronde van Nederland
Personal information
Full nameHugo Koblet
NicknameBeautiful Hugo, Le pédaleur de charme
Born(1925-03-21)21 March 1925
Zürich, Switzerland
Died6 November 1964(1964-11-06) (aged 39)
Uster, Canton of Zurich, Switzerland
Team information
DisciplineRoad and Track
Rider typeClimber
Professional teams
1946Amberg/Mercier-R. Lapebie
1950–1954Cilo/Guerra/La Perle-Hutchinson
1956Cilo/Saint Raphaël-R. Geminiani-Dunlop
Major wins
Grand Tours
Tour de France
General classification (1951)
Giro d'Italia
General classification (1950)
Mountain classification (1950)



Hugo Koblet was the son of Adolf and Héléna Koblet [3], bakers in Zürich. He lived with his mother, a widow, and with an elder brother. His brother baked bread and cakes and Hugo was restricted to sweeping the floor and making deliveries by bicycle.[4] He left the bakery at 17 and worked as a trainee mechanic at the Oerlikon velodrome in the city. His first race was a 10 km hill-climb, which he won. That caught the attention of Léo Amberg, a former Tour de France rider who had come second in the Tour of Switzerland. Amberg insisted he ride the track and Koblet became national amateur pursuit champion in 1945. He turned professional in 1946 and won the New York and Chicago six-day races. It was after the races that he developed a love of the United States, driving to California and Florida. He had learned English by watching American and British films.[4] He won the Swiss pursuit championship every year from 1947 to 1954. In 1947 he finished third and in 1951 and 1954 second in the world championship.

The road to the Oerlikon vélodrome in Zürich is named after Koblet.

Professional success


Koblet won the 1950 Swiss road championship and then became the first non-Italian to win the Giro d'Italia.[5][4] In 1951 he defeated Fausto Coppi to win the Grand Prix des Nations, an individual time trial with the status of unofficial world championship. The most important victory came that year at the Tour de France. He won overall and took five stages – two time-trials, two conventional stages and another in the mountains.[6] In 1951 he "rode the best off his wheel" between Brive and Agen, said Cycling Plus, "just 20 miles into the stage, then covered 88 miles on his own to win by three minutes. This was despite a frantic chase by such greats as triple Tour winner Louison Bobet, double winner Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi." The time differences when the Tour ended at the Parc des Princes meant he had beaten Raphaël Géminiani by 12 km, Lucien Lazaridès by 18, Bartali by 18 and Coppi by 27.[6]

1951 Tour de France


The 1951 Tour de France started in Metz, the second time outside Paris. The main riders were Louison Bobet for France, Fausto Coppi and an ageing Gino Bartali for Italy. Coppi was hindered by grief at the death of his brother, Serse.[7] Both Coppi and Bobet were pushed out of the running when Koblet won the time-trial from La Guerche to Angers. Their position was confirmed four days later when Koblet attacked on a gentle descent after two hours of the stage from Brive to Agen, a day expected to be a quiet journey towards the Pyrenees. He won again at Luchon, Montpellier and Geneva.

Decline and death


Hugo Koblet was a handsome man whose fame brought beautiful women and a lifestyle that affected his career. He was "the most charming of men to talk to," said Jock Wadley.[8] René de Latour wrote in Sporting Cyclist: "Koblet had not an enemy at all. His ready and kindly smile came from deep down inside, and one knows from the start that this was a man without rancour, a rare thing to say of anybody who has raced in top competition on the road where the intense physical struggle often leads to jealousy and dispute."[8]

He never rode again at the same level as the 1951 Tour de France.[9] Jean Bobet said Koblet began to suffer in the mountains at 2,000m, then 1,500, then at 1,000 until "we saw him unable to ride over the smallest hill.".[10] The author Olivier Dazat said photographs showed not the handsome man he had been but a rider suddenly aged, worried and preoccupied.[9] René de Latour wrote: "There is a question mark about Hugo Koblet's life, the mystery of why he was never as good again as in the 1951 Tour. After this year, his pedalling had less power. Soon after that magnificent win, Koblet was invited to Mexico to follow the national amateur tour.[11] When he came back he was still, it seemed, the same incredibly easy pedaller. But the efficiency was partly gone. He visited specialists and took courses of treatment, but without any real success. He went to Mexico in 1951 [and] never came back from the land of guitars and sombreros. And nobody knows why!"[4]

He came second in the Giro d'Italia in 1951 and 1952 and retired in 1958.

