In the René Herse book, there is a chapter on the 1945 Omnium des Cyclotouristes, which included a climb up the steep cobblestone hill at Neauphle-le-Château near Paris. One of the riders, Paulette Porthault, remembered: “Oh it was awful, all those rough cobblestones which dated from the time of Louis XIV.”
Recently, Ivan Souverain visited the hill on his 1938 “Sans Peur” (Without Fear) 650B camping bicycle. He reports that it’s still as steep and difficult as it was in 1945.
In 1945, René André and Joël Simon were riding toward another victory for the René Herse team (top). The cobbles, the houses and the ancient wall all are still there 68 years later (above).
In 1945, many of the riders took to the side of the road, where the gravel and grass were smoother than the cobbles themselves. Above is the tandem of the Le Chevalliers, followed by Raymond Valance and his wife.
The sidepath now has been paved and is used for parking.
Ivan made it to the top, but his comment was: “The cobblestone hill is just not made for average rider like me.”
At least there is a Café nearby to celebrate his success. I have to ask Mme. Porthault whether they went that same cafe after the ride in 1945!
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