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1956 Tour de France

1956 Tour de France
Route of the 1956 Tour de France followed counterclockwise, starting in Reims and finishing in Paris
Route of the 1956 Tour de France followed counterclockwise, starting in Reims and finishing in Paris
Race details
Dates5–28 July 1956
Distance4,498 km (2,795 mi)
Winning time124h 01' 16"
Winner  Roger Walkowiak (FRA) (North-East/Centre)
  Second  Gilbert Bauvin (FRA) (France)
  Third  Jan Adriaensens (BEL) (Belgium)

Points  Stan Ockers (BEL) (Belgium)
  Mountains  Charly Gaul (LUX) (Luxembourg/Mixed)
  Combativity  André Darrigade (FRA) (France)
  Team Belgium
← 1955
1957 →

The 1956 Tour de France was the 43rd edition of the Tour de France, taking place from 5 to 28 July. It consisted of 22 stages over 4,498 km (2,795 mi).

There was no previous Tour winner competing for the 1956 Tour, which had only previously happened in 1903 and 1927. An unknown rider from a regional team, Roger Walkowiak on the Northeast-Center French team, ended up winning the Tour. Many Tour fans dismissed the win as being lucky or unworthy at the time, which Walkowiak took hard; this made him not often speak of his win.[citation needed]

The Tour was ridden at the fastest average speed so far, over 36 km/h. Walkowiak became only the second rider, after Firmin Lambot in the 1922 Tour de France, to win without taking a single stage.


In the previous years, a flat tyre had to be repaired, but from 1956 on, it was allowed to change wheels.[1]


The team classification "Challenge Martini" trophy for 1956, won by the Belgium team

As was the custom since the 1930 Tour de France, the 1956 Tour de France was contested by national and regional teams. Seven national teams were sent, with 10 cyclists each from France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and Luxembourg/Mixed (the latter a combined team of seven Luxembourgian cyclists added with one Portuguese, one British and one Italian cyclist). France additionally sent five regional teams from 10 cyclists each, divided into North-East/Centre, South-East, West, Île-de-France and South-West. In total, 120 cyclists started the race.[2]

The teams entering the race were:[2]

  • France
  • Italy
  • Belgium
  • Netherlands
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
  • Luxembourg/Mixed
  • North-East/Centre
  • South-East
  • West
  • Île-de-France
  • South-West

Pre-race favourites

The winner of the three previous editions, Louison Bobet, was absent because he had surgery.[1] Because there were less climbs and no mountain top finishes, cycling experts expected this edition to be too easy.[3] No other former Tour de France winner started the race. This was the third time in history that the race started without former winners, after the initial 1903 Tour de France and the 1927 Tour de France.[1]

Because Bobet was not there, the race was open, and there were many riders thought able to win the Tour. The most favourite of these was probably Charly Gaul, who had won the 1956 Giro d'Italia, although he was in a weak team, and would also be aiming for the mountains classification.[1]

Route and stages

The 1956 Tour de France started on 5 July, and had two rest days, in Bordeaux and Aix-les-Provence.[4] The highest point of elevation in the race was 2,360 m (7,740 ft) at the summit of the Col d'Izoard mountain pass on stage 17.[5][6]

