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NEW GITANE "CITY LINK" FRAMESET AVAILABLE FOR A LIMITED TIME IN THE USA!

For a limited time, Gitane's "City Link" single speed cross/commuter frameset will be available in select stores in the USA! This will be the first time in years any Gitane has been made available to customers in the USA. For only $399, you can own a French Legend!

Contact GitaneUSA for more details. Download the spec sheet here (pdf)

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Racing

Gitane has arguably the greatest race history of any bicycle manufacturer. The brand has been ridden to wins in every major tour, including 11 wins in the Tour de France, numerous world and speed titles, and nearly every other major bicycle race. No other bicycle manufacturer can compare with Gitane’s legendary palmares.

Gitane became synonymous with winning bicycle races in the early 1960's, when Jacques Anquetil rode Gitanes to victory major bicycle races throughout Europe. Most notably, he won the Tour de France three times aboard a Gitane (the other two were on Heylett bicycles). His team during that era was the classic St. Raphael squad, whose jersey was one of the most beautiful cycling jerseys ever made and has become an widely sought after collectors item.

While Anquetil was dominating events like the Tour, other Gitane riders were dominating in other cycling arenas. Rolf Wolfshohl won back to back World Cyclocross Championships on his Gitane in 1960 and 1961. Jean Stablinski became World Road Race Champion in 1962 riding his French “racing blue” Gitane.

After Anquetil left the cycling scene, Gitane was not as active in professional cycling, although it did maintain a team and a presence in the peleton. This all changed after the “bike boom” in the early 1970's, where rising gasoline prices world-wide helped fuel huge increase in bicycle sales.

As Gitane’s sales skyrocketed, so did their investment in professional bicycle racing. Gitane hired an brilliant and aggressive director sportif, Cyrille Guimard, who had a great eye for talent, and Belgian journeyman/climber Lucien Van Impe to lead its team in the 1976 Tour de France, which it won. However, Van Impe did not figure in the long term plans of the team (and reportedly did not get along with Guimard). Instead, it was a young Bernard Hinault that the team looked to as the rider of the future.

Gitane’s increased sales led to its purchase by the Renault auto group, which included the Elf oil company. Renault spent more money on bicycle racing than had ever been spent before and created the first modern “super team” in 1977: Renault-Elf. Renault-Elf, under the capable leadership of Cyrille Guimard, began assembling a team of the best young riders in the world. At the time, most were French, but Guimard would not let continental prejudices limit his vision of an all-powerful team.

Along with the French riders, Guimard did the unheard of: He went to the USA to hire bicycle riders. The first, Jonathan Boyer, led the way as the first cyclist from the USA to ride in the Tour de France (his subsequent history, though, makes it difficult even to include his name on this site...but he did what he did at the time). The biggest catch however, was signing a young Greg LeMond. Both Guimard and Hinault traveled to Nevada to personally sign LeMond to his first European pro contract, a move which would reshape cycling forever, leading to LeMond’s Tour de France victories, which paved the way and provided inspiration for riders such as Lance Armstrong.

 

At the time, though, Hinault was the man. His ferocity on the bicycle was matched only by Eddy Merckx: Hinault won everything. Classics, the Tour, time trials, bunch sprints, climbs...even on the track...you name it, Hinault was winning it. He won four of his five Tour de France’s aboard a blue Gitane. He won the World Road Race Championship on a Gitane, along with the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a’Espana.

1983 was a great year for Renault-Elf and Gitane. It started with a win in the Vuelta a’Espana for Bernard Hinault and ended with Gitane’s second World Road Race World Championship in three years when Greg LeMond crossed the finish line first astride his blue and yellow bike.
After Hinault’s Vuelta win in 1983, an injury sidelined him for the Tour de France, which allowed another Renault-Elf rider to rise to prominence: Laurent Fignon. Fignon’s natural talent and skill on the bike was legendary. Although unknown at the time, he was destined win the Tour in 1983 and repeat in 1984 with one of the most dominating races in history.

The 1984 Tour de France marks a high point in Gitane racing and set the mark (which has yet to be broken) for any team in the history of the Tour. While Lance Armstrong’s USPS/Discovery Channel team controlled races during his seven victories, no team ever dominated the Tour de France like Renault-Elf did on their Gitane’s in 1984.

