The history of the Tour de France

Year 1939


  • As Europe barrelled towards World War II, the Italians did not send a team to the Tour de France in 1939, thus denying Gino Bartali the chance of defending his title. Sylvère Maes, the 1936 winner, came to the forefront in Bartali’s absence only to find that his toughest competition would come from his own teammate, Edward Vissers. Vissers went on the offensive and won the stage into Toulouse, but in the Alps, Maes returned the favor. Maes attacked 15 kilometers from the summit of the Izoard, dropped Vissers and French hopeful René Vietto, and went on to win the stage and the entire race.

  • All of France put their Tour de France hopes in René Vietto before the start of the 1939 Tour. The always-popular Frenchman seemed to have refound the legs that won him the hearts of his countrymen in 1934, and many thought that his year had come. But when Sylvère Maes attacked on the Izoard climb, Vietto couldn’t respond. First he lost 10 meters, then 20. By the end of the stage, he was over 17 minutes down on the Belgian champion, and his Tour hopes came to an end.

  • During the Tour, Jean Stelli shoots "Pour le maillot Jaune" ("For the Yellow Jersey"). Last rider: Le Moal (49th) at 4 h 26 min. 39 sec. Henri Desgrange presents the Tour 1940's race, which did not take place because of the war. Main stages: Paris - Lille, Nancy, Mulhouse, Aix-les-Bains, Briançon, Monte Carlo, Marseille, Luchon, Pau, Royan, Angers. Le Galibier, the Izoard, the Tourmalet and the Aubisque all were part of the festivities.

  • S. Maes' second victory and superiority. Just as in 1936, he beats the record for the highest average speed (31.986 km/h.). Two separate Belgian teams enter the race; creation of regional French teams; the last-placed rider on each stage (beginning with stage two) is eliminated from the competition.

  • Hitler and Stalin sign a treaty of non-aggression; Italy attacks Albania; Germany invades Poland; the allies declare war on Germany; the Spanish civil war ends; the Soviets invade Finland; Sigmund Freud dies in London; Jean Renoir directs "Rules of the Game."

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