1903: A Champion Cyclist is Born in France

December 23, 1903

Armand Blanchonnet, who would establish himself as a formidable amateur cyclist, was born in the commune of Gipcy in central France. The apex of his cycling career took place during the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris.

During those games, Blanchonnet earned the gold medal in the individual component of a men’s road cycling event. This multi-purpose event began and ended at the Stade Olympique Yves-du-Manoir (the main stadium for that year’s Summer Olympics), and Blanchonnet — on an individual rather than team level — found himself competing against 70 other cyclists collectively representing 22 countries. Blanchonnet won that part of the 117-mile (188-kilometer) race in six hours, 20 minutes, and 48 seconds.

Along with being the first person to finish that race, Blanchonnet also participated in the event as part of a four-man team competing for France. His teammates were René Hamel, who completed the race in six hours, 30 minutes, and 51.6 seconds; George Wambst, who clocked in at six hours, 38 minutes, and 34.4 seconds; and André Luducq, who took six hours, 39 minutes, and 16 seconds to pedal back to Stade Olympique Yves-du-Manoir. (A total of 15 other countries also field four-man teams for this event.)

As a key part of the process for determining which teams did best in this event, the worst finish for each team was eliminated from the final tallies. The French team ended up placing first in that component of the race, with the combined times of Blanchonnet, Hamel, and Wambst amounting to a cumulative result of 19 hours, 30 minutes, and 14 seconds. Consequently, Blanchonnet achieved two gold medals altogether at that year’s Summer Olympics in his native country.

Blanchonnet became widely known as La Phénomène (The Phenomenon) for his cycling accomplishments. He died in the commune of Cernay-la-Ville in north-central France in 1968 at the age of 64.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on Armand Blanchonnet, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armand_Blanchonnet

Additional information on cycling events at the 1924 Summer Olympics is available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cycling_at_the_1924_Summer_Olympics

A video of Blanchonnet and other cyclists competing in those Olympics can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dd7mlgDYGUQ

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