One escape for money and another for freedom

Bourlon broke a record that still stands: the longest victorious getaway in history, at 253 kilometers. A brand impossible to beat in the immediate future.


Albert Bourlon started out in search of the money. This is how he later admitted it bluntly: "I didn't think about winning the stage, I was content with pocketing the bonuses, which were double my monthly salary." That July 11, 1947, the 14th stage of the Tour traveled 253 kilometers between Carcassonne and Luchon. The first 50 hid bonuses for an amount of 50,000 francs, which of course this ex-Renault worker and ex-World War II combatant, a modest cyclist of the Central-Southwest team, won.

At the time, Bourlon continued his ride to the end. He dodged the Aspet and Port passes and reached Bagnères de Luchon with 16:20 minutes ahead of the next classified. When the Belgian Norbert Callens crossed the finish line, the French adventurer had already showered and, incidentally, had taken full revenge for an affront. Two days before, the stewards had forgotten to include him in the rankings, so on arrival he snapped at them: "Did you see me well this time?"

Bourlon broke a record that still stands: the longest victorious getaway in history, at 253 kilometers. An impossible mark to beat in the immediate future, because the UCI regulations establish the top of the stages at 250 km. Despite his feat, Bourlon did not play the Tour again. The cyclist attributes it to a veto of the boss, Jacques Goddet, because he belonged to the Communist Party and was very active in the struggle for the working class.

His triumph on the Tour is Albert's best-known escape, but not the most deserving or the most heroic. Bourlon was captured during World War II by German troops and was a prisoner in Sagan (Poland), from where he tried to escape twice, without success. He did succeed later, in 1943, from Fürstenberg prison. In his flight he crossed several countries, Ukraine, Slovakia, Hungary, and swam across the frozen river of Tisza to end up in Romania. There he stayed a while, long enough to win the most important race in the place, the Bucharest-Ploesti-Bucharest. His final escape ended on October 16, 2013, when he died in Bourges at 96 years of age, at that time the dean of all participants in the Tour de France.

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