These days the biggest sports event in the world is taking place in France, and we know that the winner gets €450,000. However, money has not always been the preferable payment of choice, at least not to the organisers. Between 1976-1987, the winner of the tour did not get money, he won an apartment offered by a race sponsor.
There are several strange prizes in cycling in general, not only in le Tour. Through the years many sponsors have come along and resulted in some strange prizes, both for stage wins, GC and in one-day races.
Organizers have even paid riders not to participate, as in the Giro 1930, where Alfredo Binja was paid 22.500 lire not to participate in the race. Alfredo was the winner of three consecutive Giros so the organizers wanted some excitement for a change. Something to try these days as well to make certain stage races more exciting to watch? Anyway, Alfredo accepted the payment and prepared for the Tour (won 2 stages) and the Worlds, which he won, instead.
In 1981 the Giro had two TT stages, the last one was a TT from Luca to Montecatini. Those of you who are familiar with the area will by now nod and perhaps say that this is one of Italy’s finest winemaker areas – the Chianti. Unknown to many of the riders, a small collaboration of the winemakers in the area had set up a prize for the rider who had the best split time passing one of the wine factories. Later that evening, Norwegian rider Knut Knudsen, was scrambled along with his team leader by the mayor and someother locals from the area, urging the two outside. Standing there, the party observed a large truck pulled infront of the hotel. Inside, yes you guessed it, wine – lots of it. Apparently, the rider had wine for several years.
Another funny prize is awarded to the winner of the semi classic Paris-Camembert. The race is held in April and is very popular among the French riders. Some cyclists use the race as a build-up towards other spring classics; among the race winners in recent years are Valverde, Casper, Minard and Casar. The winner does not only get a win to add to his palmares, he also get his bodyweight in Camembert! How is that for a prize? Not doing wonders for the racing weight or the cholesterol level either. Sometimes it is better to weigh a little as Rujano instead of Greipel, their capabilities aside. To get rid of all that cheese log into eBay or host a couple of garden parties very fast, unless you want to get stuck with that cheese a long time. Imagine being an American rider going home for vacation after winning that race, paying overweight for all that cheese.
During the second world war, the organizers of the Tour of Flanders (RVV), came in desperate need for some new ideas for prizes, as money was short. The organizers gave out boxes of razors, different cycling equipment, a stove and bottles of wine. An anecdote worth mentioned is that the last four riders to complete the Ronde in 1949 received bottles of massage oil, probably much needed.
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