It all happened on a hot summer day of July… To be honest, we don’t know if it was hot, but we do know that on July 16th, the day of the penultimate stage of the Tour de France, the organisers received a very important message. A special spectator appeared in Colombey to watch the peloton pass by his garden. It was no one else than the popular president Charles de Gaulle.
The director Jacques Goddet knew he had to act fast and came up with an idea. Why not make the racers stop at Colombey, cheer de Gaulle, and then keep on racing? Luckily, Goddet located the French national champion Henry Anglade in the back of the peloton and consulted the matter with him. The racer assured the director that stopping the race in full speed could go terribly wrong. However, he suggested to help by riding to the head of the race, informing the leaders, and then spreading the word on his way back.
And so Anglade set off and managed to warn all the riders in the peloton about the distinguished visitor and the impromptu surprise. At a slow and steady pace, the peloton arrived in Colombey and cheered the beloved General de Gaulle. All seemed to be in perfect order, etiquette honoured, when something unexpected happened. One of the racers, Pierre Beuffeuil, finally reached Colombey and passed the crowd of dismounted racers as if he didn’t even notice them.
Infuriated by his recklessness, the racers jumped on their bicycles and began a chase. But before they could recover from their initial surprise, the daredevil was long gone. And so Pierre Beuffeuil claimed the stage victory.
To be fair to the unexpected champion, we must mention the lack of awareness on his side, as the poor fellow had no idea about the whole meet-and-greet event. Earlier that day, Beuffeuil had a puncture and spent the rest of the stage chasing after his rivals. When he finally caught up to them, how could anyone expect him to stop and let the rare chance slip through his fingers?
One thing, however, posed a threat with a huge potential to wipe the smile off Beuffeuil’s face, and that was the rage of the aggravated Tour director who suggested that Beuffeuil be charged with treason. Fortunately, the idea didn’t get much support (maybe it had to do with the fact that de Gaulle was no emperor). And so it only made history as one of the bizarre cycling stories.