November 27, 2018 0 Comments
We all know the famous Peugeot team jersey – white and black, iconic, worn by the likes of Tom Simpson, Robert Millar, Stephen Roche. But the original jersey was a far less monochrome affair of blue and burgundy, worn by Hippolyte Aucouturier when he won the 1903 Paris-Roubaix, and also when he was disqualified from the 1904 Tour de France for the use of cars and trains. Still, that's one way to do a bike race.
Peugeot are old, you see. I mean, really old. The company and their sponsorship of cyclists dates back to 1887 and the ‘team’ were first seen on the roads in 1901. After a variety of jersey designs, the classic black and white was finally seen on the Peugeot-BP-Engelbert jersey in 1963 on the backs of a roster that included Simpson and Luxembourg's Charly Gaul.
Peugeot: Tommy Simpson & Eddy Merckx
Over the next three years, Tom Simpson would win Milan-San Remo, Giro di Lombardia and the World Championships to cement himself as one of the leaders of the team. Coming into 1967 he was looking forward to racing the Tour de France as part of Team Great Britain (it was one of those weird editions of the Tour, where national teams took part instead of professional trade teams). Unfortunately, we all know how the 1967 Tour de France ended for Tom Simpson, and that he was wearing a Peugeot jersey when it did.
In 1966 a young 21-year-old upstart joined Peugeot as his first professional team. Eddy Merckx rode in the famous black and white checkerboard for the first two seasons of his career and won Milan-San Remo both years, Gent-Wevelgem, La Flèche Wallonne and the World Championships. Not really sure what happened to him after that though.
The ill-fated 1967 Tour de France may have been contested by national teams, but a Peugeot rider still won the GC when Frenchman, Roger Pingeon, beat Spain's Julio Jiménez by nearly four minutes. Pingeon would go on to win the Vuelta a España for Peugeot in 1969, as would hour record holder, Ferdinand Bracke, in 1971.
The Peugeot Checkerboard
Basically, I'm trying to say that for 60 years, Peugeot were at the top of their game as a team. And while the early jerseys may not have been an instant classic like the mid-60s edition, the simple choice of, usually, two colours and a variation of the Peugeot logo – sometimes handwritten in cursive, sometimes printed in block capitals – always looked smart.
In the early 1970s, Peugeot-BP-Michelin, with its checkerboard logo and BP shield on each sleeve, was home to riders like Belgian champion, and latterly T-Mobile DS, Walter Godefroot and eventual two-time Tour de France winner and French champion, Bernard Thévenet. By the time Esso came on board to replace BP as main sponsor in 1977, to create Peugeot-Esso-Michelin, the team was coming to the end of its domination.
Peugeot: Stephen Roche, Phil Anderson, Robert Millar, Sean Yates and more . . .
So, time to take a different approach. A Parisian club called Athletic Club de Boulogne-Billancourt had for a long time limited the number of non-French riders they nurtured within the walls of their former prison building-cum-clubhouse (yes, really), but by 1975 they began to appreciate all of the talent emerging outside of France and lifted that limitation – creating what became known as ‘the Foreign Legion’. Not that one, obviously, this involved far less warfare and much less interesting headgear. No, this Foreign Legion included the likes of Stephen Roche, Phil Anderson, Robert Millar, Sean Yates, Allan Peiper and Graham Jones – all of whom went to ride for Peugeot.
With this influx of English-speaking riders, Peugeot must have felt like a different team. While it may not have achieved the greatness of the Simpson/Merckx years, it still saw two riders in a leader's jersey: Pascal Simon in the 1983 Tour de France and Robert Millar only losing the GC of the 1985 Vuelta a España on the penultimate day – and definitely not because of some sneaky tactics from the Spanish riders, oh no.
In 1982, Shell came onboard as a sponsor and in 1984 and 1985 we got to see the longstanding checkerboard print replaced with polka dots on Robert Millar's King of the Mountains jerseys, worn during the '85 Vuelta and won during the '84 Tour de France.
By 1986, former Peugeot rider Roger Legeay had taken over as DS of Peugeot-Shell-Michelin and the wins were starting to dry up as the sponsorship came to an end. However, their departure is not to be mourned too much – as well as being the most successful cycling team of all time, they went on to become not just another hugely successful team, but one with just as striking a jersey, Z-Peugeot.
Yes, that's right, the peloton's most monochrome jersey morphed into one of the brightest sights on the road. But more about that another time.
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