Lucien Petit-Breton. - David Guénel

  • David Guénel, writer from Nantes, has just released a biography of Lucien Petit-Breton, the former pre-World War I cycling champion.
  • This native of Plessé is the only Nantes resident to have won the Tour de France (twice, in 1907 and in 1908).

Four Bretons won the Tour de France: Bernard Hinault (5 times), Louison Bobet (3 times), Jean Robic (1 time) and a certain Lucien Petit-Breton (2 times). The last named is perhaps the least known of all. But, did you know that he was originally from the Nantes region? Lucien Petit-Breton was born in 1882 in Plessé in Loire-Atlantique.

David Guénel, 38-year-old writer from Nantes, has just released "a fictionalized autobiography" ( Petit-Breton, gentleman cyclist ) on this pre-WWI champion, winner of the Great Loop in 1907 and 1908. By relying notably on numerous press articles, different readings and chronicles written by the rider himself, but also interviews with the three grandchildren of the cycling champion, this passionate “biker and history” pays tribute to the one who won the first Milan-San Remo in history. David Guénel tells us five things that it is absolutely necessary to know about this man "who considered himself a Nantais" (he won two stages of the Tour in Nantes in 1907 and 1908).

Nicknamed the Argentinian

“Lucien, who was born in Plessé, is the youngest in the family. He had two brothers and two sisters. In 1888, his parents emigrated to Buenos Aires in Argentina. He did not immediately accompany them to South America. Only her two little sisters leave. Lucien stays with his two other brothers in Avessac, near Savenay, in Loire-Atlantique, with his uncle. At 6, he left to join them until the age of 19. he will also be nicknamed the Argentinian on the roads. "

He gave himself another name for cycling!

“When he announces to his father his intention to run, the latter is against it. He finds that it is for acrobats the bike! Lucien does when a first race and he finishes 2nd on 3… At the finish, so that his father does not know that he has run, he gives himself a pseudonym and announces to be called Breton and not Mazan. As another runner has this surname, he added Petit. His two brothers also cycled and ran under the name of Mazan. "

He retired from sport at 26… before returning to the circuit

“At 26, in 1908, during his victory on the Tour at the Parc des Princes in Paris, he announced that he was retiring from sport. His retraining is all found. He has to take care of a car garage in Périgueux. But he misses the bike too much. In May 1909, he dived again and ran on the first Tour of Italy. He gives up on the first step… ”

He almost won the 1913 Tour!

“In 1913, he returned to his best level. Two stages before the end of the Tour de France, he suffered a serious fall which destroyed him and his bike. In general, he is an hour behind the first, Philippe Thys, but the latter is also in big trouble on this same second stage. The Belgian even finished more than an hour late… If Petit-Breton had not fallen, he would no doubt have taken first place and won this 1913 Tour de France. ”

A "slightly stupid" death in 1917

“Lucien Petit-Breton died in a road accident in 1917. He was serving France at that time because he was a car driver for army logistics. One day, he was going to see his wife in Troyes. He crossed paths with a butcher who was driving a horse-drawn sleigh. The latter was drunk. He left his lane and arrived at full speed in front of Lucien Petit-Breton's car. He managed to change lanes, but the panicky horse did the same. Lucien Petit-Breton took the helm of the cart and died. He is buried in Penestin in Morbihan. In Nantes, a velodrome bears his name. His wife came to inaugurate it in 1924. "

“Petit-Breton, gentleman cycliste” by David Guénel (Publishroom) on sale on Amazon at 19 euros (and on other platforms soon like Fnac, Cultura etc.), digital format at 7.99 euros


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  • History
  • First World War
  • writer
  • Nantes
  • Tour de France