Stage characteristics and winners[7][4][8][9]
Stage Date Course Distance Type Winner
1 5 July Reims to Liège (Belgium) 223 km (139 mi) Plain stage  André Darrigade (FRA)
2 6 July Liège (Belgium) to Lille 217 km (135 mi) Plain stage  Fred De Bruyne (BEL)
3 7 July Lille to Rouen 225 km (140 mi) Plain stage  Arigo Padovan (ITA)
4a 8 July Circuit de Rouen-Les-Essarts 15.1 km (9 mi) Individual time trial  Charly Gaul (LUX)
4b Rouen to Caen 125 km (78 mi) Plain stage  Roger Hassenforder (FRA)
5 9 July Caen to Saint-Malo 189 km (117 mi) Plain stage  Joseph Morvan (FRA)
6 10 July Saint-Malo to Lorient 192 km (119 mi) Plain stage  Fred De Bruyne (BEL)
7 11 July Lorient to Angers 244 km (152 mi) Plain stage  Alessandro Fantini (ITA)
8 12 July Angers to La Rochelle 180 km (112 mi) Plain stage  Miguel Poblet (ESP)
9 13 July La Rochelle to Bordeaux 219 km (136 mi) Plain stage  Roger Hassenforder (FRA)
14 July Bordeaux Rest day
10 15 July Bordeaux to Bayonne 201 km (125 mi) Plain stage  Fred De Bruyne (BEL)
11 16 July Bayonne to Pau 255 km (158 mi) Stage with mountain(s)  Nino Defilippis (ITA)
12 17 July Pau to Luchon 130 km (81 mi) Stage with mountain(s)  Jean-Pierre Schmitz (LUX)
13 18 July Luchon to Toulouse 176 km (109 mi) Stage with mountain(s)  Nino Defilippis (ITA)
14 19 July Toulouse to Montpellier 231 km (144 mi) Plain stage  Roger Hassenforder (FRA)
15 20 July Montpellier to Aix-en-Provence 204 km (127 mi) Plain stage  Joseph Thomin (FRA)
21 July Aix-en-Provence Rest day
16 22 July Aix-en-Provence to Gap 203 km (126 mi) Stage with mountain(s)  Jean Forestier (FRA)
17 23 July Gap to Turin (Italy) 234 km (145 mi) Stage with mountain(s)  Nino Defilippis (ITA)
18 24 July Turin (Italy) to Grenoble 250 km (155 mi) Stage with mountain(s)  Charly Gaul (LUX)
19 25 July Grenoble to Saint-Étienne 173 km (107 mi) Stage with mountain(s)  Stan Ockers (BEL)
20 26 July Saint-Étienne to Lyon 73 km (45 mi) Individual time trial  Miguel Bover (ESP)
21 27 July Lyon to Montluçon 237 km (147 mi) Stage with mountain(s)  Roger Hassenforder (FRA)
22 28 July Montluçon to Paris 331 km (206 mi) Plain stage  Gastone Nencini (ITA)
Total 4,498 km (2,795 mi)[10]

Race overview

André Darrigade leading into the finish of stage one in Liège, Belgium, which he won

The first stage was won by André Darrigade, one of the best sprinters of that time.[1] In the third stage, a small group escaped and finished with a margin of fifteen minutes; Gilbert Desmet became the new leader.[1] The time trial of stage four was won by Gaul. In the second part of the fourth stage, Roger Hassenforder escaped, and a took a group with him, including Darrigade. Desmet was not in that group, and lost more than 15 minutes, which made Darrigade leader again.[1][11]

In the seventh stage, the peloton broke in two, and a large group of 31 cyclists finished more than 18 minutes ahead. This group included Roger Walkowiak, who had also been in the escaped group in the fourth stage, and became the new leader.[1] Walkowiak's team manager, Sauveur Ducazeaux, advised Walkowiak that it would be too tough to try to remain the leader for the rest of the race, and suggested that Walkowiak lose the first place, and aim to regain it later in the race.[12] In the tenth stage, Walkowiak lost time, and Gerrit Voorting who had also been part of the large breakaway group in stage seven, became the new leader.[3] Voorting lost the lead in the next stage to Darrigade, who himself lost the lead to Jan Adriaensens in the twelfth stage.

In the fifteenth stage, the entire Belgian team was weak. Most Tour followers thought it was due to a doping practice that went wrong, but officially it was attributed to food poisoning.[13] Adriaensens lost more than nine minutes, which made Wout Wagtmans the new leader.[1] During the seventeenth stage, there was yet another escape, which included leader Wagtmans and Walkowiak, in fifth position in the general classification. The riders in second, third and fourth place were not in the escape, so Walkowiak moved up to the second place, more than four minutes behind Wagtmans.[1] The eighteenth stage was the last chance for the climbing specialists to win back time, and so Gaul, Bahamontes and Ockers were aiming to win back time. Gaul escaped, and won the stage alone, with Ockers in second place. During the last climb, Bahamontes dismounted and threw his bike down the ravine, wanting to stop the race. The Spanish team was able to retrieve the bike, and convince Bahamontes to continue. Bahamontes finished the race in the group behind Ockers. The surprise of the day was that Walkowiak had been able to remain with Bahamontes, whereas Wagtmans (normally a decent climber) lost eight minutes more. Walkowiak took the first place in the general classification, with a margin of almost 4 minutes to Gilbert Bauvin.[1]

In the time trial of stage 20, Bauvin performed very well, finishing in fifth place. Walkowiak ended in 24th place, but this was enough to keep a 1'25" lead. In the 21st stage, Roger Hassenforder won his fourth stage of this Tour, after a solitary breakaway of 187 km.[7]

Classification leadership and minor prizes

The time that each cyclist required to finish each stage was recorded, and these times were added together for the general classification. If a cyclist had received a time bonus, it was subtracted from this total; all time penalties were added to this total. The cyclist with the least accumulated time was the race leader, identified by the yellow jersey.[14] Of the 120 cyclists that started the 1956 Tour de France, 88 finished the race.

