The Assassins! T-Shirt in our Tour de France collection celebrates one of the most famous and defining moments of the early years of the Tour.
"Vous êtes des assassins! Oui, des assassins!" ('You are murderers! Yes, murderers!) were the infamous words spat at Tour de France officials by the French rider, Octave Lapize, as he crested the Col d’Aubisque during Stage 10 of the 1910 edition of the Tour de France.
The 1910 edition of the race pitted the defending champion, François Faber from Luxembourg, against the French hopeful, Octave Lapize and was the first time that the organiser included the Pyrenees in the parcours.
This was a time when the routes into the upper reaches of the Pyrenees were little more than goat tracks - rough roads that rose steeply over mountain passes now synonymous with cycling. The announcement at the beginning of the year that the riders competing in the Tour would be subjected to two demanding days in the Pyrenees led to many riders withdrawing from the race and many commentators questioning the decision to include such brutal climbs.
Even the founder of the Tour, Henri Desgrange, had questioned the wisdom of including the Pyrenean climbs in the race, but one of his deputies, Alphonse Steinès, who was responsible for designing the route, was instrumental in persuading the Tour Director to reconsider. Following a reconnaissance of the route, Steinès telegrammed Desgrange back in Paris: "Crossed Tourmalet… Stop Very Good Road… Stop Perfectly Passable… Stop."
In 1910, the riders standing in the general classification was not decided by their cumulative times on the respective stages, but by points awarded on the basis of their finishing position for each stage. How long it took them to complete the stage was irrelevant - finishing position was everything and by the end of Stage Two, Faber had taken the overall lead, but as the race entered the Pyrenees it was Lapize who seized the initiative, winning the first of the two high mountain stages.
Two days later the riders faced the daunting Stage 10 - a staggering 326km (203 mile) stage from Luchon to Bayonne, during which the riders would have to ascend 5200 metres over the now iconic climbs of the Col du Peyresourde, the Col d'Aspin, the Col du Tourmalet, the Col du Soulor and the Col d'Aubisque.
The riders left Luchon at 3.30 in the morning. Lapize, armed with 12 pork chops crammed in his handlebar case, heading off into the darkness, riding aggressively over the first three major climbs. By the time he had reached the Tourmalet he was well ahead of Faber, with only Garrigou and the Frenchman, François Lafourcade, for company.
Octave Lapize on the Tourmalet - 1910 edition of the Tour de France
The ascent of the Tourmalet took its toll on many of the riders, including Lapize, who like several riders had been reduced to pushing his bike up the steep inclines. On the Col d'Aubisque the young Frenchman began to falter, again dismounting in order to negotiate the rough mountain track.
As he passed the race officials who had gathered at the top of the pass, a traumatised Lapize shouted out the words, "Vous etes des assassins! Oui, des assassins!"
He threatened to quit the race in the next town, but fuelled by anger and resentment, Lapize threw himself down the descent of the Aubisque, catching the one rider who remained in front of him, Frenchman François Lafourcade, and going onto win the stage in Bayonne.
Faber finished third and retained the overall lead, but in the subsequent run in to Paris, Lapize continued to chip away the point difference, eventually taking over the lead at the end of Stage 13. Faber did his best to close the gap, but Lapize secured the necessary points on the final stage, which brought him both the title and national hero status.
Despite the “Assassins!” accusation hurled at the Tour organisers the heroics of all the riders on the Tourmalet and the ding-dong battle between Lapize and Faber convinced Desgrange that the drama and excitement that had unfolded in the Pyrenees warranted their inclusion in all future editions of the race. The legendary, iconic status of the Tourmalet and her neighbouring peaks was born.
Our ‘Assassins!’ t-shirt references the famous words of Lapize and is combined with a newspaper advertisement promoting Stage 10 (10e Étape) of the 1910 edition of the race.
The T-shirt costs £19.95 and is available in a wide range of sizes, from Small to XXLarge and colours including Denim Blue, Stereo Red, Brown, White, Forest Green, Charcoal Grey and Purple.