Sylvère Maes & Eloi Meulenberg - 1936 photo

Sylvere Maes and Eloi Muelenberg - 1936 Tour de France Caen main image

Eloi Meulenberg, Belgian, 1912 - 1989

Sylvère Maes, Belgian, 1909 - 1966

This unusual image shows a relaxed Sylvère Maes messing around with a garden hose, while Eloi Meulenberg stands beside him grinning inanely. It was taken at the rest day in Cannes during the 1936 Tour de France.

Sylvère Maes was the leader of a group of Belgian riders who dominated cycling in the 1930s. He won the Tour de France in 1936 (without a derailleur) and 1939 (after succumbing to the charms of a Super Champion changer). In the 1937 Tour he was locked in a duel with Roger Lapébie and was leading the General Classification, when a whole variety of underhand actions by the Tour organisers (all, naturally, favouring the French Lapébie) led Maes to leave the race in disgust.

I remember him primarily as the person who gave his name to 'Maes bends' - as drop handlebars were known in my youth. Sheldon Brown explains:

"The Maes bend is the most common type of drop handlebar. From the center, it goes straight out then bends forward in a gradual curve. When it has bent forward 90 degrees, it turns downward, and bends in a smooth, constant-radius curve approximately 160 degrees, then straightens out. It is usually set at an angle such that the forward-bending section is tilted somewhat downward toward the front. The bottom flat part of the "drops" will normally be level, or slightly down at the rear. It should be adjusted for straight wrists when the hands are resting on the drops."

Eloi Meulenberg was another member of this Belgian gang, supporting Sylvère by winning a total of nine stages across the 1936, 1937 and 1938 Tours. Eloi was also World Road Race Champion in 1937 (using a Super Champion derailleur). His Belgian team mates, Karel Kaers, Jean Aerts and Marcel Kint won the World Road Race Championships in 1934, 1935 and 1938 respectively. They were a powerful crew.

This is one of five images of Sylvère Maes on this site, the others are here, here, here and here. It is also one of three images of Eloi Meulenberg, the others are here and here.

(Source gallica.bnf.fr/ Bibliothèque nationale de France)

Sylvere Maes and Eloi Muelenberg - 1936 Tour de France Caen main image