Part 3: the inspiration of Tour de France director Félix Lévitan, 'Henri P'tit Pois Lemoine'
Henri Lemoine, also known as Petit Pois
Félix Lévitan, co-directing the Tour de France with general manager Jacques Godet in the seventies, had a final idea to create a more identifying shirt for the Tour de France's best climber. This shirt was only worn for the first time in 1975. The idea of using a white shirt filled with red spots, got a cynical remark of Lucien Van Impe, wearing this shirt in 1975: "This is a measles shirt!" But the day after the Belgian climber wore it with pride.
Six times Van Impe would be the best climber in the Tour de France. Many climbers or even not-climbers after him chased this shirt because of it's particular popularity. It can be considered as the most sympathetic bike-shirt in the world. But where did Lévitan found his inspiration? Well, it as a hommage to a pre-War cyclist. Once the journalist Lévitan wrote this article about the "pistard" Henri Lemoine (pistard = riding on the oval). «Non, vraiment, Henri Lemoine ne jouit pas de la popularité qu'il mérite! (...) Il n'est ni Adonis ni Petrone: il est Lemoine tout simplement, un petit bonhomme haut comme trois pommes, qui accomplit son travail avec une belle conscience, mais modestement, sans rechercher les effets», this is what you could read about this athlete born in 1909. In English: "neither Adonis or Petrone, this guy is simply Lemoine, not bigger than three apples high, but doing his job modest but with consciousness."
To complete the story, Henri Lemoine had found his inspiration in the world of horse jockeys, of which some of them use to wear a similar 2-colors outfit. Wounded in the Second World War and also being a war prisoner, 'P'tit pois' (surname of Henri Lemoine) continued his carreer till he was 48 years old.
The climbing jersey 'maillot aux pois rouges', became so popular in 1975-76 that the first sponsor of this climbing trophy in Tour de France, chocolate factory 'Poulain' even changed their packages. In stead of the original blue circle on an orange background, Poulain also started using the white background with a red circle.
Last Belgian Tour de France winner 1976, Lucien Van Impe was the first professional cycliste winning this King of the Mountains jersey with the red spots (1975). Six times the kind Belgian stood on the Champs Elysées podium wearing this prestigious cycling shirt