André Mahé, the man who controversially shared victory in the 1949 edition of Paris-Roubaix with Serse Coppi, died Wednesday at his home in Brittany at the age of 90.
Mahé, a member of the Stella-Dunlop team, was part of a three-man break that had reached the Roubaix velodrome at the end of the ’49 Paris-Roubaix. Misdirected away from the entrance at the finish, Mahé and his breakaway companions desperately scrambled to reach the track and found a way into the velodrome through a back door. While Mahé finished first, the ensuing controversy caused judges to award the victory to Serse Coppi, the first rider to enter the velodrome through the proper route.
The decision led to months of controversy between the French and Italian federations and at one point the UCI had even declared the entire race nullified. Eventually, more than six months after the controversial finish, the UCI declared the two men to be joint winners of the race.
Mahé won Paris-Tours (without controversy) in 1950 and finished third in the 1952 edition of Paris-Roubaix. Serse Coppi died in a tragic accident in the 1951 Giro del Piemonte after catching a wheel in tracks of the Turin tramway. He was 28. Mahé eventually retired from the sport in 1955 and went to work in a family business in Paris.
Mahé continued to insist that he was the sole winner of Paris-Roubaix and even in his late 80s said that the decision represented the UCI’s willingness to capitulate to political pressure applied by Serse Coppi’s more famous – and influential – brother, Fausto.
While not actively involved in the sport after his retirement, Mahé attended several editions of Paris-Roubaix in his later life and was always treated as an honored guest.