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Oldest Living Tour de France Winner Ferdinand “Ferdi” Kübler Dies

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Ferdinand Kübler, former world champion and Tour de France victor, died yesterday at a hospital in Zurich, Switzerland at the age of 97.

‘Ferdi’ Kübler was able to race abroad and spread his wings after the Second World War ended. The Swiss rider won three stages in 1947 and 1949, and in 1950 with Fausto Coppi at home in Italy, he toppled Gino Bartali to finish and win his first Tour de France.

He was the oldest living winner of the Tour de France until Thursday. 

“He softly fell asleep with a smile on his face,” his wife Christina said. “And shortly beforehand, he had told me that I’m the greatest women in the world.”

Recently retired Swiss cyclist Fabian Cancellara paid tribute to the “legend” and “big inspiration” with a post on Twitter.

Kubler, born in 1919 in the municipality of Mathalen in the north of Switzerland, turned professional in 1940. His early career was hampered by the Second World War and he predominantly raced at home in Switzerland. His first appearance at the Tour de France came in 1947, where he won two stages and got a taste of what was to come when spent a day in the yellow jersey. He missed out in 1948 but came back the following year to add a further stage win to his palmares.

It proved third time lucky for Kubler in 1950 as he went on to take the overall classification of the race, beating Stan Okers and future three-time champion Louison Bobet. He was the first Swiss rider to take home the fabled yellow jersey, with Hugo Koblet – Kubler’s biggest rival –becoming the second a year later.

Kubler’s career really blossomed after his Tour victory and he went on to take the rainbow stripes at the following season’s World Championships in 1951, adding to the bronze and silver he’d already collected. He also found success at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, La Flèche Wallonne, the Tour de Suisse, the Tour de Romandie and Bordeaux-Paris. 1950 would be his only Grand Tour victory despite two further podium finishes at the Tour and two at the Giro d’Italia.

Speaking to the French magazine L’Equipe in 2003 on the Tour’s 100th anniversary, Kübler said he was motivated to achieve cycling glory because of his hardscrabble childhood.

“I became a champion because I was poor,” he told L’Equipe. “I struggled to eat, to have a better life. I won the Tour de France because I dreamed, because I knew that after I would never be poor again.”

Kübler remained a revered figure in the wealthy alpine nation after his retirement, as he was regularly featured in commercials and made other media appearances.

French rider Roger Walkowiak, a winner in 1956 and born in 1927, is now the oldest living Tour winner at 89. Spain’s Federico Bahamontes, a winner in 1959, is 88.

 

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