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Charles Pelissier (pictured above), younger sibling of the rebellious Henri And Francis Pelissier, did not possess the natural racing ability of his older brothers. However, whilst Henri and Francis made their name with athletic prowess and outspoken views (Henri famously declaring that Tour riders of the time were treated ‘like dogs’) Charles became the first cycling pinup due to his his good looks and personal grooming. A precursor to peacocks of the peloton such as Koblet and Anquetil, Pelissier was also the first man to wear sparkling white socks.
Contrasting with his tanned legs, Pelissier’s white socks and the importance he placed upon his appearance made him a favourite with French housewives. He also won the affection of Henri Desgrange who gave him plenty of column inches in his paper L’Auto, particularly in the 1930 Tour. Interestingly the bunch sprint, which Desgrange had previously been averse to reporting on, became part of the main attraction due to Pelissier's popularity and being a decent sprinter. He was the first ‘Euro’ cyclist, using racing attire and swagger to acquire marginal gains on and off the road.
White socks and black shoes became de rigueur for race day and Hugo Koblet, Le Pédaleur de Charme, not only wore immaculate white socks along with his carefully coiffered locks but even drove a white Alfa Romeo (at top speed).
Jacques Anquetil, riding away with sparkling chaussettes.
Mario Cipollini, who enjoyed the adoration of Italy and beyond, was undoubtedly a peacock of the peloton, the archetypal Euro rider with rainbow stripes and plenty of eccentricity.
Of course, white socks should only be worn in dry conditions. Above: Eddy Merckx displays why oversocks were invented.
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