The story of Britain's first-ever Tour de France team

Sixty-five years ago Britain sent a full team to Le Tour for the first time. Giles Belbin tells the story of Team GB’s historic debut

Team boss Cozens chats to his riders (clockwise from top left): Steel, Maitland, Hoar, Robinson, Mitchell and Krebs (Photo by Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The night before the final stage of the 1955 Tour de France, Britain’s Brian Robinson and Tony Hoar couldn’t sleep. Behind them were 4,247km of tough racing, crashes and punctures; three weeks of cobblestones, mountains and desperate chases. Now, ahead lay only 229km more, from Tours to Paris and a final sprint on the famous Parc des Princes track.

Robinson and Hoar tossed and turned all night. Earlier that day both had raced into Tours at the end of a 68.6km time trial from Châtellerault, Hoar besting Robinson by 1min 22sec. But it was Robinson who held the advantage overall, lying some 40 places higher up the general classification. Whether it was adrenaline from a day spent racing against the clock, or a nervous sense of anticipation at becoming the first British riders to complete the Tour, that kept them awake is not clear. Perhaps the two riders were fitful and restless due to the noise from the post-stage parties that lasted long into the night. "Tony Hoar and I had not slept a wink when we set out on this remarkable adventure," Robinson would later say when reflecting on the special experience of riding the Tour’s final stage.

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