Renault-Elf stormed to 8 stage wins (out of 23), including the team time trial. Fignon himself won 5 stages. A Renault-Elf rider wore the Yellow Jersey for 19 of the 23 stages (Vincent Barteau wore it from stage 5-16, and Fignon from 17-23). Fignon took the final Yellow Jersey as the first placed rider, LeMond took the White Jersey (best young rider) and 3rd place overall, and the Renault-Elf won the teams competition. No other team in the history of the Tour de France comes close to that type of domination.

All good things, though, must pass. First, I cannot go without mentioning the fact that Fignon would have won the 1984 Giro d’Italia had it not been for the treachery of Italian racing officials and blatant cheating by Francesco Moser, who robbed Gitane of another major tour win. After the 1984 year, things changed, beginning a steady but rapid decline for Gitane and its racing teams.

Hinault had left Gitane after it was clear that Fignon would be the number one rider after the 1983 Tour de France. Besides, he was offered a pile of money by France’s then famous, now infamous, “it” businessman Bernard Tapie. Tapie had formed a new bicycle team, named for one of his health food product brands, La Vie Claire. After the 1984 Tour, Tapie and Hinault approached Greg LeMond and offered him the first million dollar contract to leave Renault and join Hinault at La Vie Claire. Of course, he accepted, and changed the salary structure forever in bicycle racing.

More importantly, Gitane was being sold off by the Renault Group. Sagging sales, both for cars and bikes along with a recession in France led to a consolidation which would not support professional bike teams like before. Guimard’s Gitane riders sought new sponsorship, and found it in French convenience store (or supermarket, by their standards) “Systeme U”.
Systeme U had been a sponsor of bicycle racing for some years, but its teams were mostly second rate professionals. Now, it had a world-class organization: Team leader Laurent Fignon was backed by super-domestique’s Marc Madiot and Charly Mottet and prologue specialist Thierry Marie. With this group, Systeme U hoped to dominate the Tour de France. However, things started going wrong almost immediately.

While the team performed well and scored important victories, Fignon never regained his form of 1983/84 and was plagued by injuries. 1985 was highlighted by Marc Madiot’s win in the Paris-Roubaix. In 1986, they did win the prologue of the Tour (Marie) and the team time trial impressively, but Fignon ended up dropping out of the Tour. The one bright point of 1986 was Fignon’s win in the Fleche-Wallone, but the team really never lived up to its billing.
1988, the last year of Systeme U, saw Fignon score one of his more impressive wins in Milan-San Remo, but again underperformed at the Tour de France. It would be the last year of Gitane’s involvement with Guimard and Fignon, as for the 1989 season, Systeme U became “Super U” and switched to Raleigh bicycles - with disastrous 8-second consequences! They should have stayed with Gitane!

The second (and last) golden era of Gitane bicycle racing was at an end. It had lasted a little over a decade (1976-1988), during which time Gitane racked up the following impressive stats: Tour de France (7), World Championships (2), Giro d’Italia (2), Vuelta a’Espana (1), Paris-Roubaix (2), Milan-San Remo (1), Fleche-Wallone (3), Liege-Bastogne-Liege (1), and many more classics.

There is no other team which can compare to this decade of Gitane domination.
Life after Renault/Systeme U was significantly less glamorous for Gitane. First, it did a year of sponsorship for Charly Mottet’s RMO squad (1992). While Mottet was one of the classiest riders in the pro peleton and had a great career, he was not that successful with RMO, and Gitane’s involvement with the team was short lived.

In the mid-1990's, Marc Madiot started a team sponsored by the French national lottery: Francaise des Jeux. Because of his contacts with Gitane and Gitane’s interest in sponsoring French teams and French riders (by this time, Gitane’s ambition as a bicycle company was purely regional), Francaise des Jeux was riding Gitane bikes, playfully painted with lotto-ball numbers on the frames, with a touch of French racing blue to highlight the frames.

