Maurice Garin – b.03.03.1871 – d. 19.02.1957
Winner of the inaugural Tour de France – 1903
Winner Paris-Roubaix – 1897, 1898
As the winner of the very first Tour de France, The Little Chimney-Sweep’s place in cycling folklore is assured. Being the first person to have a Tour win stripped from him – in 1904, along with many other finishers who were accused of rampant cheating – should sully the image a little but affection for Garin remains ever strong. His Tour win came towards the end of a long, successful cycling career and the two year ban he received for his indiscretions in 1904 – including accusations of taking trains and car rides along the way – meant he never matched the same heights again.
The 110 years that lie between Garin’s finest hour and our present time mean that that some aspects of his life seem alien to us now. We are still fairly well used to seeing see the odd cyclist smoking – Mario Cipollini even used to enjoy the odd puff on the bike as recently as the 1990’s – but stories such as the one that Garin’s impoverished Italian parents facilitated his move to France by exchanging the 14 year old Maurice for a round of cheese test our modern understanding to the very limit. He endured a tough life and his first victory formed the mould of penury and epic suffering for many of the ‘Giants of the Road’ who followed.