• Australians at the 1928 Tour de France start line, from left: Harry Watson, Hubert Opperman, Percy Osbourne, Ernie Bainbridge (Craig Fry private collection) (Craig Fry Private Collection)
Australia's history at the Tour de France began over 100 years ago. Craig Fry's pulled together 21 key facts on Australian Tour de France history to help you get in the mood for the 105th edition of the greatest bike race of all.
By
Craig Fry

Source:
Cycling Central
2 Jul 2018 - 4:08 PM  UPDATED 4 Jul 2018 - 7:42 AM

2018 is a historic year for the Tour, with the Grand Départ returning to Vendée in the Pays de la Loire region that also hosted the very first Tour start in 1903. Stage 1 rolls off from the island of Île de Noirmoutier this Saturday 7 July, and across the Passage du Gois causeway on the Atlantic coast of France.

Despite our distance, Australia has long figured in Tour de France history too – a connection that goes back over 100 years. By any measure, Australian riders have enjoyed significant success at the Tour. The record books show huge returns from our 205 starts between 1914 and 2017.

Sadly though, knowledge of this Australian Tour de France history and heritage isn’t widespread. That’s a shame because today's Aussie Tour riders to a large part owe a debt to those who have gone before.

“Study the past if you would define the future” goes the old saying. So with that in mind, to help prepare for the coming three weeks of the 105th Tour de France, I’ve made a list of key ‘Aussie Tour history’ facts and figures to accompany this year’s race – one fact for every stage of the race.

What follows are the key 21 Aussie Tour de France facts that every self-respecting cycling fan in this country should know.

Fact 1:

Stage 1 of the 2018 Tour de France passes over the Passage du Gois. The last time the Tour crossed that causeway was the 191.5km Stage 1 in 2011, where Philippe Gilbert won and beat Cadel Evans by three seconds.

Fact 2:

Our first two pioneers, Don Kirkham and Snowy Munro, completed the 12th Tour de France edition in 1914 (coming 17th and 20th overall). Since then, a further 54 of this country’s best cyclists have started the Tour de France 205 times to 2017.

Fact 3:

The second Australian team to ride the Tour de France was a team of four led by Hubert Opperman in 1928 (incl. Harry Watson NZ, Ernie Bainbridge, Percy Osborne). The team was sponsored by Dunlop and Ravat-Wonder (French bicycle and motorcycle maker). Oppy finished the 1928 Tour in 18th.

Fact 4:

Oppy returned to the Tour de France in 1931 with a team that included Frank Thomas, Ossie Nicholson, Richard Lamb and also contained four Swiss riders. Oppy did better this time with a fourth in the Belfort to Colmar stage, and finished 12th overall, and ‘Fatty’ Lamb came in 35th and last to claim the coveted Lanterne Rouge.

Fact 5:

Tour founder Henri Desgrange was impressed with the efforts of the Australian riders, especially Opperman. Comparing Oppy to a kangaroo, Desgrange said: “The only animal in the world which does not get its tail between its legs.”

Fact 6:

Oppy’s 1931 Tour results would stand as Australia’s best for 50 years. Phil Anderson surpassed them when winning the yellow jersey on Stage 6 in 1981, and backing that up in 1982 by winning a stage and the yellow jersey again after Stages 2 to 11.

Fact 7:

Phil ‘Skippy’ Anderson was the first Australian and first non-European to wear the Tour de France yellow leader's jersey. He also won Australia’s first stages nearly a decade apart (stage 2 1982, stage 10 1991).

SBS will broadcast the Tour de France live in HD from 7-29 July. 

Fact 8:

So far, seven Australians have worn the yellow Tour de France leader jersey: Phil Anderson (1981, 1982), Stuart O’Grady (1998), Brad McGee (2003), Robbie McEwen (2004), Cadel Evans (2008, 2010, 2011), Simon Gerrans (2013), and Rohan Dennis (2015).

Fact 9:

Neil Stephens added to Australia’s stage win tally again in 1997, and in the 20 years since then there have only been five years where an Australian hasn't won a Tour de France stage.

Fact 10:

Australia’s Tour podium tally includes Cadel Evans’ 2011 GC win, 30 individual stage wins by 12 riders, 8 stage wins in team time trials, and 71 stage second or third places.

Fact 11:

Robbie McEwen holds the most individual stage wins by an Australian, with 12 (2007: stage 1; 2006: stages 2, 4, 6; 2005: stages 5, 7, 13; 2004: stages 2, 9; 2002: stages 3, 20; 1999: stage 20).

Our next best is Michael Matthews with three (2017: Stage 14 and 16; 2016: Stage 10).

Fact 12:

Other Tour de France stage wins by Australians not already mentioned, include:

* Brad McGee (2003: Prologue; 2002: Stage 7)
* Baden Cooke (2003: Stage 2)
* Heinrich Haussler (2009: Stage 13)
* Cadel Evans (2011: Stage 4; 2007: Stage 13)
* Stuart O’Grady (2004: Stage 5; 1998: Stage 14)
* Simon Gerrans (2013: Stage 3; 2008 Stage 15)
* Michael Rogers (2014: Stage 16)
* Rohan Dennis (2015: Stage 1)

Fact 13:

The eight Australians to have won stages as part of team time trials are:

* Allan Peiper (1990: Stage 2)
* Stuart O’Grady (2013: Stage 4; 2001: Stage 5)
* Matthew Goss (2013: Stage 4)
* Simon Gerrans (2013: Stage 4)
* Brett Lancaster (2013: Stage 4)
* Cameron Meyer (2013: Stage 4)
* Simon Clarke (2013: Stage 4)
* Rohan Dennis (2015: Stage 9)

Fact 14:

Our oldest living Tour de France rider is Don Allan (68), who rode the 1974 and 1975 Tours for the Dutch Frisol team. In 1975, Allan was in the running to finish last when French rider Jacques Boulas allegedly dropped off the back and hid in the bushes to win the lanterne rouge. In a 2013 interview Allan said “I don't think of myself as being last because I think 140 started and only 85 reached Paris, so a lot of them were giving up each day, where as I didn't…I know it's a big thing in a big race, but myself I wasn't happy carrying the lanterne rouge…I don't believe you enter races to finish last, even that one.”

