Above: Swiss cyclist Ferdi Kubler is given encouragement by his wife Rosa, at the summit of one of his many epic climbs
The early part of this last week I noticed this blog was getting an unusually high number of hits from Switzerland, and in particular Zurich.
The hits were originating from Google searches for two Swiss riders, Ferdi Kubler winner of the 1950 Tour de France, and Hugo Koblet winner the following year in 1951.
The reason for all this unexpected activity, an article in Swiss newspaper “Tribune de Geneve.”The occasion, the 90th Birthday of Ferdi Kubler, making him the oldest living Tour de France winner. Born 24th July, 1919.
Kubler was a remarkable rider, a great climber but could sprint also. This was evident when he placed 2nd to Frenchman Luison Bobet, in the 1954 TDF and won the Green (Points.) Jersey that year. Ferdi Kubler won the World Championship Road Race in 1951. A more complete list of his career achievements can be viewed here.
The brief article written in French unfortunately lost much in translation. It was in the form of an interview with Kubler as he watched this year's Tour on TV.
Described as having the memory of an elephant he reminisced on the differences in riding as a professional cyclist almost sixty years ago.
The winnings for his 1950 TDF ride were reported at 25,000 Francs; however, after sharing the purse with the rest of his team his take home pay was more like 4,000 Francs, or less than $4,000 dollars at today’s rate of exchange.
Without any trace of bitterness or regret he remarked that today’s riders although somewhat pampered and making more money in comparison to his day, they still do not make as much as tennis players for example.
He also remarked that professional cyclists train longer and harder than most athletes because they compete in one of the toughest sports in the world.
On his rivalry with the other Swiss rider Hugo Koblet (Above on left with Kubler leading.) the writer of this piece remarked as I had done here two yers ago,it is impossible to comment about one without the other. Whether this was because they were both from Zurich, Switzerland, or simply because their last names were so similar.
The writer of the article remarked, and I have left the literal translation:
The two were neither friends nor enemies, but are inseparable in the collective memory. Their rivalry has benefited as one to another. Their songs of bravery struck the imagination, impregnated lasting generations.
Unfortunately Hugo Koblet never got to reach the great age of Ferdi Kubler, having died tragically in a car crash in 1964 at the age of 39.
One of the heroes of my youth, I wish this grand old gentleman a very happy birthday, and the question I have as I write this is, why was Ferdi Kubler not honored during this year's Tour de France? Especially during the stages that went through Switzerland?
I have also previously written about Koblet here, and there is a video of one of his epic battles with Italian, Fausto Coppi.
Update: Ferdi Kubler passed away on 29th December 2016. I wrote a tribute on the 30th. Dec. 2016