After successful cycling debuts in Australia, Phil Anderson knew that he would have a better chance at turning pro if he flew to Europe. That’s how he landed in Paris and then joined the amateur ACBB team (Athletic Club Boulogne-Billancourt) in 1979 before turning pro the next year with Peugeot.
The adaptation was a bit difficult but Anderson still managed to win a few races during his neo-pro year. But his talent really got exposed to the public eye the next year.
The 1981 Tour de France was where the Australian really set himself as one of the biggest talents of his generation. 5 stages into the raced, he got to wear the Yellow Jersey. A first for a rider from outside Europe and therefore, for an Australian. The way it happened says a lot about the rider and the man he was at that time. Part of the breakaway on the road to Saint-Lary-Soulan, he forgot his sportive director’s instructions and hung on to the wheels instead of waiting for his leader. In the end, Lucien van Impe and Bernard Hinault were the only 2 riders able to beat him!
When came the time to climb on the podium to get his Yellow Jersey, he had no idea of how important this trophy was in the cycling world: “For me it was just like, ‘Oh yes, great, I don’t have to wash my old jersey tonight, you know, get a new one’. But really, you’re sort of at the highest level of the sport.”
During the next years, he went on to finish 6 times in the top 5 of the general classification and won 2 stages, paving the way for his fellow Australians that would finally see Cadel Evans winning the Tour de France in 2011.