Fact 15:

Simon Gerrans’ 2018 start will see him move to equal third most Tours by an Australian (12) with Robbie McEwen. Stuart O’Grady has the highest number of Tour starts (17), followed by Phil Anderson (13).

Fact 16:

Apart from the Cadel Evans GC win in 2011, Australia’s best GC effort was in 2006 where we had two riders in the final GC top 10 (Cadel Evans 4th and Michael Rogers 9th).

Fact 17:

The most Australians starting in the Tour de France was 12 back in 2012, and we’ve had 11 in 2010 and 2013, 10 in 2014 and 2015, and 9 in 2016 and 2017. In the 2018 Tour de France field of 176 riders will be 11 Australians, including the debutantes Michael Hepburn and Rory Sutherland – the 57th and 58th Aussies to ride the Tour so far.

Fact 18:

Australia’s best performance on debut in the Tour de France was by Cadel Evans (8th in 2005). Other high-placed debuts have come from Phil Anderson (10th in 1981), Patrick Jonker (12th in 1996), Don Kirkham (17th in 1914), and Hubert Opperman (18th in 1928).

Fact 19:

In 2015, Rohan Dennis held the yellow, green and white jerseys after the Stage 1 time trial in Utrecht. That day he became the seventh Australian to wear the yellow jersey. He did it by setting the fastest ever Tour time trial with average speed of 55.4kph.

Fact 20:

Cadel Evans holds the Australian record so far for the most final GC top 10 finishes (with six) (8th 2005, 4th 2006, 2nd 2007, 2nd 2008, 1st 2011, 7th 2012), followed closely by Phil Anderson with five (10th 1981, 5th 1982, 9th 1983, 10th 1984, 5th 1985).

Fact 21:

So far, 15 Australian National Road Champions have also ridden the Tour de France: Munro, Opperman, Lamb, Beasley, Mockridge, Stephens, Gates, Vogels, O’Grady, McEwen, Matt Wilson, Lloyd, Gerrans, Durbridge, and Haussler.

Australian riders in the Tour de France (start year)

1. Don Kirkham (1914)
2. Iddo Munro (1914)
3. Ernest Bainbridge (1928)
4. Percy Osborn (1928)
5. Hubert Opperman (1928, 1931)
6. Frank Thomas (1931)
7. Oserick Nicholson (1931)
8. Richard Lamb (1931)
9. John Beasley (1952, 1955)
10. Russell Mockridge (1955)
11. Bill Lawrie (1967)
12. Don Allan (1974-75)
13. Phil Anderson (1981-1987, 1989-1994)
14. Allan Peiper (1984, 1985, 1987, 1990, 1992)
15. Shane Sutton (1987)
16. Květoslav ‘Omar’ Palov (1987)
17. Michael Wilson (1988-89)
18. Stephen Hodge (1989-1992, 1994, 1995)
19. Neil Stephens (1992-1998)
20. Patrick Jonker (1994, 1996-1999)
21. Scott Sunderland (1996, 2004)
22. Henk Vogels (1997, 1999)
23. Robbie McEwen (1997-2000, 2002-2008, 2010)
24. Stuart O’Grady (1997-2013)
25. Jay Sweet (1999)
26. Brad McGee (2001-2005)
27. Baden Cooke (2002-2005, 2008, 2012)
28. Matthew Wilson (2003-04)
29. Michael Rogers (2003-2007, 2009, 2010, 2012-2015)
30. Nick Gates (2003-04)
31. Allan Davis (2004-05)
32. Cadel Evans (2005-2013)
33. Luke Roberts (2005, 2010)
34. Matt White (2005)
35. Simon Gerrans (2005-2008, 2010-2016, 2018)
36. Brett Lancaster (2007-2010, 2012, 2013)
37. Heinrich Haussler (2007-2009, 2014, 2018)
38. Adam Hansen (2008, 2010, 2012-2017)
39. Mark Renshaw (2008-2012, 2014-18)
40. Trent Lowe (2008)
41. Matthew Lloyd (2009-10, 2012)
42. Wes Sulzberger (2010)
43. Matt Goss (2011-2013)
44. Richie Porte (2011-18)
45. Jonathan Cantwell (2012)
46. Rohan Dennis (2013, 2015-16)
47. Simon Clarke (2013-14, 2017-18)
48. Cameron Meyer (2013)
49. Luke Durbridge (2014-18)
50. Mathew Hayman (2014, 2016-18)
51. Zak Dempster (2014-15)
52. Nathan Haas (2015)
53. Michael Matthews (2015-18)
54. Leigh Howard (2016)
55. Jay McCarthy (2017)
56. Damien Howson (2017-18)
57. Michael Hepburn (2018)
58. Rory Sutherland (2018)

Craig Fry is a freelance cycling writer based in Melbourne. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @pushbikewriter.