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Echoes' Cycling Biography #10: Oscar Egg
« on: August 11, 2014, 19:44 »

On some Internet forum, one may read such comments:

“If you told Coppi, for example, that the Tour winner was Australian, the World Champion was Norwegian, the best sprinter was British, the hottest young talent is Slovakian, four of the top teams were American, there were others from Russia and Kazahstan and there were top races in Adelaide, California, Oman, Qatar and Beijing, imagine what his reaction would have been.

Back then, a Swiss rider in the Giro was seen as exotic.

This comment obviously shows how ignorant cycling viewers have become in the 21st century for 20 years before Coppi raced his first race with the pros, a Swiss rider already not only raced but also won a stage in the Tour of Italy. We are in 1919. It was a 282km plain stage from Trieste to Ferrara – the 3rd one –, in which Oscar Egg showed his sprinting skills beating Costante Girardengo and Gaetano Belloni, 2nd and 3rd respectively. Alfredo Sivocci was 4th, 1” behind and Belgian Marcel Buysse was 5th.  Oscar did not finish that Tour of Italy but also finished 5th in the 5th stage from Pescara to Napoli – 312km with a lot of climbs: Cinquemiglia, Roccaraso, Rionero Sannitico, Macerone, Vinchiaturo. Only this time he was 17’07” behind Belloni who outsprinted Girardengo and Buysse. Calzolari was 6th, 4’05” behind Egg.

The idea that Swiss cycling was nowhere before World War II, is preposterous. There were already a handful of good riders before Egg. Michel Frederick is probably the best known: 2nd in Bordeaux-Paris in 1902 and 3rd in Paris-Roubaix in 1907. Then came Egg and then the Suter family and Paul Egli who all achieved international fame before WWII started.

A Most Complete Rider but Also an Underrated One

If Oscar Egg is still remembered today, it’s mainly due to his Hour record that held for a record 19 years between 1914 and 1933, as a result of a fierce battle with Marcel Berthet, who broke the record three times before for a total three times as well for Egg. To some extent, it’s justice for the Swiss for these are most definitely his greatest achievement. Only there’s also a long career next to these records, both on the track AND on the road. This eclecticism was highly regarded in that era, until at least the 1950’s.

In order to support this claim we may have a look at the comment by Achiel Van den Broeck in “De Miljoenenfiets van Rik Van Steenbergen” (UItgeverij De Brauwere, 1966):

“On the Avenue de la Grande armée in Paris, Oscar Egg used to live, the phenomenal Swiss, who is unanimously recognized as one of the most all-round rider of all time. Before the arrival of Van Steenbergen, he was even considered the most complete and this claim may definitely be supported.”

Hans Goossens on De Wielersite didn’t say anything different: “One of the greatest and most all-round champions that the sport of cycling has seen.” (in Dutch)

Van den Broeck is quoting an interview that Egg gave Albert De Wetter of L’Équipe in March 1954. Van den Broeck being Van Steenbergen’s biographer, what interests him is of course what Egg says about Van Steenbergen who was also a beast in winning on both the track and the road, even though Rik I was more sprint oriented while Egg was more endurance oriented. However, Egg said: “We talk about Coppi of course, about Kübler, Koblet, etc but Van Steenbergen is the one whose career compares the best to mine in its all-round aspect. Indeed Rik is at home in every field. His terrain is much broader than Coppi’s who e.g. never played a big role in the world of the Six-Days; also broader than Koblet’s who never has won a classic. From the point of view of eclecticism, Kübler might be the one that comes the closer to him. But Rik Van Steenbergen is and remains the rider who has shown more signs of all-round ability and activity on the road AND on the track AND in every facet of cycling.”

Through this tribute to the complete Van Steenbergen we can understand first that Oscar Egg had a big ego – which can be verified by many facts (see below) – but also that he’s proud of being a multifaceted rider, something which was high regarded in his days and that he gladly noticed about riders from later generations. This is clearly no longer the point of view through which present-day cycling viewers are assessing riders today.

Early Years

Oscar Egg was born in Schlatt, Switzerland near Winterthur on March 2 1890. The website “Le Petit Braquet” showed as illustration an article by Maurice Droit about Oscar Egg in the weekly magazine “La pédale” (published somewhere between 1922 and 1924) as part of a series of biographies called “Les fines pédales” (The Fine Pedals).

Maurice Droit describes Oscar Egg as a well-educated man, ambitious but also cold or shy but once you get to know him better, he becomes a very charming guy.

He’s father was a track rider in his spare time and young Oscar would cheer for him, perhaps that raised a passion for later because as a young bourgeois child, he would rather practice football, gymnastics or swimming at first while finishing school in Zurich. At age 16 àr 17 (depending on the source) he came to Paris in order to be trained as an industrial designer, which most probably helped him in his second career. That is also where he bought his first bike which would help him get to his job and made some trip in the surroundings of Paris but wasn’t directly interested in racing at first. Only when friends invited him at the 1909 Paris-Roubaix was it for the Swiss some sort of love at first sight, says Droit. However according to Michel Dargenton & Pascal Sergent (Paris-Roubaix : une classique unique, Coups de Pédales, 2009), Egg does not appear on the startlist of the classic for that year, not even among those who pulled out of it, so we can guess he was just a visitor. Lucien Petit-Breton “discovered” the young Swiss and tought him the job of cycling, says the “Journal et Feuille d’avis du Valais et de Sion” of February 10 1961 (in an article about his death)

Egg’s parcours is quite singular for his era. At the turn of the 1910’s cycling was owned by the peasantry who could finally afford a bike as it had democratized while the bourgeoisie that was at first interested in this new invention in the late 19th century, had by 1909 rather switched to the automobiles. Farm boys were to dominate the sport until the forties or mid-fifties but Oscar Egg who came from the middle-class, a well-off family, who finished school and trained as an industrial designer, proves that cycling has always been a sport that was open to everyone and not just for the poor. It’s a universal sport.

1912: The First Hour

In 1907 at age 19 Frenchman Marcel Berthet broke Lucien Petit-Breton’s Hour record that had stood for almost two years. The 41.520km mark by the Frenchman was an improvement 410m compared to the reigning Milan-Sanremo champion.

After that performance the Frenchman claimed that the rider who broke his record may soundly sleep for he wouldn’t respond (says Hervé Paturle & Guillaume Rebière in “Un siècle de cyclisme”, Calmann Levy). That was a promise that he obviously did not hold, for the greatest pleasure the cycling historians and the contemporary observers.
Oscar Egg was aged 22 in 1912 when he decided as a neo-pro to make an attempt at the Berthet’s Hour, which had stood for 5 full years, well adviced by Paris-Roubaix winner Georges Passerieu (“Velodrome directors will be at your feet” said the latter, according to Pierre Chany in La fabuleuse histoire du cyclisme, La Martinière 1995). Compared to Berthet, his bike was not improved except for a slightly more distinct aerodynamism, say Paturle & Rebière and Pierre Chany (but they don’t explain in what way): wooden rim, 36 spokes and a gear ratio of 24*7 (7.23m). Egg set a mark of 42.122km, which means 602m better than Berthet. At least that is what first was thought.

1913: Weise’s Hour Record Later Cancelled due to Miscalculation

 *de Richard Weise was a great specialist of the lone effort. In 1914 he would win the prestigious Grosse Sachsenpreis which was raced that year as a 252km  ITT (according to

In 1913, he thought he had broken Egg’s record with a mark of 42.306km on the Zehlendorf track in Berlin.