Six years after his retirement, Koblet died at 39, four days after a car crash, with speculation that his death may have been suicide. He had been profligate with his money[12] and was in debt. He was being pursued for unpaid tax[12] and his marriage had broken up. A witness, Émile Isler, saw Koblet driving his white Alfa Romeo at 120–140 kmh.[12][9] between Zürich and Esslingen. He drove past a pear tree, turned then drove back. He passed it again finally turned a third time and drove into it.[13]

Personal life


Koblet married a 22-year-old model, Sonja Buhl, in 1953.[12] They spent their honeymoon in Spain and bought a villa at Forch, overlooking the lake at Zürich. Pirelli and Alfa-Romeo employed him in South America but the couple returned, Koblet disappointed and confused.[12] The marriage began to break up. His confusion included forgetting that he had signed a contract for 7 million lire for a comb to be made in his name in Italy.[12] He and Sonja parted and Koblet moved alone into a studio apartment alongside a garage he opened near the Oerlikon velodrome.

He asked Sonja for a reconciliation in 1964 but she refused.[12] It was later that year that he died. Sonja refused her husband's inheritance rather than take on his debts.[12]



Koblet always carried a comb and a bottle of eau de cologne when he raced, sometimes combing his hair before the finish, always cleaning his face before meeting photographers.[14][15] Philippe Brunel wrote in L'Equipe that at the end of his long ride to Agen in 1951, "followers were astonished to see him sit up, blow kisses to girls and take out of his pocket a sponge soaked in water. He was barely across the line when he rinsed his face in Perrier,[16] combed his hair, then started his stopwatch."[12] The music hall artist Jacques Grello nicknamed him the Pédaleur de Charme in Parisien Libéré in 1951.[4][5][9]



Koblet's life was the subject of a cinema film, Hugo Koblet: Pédaleur de Charme, in 2010. It starred Manuel Löwensberg as Koblet, Sarah Bühlmann as his wife Sonja, Chantal Le Moign and Dominique Müller.[17] It attributed his decline to "doping abuse."[18] It was directed by Daniel von Aarburg, who included archive film and interviews with Koblet's contemporaries.


In 1951, I was 18. One evening after the race ended, I was hanging about outside a hotel hoping to see the riders when the boss asked me to carry Koblet's suitcases to his room. I was so proud! For me, he was the greatest of them all. Well, when I went back downstairs again, I met him. He thanked me very politely and gave me two Swiss francs, an enormous amount at the time. I kept the coin for a long time, like a good-luck charm, swearing I would never spend it. And I only did, three years later, to buy a copy of Miroir Sprint which had Ferdi Kubler, my other idol, on the cover.
– Willy Schweizer, former president of the Swiss cycling union, 52 years later.[3]

Career achievements


Major results



1st Baden Criterium
1st Le Locle
1st Nyon Criterium
1st Oftringen Criterium
1st Stage 1a (TTT) Tour de Romandie
1st Stage 1a Tour de Suisse
3rd Zürich–Lausanne
1st Genève Criterium
1st GP Lausanne
1st Stage 4b Tour de Romandie
1st Stage 5 Tour de Suisse
1st Stage 3 Tour de Romandie
1st   Overall Giro d'Italia
1st   Mountains classification
1st Stages 6 & 8
1st Overall Tour de Suisse
1st Stages 4a, 4b & 6
1st GP de Suisse
1st Aarau Criterium
1st GP von Basel
1st Payerne Criterium
2nd Overall Tour de Romandie
6th Trofeo Baracchi
1st   Overall Tour de France
1st Stages 7, 11, 14, 16 & 22
1st Grand Prix des Nations
1st GP de Suisse
1st Azencriterium
1st Genève Criterium
1st Genève (TTT)
1st Neuchâtel–Genève
1st Vallorbe Criterium
1st Brussel Criterium
2nd Overall Tour de Suisse
1st Stages 2 & 7
2nd Overall Tour de Romandie
6th Overall Giro d'Italia)
1st Stage 19
1st Meisterschaft von Zürich
2nd Overall Tour de Romandie
1st Stage 4
8th Overall Giro d'Italia
1st   Overall Tour de Romandie
1st Stages 1, 2 & 3a
1st   Overall Tour de Suisse
1st Stages 3, 6 & 8
1st Neuhausem
Alvalade Track Race
1st Individual Pursuit
1st Omnium
1st Stages 2b & 3 Roma–Napoli–Roma
2nd Overall Giro d'Italia
1st Stage 8
1st GP de Suisse
1st Meisterschaft von Zürich
1st Cagliari–Sassari
1st Winterthur
1st GP Martini
1st Stage 3a Roma–Napoli–Roma
1st Stage 4a Tour de France
2nd Overall Giro d'Italia
1st Stages 15 & 21
3rd Overall Driedaagse van Antwerpen
1st Stages 1a & 3b
4th Trofeo Baracchi
1st   Road Race, National Road Championships
1st   Overall Tour de Suisse
1st Stage 2
1st Giro del Ticino
1st Sète
1st Ussel
1st Winterthur
2nd Overall Tour de Romandie
1st Stage 3b
2nd Tour of Flanders
10th Overall Giro d'Italia
1st Stage 21
1st Stage 9 Vuelta a España
1st Cagliari
3rd Overall Tour de Romandie
1st Stage 1 Clasico El Colombiano