With Francaise des Jeux, Gitane was once again visible in the pro peleton - but sadly not in the front of it. And when the team decided to up the ante and step up to the big time around the year 2000, Gitane dropped its sponsorship, presumably because of monetary concerns. It was about this same time that Gitane was purchased by Cycleurope, which had Bianchi in mind for its “racing” brand. Gitane then sponsored the ill-fated Big-Mat/Auber 93 squad, which struggled for a few years until 2003, when it was not offered a ride in the Tour de France, and the sponsor (a hardware supply store similar to Home Depot) decided that its meager investment was too much, and pulled the plug on Big Mat. The Tour de France had become the only marketing tool worth anything to big corporations, and without a ride in the biggest race, corporations just won’t foot the bill.

So since 2003, one of the greatest names in bicycle racing has been allowed by Cycleurope to be completely absent from the pro peleton. Sadly, for the year 2005, they even stopped producing high-end racing frames for the line, which has forced loyal Gitane racing fans to search elsewhere for bicycles. It is this author’s hope that Cycleurope reconsider its decision and make Gitane a force once again in bicycle racing.

Below is a list of some of the major accomplishments aboard this classic French bicycle
(the list is not complete!).

1957 - Jacques Anquetil, Tour de France
1960 - Rudi Altig, World Champion (Amateur Pursuit)
- Rolf Wolfshohl, World Champion (Cyclocross)
1961 - Jacques Anquetil, Tour de France
- Rolf Wolfshohl, World Champion (Cyclocross)
1962 - Jean Stablinski, World Champion
1963 - Jacques Anquetil, Tour de France, Vuelta a Espana, Dauphine Libere, Paris-Nice
1964 - Jacques Anquetil, Tour de France
1965 - Jacques Anquetil, Paris-Nice
1973 - Enzo Mattioda, Bordeaux-Paris
1976 - Lucien Van Impe, Tour de France
1977 - Bernard Hinault, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Ghent-Whevelgem, Dauphine Libere, Grand Prix des Nations
1978 - Bernard Hinault, Tour de France
1979 - Bernard Hinault, Tour de France
1980 - Bernard Hinault, Giro d’Italia, World Champion, Liege-Bastogne-Liege
1981 - Bernard Hinault, Tour de France, Paris-Roubaix, Dauphine Libere
1982 - Bernard Hinault, Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Grand Prix des Nations
1983 - Laurent Fignon, Tour de France- Bernard Hinault, Vuelta a Espana- Greg LeMond, World Champion
1984 - Laurent Fignon, Tour de France

Gitane Sponsored Teams
1947 - Gitane (individual)

1948 - Gitane/Stella

1949 - Gitane/Hutchinson

1950 - Gitane/Hutchinson

1951 - Gitane/Hutchinson

1952 - Gitane/Hutchinson

1953 – Gitane/Hutchinson

1954 – Gitane/Hutchinson

1955 – Gitane

1960 - Rapha/Gitane

1961 - Rapha/Gitane

1962 - Gitane/Leroux/Dunlop

1963 – Saint-Raphaël/Gitane/Campagnolo

1964 – Saint-Raphaël/Gitane/Dunlop

1965 – Ford/France/Gitane

1966 – Ford/France/Hutchinson

1967 - Bieres '33'/Gitane

1969 - Gitane/Pampril

1972 - Gitane

1973 - Gitane/Frigecreme

1974 - Sonolor/Gitane

1975 – Gitane/Campagnolo

1976 – Gitane/Campagnolo

1977 – Gitane/Campagnolo

1978 – Renault/Gitane

1979 – Renault/Gitane

1980 – Renault/Gitane/Campagnolo

1981 – Renault/Gitane/Campagnolo

1982 – Renault/Gitane

1983 – Renault-Elf/Gitane

1983 - Eurotex/Mavic

1984 – Renault-Elf

1985 – Renault

1986 – Systeme U/Gitane

1987 – Systeme U

1988 – Systeme U

1989 – Toshiba/Karcher

1990 – Histor/Sigma

1992 – RMO/Gitane/Mavic

1994 – V.C. Lyon/Castorama/Cramer/Mavic

1997 – La Francaise des Jeux

1998 – La Francaise des Jeux

1999 – La Francaise des Jeux

2000 – La Francaise des Jeux

2001 – La Francaise des Jeux

2002 – BigMat-Auber 93

2003 – BigMat-Auber 93

2010 - Saur-Sojasun

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