That performance prompted Berthet to get back on track, 11 days after the performance by Weise (source: Pierre Chany, op. cit.). He had plan a precise timetable for it and claimed that if he lagged by 50m from it he would stop because “he would be mathematically convinced of his inferiority” and on August 7 that was it. Berthet who had promised never to attempt at the hour again, improved Weise’s mark to 42.741km.

Egg who attended Berthet’s performance was so eager to get his crown back that he cancelled 4 contracts in order to prepare for a new attempt and on August 21st he broke it to an impressive 43.280km (provisional mark).

However Egg has a great eye for details and argued that the Buffalo track on which his records were broken is larger what was thought (11,7m), which means that his first record was not 42.122km but 42.360km. Therefore, Weise’s 42.306km mark had never been the record, the German failing for barely 54m against the Swiss. Berthet’s record is still measured at 42.741km, though (there must be a mistake in both Paturle & Rebière’s book and in Chany’s one which was probably the source of the other), while Egg’s second Hour is measured at 43.525km.

1913-14: The Hour Rivalry with Berthet: Final Chapter

Marcel Berthet known as “The Elegant” was also very painstaking in his preparation and very ingenious/resourceful about any technological gain he might get on his bike. He’s known for being one of the first riders to shave his legs and to wear a skin suit rather than commonly used cotton suit. So when Egg broke his 2nd record, Berthet was very much impressed but not devastated. He ordered a new bike with lighter tubes, a straighter fork, very light wooden rims and has even gone South to Milan in order to buy tyres that are 15g lighter than those that could be found in France at that time.   

On September 20 the Frenchman improved the mark again with 43.775km. Egg said straightway: “I’ll do it again”, while Berthet claims for the second time: “This is my swan song. If Egg or someone else does matter, don’t count on me for a new challenge. All these records will be broken some day and now I’m too old to keep on the fight.” (in Chany, op. cit.).

Egg’s final response came on June 18 with the famous 44.247km mark which would stand for 19 years! His stamina had increased and raced for an hour without ever weakening says Chany.
Egg and Berthet are the only two riders in history to break the Hour record, three times.

Egg’s Other Track World Records

Oscar Egg broke several other World records on the track in his career. His French Wikipedia page lists 5 of them beside the Hour records but it is no exhaustive list (he broke 15 of them, acoording to ).

1km Flying Start in 1914
1km Standing Start in 1923
500m in 1917
50km in 1917
100km in 1917

Maurice Droit (op.cit.) argued that the 50km record beside the Hour’s contributed to give him World fame. According to Classic, that performance was set on October 28th 1911 and is then Egg’s first major achievement. On the same Buffalo track in Paris he covered 50km in 1H 14M 47.4S

His 1km record standing start of 1923 was a mark of 1’13”08 and the Flying start one was a mark of 1’08”10 according to Achiel Van den Broeck (op. cit.) but 1’08”04 according to the “Feuilles d’avis de Neuchâtel et du Vignoble neuchâtelois” of Tuesday June 10 1930:

This newspaper informs us that Egg’s km Flying start record was broken the day before by Pietro Linari in 1’07”02 and by Frenchman Marcel Reynaud of France in 1’08”03 at the velodrome of Plan-les-ouates near Geneva, Switzerland while the Swiss Émile Richli failed to break it with a time of 1’09”03. That means that that Oscar Egg record had stood for roughly 16 years!!

More impressive is that the 1km flying start record was set only two days before he went for his 3rd Hour record, according to Hans Goossens on De Wieler. Goossens talks about a time of 1’10”02, which seems inaccurate, though.

It’s hard to tell when the Standing Start record was broken. Van den Broeck claims that Karel Kaers set a record of 1’09”08 in a km standing start in 1934 but we may assume that Egg’s record had already been broken before.

1914: 4th in a Dull Paris-Roubaix

The 1914 Paris-Roubaix was raced on a totally different than the present-day one, much more westward via Amiens and Arras. There were however many more cobbled sections, actually the route should rather have noted the asphalt section than the cobbled sections but those cobbles were rather regular.

The race seemed boring for the contemporary observers. The journalist from the magazine “La vie au grand air” talked about riders who considered the race as a “sprint contest”, “a waiting race” and showed nostalgia for the days of Maurice Garin who finished alone well isolated. It seems that nostalgia is not a phenomenon of modern days and already some might argued that the “competition was stronger than before.”

There were 153 starters, 125 were packed in Beauvais after 81k, ~100 in Amiens after 143k, ~50 in Arras after 211k and a dozen in Roubaix. On the velodrome of Roubaix, actually 7 men were classified in the same time, the others being lagging by one lap and Charles Crupelandt outsprinted Louis Luguet, Louis Mottiat and Oscar Egg. A second Walloon was 5th: Rossius while Flandrian pioneer Van Houwaert was 6th.

The ranking of the first 20 riders was made difficult due to the number of riders packed together and the fact that the enthusiastic crowd had invaded the track when the riders crossed the line. So that the commissars let the lead group entered and stopped the chase group at the entrance of the velodrome where they made the ranking.

(source: Paris-Roubaix : une classique unique by Michel Dargenton & Pascal Sergent, Coups de Pédales 2009)

Losing to Crupelandt in a sprint is nothing to be ashamed of for Egg. Van den Broeck (op. cit.) rated Crupelandt among the fastest road sprinters of the 1910’s, even though Oskar did have a sprint, as we shall see below (or as is shown by his records on the track).

Egg finished Paris-Roubaix again in the “Hell of the North” edition of 1919. He was 14th but … 36’ behind Henri Pélissier. (Dargenton & Sergent, op. cit.)

1914: A Paris-Tours Win in Weird Circumstances

At a time when the present-day Belgian classics were either non-existent or in their early days and in any case consisting of a mainly local field, it seems to consider Paris-Tours a major classic, one of the most coveted of the era.

Yet it seems that the 1914 edition of the classic ended in a sprint, though not much is known about it. Our main source is “De wielerklassiekiers tot 2000” by Fer Schroeders (De Eecloonaar, 1999).

It says that irregularities made it so that the lead group had to ride neutralized the last 800m to the track on which the riders had to cover three laps but a massive crash occurred during these three laps and very few could avoided whereafter the ‘track rider’ Oscar Egg crossed the line as first. He outsprinted Émile Engel and Philippe Thys. Émile Georget was 6th and Émile Masson sr was 7th.

Schroeders also tells us that after this edition, the organizers wished to prevent sprints and that is how after the war, the distance was extended to 320km (while it was roughly 250km before).

More info is needed though to describe what really went on on this Paris-Tours finale.

Late 1914 to 1916: Exile to the USA

While the war was raging in Europe, Oscar Egg of neutral Switzerland escaped the conflict to the USA and raced his first Six-Days, which will make his fortune as a rider.

In 1916 Egg won the Six-Days of New-York at the Madison Square Garden, the first of his 8 wins in those events. His partner was Frenchman Marcel Dupuy.

The New-York Times of the day said: “The six-day bicycle race canoe to a sensational finish at Madison Square Garden last night when the dark horse team of the race, Oscar Egg, a Swiss, and Marcel Dupuy, a French rider, staged a thrilling surprise and in a tremendous outburst of terrific riding stole a lap on the field and clinched their hold on first place and on the $5,000 prize.”

The irony is that partner Marcel Dupuy (an accomplished sprinter) was banned for life by the French federation for racing those Six-Days instead of going to war.  (source: Sylvie Lauduique-Hamez - Les Incroyables du cyclisme – Calmann-Levy 2007)

Since Dupuy won Six-Days back in 1919, we have to assume that the ban was lifted.

