From the Archive of Bicycling Ephemera: The French Bicycling Calvary. While hunting around for Paris-Nice related material, we came across this cool photo.
Little is know about this historical unit — at least after a mid-dive into google. We did learn that French military cyclists were “equipped with a folding bicycle, which allowed of cross-country movement without leaving the bicycles unguarded.” Remember, this was before the invention of the Kryptonite U lock, mes amis.
We’re guessing they did poorly against German machine guns, grenades and later, tanks in World War I. But Quick Step, Astana and Radio Shack would have had the same difficulty.
There is no mention of their training methods, VO2 max or lactate thresholds. Still, we’re guessing even a present-day Neo-Pro could crush these guys on a hard climb. However, they were pretty good with a rifle. If a breakaway was slow in taking off, they’d drill you with a bullet.