Roger Walkowiak, 1956 Tour winner, dies at 89

The Frenchman unexpectedly won his country's grand tour via a long breakaway.

Roger Walkowiak, the French rider who won the 1956 Tour de France after taking advantage of a long breakaway, has died at the age of 89.

Wire services reported that Walkowiak died Tuesday at a hospital in central France near Vichy. He was the oldest living Tour winner after Swiss rider Ferdi Kubler died in December at 97. Spaniard Federico Bahamontes, who won the 1959 Tour, is now the oldest living Tour winner at age 88.

Walkowiak, the son of a Polish factory worker, created a major upset when he won cycling’s biggest race at the age of 29. The win was so unexpected that it originated a French expression still in use today: “A la Walko,” which translates as “Doing a Walko” and represented a surprise win by an unheralded rider, The Associated Press reported.

As a late choice for his Nord-Est-Centre team, Walkowiak rode into a 31-rider breakaway in stage 7, gaining 18 minutes on the main pack. He later lost and then recaptured the yellow jersey, battling through the Alps to hold. A pro since 1952, he retired in 1960, unable to match his Tour feats, though he did win a stage at the 1957 Vuelta a España.