1917: A Snowy Turchino

By 1917 Oscar Egg was back in Europe and settled in Italy. That is how he went back to Milan-Sanremo after finishing 22nd in 1912 but abandoned it while he was doing well. made a page about that race and said:

“Sunday 15 April 1917
Started - 48
Finished - 14
Weather conditions - Poor conditions with rain. Snow on the Turchino Pass and a violent hailstorm in the vicinity of Voltri
Distance - 286.5 km
Average speed - 22.500 km/hour

Image right [See Appendix 1] shows Belloni attacking on the snow covered slopes of the Turchino with Girardengo and Egg the only riders able to stay with the fierce pace. Gaetano Belloni was to prove too strong however and was soon out in front alone.[…]

[See Appendix 2] [in Voltri] Egg leads Girardengo through Voltri five minutes in arrears [of Belloni]. Angelo Gremo, Leopoldo Torricelli and Pietro Bestetti are next twelve minutes down on the leader. […]

[See Appendix 3] [In Arenzano] Girardengo now on the front from Egg. The lead has increased to six minutes - a one minute gain in only six kilometres. Oscar Egg would soon retire leaving Girardengo to chase alone.”

According to Aart Aartsbergen & Peter Nijssen (De grootste wielerkampioenen, Rainbow Pocket, 2010) in a chapter dedicated to Belloni, Egg was the only “straniero” in the race. He was so demoralized that he called it an end, “demolished by the pouring rain.”
The riders summitting the Turchino in snowy conditions seems heroic today when we remembered that in 2013, about a century later, organizers saw it fit to suspend the race while the leaders were about to climb it and to make them resume the race several kilometers further in the valley! In those early days, there was no television, of course.

1917: Successful Italian Campaign but Also Raced in France

So for the last two years of the Great War, Oscar Egg had settled in Italy. There he would race every week, “one Sunday on the road, the other Sunday on the track” says Maurice Droit (op. cit.), adding that on the track he would usually mix it up with Belloni and Girardengo, most of the time successfully.

An article from the “Nouvelliste Valaisan” of February 25 1950, meant to anticipate on Egg’s 60th birthday, claimed that in the same year he raced six road race in Italy winning Milan-Turin, Milan-Varese, Congo-Milan and Milan-Modena, also finishing 6th in the Tour of Emily, the 6th race being his abandon in Milan-Sanremo

It’s inaccurate. He finished 3rd in Milan-Varese:

Despite the war, Egg also raced in France in that period, mainly on the track. The “Express du Midi” of April 10 tells us that Egg showed up in a track event in the Vel d’hiv in Paris. He won there a 1,500m scratch race ahead of Pouchois and sprint specialist Thorwald Ellegaard  *dk. He then raced a pursuit (called “course à l’australienne” or “Australian Pursuit” by the journalist) against … tandem. Though presented as “World Champion” (?) Egg got beaten by the tandemist Choque and Evra(r?)d.

1919: Epic Turchino Descent

In 2006 Marco Ventura wrote his best-selling book “Il Campione e il bandito” (Il Saggiatore) telling the story of the meeting between Costante Girardengo and famous anarchist/bandit Sante Pollastro/Pollastri. The author of the book gives an extensive account of Gira’s career and great details about the 1919 edition of Milan-Sanremo in which Oscar Egg played a great role. (in Italian)
Ventura tells us that on April 6, the day of the race, the sky is clear but the ground is a “sea of mud”. On the ascent of the Turchino, Gremo attacked forming a 5-man group with among them Belloni, says Museo Ciclismo but Gremo quickly took the lead alone. In Voltri, he was 2’ ahead of a duet Santagostino and Oliveri, while Girardengo and Egg (considered a “sprinter” - sic – by Ventura) who had made a reckless but effective descent reduced the gap to 4’. Canepari and Azzini also joined the Girardengo group on the Riviera but that is when a mechanical prompted Egg to abandon once again the Primavera.

However his risky move along with Girardengo on the Riviera contributed to the latter’s come back in the race, despite having also a lot of bad luck. Very soon Gira would join his teammate Gremo but another puncture was the end of him as well.

1919: Stage Win in an Apocalyptic Landscape at the Circuit of the Battlefields

 The “Circuit des champs de bataille” was according to Karel Steyaert (also known as Karel Van Wijnendaele) in his “Het Rijke Vlaamsche Wielerleven” (Snoeck-Decaju & zoon, 1943) one of the most scandalous race of all time.
The race was a tribute to all those who lost their lives in the Great War. The peloton had to pass by the most famous battlefield in Northern France and Belgium: 7 stages between April 28 and May 11 from Strasburg to Strasburg (while the French had just recovered Alsace), with finishes in Luxembourg, Laeken (Brussels), Amiens, Paris, Bar-le-Duc (Lorraine) and Belfort.

According to Le Petit Braquet the aim of the race was to re-start cycling and to show that leisure and amusement like cycling reasserted itself.

The landscapes were of course desolate, as they were for Paris-Roubaix. Steyaert talks about gullies, mine craters and dug up trenches … but the whether made the impression of apocalypse even stronger … rain and wind.

The schandal that Steyaert was referring to occurred during the first stage from Strasbourg to Luxembourg (though he mistakenly said: Strasbourg to Brussels)[275km]. Belgians Jules Van Hevel, Henri “Ritten” Van Lerberghe and Baziel Mathijs were leading with a gap of 16’ but went off route and lost that stage to … Oscar Egg. They ended 11’ behind Egg says Steyaert. It’s even worse than that. Jules Van Hevel was 2nd 12’56” behind Egg, same time as Mathijs who finished 4th while Van Lerberghe finished 10th 15’36” behind the mighty Swiss. Lucien Buysse was 3rd, Hector Heughem 5th and Albert Dejonghe 6th.

This mistake by the Belgians was partly due to the fact that the rain and the wind took off signposts but also because there was not a single living soul on the roadside because of the thunderstorm and the freezing cold.

This website: adds the fact that “the riders were provided with very basic route instructions, and at crossroads they would often have to dismount and search through piles of rubble in the hope of finding a signpost or a clue as to the identity of the ruins.”

The latter source informs us that unfortunately Oscar crashed near Liège on the second day and broke his handlebars, forcing him to retirement. The nightmere continued for the other riders.

1920: The American Six-Days Show

“We have never seen in our lives an audience that was so greatly blended in what was going on on the track than there in New-York”, said Karel Steyaert in “De rijke Vlaamsche wielerleven”. “For the smallest chase, the Velodrome was in flames of enthusiasm and rapture”. “Was it artlessness or passion for the sport of cycling?... We never knew. Only we’ve learned and remembered that […].”

However the promoter of the New-York Six and the Newark Velodrome, the famous and charismatic John M Chapman (1877-1947) knew how to entertain the crowd (so that the answer might be artlessness).

A few days before the Six-Days of New-York started, Steyaert had a conversation with Chapman (with an interpreter) and Chapman said (according to Steyaert in his famous book):
“Here in America, the Six-Days are really different than in Europe. Here we mostly and above all want show. With regards to the sport, that matters less. Our patrons want to see crashes, sprints, attacks and bonus chasing. The whole rest is just secondary. Thus you’ll have to adapt. Your riders even more. And remember well: Your riders must never interfere with the Jury’s decision. They have to ride, no more. If they do that, I’ll make sure they get paid. And the rest is just sideshow.”

Steyaert quickly realized that Chapman’s warning was for real. Steyaert was himself a famous figure in Belgium, former cyclist himself, journalist and founder of Sportwereld and of the Tour of Flanders. He was as coach of three Belgian teams that entered the Six: Debaets (Cesar)/Persijn, Van Hevel/Van Lerberghe and Dossche/Van de Velde. These teams actually were referred to and called themselves the “Flandrians”. The whole Flandrian legend started … on the track.

