Zombie Maurice Garin Puts Sagan in Perspective

EDIT: Thanks to Lurker McLurkerson for creating the Zombie Maurice Garin, and to Drongo for pointing out where he came from in the comments below.

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Very early this morning, I woke up to the distinctive gurgles and beeps that mean someone is attempting to Skype me. I stumbled over to the computer and checked the screen. "ZoMG? Who the hell is ZoMG? I’m not even young enough to know what that means."

Still, I was already up, and hey, it could have been porn. I accepted the call, and found myself staring at the brown and crumbling face of what might once have been an impressive athletic figure of a man.

"Allo," it said. "Je suis le Zombie Maurice Garin."


(continued below le jumpe)

I sighed. "English, please. Despite what my son told his preschool teacher when he was four, we do not speak French at home."

"D’accord. I can speak ze—"

"No comically bad French accent, either. It’s hard enough to understand you with, the…uh…" I gestured towards his withered, half-decayed lips and tongue.

He shrugged and lit a Gauloises. I briefly considered asking him to 86 the Gallic stereotypes, too, but figured I’d better quit while ahead. "If I must," he said, and blew a pathetic attempt at a smoke ring. Did I mention the crumbling lips? "I am calling you about the boy in the maillot vert."

"His name is Peter Sagan. What about him?

"Someone on your Café du Podium the other day asked if Peter Sagan were the first rider to win the first road stage in his first Tour de France, oui?"

"Yes, Maurice. That was asked and answered—between me, Irish Peloton, and straw dog, we came up with over 20 names." I fumbled through the mess on the table top and snagged the right set of scribbles. "Look—here’s the list."

"Pah!" he said. "I am not even on it!"

"Well…you sort of don’t count."

"Do not count? Do not COUNT?" It’s a terrifying sight when a zombie roars at you, even over a computer screen. "I did not just win the first stage in my first Tour, I won the first stage in EVERYONE’S first Tour!"

I swallowed. "Yeah, that’s the point. It was by default, so—"

"Of course it counts. I went on to win three stages, and took a glorious overall victory. No one has ever come close to that accomplishment."

"It was indeed a great achievement," I said. "But if the question is ‘Who has won the first stage in his first Tour?’ then you have to admit others have at least done that."

"Show me the list again."

I held it up to the camera. I find it’s a good thing to indulge zombies, at least long-distance.

What was left of his face purpled with rage. "What is this--1904? Michel Frederick? Crétin! Vouz avez plein de merde! I won the first stage in 1904. Moi! This…Frederick person, he came in fourth that day, almost 45 minutes behind me."

"Yeah, but the whole podium of the stage—hell, the whole final podium of the race— was later disqualified for massive cheating. That leaves Frederick the stage winner."

"I won that stage. I won that Tour." His filmy glare dared me to contradict him.

"Whatever." I pointed to the next name on the list. "Okay, then. 1905. Louis Trousselier broke your record by winning FIVE stages and the overall in his first Tour."

Maurice snorted, rather inelegantly. "Weakling. I won half of my Tour—three out of six stages. He won just five out of eleven."

"That’s still—"

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"And in 1903, our stages averaged—averaged!—over 400 kilometers. 1905?" He spat. "An average of 272 kilometers per stage. One of our stages was under 300 kilometers. Do you know what we said? ‘Oh look—another rest day!’ Chapeau to Louis for his five oh-so-easy stages and his overall victory, but do not insult me by suggesting he did better than I did."

I looked back at the list. "Okay, nobody but you and Trousselier won both the first stage and the overall victory in their first Tour, so if you’re not impressed by him, I’m guessing the rest aren’t going to do it for you either."

"Indeed." He stabbed a bony finger at the names. "Look at the next six names. 1913, Giovanni Micheletto. 1931, Alfred Haemerlinck. 1936, Paul Egli. 1947, Ferdi Kubler. 1949, Marcel Dussault. 1951, Giovanni Rossi. Not one of these so much as finished his first Tour! How hard is it to go à bloc for the first stage if you do not have to conserve energy to survive to the end?"

"Okay, but look at Fritz Schär in 1953. He was the first, and so far only guy to win the first TWO stages of his first Tour. He didn’t win the overall, but he did take the green jersey, and came in 6th on the final GC."

"Oooh, look! Stage 1: 195 kilometers. Stage 2: 227 kilometers. It’s as if they took MY first stage, split it into two, subtracted 45 kilometers so it wouldn’t be so haaa-aaard, then wrapped it up and gave it to little Fritzi on a silver platter."

"Gotcha. Not impressed."

He waved his cigarette. "Better than the ones that dropped out, anyway. Who’s next?"

"Miguel Poblet, 1955. First Spaniard to wear the maillot jaune."

"How long was the stage?

"Let me see…102 kilometers."

Once he stopped laughing, Maurice asked, "Did he finish the race?"

"Yes, 26th, and won another stage along the way."

"Ah. 26th. How…nice for him. Next!"

"1960, Julien Schepens. Before you ask: 108 kilometers, and he later abandoned."

"Next!"

"1962, Rudi Altig. He won his first stage—253 kilometers—then stages 3 and 17, and took the green jersey. And then in 1964, Edward Sels won stages 1, 11, 14, and 19, and finished 33rd on GC."

Maurice took a long drag on his Gauloises and blew the smoke towards the ceiling. "I believe their bikes had gears?"

"Okay, okay. 1967. There was a prologue first, but Walter Godefroot won the first road stage. Yes, he finished the Tour, in 60th place. Then, in 1968, Charly Grosskost did him one better by winning both the prologue and the first road stage, and came in 17th on GC."

