it happened on July 21… The “assassins” stage in the Pyrenees with 5,000 meters of elevation gain

On Thursday July 21, 1910, the riders will experience one of the most difficult stages in the history of the Tour de France. This is the first time since the first edition that the Grande Boucle peloton has crossed the biggest high mountain passes. That day, between Luchon and Bayonne (325 km), it was via Peyresourde, Aspin, Tourmalet and Aubisque that the 59 men still in the running had to reach the Basque coast. A hell of a quagmire.

It’s 3:30 in the morning when the 10th stage is preparing to be launched, almost with fear in my stomach. It must be said that reconnaissance runners claim to have encountered bears on the heights of Peyresourde. Nothing very reassuring before then going through the “bad detour”: the Tourmalet. The two heroes of this day are called Gustave Garrigou and Octave Lapize. The two Frenchmen lead the first ascent with André Blaise and break away in a gargantuan fight on the muddy, rutted roads of the Aspin.

Octave Lapize finally gets rid of his traveling companion at the top. But on the descent, Garrigou comes back to him in the dark at more than 50 km/h. For the first time, the Tour de France meets in the Tourmalet. After a while, Lapize could no longer carry the 13 kilos of his bicycle and finished the ascent on foot. Garrigou, he achieved the feat he had set himself at the start of the stage and crossed the Pyrenean pass without having left his saddle. He also received a bonus of five Louis d’or (150 francs) for this.

Octave Lapize in the descent of Eaux Bonnes during the 1910 Tour de France. (Loucrup Tourist Office)

The runners then continue in the Soulor and in the Aubisque. At 5:40 p.m., a gleam of a man on a bicycle illuminates the faces of the 10,000 people present in Bayonne. It is Octave Lapize who arrives, alone, to cross the line. Exhausted and angry with the organizers, he then launches a sentence that has gone down in history: “Assassins, you are all assassins!”. A few days later, Octave Lapize won the Tour de France. Since 1999, a statue in his likeness has stood at the top of the Tourmalet, as a memory of the first man who tamed the Pyrenees.


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