In the first three hours of the event says Steyaert the Flandrians were on fire. They lapped their opponents countless times and yet late in the night at 4am, the ranking holds that the leaders were Frenchman Maurice Brocco partnering American Willie Coburn ahead of Van Hevel/Van Lerberghe and De Baets/Persijn.

After 2 days, Brocco had a chat with Steyaert:
“I already know that I’m going to win those Six-Days. Your Flandrians may stand up against that, it will be useless because here what Chapman decides is executed. Debaets-Persijn and Van Hevel-Van Lerberghe can get the second and third place if they are reasonable and pragmatic. It will be sufficient if we get on with and help each other, against Egg-McNamara. The other pairs won’t be too much of a threat for us. 1,000$ are on offer for the winning team: 500 for me and 500 for Coburn. I am not responsible for this but if your two teams accept my proposal of reciprocal help and partnership, then they will get these 500$ from me.”

As we shall see later, Oscar Egg and Maurice Brocco hated each other. Steyaert informs us that both were fighting for Chapman’s favours. Steyaert admits that Egg was a better rider than Brocco was (though Brocco has a decent palmares on the road as well) but Brocco is a very popular figure in New-York and therefore has a higher pay and Egg seems to be jealous – according to Steyaert –, hence the fierce rivalry between the two.
Oscar partnered the fearsome Australian pursuit specialist Reggie McNamara and they were indeed 4th in the ranking at that moment, which they will remain. The Australo-Swiss pair “moved heaven and earth” to make up for the lost lap, said Steyaert but they failed.

On the Thursday morning (one day to finish) Egg and Steyaert were by chance together for breakfast and Steyaert remembered Egg saying: “Before midnight, we are the leaders in the ranking.” And a bit later: “Don’t you believe it?” Steyaert: “I don’t believe it because I’m sure that it won’t be.” Egg: “Wait & see”.

The final result hadn’t changed. Egg and McNamara remained 4th, one lap behind the first three pairs, in what seemed to be a great show for the audience but a sporting farce, with the promoter deciding over the winning pair, and one of the winners allying with his supposed fiercest opponent to relegate to 4th place, his arch enemy.

It should be mentioned that by 1917, American promoters started to change the way Sixes are raced, introducing a daily series of sprints, granting points, while until then, the series was only held on the last day. By 1920, this new formula was exported to Europe. (source Pierre Chany, op. cit.)

1920: Epic Feud on SS Aquitania

SS Aquitania was a 901 ft (274.6 m) large ocean liner from the Cunard line: the last “four-stacker” and the largest British ship sailing at that time. ‘Widely considered one of the most attractive ships of her time, Aquitania earned the nickname "Ship Beautiful"’(

The European Six-Days racers in America in 1920 had the privilege to sail on her, on their way back to Europe, according to Karel Steyaert, still in his book “De rijke Vlaamsche wielerleven.” Remember that this was the Golden Era of Transatlantic Ocean Liners who carried millions of immigrants from Eastern Europe to the New World in very poor conditions.

Interesting side note: on their way forth, the riders traveled on the French SS Rochambeau (in a bunch of 2160! Passengers), as is confirmed by the Ellis Island website:
Cesar Debaets
Maurice Brocco

And of course: Oscar Egg

Steyaert claimed however that he traveled a little later on the SS Vaderland, from the famous Belgo-American Red Star Line (11 days of sailing).

On that journey back on Aquitania, Steyaert was still thinking of these 500$ that Brocco promised him. He knew Brocco was a man you could trust with your wallet and yet …
Someday after 5 days afloat, a call boy informed him that he was expected in Brocco’s cabin… for the 500$ he thinks.

Actually, when he arrived, he surprised Maurice Brocco, fighting … with Oscar Egg. You could hear infernal noise and squabbling. Steyaert got in between and Oscar finally left, not without a litany of insults and ugly words.

Brocco then explained to Steyaert how the fight started but Steyaert did not talk about it in his book. It’s possible that Egg had understood about Brocco’s scheming. Steyaert was only interested in the money but Brocco would always find an excuse.

…Steyaert never got his 500$!!

Oscar Egg traveled on the Aquitania again in 1922, this time on the way forth to New-York, again with his friend Brocco. So says !

1922: Oscar Egg VS Costante Girardengo: Match of the Year

By the 1920’s Egg started focusing on the track more and more often. He still started Paris-Roubaix in 1922 but called it quit after 100km, says Maurice Droit (op.cit.).

The manager of the Sempione track organized in 1922 a high-regarded pursuit match between Oscar Egg and Costante Girardengo: the Pursuit of the Year (says Achiel Van den Broeck, op. cit.)

The Sempione was a velodrome built at the turn of the 20th century in Milan. It was very active in the early twenties but quickly became obsolete and was destroyed in 1928 and replaced 7 years later by the most famous of all cycling track … the Velodromo Vigorelli. (Italian)

Oscar Egg was a pure pursuit specialist. Hans Goossens (op. cit.) talks about a terrain in which he only had one defeat (that seems quite surprising though) and that was against Reggie McNamara in Newark. After an epic battle, the Australian caught Egg after 8km (in those days it seems that some pursuit matches could have a 10km distance).

Girardengo had meticulously prepared for this event in front of his public says Achiel Van den Broeck (op. cit.) but he’s not such a stamina rider as Egg, more of a sprint specialist, though also has a sprint as we saw.

How Girardengo thought he could beat Egg is amazing, given what we know of the talent of both riders. Yet Egg showed no mercy for the Campionissimo and won with a ~30m lead and Gira burst into tears. One of the couple of examples Van den Broeck remembered of riders in tears after a race, and this was not any rider, the first Italian Campionissimo, the icon of a people!

1924: The Bol d’Or Win

On the track Oscar Egg was some sort of a cannibal ‘avant la lettre’ in that he sprinted for every single bonus sprint, not leaving a penny for less gifted riders who had trouble in making ends meet, says Pierre Chany (op. cit.).

With his eyes set on the Bol d’Or, that attitude made it hard for him to find any pacemaker, who is required for such an inhumanly long endurance race. Chany quotes Brocco: “His four penny bonus [“primes de quatre sous”], we’ll make him vomit them a hundredfold’’. Chany confirms that Brocco didn’t like Egg but concedes that he was one of his pacemakers. After all, Brocco and Egg had won the Chicago Six together in 1923.
According to Hans Goossens (op. cit.), Egg raced this Bol d’Or because he was kept from racing Bordeaux-Paris, for some reasons.

The Bol d’Or was a 24-hour race on the Buffalo Velodrome (see our Opperman Biography). In 1924 the race made its come back after a 5 year break. There will be four editions afterwards in 1925, 1927 1 1928, plus a revival in 1950. After all, as Steyaert noticed, the 1920’s were no longer an era for long endurance racing, like those races of the 19th century, road or track, where there were Bol d’Or’s on every track. After all Egg already won the Bol d’Or de Jupille in 1913 with Charles Deruyter.

Races like the Bol d’Or were dying on their own, by then. Bordeaux-Paris had but 11 starters in 1927. Distances gradually standardized between 200 and 300km, which Steyaert called “short distances” (sic). Compared to Bordeaux-Paris, it is but for modern standards, it’s long!

Egg not only could find tandem pacemakers but also won the race, breaking Léon Georget’s record at 936,325km:

MONTROUGE - Vélodrome Buffalo
1. Oscar EGG *ch 936.325 km
2. Paul Duboc *fr 929.525 km
3. Léon Georget *fr 898.725 km
4. Jules Deloffre *fr 845.225 km
5. Eugène Christophe *fr 887.225 km
6. C. F. Davey  *uk 834.725 km

Egg never stopped once but at a certain moment, got weaker and weaker and was on the verge to abandon. His coach gave him a big beer glass of sherry with a whipped egg (no pun intended!) in it. He swallowed it in one gulp and then zigzagged for two laps, and even crashed. (in German)

Egg came back to the Bol d’Or in 1927, along with Binda and Girardengo but all three retired early in the race, make Pierre Chany believe that they were invited only to entertain the audience in the first part of the race (as we argued in the Opperman biography). That was actually the end of his racing career but an even bigger career as manufacturer immediately began.

