Judging by the headline, you might expect this article to be about doping. I don’t stigmatise, as doping has been connected with professional cycling since the “break of dawn.”
However, this post is about brothers in the Tour of France. Throughout the years, several brothers have been riding bikes professionally, and surprisingly many have been on the same team.
These days Andy Schleck is riding the Tour de France side by side with his elder brother, Fränk. The two are close, having shared almost their entire professional lives on the bike; they probably know each other inside out. They are a team, and it seems impossible to hire just the one of them.
Bjarne Riis took Andy Schleck under his wing in 2004 by recommendation of Fränk. In 2010, when Fränk broke his collarbone at stage three, Andy feared his Tour was lost. They seem to rely on each other, not only physically but psychologically as well. Nothing wrong with the brothers’ genes, the Schleck’s father, Johnny Schleck, rode the Tour several times, nailing top 20 GC in 1967 and 1970. It’s hard to see where one is without looking over his shoulder for his brother. Rumours say that when Fränk got married and being a father, it didn’t take long for Andy to get a girl either. He has even presented her to the public. The two are so close that even teammates says they are more concerned with the other one’s success than their own. I have heard people saying that the Schlecks are not entirely this way when it comes to fishing, but that has yet to be confirmed.
The Schlecks are not the only brothers who have participated in the Tour. If they all were so merry as the as Andy and Fränk, this might be the end of the discussion. However, Johan Kaggestad, a Norwegian cycling commentator with a taste for details, has inspired me to find out more about a whole host of interesting Tour brothers.
- Roger and Erik de Vlaeminck. The Belgian brothers who rode the tour between 1968 and 1971. Erik chose cyclo-cross and was very successful, being WC astonishing seven times. He was known to live a “hard” life, with spectacular partyies after races, however, he never failed a drug test. When Erik returned to racing after a break, the Belgian Cycling Federation actually permitted him with one-day licences only, to see if his life improved. Roger chose road racing and was a dominant Classics rider of his era and is one of only three rider to win the “five monuments.” Roger might be the best known of the two outside of Belgium; both are highly admired by Belgians.
- Marc and Yvon Madiot. They rode the Tour together between 1984and 1992, on the same team. Yvon did win the French national title in 1986, while his brother, Marc, won the Paris-Roubaix twice, and a few stages in the Tour, winning cycling fans’ hearts and minds all over the world. Marc Madiot is now team manager of the French team FDJ while brother Yvon is DS. Marc has been one of the team managers in the World Tour who has been most friendly towards the ruling made by the UCI on banning radios, probably causing some irritation by others, as the team managers need to look as unanimous as possible.
- Stephen and Lawrence Roche. The Irish brothers rode together in the Tour de France of 1993 on the same team. Lawrence (sometimes spelled “Laurence”) never managed to perform at the same level his brother did, so his palmarès is somewhat different. Stephen did win the WC , the Tour and the Giro in 1987, but a knee injury stopped him from repeating that feat. The Irish journalist and former pro rider Paul Kimmage and others have accused Stephen Roche of using PEDs, something Roche has denied. Stephen is currently living a quiet life in Antibes, where he owns a small hotel. Nicolas Roche, Stephen’s son, is currently riding for AG2R while Stephen’s nephew, Dan Martin, won the Irish RR in 2008 and currently rides for Garmin-Cervélo. It’s all in the genes I guess.
- Miguel and Prudencio Indurain. The two brothers shared the spotlight in the Tour de France of 1993 when Miguel finished first in the individual time trial and Prudencio last. Miguel was known as the eagle and Prudencio the sparrow. Evil tongues said that the only thing the two brothers had in common was their manners off the bike. Prudencio was literally bullied by the press since he seemed to lack the genes his brother had. He was constantly asked by the press if he only was on the team because of his brother. Imagine that! Prudencio has always managed to control his temper, saying that he does not need to defend “unfounded” allegations like that. The two rode together for three tours, Prudencio always a step behind his brother, or in cycling terms, in front of his brother. I guess Miguel doesn’t need a further presentation. Prudencio is now trying to make a living as a local politician in Navarro, Spain.
- Laurent and Nicolas Jalabert. Rode the tour together nine times. Nicolas, the younger one, struggled to keep up with his more talented elder brother. Laurent won both the point jersey as well as the KOM jersey twice in the tour. This combined with his stage wins – including a stage win on Bastille Day –ensured him a special place in hearts of the French cycling fans. Imagine being the younger brother, less talented, your big brother a superstar, you bring water bottles, shield him from wind and may be prepared to give your bike to him! Not an ideal position to be in, is it? Probably not the best environment for family dinners on Sunday. Nowadays, you might recognize Laurent Jalabert’s voice if you happen to tune into French Eurosport where he is paired with Thierry Adams.
- Sylvain and Sebastien Chavanel. Both riders are still active in today’s edition of the Tour, Sylvain is Quickstep’s hope, while Sebastien is riding for Europcar. The latter is the youngest brother, but not more than two years separate them. Sebastien is more of a sprinter and has proved himself in the classics, while Sylvain is constantly being seen breaking away from the peloton. He did this last year in the Tour, and this ability has allowed him wear the yellow jersey two stages. You will not have any trouble spotting Sylvain “Mimo” Chavanel in his French national championship jersey.
- Romain and Brice Feillu. One is rather bulky and named by Cav to “always be causing havoc in sprints,” one is famous for not zipping his jersey while winning stage seven of the 2009 edition of the Tour. Leaving many in awe I might add. The team sponsor of Agritubel wasn’t probably thrilled either. The win was a surprise to most, but followers of French cycling will know he has long been a promising rider, but then again, the peloton is not exactly full of those. Not a small achievement by Brice, he had just turned pro with this team, nailed a stage win and even wore the KOM-jersey for a while. Romain even had the yellow jersey, and the happy siblings made France feel proud. Brice has been known to joke about himself not being related to Romain at all, due to his height, 1,88cm versus Romain’s 1,74cm. I don’t know if this ever has occurred in his father’s head, but I guess he sleeps tight.
- JJ Rojas and Mariano Rojas. Until recently the wearer of the maillot vert, JJ Rojas, had a brother who also participated in the Tour. The brother Mariano was very talented, he wore the white jersey as he participated in the Tour when only 21 years old in 1995. Mariano rode for ONCE, and was trained by Manolo Saiz. Sadly, Mariano died in a car accident in 1996, only a year after his great performance in the Tour. JJ enjoy training in Spain and has been in teams like Liberty-Würth (amateur), Caisse d’Epargne and now Movistar. This years parcours suits the talented Spaniard and he could very well be a contender for the green jersey.
This is a short-list of the most famous Tour-brothers in the long history of the Tour de France, but there are certainly others.
Perhaps this is the year we will see if the Schlecks can benefit from being brothers, if they both stay out of trouble that is.