The points classification in 1956 was calculated in the same way as since the introduction in 1953, following the calculation method from the Tours de France from 1905 to 1912. Points were given according to the ranking of the stage: the winner received one points, the next cyclist two points, and so on. These points were added, and the cyclist with the fewest points was the leader of the points classification. In 1956, this was won by Stan Ockers with 280 points.[7] Over 22 stages (including one split stage), this meant that his average stage finish was approximately place 13.

Points for the mountains classification were earned by reaching the mountain tops first.[15] The system was almost the same as in 1955: there were three types of mountain tops: the hardest ones, in category 1, gave 10 points to the first cyclist, the easier ones, in category 2, gave 6 points to the first cyclist, and the easiest ones, in category 3, gave 3 points. Charly Gaul won this classification.[7]

The team classification was calculated as the sum of the daily team classifications, and the daily team classification was calculated by adding the times in the stage result of the best three cyclists per team.[16] It was won by the Belgian team, with a large margin over the Italian team. Every team finished with at least three cyclists, so all teams were included in the team classification.

In addition, there was a combativity award given after each stage to the cyclist considered most combative. The split stages each had a combined winner. The decision was made by a jury composed of journalists who gave points. The cyclist with the most points from votes in all stages led the combativity classification.[17] André Darrigade won this classification, and was given overall the super-combativity award.[4] After every stage, the jury also gave a prize to the cyclist with the most bad luck. The award for most bad luck during the entire Tour de France went to Fernand Picot.[18] The Souvenir Henri Desgrange was given in honour of Tour founder Henri Desgrange to the first rider to pass a point on stage 2 in village of Cysoing in the far north, marking 200,000 kilometres travelled in Tour de France history. This prize was won by Pierre Pardoën.[19]

Classification leadership by stage[20][21]
Stage Winner General classification
Points classification
Mountains classification[a] Team classification Combativity Bad luck award
Award Classification
1 André Darrigade André Darrigade André Darrigade no award Luxembourg/Mixed Brian Robinson Brian Robinson Pierre Pardoën
2 Fred De Bruyne Pierre Pardoën Raymond Elena
3 Arigo Padovan Gilbert Desmet Antonin Rolland Claude Le Ber Camille Huyghe
4a Charly Gaul Pierre Barbotin Alex Close
4b Roger Hassenforder André Darrigade Roger Hassenforder France
5 Joseph Morvan Mario Bertolo Miguel Poblet
6 Fred De Bruyne Daan de Groot André Darrigade André Darrigade René Marigil
7 Alessandro Fantini Roger Walkowiak Fernand Picot Belgium Nello Lauredi Salvador Botella
8 Miguel Poblet Daan de Groot West André Darrigade Stanislas Bober
9 Roger Hassenforder Leo van der Pluym Michel Stolker
10 Fred De Bruyne Gerrit Voorting Belgium Nicolas Barone Alves Barbosa
11 Nino Defilippis André Darrigade André Darrigade Valentin Huot Nino Defilippis Joseph Thomin
12 Jean-Pierre Schmitz Jan Adriaensens Fernand Picot Jean-Pierre Schmitz François Mahé
13 Nino Defilippis Nicolas Barone André Darrigade
14 Roger Hassenforder Raymond Elena Pierre Beuffeuil
15 Joseph Thomin Wout Wagtmans Joseph Thomin Jan Adriaensens
16 Jean Forestier Alves Barbosa no award
17 Nino Defilippis Charly Gaul Jean Brankart
18 Charly Gaul Roger Walkowiak Stan Ockers Roger Walkowiak Fernand Picot
19 Stan Ockers Charly Gaul Stan Ockers Nino Defilippis
20 Miguel Bover Roger Hassenforder Wout Wagtmans
21 Roger Hassenforder Jan Adriaensens Jean Forestier
22 Gastone Nencini Claude Le Ber Raymond Elena
Final Roger Walkowiak Stan Ockers Charly Gaul Belgium André Darrigade Fernand Picot