1926 & 1929: Binda’s Attempts at Egg’s Hour

Binda was a key figure in the 1920’s and a stylish rouleur with his flat back. His attempts at the hour record are an honour for Oscar Egg.

During the 19 years within which this record stood several hour performances have been made, mainly by Italians, even though we might wonder if they were true attempts since first those were no real specialists and second we don’t know if the track is favourable to them compared to Buffalo where Egg set his final record.

Anyway in 1914 already Eberardo Pavesi established to Italian Hour Records: 40.562km in Pavia and 40.856km at the Sempione in Milan. That is far from Egg and even from Berthet or Richard Weise.
In 1917, Girardengo set Italian Hour Record at 41.032km   also at the Sempione .

In 1926 at the same Sempione (according to his Facebook page, Binda improved Gira’s record with a distance of 42.093km. The obsolete track of the Sempione had still two years to live.

The same page claims that his 1929 also was on the Sempione. It’s impossible since several sources showed that the stadium was demolished in 1928. The track on which Binda made that great performance remains unknown.

However, in that performance he broke the half hour record: 22.148 km and seemed on his way to breaking the full record when suddenly he punctured. Italians claimed that without the incident he would have succeeded. That is not easy to tell. His mark was 43.777km vs 44.247 for Egg. He still had 470m to cover to equal the record. Could he have covered that distance during the bike change time? Not sure.

That same year however Binda broke the 50km record: 1h08’35”, which is 6’12” faster than Egg, 18 years later. We can’t confirm that Egg’s record had already been broken before but it very likely had been.

1932: Archambaud’s Unofficial Hour Record

On October 27 1932 Frenchman Maurice Archambaud finally broke Egg’s Hour Record by a decent margin (44.564km vs 44.247km), in Algiers. Unfortunately, the performance was not sanctioned by the UCI, since as the Nouvelliste Valaisan edition of October 29 says, the French federation did not trust the Algerian chronometers.

Archambaud made three official attempts thereafter, still in Algiers but failed to break it. In his last attempt, he stopped after 28km, having covered 21.999km in a half hour (149m less than Binda for example) and obviously lagging too far behind schedule. (Feuille d’avis de Neuchâtel et du Vignoble neuchâtelois: Saturday November 5 1932). We couldn’t check what he did in the two previous attempts nor confirm that he really made three of them (or perhaps the unofficial record is one of the three?).

Archambaud eventually broke the official record, but that would be in 1937 on the Vigorelli but the question will always remain whether Egg’s record was broken by the Frenchman, one year before it was officially broken or not. However his failed attempt of Oct. 27 still shows that Egg’s record was still very hard to beat even for a 25/26-year-old talented “rouleur” in the 1930’s.

1932: The Rocket Bike

Oscar Egg started his cycle factory in 1928, just after ending his racing career. In 1932 he designed a “rocket bike” based on the technological innovations used by old rival Marcel Berthet (which we will talk below). It consists of an ordinary bike to which a fuselage had been added at the back of the saddle, meant to blend in a whole: rider-bike. The aim was of course to gain aerodynamism. Fernand Cornez was his guinea pig. After some conclusive testing on the Vel d’Hiv, he broke the lap record of the Longchamps racetrack, the day Archambaud made his unofficial Hour record in Algiers (Oct. 27 1932) !

(Source: Un siècle de cyclisme, Hervé Paturle & Guillaume Rebière, Calmann Levy). 

[To be continued]
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    Re: Echoes' Cycling Biography #10: Oscar Egg
    « Reply #1 on: August 11, 2014, 20:44 »
    1933 : New Technologies to Break Egg’s Hour

    A)   Berthet’s Streamliner

    By 1933 there were rumours of  a return to competition for Oscar Egg in order to reach the 50km mark in an hour with the new rocket bike that he manufactured:

    He never came back but old rival Marcel Berthet took it seriously and did go for it, at age 47 on a “streamliner”.

    The story of these hour performances non-sanctioned by the UCI is VERY important as it gives historical background for the UCI’s decision (anno 2000) to cancel the “records” on aero-bikes since Francesco Moser in 1984 and reintate the Merckx record and shows how absurd and anti-tradition the decision by the UCI in 2014 was to tolerate again “devices that cut wind resistance.”

    But first we need to give some sort of historical perspective to Berthet’s new performances.

    Already in the very first cycle races riders realized that drafting wheels cost a lot less effort to maintain the speed than leading. From that observation, some riders started racing behind motors or tandems, they were called stayers. Along came the first tandem-paced or motor-paced hour records, the latter exceeded 100km in 1913. (in French)

    The derny-paced hour record still exist today and is owned by Dutchman Maas van Beek, since 2012. Who in the cycling world would consider a motor-paced hour record as a genuine hour record? Nobody. Yet the aim of motor pacing is just the same as that of the modern aero-bikes: cutting wind resistance. Therefore, it should be logical for the UCI to treat the two the same way!

    So by 1913 the magazine “L’illustration” reported that “the motor-paced Hour record exceeded 100km while the Hour record without pacemaker was only just 43km.” What is known today as the “Hour Record” has often been labeled “Hour Record without pacemaker” (“record de l’heure sans entraineur”). This fact illustrates once again that riders have never been entitled to all the most advanced technological devices in order to break the official Hour Record, unlike some liberal idealists might think, otherwise motor-pacing would be allowed in the same category as the official Hour Record!

    However still in Autumn 1913 while he was the Hour record holder Marcel Berthet started working with an expert in aerodynamism and a pioneer in aviation: Étienne Bunau-Varilla.

    Bunau-Varilla was an airplane pilot who took part in the first internetional air meeting in Reims in 1909 with a Farman biplane. It should be mentioned that French/British aviator Henri Farman was a cyclist and even a French stayer champion. So were the Wright brothers. Along with engineer Marcel Riffard, Bunau-Varilla designed the so-called “Vélo-Torpille” (Torpedo-bike) with a special removable fairing in order to cut wind resistance. The machine was nicknamed: “Berthet’s Egg” (!). Berthet broke several records with it in 1913:

    250m in 17.4”
    5km in 5’46”04
    1km in 1’04” despite strong side wind and later in the same day in 1’02”. He broke the record by 8”, says an article from “Le sport illustré” The article noticed that Berthet was not even a sprinter and wonders what the likes of Gabriel Poulain, Frank Kramer or Léon Hourlier would have done with the same machine.

    Egg set a world record for the 1km flying start at ~1'08", one year later.

    On Christmas’ Eve Berthet raced a pursuit match against tandem riders Charron and Rousseau and improved is 5km record: 5’39”03.

    Some German manufacturers like Göricke and Brennabor prepared their own versions of the Torpedo-bike and Germany’s Arthur Stellbrink broke Berthet’s record in Berlin in early 1914: 5’23”.

    The UCI decided to stop the madness after that event and so article 31 of the UCI ruling in 1914 said:

    "Les machines de tous types sont légales, équipées ou non de composants tels que changement de vitesse, roues libres, etc., à condition qu'elles fonctionnent seulement par la force de l'homme, qu'elles ne requièrent pas d'appendice ou dispositif pour réduire la résistance de l'air et qu'elles n'excèdent pas les dimensions de 2 mètres en longueur et 75 centimètres en largeur. Ceci s'applique aux machines à un seul cycliste qui occupent une seule file".

