Thursday, December 20, 2012

Photo of the day: Charly Gaul 'Bergauf Mont Ventoux'


Once was on a business trip in Nice, France.   (Nice alright... I know!)  It was June 1999, and I was driving to the airport, listening to the radio.    The machine-gun rapid fire French broadcaster relayed a quick update from the prior day's Dauphine Libere -  the hillclimb Time Trial up Mont Ventoux.  The  news was that US Postal American Jonathan Vaughters had won the stage, breaking the record Charly Gaul, set during the Tour de France in 1958.  Thanks to JV's integrity, we all know now where some of the turbo boost came to win that one.

Here's an interesting, different photo of Charly Gaul during his record setting Time Trial stage win in '58.



Take a good long look at his bike, his position.  How super low the saddle is, how bent the knee is at the bottom of the stroke.  How high the bars are.  How he's sitting bolt upright.   Hands relaxed on the hoods.  A vision of relaxed souplesse.   Bike a steel Guerra with a pie-plate for a cluster.  You can almost hear the chain and rear derailleur brushing against the spokes as it scallops out the teeth on that 26.

Now consider that without the use of EPO (but ok... maybe some other little pills - but pills whose effect in the furnace-like heat that July day was undoubtedly not the same as a blood bag), Charly set a record for the climb that lasted over 40 years.   Now I know that TT's up the Ventoux may not have been that frequent during that interval, but still... you try to ride up the Ventoux in 1 hr 2 minutes.

Those 40 years were marked by quantum leaps in training and bike technology and weight improvement.  The bike is steel.  The cranks are steel with cotter pins.  The saddle a brooks leather model, not very light (although it probably got drilled out by his faithful master mechanic Ottusi.)


Ottusi had fitted Charly with  a 44/49 up front, and a 5 speed screw-on freewheel: 15, 17, 19,  23, 26.

No light touch shifters with one tooth differences on an 11 speed rear cassette for Charly.   None of that mattered, and probably doesn't matter as much as folks believe now when you think about it.

Stick it in the 26, and spin those legs like a ceiling fan.

Greatest climber of all time?    Greatest climber of all time.

5 comments:

  1. Chapeau Eddy. Great post. Think also how much faster Charly would have gone had it been raining. He hated the heat and excelled when the weather was bad.

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  2. Greatest climber of all time? Maybe, but I think the Eagle of Toledo, Federico Bahamontes, should be in that discussion.

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  3. It's an interesting discussion. I lean Gaul because of the time gaps 'Charel' could carve out, his incredible ability to reverse enormous time defecits on a single knockout exploit on a single stage of multple climbs (e.g. Dauphine 54, Briancon 55 Tour, Monte Bondone 56 Giro, Aix Les Bains 58 Tour)...sometimes even on a single climb (e.g. '59 Giro on Grand St. Bernard when he KO'd Anquetil) makes me put Gaul on a pedestal hors category. And taking that time out of the likes of Bobet and Anquetil and all the best in their best years. Nothing against the Eagle who was (and still is!) a true great, no doubt. But don't believe his exploits fall in the same 'legend' category as Gauls. Be interested in your POV though...Thanks for reading!

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  4. His saddle is certainly low, but not so low as it first seems. This photo is slighty deformed. The wheels look like ellipses.

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  5. The distortion of the photo is a problem, but despite that it looks to me like the cranks are longer than on the displayed bike. My respect for Gaul multiplied when he was one of the few pros who attended Marco Pantani's funeral.
    Pee Oui Roubaix

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