Brive-la-Gaillarde, July 26
Not so long ago, when the Agrigel-La Creuse-Fenioux team was in the peloton with Thierry Marie and Jacky Durand at its head, they would have regarded this stage as their private hunting ground. Following a proven technique, Durand would offer to attack early on, Marie to leave the field at a certain kilometer. Once together, and riding into the Creuse region, they would have had tremendous fun, and we want to believe that they would’ve found some support. To borrow a line from Molière, “The two of them are as thick as thieves.”
There couldn’t be a better setting for all this, as the Creuse conforms perfectly to the demands of a bicycle race. Each of its villages hangs on a hillside, at an elevation of between 500 and 700 meters (1600 and 2300 feet). Hence the impression that the peloton is constantly descending or climbing, like the hawk that seeks its prey, that approaches but doesn’t have the courage to strike, that gains some height only to plunge back down into the void.
And so go the two fugitives on these winding, rolling roads. They proceed in leaps and bounds, protected by high hedges or a shady forest, always increasing their lead. At Felletin, a stronghold of amateur cycling, they are already out of sight of the pack. At Moutiers-Rozeille, where Raymond Poulidor, then a young licensee of the Pédale Marchoise club, made himself known in 1955 (he contested the lap primes and finished sixth in the local race), they’re well clear. At Montluçon, after riding 194km through a landscape “full of grace and honesty,” as expressed by the philosopher Jean Guitton, the best will be the men who broke away.