    Which roughly translates :

    « Machines of all kinds are legal, equipped or not of components such as gear shifting, freewheels, etc on the ground that they are functioning by the only strength of man, that it does not require any appendix or device to cut wind resistance and that it does not exceed a length of 2m and a width of 75cm. This applies to the machines with only one cyclist who occupies only one line.”

    The records by Berthet are not completely cancelled though because the UCI would assign to them the label: “record with bike equipped with a device to cut wind resistance”. Doesn’t this label ring any bell? It’s roughly the same kind of labels that the UCI will apply to the post-Moser record in 2000: “Best Hour Performance”!

    History repeats itself.

    This website confirms this fact:
    “Starting from 1913 records were broken with aerodynamically faired racing cycles (5, 6). However, the governing body of bicycle racing, the Union Cycliste International (UCI), did not view these as regular records and tried to prevent any possible technical advantages to individual racers by changing the regulations. Racing should serve as a comparison of athetes, not a comparison of technology. Because of that the most important incentive to aerodynamic improvements to the bicycle was omitted going forward.”
    His sources being:
    1.   Gronen, Wolfgang: The History of Human Powered Land Speed Records. in: Third International Human Powered Vehicle Scientific Symposium. Proceedings. Indianapolis 1986. pp. 84 – 88
    2.   Gronen, Wolfgang; Lemke, Walter: Geschichte des Radsports, des Fahrrades. Eupen 1978

    All this story shows that Oscar Egg’s final record was the first one performed under the new rules. It means that he was not allowed any devices to cut wind resistance! This article would apply to EVERY Hour record from Egg 1914 till Merckx 1972 (+ between 2000 and 2013) but it was also valid in 1984 when Moser made his two hour performances in January 1984 and he broke it, which the UCI ignored.

    A lot of people still think that Moser’s record was legal. On this CN article a comment says: He broke no rules, he was fast, but I guess if he used a method later banned, all anyone can really say is that going really fast in that way is just not surprising or worthy of record holder status.”

    Nothing could be wronger. Moser blatantly broke rules with his wheels: the spokes being “covered by carbon-fibre fairings to minimize air turbulence”:
    Besides his funny bike with a lower front wheel than back wheel is an obvious device to cut air resistance.

    In 1984, article 31 of the UCI ruling of 1914, became article 49. When Moser broke his “record” Merckx lodged a complaint to the UCI via the Belgian federation because it broke articles 49 and 51 of the UCI ruling. The Belgian added that he was offered to race some disc wheels himself in his 1972 attempt but the UCI commissars refused it.

    Here is another confirmation that aerodynamic gain were still not tolerated by the UCI in 1984 (even though this website does not mention Moser once but rather talks about the L.A. Olympics):

    Starting in 1982 Kyle and others developed the technical configuration for the US Olympic Cycling Team for the '84 olympics in Los Angeles. Some aerodynamic components already existed beforehand, e.g. the aero helmets of the Czechoslovakian team. But now for the first time the complete system of the bicycle and rider was aerodynamically optimized. UCI regulations specify a conventional seating position and also forbid any aerodynamic accessories. Not forbidden, however, is the aerodynamic arrangement of functionally necessary components.
    This means for example that covering a spoked wheel with plastic sheet is forbidden, since this has no basic function - it serves only aerodynamics. It is different however, if the wheel has so few spokes that it is not sufficiently stable in itself for racing applications and sufficient stiffness can be achieved only by the additional basic function of the disk (made from composite material).

    Obviously the UCI rejected Merckx’s legitimate complaint at first. However 16 years later they finally realized that they had made a mistake, while in the meantime the record had been completely falsified (Théo Mathy said it multiple times on RTBF) and at everyone’s reach.

    The debate for a (counter-)reform had started by October 1996, shortly before the World Championship, while Boardman made the final performance now labeled “Best Hour”. They issued the “Lugano Charter” which gave strict criteria for the Hour record: triangle frame, 16 spoke wheels of equal diameter etc and a helmet that should only be meant for safety without any devices or shape that intended to cut wind resistance: (in French).

    This charter was effective in 2000. When this (counter-)reform was enforced, everybody thought it was something new and that the UCI never had such rules before. We’ve just seen that it was just a modern version of its own ruling of 1914 and that all hour record between Oscar Egg and Eddy Merckx were set within the framework of that rule.

    So when in 2014, President Cookson of the UCI decided to cancel this rule again, everybody in the cycling world, whether spectators or cyclists, were happy to see an “absurd” rule disappear. It shows how the cycling fans nowadays are ignorant of the sport’s history.

    On May 2014 Wiggins told Cyclingnews: "We've lost a decade now of the hour record. It's a shame that they changed it. It's a shame, really, that we've missed maybe [Fabian] Cancellara doing it five or six years ago. So it's good I guess that they've gone back now."

    It begs the question who ever stopped Wiggins from going for the Hour on a bike that fits with the rules, like all those past greats. Besides, Cancellara did not lose a record because of the rule against aerodynamics but he did lose a record on a traditional bike that he was preparing when incompetent Cookson decided to cancel the rule, encouraging Cancellara to postpone his attempt and to do it on a aero bikes, making his attempt worthless in any case!

    "It kind of begs the question: Why did they change it in the first place?," Wiggins asked Saturday following stage 7 at the Tour of California.

    Wiggins is a talented rider but he’s not a historian. The “change in the first place” occurred in 1984 and was consecutive to Moser’s illegal hour performances. The “Lugano Charter” was a back to the roots reform. It’s the UCI finally being in tune with itself and with its own rule that they set 100 years before Wiggins’ comments: article 31 of the 1914 UCI ruling when they defined for the first time what a real bike was, when they argued that the Hour contest should be a comparison between athlete performances and not between technologies, in the same way as the previously considered a motor-paced hour record as an unofficial hour record. All hour records ever since were broken within the context of that rule from Egg to Merckx, plus Boardman in 2000 and Sosenka (though a 50+ hematocrit rider).

    There are no such things as an hour record being set with all the technology available since already Oscar Egg wasn’t allowed to the “vélo-torpille”/streamliner that Berthet had used for records on shorter distances…

    Berthet did not intend to break the Egg hour since he knew in advance that the UCI would not sanction it as such. However they were official performances that fell under the category “Vélos spéciaux avec dispositif pour réduire la résistance de l'air" (“Bike with special devices to cut air resistance”).

    Berthet had been retired from cycle races for many years but he called back engineer Marcel Riffard to design a new streamliner. These have evolved since 1913 and took several shapes. The one Berthet will use covers the whole bike to the bottom of the wheels. The front wheel was smaller than the rear wheel (just like Moser, 51 years later!). It was called “Vélodyne”.

    The first attempt occurred in August 1933 on the Parc des Princes. He covered 48.6km. On September 9 he made a second attempt but a tyre blew and he crashed while heading towards the 52km. The third attempt occurred on November 19 1933 (while Egg’s record had already been broken) and he covered 49.922km. It’s more than the present-day record by Sosenka on a traditional bike! He was aged 47!

    B)   Francis Faure’s Recumbent

    The recumbent was an invention by French manufacturer Charles Mochet who first designed a  four-wheeled bike: "Human Powered Vehicle" (HPV) or vélo-car and then divided into two two-wheelers because it was too dangerous.

