1920 Tour de France

1920 Tour de France
Map of France with 15 cities marked by black dots, connected by red lines. The route formed goes from Paris, counterclockwise along France's borders, back to Paris.
Route of the 1920 Tour de France
Followed counterclockwise, starting in Paris
Race details
Dates 27 June – 27 July
Stages 15
Distance 5,503 km (3,419 mi)
Winning time 228h 36' 13"
Winner  Philippe Thys (BEL) (1st class)
Second  Hector Heusghem (BEL) (1st class)
Third  Firmin Lambot (BEL) (1st class)

The 1920 Tour de France was the 14th edition of the Tour de France, taking place from 27 June to 27 July. It consisted of 15 stages over 5,503 kilometres (3,419 mi), ridden at an average speed of 24.072 kilometres per hour (14.958 mph).[1] It was won by Belgian Philippe Thys, making him the first cyclist to win the Tour de France three times. The Belgians dominated this Tour: 12 of the 15 stages were won by Belgians, and the first eight cyclists in the final classification were Belgian.

Changes from the previous Tour

The 1919 Tour de France had been more difficult than before because of the influence of World War I on the roads and the cyclists, but in 1920, things were going back to normal,[2] although the overall speed was only marginally higher than in 1919, the slowest Tour de France in history.[1] In 1919 only 67 cyclists started the race, but in 1920 this had increased to 113. Although the war was over, the cycling companies were not yet able to sponsor the cyclists in the way they did before the war, so they again bundled their forces under the nick La Sportive.[3] The cyclists were divided in two categories, this time named 1ère classe (first class), the professionals, and 2ème classe (second class), the amateurs.[4][5]

The 1920 Tour de France used the same formula as since 1910, that would also be used until 1924: fifteen stages, in total around 5000 km, around the perimeter of France, starting and finishing in Paris.[1][6] In 1919, Philippe Thys had been in poor physical condition, and he did not even finish the first stage. He was ridiculed in the newspaper, and trained hard in the winter to be in better shape in 1920.[6]


For a more comprehensive list, see List of cyclists in the 1920 Tour de France.

There were 138 cyclists enscribed for the race, of which 113 started the first stage. 31 of those were in the first class, the other 82 in the second class.[5] Favourites were Christophe, Mottiat, Thys, Belloni, Alavoine and Henri Pelissier.[7]

Race overview

A man standing next to his bicycle; more men and bicycles in the background.
Henri Pélissier, who won the third and fourth stage of the 1920 Tour de France, quit the race in the fifth stage.

The 1920 Tour de France is described as a boring race.[8] The weather was extremely hot, and after four stages already 65 of the 113 cyclists had quit.[8] French favourites stopped the race early. Eugène Christophe in the 7th stage because of back pain,[9] Jean Alavoine in the 2nd stage and Francis Pélissier in the 3rd stage.[5] Henri Pélissier started well by winning the third stage and the fourth stage, and was the main threat for Philippe Thys who was leading the race.[10] Then, in the 5th stage, Henri Pélissier was penalized with two minutes[6] for throwing away a flat tire illegally. Pélissier objected to the penalty, and immediately stopped the race. Desgrange mentioned that Henri Pélissier was not tough enough, and would never win the Tour de France. He would later win the 1923 edition.[2]

The first five stages finished in a group, and multiple cyclists were leading the race with the same aggregate time.[6] In fact, twelve of the fifteen stages finished with a group. Tour organiser Henri Desgrange did not like this, as he wanted the cyclists to ride as individuals.[5][6] Thys was leading the race after the fifth stage, in the same time as Emile Masson. In the sixth and seventh stage over the Pyrénées, Thys rode economically. He kept close to cyclists who could be a threat, but did not ride away. After those two stages, he led with almost half an hour before Hector Heusghem. The next stage he won, half an hour before Heusghem, so now his lead was one hour.[6] Although Heusghem won stage nine, he did not win back any time on Thys who finished third in the same time.[11] The yellow jersey had been introduced already in 1919, but in 1920 the organisation had not awarded the jersey in the first eight stages. After Thys was still leading in stage nine, he received the yellow jersey.[6] Tour organiser Desgrange was so unhappy with the lack of battle in the race, that he wanted to stop the race after the tenth stage, but was convinced to let the race continue.[8]

The Belgians had dominated the race. Honoré Barthélémy was the best French cyclist at the eighth place. He had many falls during the race, broke his wrist and dislocated his shoulder.[9] Barthélémy turned his handlebars up so he did not have to bend his back.[6] When he reached Paris, the French crowd considered him a hero.[5]

The race was won by Belgian Thys. Thys had been in every breakaway,[10] finished in the top five in every stage, winning four stages and coming in second seven times.[9]


In each stage, all cyclists started together. The cyclist who reached the finish first, was the winner of the stage. The time that each cyclist required to finish the stage was recorded. For the general classification, these times were added up; the cyclist with the least accumulated time was the race leader. From the ninth stage on, the leader in the general classification was identified by the yellow jersey.

