Blanchonnet steel wins double gold for France
Leggy cyclist Armand Blanchonnet was not known as the Phenomenon for nothing in his native France, and he proved himself to be one of the most popular performers among the home crowd during the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris.
Blanchonnet was a cyclist of supreme stamina and power and he would sweep his way to two gold medals to confirm France’s love affair with the ‘velo’.
First there was the individual time trial raced over 188 kilometres through the leafy suburbs of Paris, starting and finishing in the Stade Olympique Yves du Manoir.
The sophisticated back-up teams supporting cyclists now were a long way away in those days and many of the competitors set out on their journey as burdened with equipment as a jungle adventurer.
Laden down with spare inner tubes and tyres, the cyclists also carried the food and water they needed to get through a race which would last well over six hours.
Not only were they entrusted with maintaining their bikes in working order, they also had to navigate an array of obstacles including a route which took in several steam railway crossings.
Blanchonnet headed home the 71-man field in a time of six hours 20.48 minutes to take France’s first Olympic gold in the event.
A matter of days later came the team event and, again, Blanchonnet played a key role in achieving an equally comfortable victory.
Racing over the same twisting 188km course, Blanchonnet and team mates Rene Hamel, Andre Leducq and George Wambst, saw the French team home in a cumulative 19 hours 30.14 minutes, some 16 minutes faster than second-placed Belgium.