May 1947. Louison Bobet signed his professional’s licence at the start of the season. Though dogged by bad luck, notably in the Classiques, he didn’t give way to discouragement. His class performance lit up the Six Provinces circuit, battled out in eastern France, where his qualities as a rider and a climber were noticed. Hope took to the roads. In another defining moment during the Boucles de La Seine circuit, Bobet responded to an attack from Edouard Muller and shortly after, around twenty men took the lead. Bit by bit, the group thinned out until only two were left, Thiétard and Bobet. Fifty kilometres from the finish, the Breton went on the attack, put his seasoned opponent behind him and flew in to the victory that also led to his selection for the French team in the Tour de France.
Louison Bobet wanted to revisit the early triumphs that had seen him in the first ranks, notably in the Milan-San Remo. In the Lombardy Tour, the powerful Italian armada had to be beaten. Bobet found himself in the lead in a group of seven men including Fausto Coppi. Completely surrounded by the Transalpine riders and beset by doubt, he chanced to overhear a conversation between Soldani and Minardi. The former asked the latter to give him the sprint. Bobet understood, and kept a close eye on Soldani. Third while entering onto Vigorelli’s path, he just had time to see Coppi in his wheel, and Coppi was faster than the Frenchman to “hook” Soldani’s wheel. Twenty metres from the finishing line, Louison seemed to have been beaten, but in an irresistible spurt, he took a quarter wheel from Minardi and won. Louison had reached a new stage in his career as a champion.
Thus far, the Tour de France had eluded Louison Bobet. In 1953, at the age of 28, he was beginning to despair. But it turned out to be his good year. Well prepared, he dealt the death blow to his fellow Breton Jean Malléjac. He rose, invincible and majestic in the summer sunlight. From the summit that he took alone, he rode into Briançon to win the yellow Jersey. The final victory of the Tour was just at the end of the road, and the Izoard would remain his favourite mountain…
Louison Bobet was at the peak of his popularity when, twenty-two days after his triumph in the Tour de France, he arrived as world champion in the German town of Solingen, where it had been raining for two days. Bobet was the absolute favourite in the race. At the end of the penultimate lap he was in the lead, as predicted, along with a Zurich “bulldog” by the name of Fritz Schaër. Suddenly consternation arose in the grandstand. From the loudspeaker came an announcement that “Louison Bobet has a flat and has to change bikes at the refuelling point!” A drama for the Frenchman, who had just passed his own stand, where all eyes had been riveted on him, by about a hundred meters. The mechanic’s assistant leapt on a bike to bring it to him. Schaër wasted no time, but Bobet, in a surge of power, caught up fast and left him hopelessly behind. Shortly after, the Frenchman emerged from the blanket of mist that had swept over the finishing line. He was world champion.
Louison Bobet was moving towards a further triumph in the Tour de France. He was suffering from a saddle wound that had re-opened, and feared that his adversaries would notice and take advantage. So he decided to silence the rumours by attacking Mount Ventoux during the 11 th leg Marseille-Avignon. Around ten kilometres from the summit, Bobet took off, and thus began a long martyrdom. He outstripped his main adversary, the Belgian Jean Brankart, and reached the summit alone. Exhausted, his eyes blurred, he was nevertheless careful to manage his descent, endeavouring to marshal his reflexes. He arrived in Avignon less than a minute ahead of the Belgian. Thus he responded with a stunning blow that dazzled his detractors into silence. Louison Bobet had surpassed himself, and had won.
In December 1961, while returning home after a charity evening, Louison Bobet and his brother Jean were involved in a car accident. Louison seemed to be the more seriously hurt, his leg literally lacerated. He would never return to the pelotons. Recovery was long, and he spent his convalescence in a sun and sea centre in Roscoff, in North Finistère. The virtues of sea water began to attract his attention, and gradually the idea came to him to build a centre with a new name, “thalassotherapy.” He started to plan, deciding that the town of Quiberon, at the end of a peninsular extending 14 kilometres into the sea, would be best suited to his idea. He invested his capital, carried out feasibility studies, familiarised himself with accountancy, met with doctors and knocked on the doors of financial investors, who received him with amused surprise. He embarked on a tour of the country to convince and explain. The Louison Bobet Thalassotherapy Centre was inaugurated on May 11 th1964 in the presence of Raymond Marcellin, the French Health Minister. The health and fitness cures became immensely popular, attracting a wide variety of celebrities who rushed to the beaches of the wild coast of the peninsular. Louison Bobet found success in a risky gamble that became a stunning and brilliant reality.