Stage results

Stage characteristics and winners[5][12][13]
Stage Date Course Distance Type[n 1] Winner Race leader
1 27 June Paris to Le Havre 388 km (241 mi) Plain stage  Louis Mottiat (BEL)  Louis Mottiat (BEL)[n 2]
2 29 June Le Havre to Cherbourg 364 km (226 mi) Plain stage  Philippe Thys (BEL)  Philippe Thys (BEL)[n 3]
3 1 July Cherbourg to Brest 405 km (252 mi) Plain stage  Henri Pélissier (FRA)  Philippe Thys (BEL)[n 4]
4 3 July Brest to Les Sables d'Olonne 412 km (256 mi) Plain stage  Henri Pélissier (FRA)  Philippe Thys (BEL)[n 5]
5 5 July Les Sables d'Olonne to Bayonne 482 km (300 mi) Plain stage  Firmin Lambot (BEL)  Philippe Thys (BEL)[n 5]
6 7 July Bayonne to Luchon 326 km (203 mi) Stage with mountain  Firmin Lambot (BEL)  Philippe Thys (BEL)
7 9 July Luchon to Perpignan 323 km (201 mi) Stage with mountain  Jean Rossius (BEL)  Philippe Thys (BEL)
8 11 July Perpignan to Aix-en-Provence 325 km (202 mi) Plain stage  Louis Heusghem (BEL)  Philippe Thys (BEL)
9 14 July Aix-en-Provence to Nice 356 km (221 mi) Stage with mountain  Philippe Thys (BEL)  Philippe Thys (BEL)
10 16 July Nice to Grenoble 333 km (207 mi) Stage with mountain  Hector Heusghem (BEL)  Philippe Thys (BEL)
11 18 July Grenoble to Gex 362 km (225 mi) Stage with mountain  Léon Scieur (BEL)  Philippe Thys (BEL)
12 20 July Gex to Strasbourg 354 km (220 mi) Plain stage  Philippe Thys (BEL)  Philippe Thys (BEL)
13 22 July Strasbourg to Metz 300 km (190 mi) Plain stage  Philippe Thys (BEL)  Philippe Thys (BEL)
14 24 July Metz to Dunkerque 433 km (269 mi) Plain stage  Félix Goethals (FRA)  Philippe Thys (BEL)
15 27 July Dunkerque to Paris 340 km (210 mi) Plain stage  Jean Rossius (BEL)  Philippe Thys (BEL)
Total 5,503 km (3,419 mi)[1]

General classification

The final general classification, calculated by adding the stages times, was won by Philippe Thys.

A man sitting on a bicycle.
Philippe Thys, the winner of the 1920 Tour de France.
Final general classification (1–10)[5]
Rank RiderClass Time
1  Philippe Thys (BEL) 1 231h 07' 15"
2  Hector Heusghem (BEL) 1 + 57' 21"
3  Firmin Lambot (BEL) 1 + 1h 39' 35"
4  Leon Scieur (BEL) 1 + 1h 44' 58"
5  Emile Masson (BEL) 1 + 2h 56' 52"
6  Louis Heusghem (BEL) 1 + 3h 40' 47"
7  Jean Rossius (BEL) 1 + 3h 49' 55"
8  Honore Barthelemy (FRA) 1 + 5h 35' 19"
9  Félix Goethals (FRA) 1 + 9h 23' 07"
10  Joseph Vandaele (BEL) 1 + 10h 45' 41"

Notes and references


  1. In 1920, there was no distinction in the rules between plain stages and mountain stages; the icons shown here indicate which stages included mountains.
  2. After the first stage, Mottiat, Rossius, Thys, Goethals and Masson had the same time. Mottiat was ranked first because he had won the stage.
  3. After the second stage, Mottiat, Rossius, Thys, Goethals and Masson had the same time. In some rankings, they share the lead, in other rankings, Thys is leading because he had the best stage rankings.
  4. After the third stage, Rossius, Thys, Goethals and Masson had the same time. In some rankings, they share the lead, in other rankings, Thys is leading because he had the best stage rankings.
  5. 1 2 After the fourth and fifthstage, Thys and Masson had the same time. In some rankings, they share the lead, in other rankings, Thys is leading because he had the best stage rankings.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Historical guide 2016, p. 108.
  2. 1 2 "1920 - 14th Tour de France". Amaury Sport Organisation. Archived from the original on 2009-06-15. Retrieved 12 June 2009.
  3. McGann, Bill; McGann, Carol (2006). The Story of the Tour de France. Dog Ear Publishing. pp. 51–56. ISBN 1-59858-180-5. Retrieved 8 June 2009.
  4. Thompson, Christopher S. (2008). The Tour de France. University of California Press. p. 36. ISBN 0-520-25630-1. Retrieved 12 June 2009.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "14ème Tour de France 1920" (in French). Mémoire du cyclisme. Archived from the original on 10 June 2009. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 McGann, Bill; McGann, Carol (2006). The Story of the Tour de France. Dog Ear Publishing. pp. 56–57. ISBN 1-59858-180-5. Retrieved 12 June 2009.
  7. "Cyclisme: Le Tour de France". Le Figaro (in French). Gallica Bibliothèque Numérique. 27 June 1920. p. 4. Retrieved 10 August 2010.
  8. 1 2 3 "1920: Philippe Thys vestigt met derde Tourzege een uniek record" (in Dutch). Tourdefrance.nl. 19 March 2003. Archived from the original on 2009-06-15. Retrieved 12 June 2009.
  9. 1 2 3 Tom James (15 August 2003). "1920: Thys becomes the first triple winner". VeloArchive. Retrieved 11 June 2009.
  10. 1 2 Barry Boyce. "Thys Makes It Three". Cycling Revealed. Retrieved 12 June 2009.
  11. "14ème Tour de France 1920 - 9ème étape" (in French). Mémoire du cyclisme. Archived from the original on 22 February 2012. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
  12. Historical guide 2016, p. 18.
  13. Arian Zwegers. "Tour de France GC Top Ten". CVCC. Archived from the original on 2009-06-10. Retrieved 10 June 2009.


External links

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