Final standings

General classification

Final general classification (1–10)[22]
Rank Rider Team Time
1  Roger Walkowiak (FRA) North-East/Centre 124h 1' 16"
2  Gilbert Bauvin (FRA) France + 1' 25"
3  Jan Adriaensens (BEL) Belgium + 3' 44"
4  Federico Bahamontes (ESP) Spain + 10' 14"
5  Nino Defilippis (ITA) Italy + 10' 25"
6  Wout Wagtmans (NED) Netherlands + 10' 59"
7  Nello Lauredi (FRA) South-East + 14' 01"
8  Stan Ockers (BEL) Belgium + 16' 52"
9  René Privat (FRA) France + 22' 59"
10  Alves Barbosa (POR) Luxembourg/Mixed + 26' 03"

Points classification[edit]

Final points classification (1–10)[23][24]
Rank Rider Team Points
1  Stan Ockers (BEL) Belgium 280
2  Fernand Picot (FRA) West 464
3  Gerrit Voorting (NED) Netherlands 465
4  André Darrigade (FRA) France 489
5  Gilbert Bauvin (FRA) France 502
6  Daan de Groot (NED) Netherlands 546
7  Gilbert Desmet (BEL) Belgium 578
8  Nino Defilippis (ITA) Italy 596
9  Nello Lauredi (FRA) South-East 624
10  Alves Barbosa (POR) Luxembourg/Mixed 628

Mountains classification[edit]

Final mountains classification (1–9)[25][26][27]
Rank Rider Team Points
1  Charly Gaul (LUX) Luxembourg/Mixed 71
2  Federico Bahamontes (ESP) Spain 67
3  Valentin Huot (FRA) South-West 65
4  Stan Ockers (BEL) Belgium 55
5  Richard Van Genechten (BEL) Belgium 30
6  Roger Walkowiak (FRA) North-East/Centre 27
7  Jean-Pierre Schmitz (LUX) Luxembourg/Mixed 15
8  Raymond Meyzenq (FRA) South-East 14
9  Jean Forestier (FRA) France 13
 Jan Adriaensens (BEL) Belgium
 Bernardo Ruiz (ESP) Spain

Team classification[edit]

Final team classification[28]
Rank Team Time
1 Belgium 369h 47' 42"
2 Italy + 1h 04' 26"
3 Netherlands + 1h 13' 11"
4 France + 1h 24' 08"
5 West + 1h 44' 12"
6 South-East + 1h 57' 39"
7 Spain + 3h 05' 35"
8 Luxembourg/Mixed + 3h 12' 59"
9 North-East/Centre + 3h 55' 25"
10 South-East + 4h 43' 10"
11 Île-de-France + 5h 33' 50"
12 Switzerland + 6h 51' 33"

Combativity classification[edit]

Final combativity classification (1–10)[23][28]
Rank Rider Team Points
1  André Darrigade (FRA) France 175
2  Roger Hassenforder (FRA) West 142
3  Charly Gaul (LUX) Luxembourg/Mixed 119
4  Nino Defilippis (ITA) Italy 118
5  Nicolas Barone (FRA) Île-de-France 106
6  Claude Le Ber (FRA) West 100
7  Roger Walkowiak (FRA) North-East/Centre 98
8  Raymond Elena (FRA) South-East 92
9  Nello Lauredi (FRA) South-East 83
10  Pierre Barbotin (FRA) France 77


The cycling fans had not been happy to see unknown Walkowiak win the race, and he was not cheered for when the race finished in the Parc des Princes. Walkowiak was considered an unworthy winner, and never again was able to repeat such a win. His name entered the French language in the phrase "á la Walko", which means "won by an undeserving or unknown rider".[1] The press gave many reasons for Walkowiak's victory: the France national team had had internal problems, Gaul and Bahamontes had been occupied with the mountains classification and Ockers with the team classification.[12] Not all considered him unworthy; Five-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault praised his win saying: There are people who say that Walkowiak should not have won the Tour. They should have been on that Tour! He took the jersey, he lost it and he regained it. He was not a thief. The Tour is not a gift.[1]

Walkowiak was unhappy about how the people reacted to his Tour win, and for many years did not want to discuss it.[1]

The French team manager Marcel Bidot later criticized Darrigade for not helping Bauvin in the last stages; he thought that with the help of Darrigade, Bauvin might have been able to win back the 85 seconds on Walkowiak and win the race.[1]

This was the final Tour for Belgian rider Stan Ockers, who died in a tragic accident during a track race just a few months after this Tour ended. Of the ten Tours held after World War II, Ockers had entered eight, finished all in the top ten each time except in 1948 when he finished 11th. Ockers had won the points classification in 1955 and 1956.