    The story of Faure’s recumbent has been told in great details on this webpage:

    On the racing side Mochet was looking out for a good rider to ride his new recumbent bike in cycling events. At first Mochet had Henri Lemoine, a pro cyclist, riding it. Henri was astonished at the comfort and how easy it was to steer. Even so, he couldn't be convinced to ride the Velocar in contests. Perhaps it was the ridicule of other cyclists that kept him from riding it in competition. In any case Henri Lemoine never entered a single cycling event on a recumbent bike, much to his loss.
    Mochet's second choice of riders was Francis Faure, brother of the famous cyclist Benoit Faure[inaccurate, author’s comment]. Francis was a decidedly lesser rider than either Lemoine or his brother Benoit. But he was the first serious cyclist who really took an interest in Mochet's recumbent bike. After a few test rides he decided to enter a race riding it.
    At the start this event the other riders laughed at him and said: "Faure, you must be tired and want to go to take a nap on that thing. Why don't you sit up upright and pedal like a man?" They quit laughing when Faure poured his annoyance into the pedals and left them all behind. They couldn't even get close to him. Afterwards they were upset that they couldn't even draft his funny bike. One after the other Francis Faure defeated every first-class track cyclist in Europe, taking advantage of recumbents' clear aerodynamic superiority.. The following year Faure was practically unbeatable in 5000 meter distance events. Even in races against three or four top riders, who would alternate pacing a leader, Faure would leave the Velodrome in the yellow jersey. Beside the successes on the track the Velocars and their riders won a lot of road races. Paul Morand, a road racer, won the Paris-Limoges in 1933 on a recumbent bike constructed by Mochet.
    After Faure had established new world records on various short courses and other cyclists on recumbents had handily beaten their competitors at road races, Charles and George Mochet as well as Faure decided to attack the hour record, long considered the "ultimate" bicycling record. Mochet wanted to be sure that a record with his split Velocar would be acknowledged. He therefore queried the UCI (Union Cycliste International) in October 1932. He received a positive reply to his letter: "The Velocar has no add-on aerodynamic components attached so there is no reason to forbid it."

    We need to correct one thing. Francis Faure is not famous Benoit Faure’s brother. It comes from a mistake by the Miroir des Sports which reported the Six-Days of St-Étienne in 1930 where Benoit Faure was injured and replaced by his “brother Francis”.

    The response given by the UCI to Mochet is testament of a few things. First the recumbent does not have anything to do with research in aerodynamics. Second, the UCI at that time was OBSESSED with aerodynamics. Finally, the UCI already could not keep their promise but still who would consider an hour record on a recumbent as a proper hour record. So when Faure started his attempt, he clearly went for Egg’s record, unlike Berthet.

    The website continues:

    The 7th of July 1933 was to be the decisive historical day. Francis Faure rode 45.055 km (27.9 miles) in one hour on a Paris velodrome and thereby smashed the almost 20 year old record by Oscar Egg. Faure and Mochet's Velocar abruptly grabbed the media's attention. In journals and cycling magazines pictures of the record setting vehicles were being published. Soon questions were asked: Is this actually a bike? Will the Faure record be acknowledged? Will the common bike be obsoleted by the Velocar? Statements, interviews, comments and "political" cartoons all addressed this issue. […]

    Rousseau, the French UCI commissioner, brought the issue back into focus. He stated that the UCI and its rules were intended to regulate races, define the legal length and breadth of the bicycle, to prohibit addon aerodynamic aids, but not to define the bicycle itself.
    The other commissioners apparently disagreed, and designated a task force which would define, or in effect, re-define exactly what was or wasn't a bicycle. They then voted to recognize the (upright) record of Maurice Richard. Immediately thereafter the [new] definition of what constituted a sport bicycle was accepted by a 58-to-46 vote. The following rules would be in effect in UCI sanctioned racing from that point in history on:
    •   The bottom bracket had to be between 24 and 30 centimeters above the ground.
    •   The front of the saddle could only be 12 centimeters behind the bottom bracket.
    •   The distance from the bottom bracket to the axle of the front wheel had to be between 58 and 75 centimeters.
    According to these rules, a recumbent wasn't a bicycle, but something entirely different, despite having two wheels, a chain, handlebars, a seat, and human propulsion. The ruling would take effect on April 1, 1934. It was to be recumbents' darkest day. Faure's record was shuffled into a new category called: "Records Set By Human Powered Vehicles (HPV's) without Special Aerodynamic Features"
    Embittered by the decision of the UCI, Charles Mochet wrote an appeal letter to the Union de Cycliste. No luck. Rumors at the time were that the decision "banning" recumbents had less to do with sportsmanship than with economics: The upright bicycle manufacturers and professional riders had money and contacts and together formed a powerful lobbing force.

    So the performance by Francis Faure gave birth to a new category: "Records Set By Human Powered Vehicles (HPV's) without Special Aerodynamic Features". Again that category announces the one that the UCI coined in 2000 “Best Hour Performance”. Throughout the years and the decades, they acted the same way but how can we blame them for wishing a “comparison athletes”?

    The story of Mochet and Francis Faure did not stop there. They would try to best the Berthet record in the category: “Record Set By Special Bike with Aerodynamic Device” (same source):
    In 1938 Francis Faure and Georges Mochet decided to try to better the record of Marcel Berthet in the special class. Francis Faure also wanted to be the first cyclist to ride more than 50 kilometers in one hour. They produced a faired Velocar. The frame was modified: Faure sat lower and a smaller front wheel was installed to reduce drag.
    On March 5, 1939, Faure rode 50.537 kilometers in one hour requiring under 4:15 minutes to circle the 4000 meter track!
    […] Francis Faure became the first cyclist to travel 50 kilometers in less than one hour without a pace vehicle. He rode 50.537 kilometers on the Vicennes Municipal Cycling Track. The press went wild, both in Europe and the U.S. Pictures of Francis Faure, Georges Mochet and the Velocar appeared in all the bicycling journals.

    1933 : Egg’s Record Finally Broken After 19 Years

    On August 25 1933 Dutchman Jan Van Hout finally broke Oscar Egg’s record with a covered distance of 44,588km (against Egg’s 44,247) on the track of Roermond, Dutch Limburg.

    Four days later, Oscar Egg went to Roermond. He had such a big ego that he refused to give up his record without defending it. According to Ron Couwenhoven Oscar Egg climbed over the fence of the track, took measures and “found out” that it was smaller than announced. He then made a second measurement before witnesses. Therefore he actually was invited by the magazine: De Dagelijksche Sportcourant.

    According to Van Hout’s Wikipedia page it seems that Egg had calculated below the blue line, so that Van Hout did cover the announced distance.

    On the evening of Egg’s “expedition” to Roermond, Frenchman Maurice Richard also broke the record, covering 44,777km in St-Truiden, Belgian Limburg. Oscar Egg attended the performance. Due to the fact that Van Hout’s record was broken so fast, the Dutch federation forgot to ask the UCI for sanctioning it. Journalist Dominique Elshout showed in the magazine Achilles in 2008 that they still hadn’t sanctioned it (Link above from

    Jan Van Hout was a pretty good Six-Days rider, says his Wikipedia page. He was a die-hard anti-Nazi and refused to collaborate. He entered the resistance and was arrested a few months before the Liberation, transferred to the Neuengamme concentration camp where he died in 1945 from fatigue caused by the hardships.

    Maurice Richard bested his own record in 1936 on the Vigorelli of Milan: 45,375km. In the meantime Giuseppe Olmo had covered a record 45,090km distance on the same new Vigorelli.

    1930’s and 1940’s :  The "Super-Champion" derailleur

    The very first derailleur was invented in 1905 by Paul de Vivie and popularized by the manufacturer Lucien Juy in 1924: the so-called Simplex (source: Quid – Dominique & Michèle Frémy – Robert Laffont, 2000 and – in French).

