1953 Circuit des Six Provinces

Credit: Cycling 21 May 1953


Young roadmen in first four places.
Ian Steel, fifth in the mountains and 14th to race winner Adriaenssens, only British finisher

BELGIUM'S young roadmen were the complete masters in the Six Provinces race, which, centred on Lyons, France, ended last Thursday after eight days of racing. Always within reach of the leaders (invariably his fellow countrymen), Jean Adriaenssens, at 21 years almost the complete roadman, went to the head of affairs on the seventh day, severe mountain stage, and gained a few more seconds on the final day to win the race by 6 min. 13 sec.
Wyckstandt (Belgium), three times a leader in the race who rode himself giddy trying to keep in front on the seventh day, was second, Debruyne (Belgium) was third, Brankart (Belgium), time-trial winner and race leader after five days, was fourth.
Zaegers ( Belgium) was 17th; Plas (Belgium), third on the second stage, was 18th; Van Geneugden (Belgium), winner of the sixth stage and second in the time trial, was 20th!
Ian Steel was the only British finisher, in 14th place, 34 minutes behind the winner, with his fifth place on the seventh day our most challenging performance of the race, which had only 32 survivors from the 77 who set out with hopes of attaining glory and a place in the classic continental events, perhaps even the Tour de France. I. Greenfield and B. Wood, who remained from the original six Britons to contest the second half of the race with Steel, crashed descending a mountain on that fateful seventh day, when Steel shone, when the race winner took the lead and w hen the field was brought down from 50 to 38. Greenfield had. until then, been most prominent of the home riders but his machine, like that of Wood. was too badly damaged for continuation and both had to retire.
The big climbs in the race were concentrated over three of the four final stages, the fifth stage from Lons to Bourg, including Col de la Savine (3,270 ft.); La Faucille (4,200 ft ), Les Bouchoux (3,380 ft.) and the Col du Berthiand (2.500 ft.). The South-east France team decided to make a big offensive from the start. and this was so successful that they dominated affairs all day, Mirando taking maximum points in the mountain-climbing contest, Rotta winning the stage of 130 miles and Ellena finishing eighth. It was the latter two riders who, with Yeddou, made the vital break from the outskirts of Lons; they were joined by Mirando and Gil (Spain) within five miles; Yeddou was dropped, and by 20 miles the four were two minutes ahead. Mirando led on the Col de la Savine (30 miles) and the lead was increased to 2 min. 40 sec. On the descent to Morez this was reduced, but the long climb to the summit of La Faucille (50 miles) broke up the field, and it was a small peloton that now chased the leaders at 1 1/2 minutes. The lead became 2 1/2 minutes and was held for miles. Over Les Bouchoux, still the four kept in front, whilst the Belgians remained quiet. Wyckstandt, race leader, was finding the climbing difficult, but Zagers punctured and then stayed back to give help. The last big climb over the Col du Berthiand was tackled successfully by the leaders; Bertaina and Colette were out alone, 2 min. 45 sec. back, then came Adriaenssens and Brankart.
On the run in to Bourg the leaders lost Ellena with a puncture, but with a strong finish increased their advantage to 3 1/2 minutes, Rotta winning the sprint from Gil, of Spain, who, in turn, moved up from 18th to fifth place in general classification. Wyckstandt. 6 1/2 minutes down, was supplemented at the head by Brankart.
Greenfield finished in good company (with Wyckstandt) and moved up to 19th race position. Steel Punctured 10 kilometres from the finish and lost three minutes, otherwise he would have finished with Greenfield. Wood was 10 minutes behind.
Stage result.- Rotta, 6.7.9,1; Gil, 6.7.9, 2; Mirando, 6.7.9, 3; Greenfield, 6.12.33, 19; Steel, 6.13.35, 27; Wood, 6.23.9, 41
General classification,- Brankart, 23.31.49, 1; Wyckstandt. 23.32.22, 2; Adriaenssens, 23.33.53, 3; Greenfield, 23.44.50, 19; Steel, 24,1.18, 36; Wood. 24.23.58, 46.

FROM Cycling, May 22, 1952:- "Certainly in Nolten, Adriaenssens and Andresen (if he turns pro.) this year's race has shown us Tour de France giants of the future." (George Pearson's story of the Route de France) Nolten changed his status immediately and was a Tour de France sensation; now Belgian team manager, Sylvere Maes, says Adriaenssens, third in that Route de France event and Six Province race winner, is ready for the Tour. Andresen remains amateur, and played a major part in the Prague-Warsaw race, finishing second to his countryman.

From Our Paris Correspondent
THIS first race in which the British “independents” have taken part must not break the hearts of the youngsters hoping to shine in Continental racing later on. They can only be considered here as apprentices and therefore are not expected to win stages and wear the leader's iersey. They are, however. acclaimed for their courage by all the Continental critics. Greenfield said early that none of them were riding up to standard. "This stuff is something we have never come across so far and we are taking things steadily, learning all we can of the tactics of this Continental style of racing." He also said they were dreading the mountains. but on the day Greenfield was really good. Steel then came into the picture.