1st   Individual Pursuit, National Amateur Track Championships
2nd Individual Pursuit, National Track Championships
1st   Individual Pursuit, National Track Championships
3rd Individual Pursuit, UCI Track Cycling world Championships
1st   Individual Pursuit, National Track Championships
1st Chicago Six Days
1st   Individual Pursuit, National Track Championships
1st New York City Six Days
1st   Individual Pursuit, National Track Championships
1st Hannover Six Days
1st   Individual Pursuit, National Track Championships
1st   Individual Pursuit, National Track Championships
1st Dortmund Six Days I
1st Dortmund Six Days II
1st Frankfurt am Main Six Days
1st   Individual Pursuit, European Track Cycling Championships
1st   Individual Pursuit, National Track Championships
1st Brussel Six Days
1st Frankfurt am Main Six Days
1st   Madison, European Track Cycling Championships
1st   Individual Pursuit, National Track Championships
1st Zürich Six Days
1st Dortmund Six Days
1st Madison, Prix Houlier-Comès

Grand Tour results timeline

1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956
Giro d'Italia 1 6 8 2 2 10 DNE
Stages won 2 1 0 1 2 1
Mountains classification 1 NR NR NR NR NR
Points classification N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Tour de France DNE 1 DNE DNF-10 DNF-13 DNE DNE
Stages won 5 0 0
Mountains classification 3 NR NR
Points classification N/A N/A N/A NR NR
Vuelta a España DNE N/A N/A N/A N/A DNE DNF
Stages won 1
Mountains classification NR
Points classification N/A N/A N/A
1 Winner
2–3 Top three-finish
4–10 Top ten-finish
11– Other finish
DNE Did not enter
DNF-x Did not finish (retired on stage x)
DNS-x Did not start (not started on stage x)
HD Finished outside time limit (occurred on stage x)
DSQ Disqualified
N/A Race/classification not held
NR Not ranked in this classification


  1. ^ Cyclisme : la fiche coureur de HUGO KOBLET. (23 July 2014). Retrieved on 2015-08-05.
  2. ^ Hugo Koblet.
  3. ^ a b LES GRANDS DUELS DU TOUR (3) Koblet-Kubler : le seigneur et le pirate. Le Monde. 2 July 2003.
  4. ^ a b c d e Sporting Cyclist, UK, 1965
  5. ^ a b Cycling Plus, UK, September 1999
  6. ^ a b Le Monde, France, 29 July 1951
  7. ^ Hugo Koblet seul contre tous, Tour de France 1951 – Les petites histoires du Tour (Cyclisme Info par Jean-Paul Brouchon). (14 July 2012). Retrieved on 2015-08-05.
  8. ^ a b Sporting Cyclist, UK, December 1964
  9. ^ a b c d Dazat, Olivier (1987), Seigneurs et Forçats du Vélo, Calmann-Lévy, France, ISBN 978-2-7021-1615-9, p84
  10. ^ Cited Dazat, Olivier (1987), Seigneurs et Forçats du Vélo, Calmann-Lévy, France, ISBN 978-2-7021-1615-9, p84
  11. ^ Some sources say he raced there
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i L'Équipe, France, 24 June 2003
  13. ^ Ollivier, Jean-Paul, Hugo Koblet, le pédaleur de charme, Éditions Glénat, France
  14. ^ Cycling Plus, UK, July 1999
  15. ^ Hugo Koblet, le Pédaleur de Charme de JPO | Histoire et Légende du cyclisme. Retrieved on 5 August 2015.
  16. ^ Perrier employed a man to hand out bottles of its mineral water at the finish of races, so that riders would be pictured drinking from them
  17. ^ SWISS FILMS: Hugo Koblet – Pédaleur de charme. Retrieved on 5 August 2015.
  18. ^ Synopsis.
Preceded by Swiss Sportsman of the Year
Succeeded by