Maurice crushed out his cigarette, causing a disconcerting clatter as the exposed bones of his fingertips drummed against the ashtray. "I am losing interest. No one has challenged me seriously."

"Hmm. 1970, Cyrille Guimard. Won first road stage after a prologue, finished in 70th. You would like Guimard, he thinks riders today are soft. And then…Hey! Even you have to be impressed by Freddy Maertens. 1976. In his first Tour, Maertens took the prologue and stages 1, 3, 7, 18.01, 18.02, 21, and 22.01 for a total of EIGHT stages. That ties the record for most stages won in a single Tour: Charles Pelissier was the first to do this in 1930; Eddy Merckx pulled it off in both 1970 and 1974, but Maertens was the first and only rider to win 8 in his debut. He also won the green jersey and finished 8th in the final classification."

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"Not bad, but may I remind you…"

I sighed. "Yeah. Half your Tour’s stages and the overall win. Imagine the records you might have set if you hadn’t been disqualified from your second Tour and suspended for two years."

"Imagine. Are there any others?"

I looked. "Just a few, if we don’t count guys who won the prologue or opening TT in their first Tour, like Thurau, Cancellara, Millar, and Zabriskie."

"We don’t."

"Okay, okay. But it’s still pretty cool to top the first podium of your first Tour, even if—"

"Road stages only."

"Four, then. 1977, Pierre-Raymond Villemiane. His only stage win that year, finished 15th on GC. Then 1987, Nico Verhoeven; and 1995, Fabio Baldato. Neither finished the race. And now 2012, where Peter Sagan has so far won his first road stage, stage 3, and currently holds the green jersey. No, he’s not a threat to the overall, but only 11 of you have won the first stage of your first Tour plus at least one other stage. If he pulls off a third win, he’ll be one of 6 to accomplish first-plus-at-least-two-other-stage-wins (including you)."

"Oui, mais he will have to win 8 stages and the maillot vert to tie Freddy Maertens."

"I thought you weren’t impressed by Maertens."

"I was not totally unimpressed."

"Yup. Coming close to Maertens will be difficult, even for Sagan, but if he goes on to win the maillot vert, he’ll be one of eight who have won green in their debut Tour, and one of four who have both won the green and the first stage in their first Tour."

"If he does that, I will invite him over for a nice dish of cervelles en matelote, or even cervelles a la paysanne. Or perhaps just au beurre noir?" He shook his head sadly. "Always cervelles, cervelles, cervelles. What I would not give for a nice Camembert."

"If I happen to see Peter Sagan, I’ll pass on the invitation. Wait…are cervelles brains?"

He nodded.

"You cook them? I thought you just scooped them out of the head and ate them raw."

"Madame! I am a zombie, not a barbarian!"

"Oops, sorry, I—" But he had already clicked off.

So, there you have it, from the Zombie Maurice Garin himself. To recap, Sagan is part of an elite company of 22 (or 21, depending on where you side on the 1904 problem—the official Tour site still lists Garin as winner of Stage 1, but there is a row of asterisks after it) riders who won their very first road stage in their very first Tour de France.

He’s also now part of the subset of 11 who won their first stage and at least one other stage, and that will narrow further if he wins more stages. 5 riders so far have won first stage plus at least 2 others in their first Tour; 4 first plus at least 3 other stages; 2 first plus at least 4 others; and then there’s Freddy Maertens, who won prologue, first road stage, and six others for a total of 8 (or 7 + prologue, if you want to be picky).

Plus, if he holds on to the sprint jersey, he will be one of 8 who won it in their first Tour, and one of 4 who took green after winning their first TdF road stage. Fritz Schär accomplished it with 2 stage wins; Rudi Altig with 3; Freddy Maertens with 8. Sagan could slot in neatly somewhere among them.

Can’t wait to see where...but remember, if he's going to impress Maurice Garin at all, first he has to finish the race.

Won first stage in their first Tour:

1903 Maurice Garin (3 stages)

1904 Michel Frederick (1 stage, following disqualifications)

1905 Louis Trousselier (5 stages)

1913 Giovanni Micheletto (1 stage)

1931 Alfred Haemerlinck (2 stages)

1936 Paul Egli (1 stage)

1947 Ferdi Kubler (2 stages)

1949 Marcel Dussault (1 stage)

1951 Giovanni Rossi (1 stage)

1953 Fritz Schaer (2 stages)

1955 Miguel Poblet (2 stages)

1960 Julien Schepens (1 stage)

1962 Rudi Altig (3 stages)

1964 Edward Sels (4 stages)

1967 Walter Godefroot (1 stage)

1968 Charly Grosskost (2 stages)

1970 Cyrille Guimard (1 stage)

1976 Freddy Maertens (8 stages)

1977 Pierre-Raymond Villemiane (1 stage)

1987 Nico Verhoeven (1 stage)

1995 Fabio Baldato (1 stage)

2012 Peter Sagan

Won Maillot Vert in their first Tour:

1953 Fritz Schar*

1962 Rudi Altig*

1966 Willy Planckaert

1974 Patrick Sercu

1976 Freddy Maertens*

1987 Jean-Paul Van Poppel

1990 Olaf Ludwig

*also won their first stage

Photo credits:

Détail du rictus du transi du Laboureur, La Danse Macabre de la Chaise-Dieu, Photo by MirandaAdramin (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Maurice Garin with masseur, son, bike, and cigarette, 1903,

see page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Peter Sagan, By Ludovic Péron (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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