    Oscar Egg started his own cycle factory in 1928 just after ending his racing career, on the Avenue de la Grande armée in Paris (a boulevard famous for its cycle factories!). On May 24 1932 he introduced his first gear: the ‘Champion’ (used by Trueba among others), which evolved into the ‘Super Champion’ (also called ‘Osgear’ after Egg’s Christian name Oscar) in 1934 or 1935 (depending on the sources). He was inspired by the Italian: ‘Vittoria’ for whom he had worked as well.

    From the link above: “Crucially the fork to shift the chain had been moved to under the chainstay in the bottom run of the chain so removing the necessity for back pedalling when changing from one sprocket to the next. The gears from Oscar Egg’s factory were a big success – in 1934 they sold 45,000; 1935 138,863; 1936 343,209 and over a million striking-fork derailleurs had been produced by 1939, only Simplex were a serious rival in this period. In England the Super Champion gear was still very popular in the middle 1940s amongst road racers.” […]

    “To many riders the Osgear was magic and to quote a Constrictor catalogue: ‘In the opinion of many, it has the fastest change and is the lightest gear obtainable …’”

    By the end of the 1935 season, a commercial wallpaper showed  a picture of Gaston Rebry, winner of Paris-Roubaix and a list of all major wins of the season for the famous derailleur (“champion des dérailleurs): Circuit de Paris (Le Grevès), Derby du Nord (Van Overberghe), Paris-Brussels (De Caluwe), Paris-Tours (Le Grevès), Paris-Angers (Speicher who had a bigger win in Paris-Rennes that year but strangely not mentioned), Circuit du Morbihan (Le Grevès) and of course Paris-Roubaix with Gaston Rebry.

    Another wallpaper shows Gaston Rebry with a comment that says “Paris-Roubaix 1935 was won by G. Rebry at the formidable average speed of 39.200kmh, with the new gear shifting ‘Super Champion’ which once again asserted its superiority over all current systems.” Another picture showed Belgian Eloi Meulenberg winning the 1937 World Championship with the Super-Champion. (See Appendices 10, 11 & 12)

    At that time, l’Auto still did not want any derailleur at the Tour of France (while they were also organizers of Paris-Roubaix, but there no problem!). However due to the popularity of the Super-Champion, they finally gave in in 1937, the super-champion being the only model allowed. continues:

    “After WWII the Super Champion gear fell out of favour on the continent very quickly especially after the introduction of the Simplex Tour de France in 1948. But it continued to be available for many years – Constrictor were still offering old stock in 1965!” also argued that the Super-Champion was unable to evolve unlike the rivals (Simplex). One of the last major wins on a Super-Champion was the surprise win by Hans Knecht at the 1946 World Championship in Zurich.

    Tomasso Nieddu was the founder of the Vittoria derailleur company. In 1947 he left it and worked on a new derailleur project called Cervino, in association with Gino Bartali, Virginio Colombo (at that time, Coppi’s soigneur) and the Santamaria brothers of the Fiorelli bikes.

    The ‘Cervino’ was nothing but a modern version of the ‘Super-Champion’!  “it was the ultimate incarnation of the Super Champion with fully automatic variable chain tension, a rubber coated tension pulley for quieter running” (says Gino Bartali used it during the 1949 and 1950 seasons. He won his last Milan-Sanremo with it, the last major victory for a bike with derailleur under the chainstay.

    In England, the Super-Champion remained popular in the fifties:

    The decline of his derailleur does not mean the end of Egg’s cycle factory. As a matter of fact Egg kept on supplying bikes to many great riders and sponsoring teams till the year of his death, 1961.

    His first team was Oscar Egg-Dunlop in 1930: a small team whose most famous name was Belgian Omer Taverne, winner of the Championship of Zurich. In the following years he gradually built up a very strong team around Austrian star Max Bulla  *at, along with Domenico Piemontesi. Germany’s Ludwig Geyer, Belgian Louis Hardiquest, Frenchman René Vietto or *ch Paul Egli were among the biggest names who rode for Egg in the 1930’s. In 1951 he raised another team, again rather small with  track star *ch Oscar Plattner. Between 1951 and 1953, other track star *ch Armin Van Büren joined the team along with *lu Lucien Gillen. He also was a regular guest star at track events in Paris, supporting the promoters and delivering bonuses (says the “Journal et Feuille d’avis du Valais et de Sion”).

    By 1961 Egg had raised another team but he passed away on Thursday, February 9 1961 in Nice after a short illness (says L’Unita). He requested being buried in his own Zurich after spending so many times in France, the funeral happened the following week.

    On Saturday 25 February 1950, the Nouvelliste valaisan anticipated on Egg’s 60th birthday saying: “the one who was one of the greatest Swiss cyclist of all time will soon celebrate his 60th birthday. […]”

    In the 1961 article by the “Journal et feuille d’avis …” he’s considered “before WWII, one of the most brilliant representatives of the Helvetian cycling sport, along with the Suter brothers and Ernst Kaufmann [a track sprinter].[…] His success as a bike manufacturer wasn’t less exceptional than the one he had as a rider.”

    It begs the question whether he’s still remembered today as he was the day he died. Probably his bikes are still known to the specialists and with the Super-champion, they become collector’s items. Pure jewelry! But beside his hour, is he still known as a champion?   


    1 Belloni leading Girardengo and Egg in the snow-covered Turchino during the 1917 Milan-Sanremo

    2 A few kilometers further in Voltri, Egg leading Girardengo while Belloni was 5’ ahead:

    3 In Arenzano, this time Girardengo is leading Egg while this time Belloni was 6’ ahead:

    4 Fernand Cornez on Egg’s “rocket bike” in 1932:

    5 Article from “Le sport illustré” in 1913 (which also served as source for this article) with a picture of Marcel Berthet in his “torpedo bike”, with aviator Étienne Bunau-Varilla who designed the machine:

    6 Article about the “Vélodyne” in 1933, an improved version of the “Torpedo Bike”, with which Berthet smashed Egg’s Hour record, though knowing that it wouldn’t be sanctioned by the UCI:

    7 Francis Faure breaking Egg’s Hour record in 1933 on a recumbent before the UCI decide to cancel it:

    8 A document showing that Eddy Merckx lodged a complaint after Moser’s two hour performances, due to the devises to cut wind resistance, just like Berthet’s performances before:

    9 1933, Oscar Egg congratulating Jan Van Hout for breaking his Hour:

    10 Wallpaper showing Gaston Rebry winner of the 1935 Paris-Roubaix to promote Egg’s “Super-Champion” derailleurs:

    11 Another wallpaper with a picture of Gaston Rebry and a list of all the victories gained on a bike equipped with Egg’s derailleur:

    12 Picture of Walloon Eloi Meulenberg winning the 1937 World Championship with a “Super Champion”, cover of a catalogue presenting the new models of “Super-Champion” for 1938

    13 SS Aquitania, from the Cunard line, on which Oscar Egg had the privilege to sail when getting back to Europe after racing the New-York Six in 1920 and on the way forth to New-York in 1922:

    14 SS Rochambeau (Compagnie générale translatique) on which Oscar Egg sailed on his way forth to New-York to race the Six-Days in 1920

    15 Article by Maurice Droit from La Pédale (found on Le Petit braquet), which also served as source

    16 Tandem-paced Oscar Egg during his victorious ride at the 1924 Bol d’Or

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  • « Last Edit: August 11, 2014, 21:12 by Echoes »


    • Sunday Rider
    • Country: pt
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    Re: Echoes' Cycling Biography #10: Oscar Egg
    « Reply #2 on: August 12, 2014, 12:14 »
    The article is really amazing, it bring us back to a forgotten era in cycling
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