Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Secret agent man

An interesting rider from the early days of cycling has an list of exceptional palmares, but with closer scrutiny I have discovered a man with an fascinating story. 
Paul Deman was a Belgium professional rider for 15 years from 1910-1925. During the first Tour of Flanders, held in 1913, he was included in a field of 37 riders. The course was long, 330 km long ending with 4 laps of the wooden track around a small pond at Mariakerke, the suburb of Ghent. One rider was so exhausted that he fell in the pond. And, 24 year old, carpet-maker Paul Deman was the winner. In 1914, Deman would be victorious once more in the gruelling 592 km Bordeaux-Paris road race.

As World War I arrived,  racing stopped and Deman traded his cycling jersey in for a military one. He became a courier for the intelligence services, carrying coded messages across the country hidden ... in a gold tooth. Shortly before the Armstice in 1918, he was caught on his 15th mission, and would have been shot had peace not been declared on the day of his execution. After the War, he returned back to the 'friendlier' confines of the cycling world ...  and in 1920 wins Paris-Roubaix.  He was first in front of the great Eugene Christophe and Lucien Buysse. Deman's last major victory was the 1923 Paris-Tours at the ripe old age of 34. 

Paul Deman was a true bona fide vanquisher both on and off the bike!

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