Way back in 2010, Mario Cipollini decried the lack of ‘machismo’ in modern cycling. I ran across some old Tour de France photos from 1928 that proves his point, in a way.
The guy with the macho snarl is Italian Giusto Cerutti. In the 1928 TdF, cyclists were not allowed to take support, so anything beyond minor repairs was forbidden during each stage. Cerutti fell badly and busted up his wheel, which is why he’s walking.
Derailleur’s weren’t introduced to Tour de France bicycles until 1937, so for the 1928 these hard men rode singlespeed bikes. The only way to change gears was by removing the wheel to flip it around for another cog ratio.
Below is Belgian Maurice Geldhof walking over Col d’Aubisque. You can see this was also before pavement or even cobblestones. That stage from Hendaye to Luchon is an insane 387 km / 240 miles. Yes, these men used drugs to drive themselves.
The 1928 winner, Nicolas Frantz, was leading by 75 minutes in Stage 19 when he rode over some railroad tracks and broke his frame. He was allowed to use a replacement bike, but all he could find along the route was an undersized women’s bike. He rode the final 100 km on that ladies bike at 27 km/hr (17 mph) to maintain his lead in the GC.