In the summer of 1960, Frenchman Roger Rivière was the favourite to win the upcoming Tour de France, he’d beaten Ercole Baldini’s hour record in 1957 at the age of just 21. Rivière twice won the world pursuit championship, and in 1958 he surpassed his previous hour record, becoming the first person to ride 47km/h; a record that was to last 9 years.
Seemingly on top of his game at an athletic, youthful age of 24, Rivière was hailed as ‘the one to watch’ in the 1960 Tour de France. With the threat of Jacques Anquetil removed after he won the Giro d’Italia just a couple of weeks before, Rivière was promoted to favourite and looked set to have a decent chance of taking the Yellow Jersey.
Originally from Saint-Étienne, Rivière was one of 14 cyclists riding for France in 1960. Battling through a fierce rivalry with Henry Anglade, Rivière seemed the weakest of the two at the beginning of the race, as Anglade had the Yellow Jersey at the end of stage 6. Ironically enough, the two Frenchmen were on the same team, yet it didn’t stop the one on one nature of the personal war that raged on the roads.
Roger Rivière attacked the Tour, winning the opening time trial and laying down a series of early attacks from over 100km out to take stage wins. Rivière’s natural talent and youth allowed him to boldy make these moves and become a strong contender early on.
Rivière took a total of three stage wins in the 1960 Tour de France, but it was on the 14th stage that Rivière’s race was to take a turn for the worse. On a steep descent, possibly over-steering or miss-judging a turn, Rivière hit a small wall and flew over it, sliding down a slope and landing into a ravine. After alerts and confusion from journalists, a helicopter extracted him and analysed the damage. Unfortunately, Rivière had broken his back, and would never ride a bike again, living out most of his life in a wheelchair.
Doctors and dietitians’ findings uncovered traces of drug-use in Rivière’s body, leading many to believe that Roger was unable to pull his brakes due to being under the influence of drugs such as Palfium.
Roger Rivière spent the last remaining years of his life in a wheelchair, starting and experimenting with multiple business ventures .