In the final days of 2016 Ferdi Kubler, one the last of my boyhood cycling heroes died at the age of 97.
Up until yesterday the 29th. December 2016, Ferdinand "Ferdi" Kubler was the oldest living Tour de France winner, having won in 1950. He was World Road Champion in 1951.
He raced against Fausto Coppi, Gino Bartali, and Louison Bobet, and on any given day was equal to or could even beat these riders. He was a climber who could also win in a sprint.
1950, the year Kubler won the tour, was the year I got my first lightweight bike. I was 14 years old, still at school, and too young to race.That didn’t stop me from following all the big races.
The Tour de France was then as it is now, the biggest one of all. There was no live television broadcasts. Just photographs and written stories. The British “Cycling” weekly magazine was the first news source of what was going on.
Every year during the Tour, I would order the French sports papers, LeEquipe and Miroir Sprint. These would arrive two or three weeks later, but were full of large format action photos. I knew only a smattering of French, but could pick out the names.
In a very short time could recognize the individual riders without referring to the captions.
Just as today I can recognize all the top riders, and often watch TV race coverage with a foreign language commentary, or with no sound at all.
And so it was this 14 year old kid from England, followed this group of larger than life heroes. Names like Italian cyclists Fausto Coppi, Gino Bartali, and Fiorenzo Magni. French riders, Louison Bobet, Jean Robic, and Raphael Geminiani. Belgian’s Stan Ockers and Rik Van Steenbergen. And then there were a Swiss pair Ferdi Kubler and Hogo Koblet
Over the years, I have written in detail about all these riders, there are links to the articles in the above names. The only one on this list still living is Raphael Geminiani. Who is at the time of writing 91 years old. Many died young, Fausto Coppi caught malaria and died in 1960 at age 40. Hugo Koblet died in a car crash in 1964, aged 39.
Above: Kubler leads Fausto Coppi
Ferdi Kubler was one of the great riders of his time. Like the others of his era, his best years were lost during WWII when he was restricted to racing in Switzerland. He was already 31 when he won the Tour.
In the Grand Tour events, Kubler won the 1950 Tour de France in front of Stan Ockers of Belgium and Louison Bobet of France. He was also 2nd in the 1954 Tour de France behind Louison Bobet of France. In addition, Kubler won the Points Jersey in the Tour de France that year as well.
He also stood on every podium step of the World Championship Road Race. He was 2nd. in 1949 and 3rd. in 1950. Won in 1951. Now that is perseverance and consistency.
Kubler won a 3rd. podium spot in the 1951 and 1952 Giro d'Italia. He won many of the important races of his day. For example the Liege-Bastogne-Liege Classic twice, in 1951 and 1952.
I salute you Ferdi Kubler, a great champion, a gentleman and my hero.
There were times when I felt you would live forever, or at least to be 100.
You did come pretty close.
Addendum Dec 31/16
The picture below Was sent to me by ex Manchester Wheeler member Brian Booth. It shows Ferdi Kubler enjoying a game of snooker at the Manchester, Fallowfield Track Clubhouse, during a visit to the UK in the early 1950s. Brian's Dad is on the right wearing glasses. On the left in the shadows holding a cue is Reg Harris, British World Sprint Champion and famous Manchester Wheelers member.