Tour de Luxembourg prologue: Where history still matters.

Superbe course for the prologue yesterday in the Skoda Tour de Luxembourg.

But even cooler (to an old guy like me anyway) is the fact that it was held in a venue, during a week which once again demonstrated how the rich tapestry that is european cycling seamlessly maintains important historic threads.  

In Europe, times may change, but the roads that champions race over maintain connections over generations.  And champions from generations past, are remembered.    And that's the way it should be.

Check out the RTL video here showing the prologue course here (scroll down the page to the video).

You don't need to understand Luxemburgish to get the gist of how technical it was.  Now that's a prologue!

Won by the Luxembourg home team's Leopard's Fabian Cancellara, this TT through the city center took in a steep cobbled climb that yours truly - America's walking catalogue of little known historical cycling trivia - remembered as having been used in the past.... Check out the picture below.
Photo from book: La Saga Charly Gaul, Editions St. Paul,  2006
from Archives Phototheque de la Ville de Luxembourg

If I'm not mistaken, it shows hometown star Charly Gaul dancing up the same climb back in 1957 in a race called the "Grand Prix de la Fortresse Luxembourg Ville.   This was a 'course de cote' hillclimb.  A 4 stage series all held on April 11 of that year.   According to the palmares, Gaul won the first three times up the climb but abandoned on the fourth due to a flat.  The victory went to Britian's Brian Robinson, who pipped Gaul for unluckly 13th in the 1956 Tour de France.

GP DE LA FORTERESSE (LC 1909 Luxbg.) 11.04.1957

PROS (1° leg time trial):
1 GAUL Charly 1:25
2 ERNZER Marcel 1:28 0:03
3 ROBINSON Brian 1:29 0:04
4 SCHMIT Jengy 1:31 0:06
5 BAHAMONTES Federico 1:34 0:09

PROS (2° leg time trial):
1 GAUL Charly 1:32
2 ROBINSON Brian 1:33 0:01
3 ERNZER Marcel 1:33 0:01
4 MORN Nic. 1:37 0:05
5 SCHMIT Jengy 1:37 0:05
6 BAHAMONTES Federico 1:38 0:06

PROS (3° mass start):
1 GAUL Charly 4:05
2 ERNZER Marcel 4:05
3 ROBINSON Brian 4:05
4 BARBOSA Antonio 4:05
5 BAHAMONTES Federico 4:05

PROS (4° mass start):
1 ROBINSON Brian 4:06
2 ERNZER Marcel 4:08 0:02
3 MORN Nic. 4:08 0:02
4 BAHAMONTES Federico 4:15 0:09
Ab GAUL Charly (crevaison) 4:53 0:47

I was immediately reminded of the potential for an event like this to be held in Quebec city... the climb up to the Chateau is similar... they could run one the night before the pro tour.    I know they've done street sprints there on the Grande-Allee down to the Chateau Frontenac and back, but a real course-de-cote like this up from the water past the Frontenac would be spectular - a lung-buster for sure!

Anyway, the prologue in Luxembourg is an appropriate connection in a week when Luxembourg's current Tour stars were there to pay tribute to their late, great predecessor, whose exploits they hope to repeat next month in France.   A plaque to honor the achievement of Charly Gaul was unveiled in the Villa Vauban municipal park next to those of other Grand Dutchy Tour winners, Nicolas Frantz and Francois Faber, and women's world champion Elsy Jacobs.
From left, TdF stage winner Bim Diederich, Frank andAndy Schleck, Simone Beissel (municipal councillor),
Fabienne Gaul (daughter of Charly), Mrs. Charly Gaul, and on the far right I believe is former teammate Marcel Erzner.
Gaul himself had visited the same site with his climbing  rival and friend, the Eagle of Toledo, Federico Bahamontes back before he passed away a few years ago.

I know I'm a bit of Gaul-fan anorak, but as things are winding up to a Tour when two Luxembourg kids actually have a chance to win it again...well,  I'm kind of hoping they pull it off.


  1. I'd like to correct the annotation below the " A plaque to honor the achievement of Charly Gaul was unveiled in the Villa Vauban municipal park"-image.
    The blond woman is not artist Yvette Gastauer Claire (who made the plaque) but Simone Beissel (municipal councillor), to her right come Fabienne Gaul (Charly's daughter), Charly's widow and Paul Helminger, mayor of the city of Luxembourg.

    Marc DIDIER from Luxembourg

  2. Thanks very much Marc... I stand corrected!


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