  1. ^ No jersey was awarded to the leader of the mountains classification until a white jersey with red polka dots was introduced in 1975.[15]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o McGann & McGann 2006, pp. 213–220.
  2. ^ a b "The history of the Tour de France – Year 1956 – The starters". Tour de France. Amaury Sport Organisation. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  3. ^ a b Boyce, Barry (2004). "Little Known Frenchman Wins TdF!". Cyclingrevealed. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
  4. ^ a b c Augendre 2016, p. 47.
  5. ^ Augendre 2016, p. 178.
  6. ^ "Het bergklassement in Tour de France" [The mountain classification in Tour de France]. Nieuwsblad van het Noorden (in Dutch). 14 July 1956. p. 13 – via Delpher.
  7. ^ a b c d "43ème Tour de France 1956" (in French). Mémoire du cyclisme. Archived from the original on 1 March 2012. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  8. ^ Arian Zwegers. "Tour de France GC top ten". CVCC. Archived from the original on 16 May 2008. Retrieved 17 December 2009.
  9. ^ "The history of the Tour de France – Year 1956 – The stage winners". Tour de France. Amaury Sport Organisation. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  10. ^ Augendre 2016, p. 109.
  11. ^ Desforges 2006, p. 80.
  12. ^ a b Didier, Jan (28 November 2002). "A Forgotten Hero: Roger Walkowiak". PezCycling News. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
  13. ^ Minovi, Ramin (2007). "Drugs and the Tour de France". Association of British Cycling Coaches. Archived from the original on 27 June 2007. Retrieved 9 September 2010.
  14. ^ Nauright & Parrish 2012, pp. 452–453.
  15. ^ a b Nauright & Parrish 2012, p. 454.
  16. ^ Nauright & Parrish 2012, p. 455.
  17. ^ van den Akker 2018, pp. 211–216.
  18. ^ "Klassementen" (in Dutch). Leeuwarder Courant. 29 July 1953. Retrieved 17 December 2009.
  19. ^ "Zwitserse ploeg verloor twee mantijdens 't matste deel van de strijd: Pardoen had een rijke buit" [Swiss team lost two men in the fattest part of the fight: Pardoen had a rich booty]. Leidse Courant (in Dutch). 7 July 1956. p. 7 – via Historische Kranten, Erfgoed Leiden en Omstreken.
  20. ^ "Ronde-panorama 1956" [Tour-panorama 1956]. Gazet van Antwerpen (in Dutch). 30 July 1956. p. 8. Archived from the original on 15 February 2019.
  21. ^ van den Akker, Pieter. "Informatie over de Tour de France van 1956" [Information about the Tour de France from 1956]. (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 2 March 2019. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  22. ^ a b "The history of the Tour de France – Year 1956 – Stage 22 Montluçon > Paris". Tour de France. Amaury Sport Organisation. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  23. ^ a b "La Vuelta Ciclista a Francia" [The Cycling Tour of France] (PDF). Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). 29 July 1956. p. 4. Archived (PDF) from the original on 3 October 2019.
  24. ^ "Uitslagen en klassementen" [Results and rankings]. De Volkskrant (in Dutch). 30 July 1956. p. 5 – via Delpher.
  25. ^ "Bergklassement" [Mountain classification]. Gazet van Antwerpen (in Dutch). 28 July 1956. p. 15. Archived from the original on 3 October 2019.
  26. ^ "Volontaire, courageux, Walkowiakremporte le Tour de France 1956" [Volunteer, brave, Walkowiak takes the Tour de France 1956] (PDF). Feuille d'Avis du Valais (in French). 30 July 1956. p. 6. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2 October 2019 – via RERO.
  27. ^ "La Vuelta Ciclista a Francia" [The Cycling Tour of France] (PDF). Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). 28 July 1956. p. 6. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2 October 2019.
  28. ^ a b "Puntenklassement" [Points classification]. Gazet van Antwerpen (in Dutch). 30 July 1956. p. 12. Archived from the original on 3 October 2019.


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