Paris-Nice, episode 80: Maurice Archambaud
February 17 th 2022 - 12:00
Archambaud twice the man (II/X)
Since 1933, Paris–Nice has been the first major event of the season for the stars gunning for glory in stage races. The balance of power on the Promenade des Anglais or the Col d'Èze, depending on the season, gives us our first glimpse of where each Tour de France favourite stands. To mark the 80th edition, parisnice.fr is looking back on how the Race to the Sun shaped the careers of ten riders who shared a special bond with the event.
Maurice Archambaud was mostly a stage hunter in the Grande Boucle, but in Paris–Nice he overcame apocalyptic conditions to become the first two-time winner of the race (1936 and 1939).
"The Dwarf" weathers the storm
Maurice Archambaud burst onto the scene when he won the 1932 Grand Prix des Nations bruised and bloodied after a serious crash, but there was more to him than sheer power. At a height of 1.54 m, his small frame also allowed him to shine when the road pointed up, for example, on the Côte de la Fouillouse, in the outskirts of Saint-Étienne, where he claimed a solo win in stage 3 of the 1936 Paris–Nice. "The Dwarf" remained within striking distance of the leader's jersey as it was passed around from Marcel Kindt to Belgian Félicien Vervaecke and then to Jean Fontenay, who took over the reins after the team time trial from Marseille to Toulon. The fight for the top honours came down to a three-way duel between these men in the final stage. A puncture and two crashes stripped Vervaecke of the lead as a tempest battered the peloton. At the front of the race, Archambaud weathered the storm and crossed the finish line in a three-man lead group far ahead of his rivals. After taking third place in 1934, he now climbed on top of the overall podium.
The hour record… and a repeat win in Paris–Nice
Archambaud's Leducq-Mercier team skipped Paris–Nice in 1937 and 1938, but he did not sit idle, instead pulling off the most remarkable exploit of his career by setting a new hour record that remained in place until Fausto Coppi broke it in 1942. Archambaud returned to Paris–Nice in 1939, an odd edition of the race. The flaring political tensions and the fear that war could break out at any moment forced the organisers to cut the route to four stages. To make matters worse, the peloton had to contend with a persistent and bitter winter. The cold and snow pushed 67 riders out of the race during stage 2 to Saint-Étienne, where Archambaud, tough as nails, seized the overall lead. Only 19 cyclists finished the Race to the Sun that year, among them the Parisian, who became the first two-time winner. His difference of 9′33″ to Belgian Frans Bonduel remains the largest winning margin in the history of the event.