SI Vault
 
2,600 MILES OF HELL
July 16, 1962
The bikes are spider-light and spit-shine clean, and as they spin along the roads of France they twinkle merrily and make a singing sound. Less merry are the riders. Day after day, working grimly, they pursue a rider wearing the "maillot jaune," the yellow jersey honoring the man who leads the pack in total elapsed time. The jersey changes hands; on the opposite page it is worn by Jacques Anquetil, who has won the Tour twice. Behind the leaders come some 150 riders, packing the road, legs pumping, breath rasping, as hills and mountains, plains and valleys, villages and cities roll away beneath their wheels. From start to finish 2,600 miles must be pumped away—three weeks of riding before those legs, shaved smooth, massaged each day, can come to rest at last while France cheers the winner of the longest and hardest race in the world.
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July 16, 1962

2,600 Miles Of Hell

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The bikes are spider-light and spit-shine clean, and as they spin along the roads of France they twinkle merrily and make a singing sound. Less merry are the riders. Day after day, working grimly, they pursue a rider wearing the "maillot jaune," the yellow jersey honoring the man who leads the pack in total elapsed time. The jersey changes hands; on the opposite page it is worn by Jacques Anquetil, who has won the Tour twice. Behind the leaders come some 150 riders, packing the road, legs pumping, breath rasping, as hills and mountains, plains and valleys, villages and cities roll away beneath their wheels. From start to finish 2,600 miles must be pumped away—three weeks of riding before those legs, shaved smooth, massaged each day, can come to rest at last while France cheers the winner of the longest and hardest race in the world.

Brief coolness of a looming overhang, stone bridge above swift waters, road rising, rising: the Maritime Alps are a racers' curse.

Glimpse of bikinis on a balcony in Juan-les-Pins, a Riviera souvenir for hours to come.

Heat of midday, and a blessed shower (left) from a fire hose in a small town.

Mountains, more mountains; a helping hand: illegal, but no one complains.

In an agony of sweat and blood the Spaniard, Luis Otano, races on after a bad fall.

In a ring of admirers Charly Gaul (right) of Luxembourg autographs a fan's knee.

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