Eight Men Gain Five Minutes In 43 Miles

A fall put Van Geneugden back from third to 40th position at Bourg, in fact, he remained in the race "by courtesy”, finishing the fifth stage after the permitted time allowed from the winner. Elimination would, of course, have been a travesty of justice, as this brilliant Belgian showed on the sixth stage, 130 miles, to St. Chamond, which he won in the sprint after a 43-mile breakaway with seven riders.
It was an easier stage, a switchback road with a long grind up into St. Chamond, but the pace was fast, the time being 5.27.52. Throughout the day the Belgians kept a tight grip on happenings and when Gil, of Spain, who had progressed so well the previous day. got into the first breakaway. at 12 miles, Wyckstandt and Adriaenssens were among the dozen riders who got clear. They led by 2 1/2 minutes at 42 miles, with race-leader Brankart in a small chasing group just clear of the peloton. At the feeding station of Aoste (65 miles) the leading group numbered 11; some 15 riders, including four more Belgians were 2% minutes back, Steel was close to them and the field was back at 6; ti minutes. The English rider joined and, at 87 miles the two groups merged, creating a field split in two with a 1i minute gap.
Another attack broke out at the front, four Belgians this time with four other riders. It proved decisive and at 116 miles they were four minutes clear of a lone rider, with Steel and two more at five minutes and the field, including Brankart, back at Along the pave to the finish the leaders strung out and it became a contest between Bastianelli of France (one of the stars of last year's Isle of Man race) and three Belgians and the result was:- Van Geneugden. 5.27.52, 1; Bastianelli (at two lengths), 2; Adriaenssens, 3; Wyckstandt. 4, with Steel, 5,32.34, 11; Brankart, 5.34.34, 18; Greenfield, 5.47.19, 35; Wood, 5.47.37, 37, out of 50 finishers.
General classification was: Wyckstandt, 1; Adriaenssens (at 1 min. 33 sec.), 2; Brankart (at 6 min. 9 sec.), 3; Greenfield (at 31.55), 28: Steel (at 33.38), 29, and Wood (at 1.11.21), 47.

Steel's Day

St. Chamond to Val-les-Bains. 123 miles, backbreaking cols, heart-breaking miles for Wyckstandt, race-deciding miles for Adriaenssens - and a grand day for Ian Steel, a meritorious fifth ahead of the mountain ace Mirando who, early in the day, took two more firsts in the mountain-climb section.
Once the field had settled down Mirando came out with Rotta and Forestier (1st day winner). The climb up the Col de la Republique (20 miles) resulted in the three riders gaining 40 seconds with Adriaenssens alone in pursuit. Brankart at 2 min. 5 sec. and the field, including the Englishman, at 2.45. At 36 miles, the two Belgians joined the leaders and out of the peloton came Steel, Debruyne and Wyckstandt. Belgian manager Maes ordered his men at the front to halt their offensive, Mirando was first over Mount Bessat and a closing up at the front brought about a leading group of 13, including Steel, at Lamastre (67 miles). More hard chasing and the leading group over the Col Montrenaud numbered 20; at Vernoux (75 miles). Quennenen (Ile de France) attacked with Guitard. Adriaenssens and the Swiss Meili, to lead by 1 min. 15 sec. at the top of the Col de Comberon (80 miles). Steel was with 12 riders at this interval, which increased to 2!-Z minutes at 100 miles.
Another fierce climb over the Col de L'Escrinet established Steel for the day. The four in front stayed there: Steel and Mirando left the remainder and topped the hill 2 min. 50 sec. down, but 50 seconds clear of the field. Quennenen won the sprint with Meili 2, Guitard 3 and Adriaenssens 4. Then came Steel, outsprinting Mirando, at 3 min. 18 sec., with a fast-closing group of nine riders in the next quarter-minute. But 6 min. 55 sec. went by before Wyckstandt crossed the line, and so the race now stood: Adriaenssens, 1; Wyckstandt (at 5 min. 18 sec.). 2; Brankart (at 8.11), 3; Steel (at 33.23), 17. Greenfield and Wood had gone in that mountain descent crash.

A Race for Third Place

The last, and longest stage, 150 miles back to Lyons, more tough climbs, the inevitable breakaways of those with little chance - and the preservation of Adriaenssens' race-winning lead. Adriaenssens came in after 4 min. 56 sec., Steel and Mirando were again together at 5 min. 47 sec. in eighth and ninth positions. Sabbadini (S.W. France) won the stage, Debruyne, same time, moved up, and so the final role of honour was:-
1 J. Adriaenssens, Belgium... 42 9 58
2 K. Wyckstandt, Belgium... 42 16 11
3 A. Debruyne, Belgium ... 42 16 13
4 J. Brankart, Belgium... 42 17 34
5 B. Quennenen, Ile de France... 42 24 2
6 J. Mirando, S.E. France ... 42 26 59
14 I. Steel, Britain ... 42 44 12
Team - Belgium, 126.18.4, 1; S. West France, 127.17.46, 2
Mountain prize - Mirando, 67 pts.