1950s Biographies - Fred Krebs

Tracing the Missing Man

Back in 2003, Brian Robinson commented during an interview (ProCycling August 2003) that he never heard anything of Krebbs (“Krebbsy”) after he abandoned on Stage 11 of the 1955 Tour de France

This triggered a few queries on the cycling forums - but no new leads, clues or positive information. And it was not until I started collecting info for these biographies that I decided to take up the challenge. The 1954 ToB programme simply said “Austrian-born Fred Krebs, 22, Cambridge, at present in the RAF”. Would that be enough?

Since I had already learnt how to trace people when working on family history projects this seemed like an easy task; an uncommon surname making for a good chance of a quick success. But I was wrong. First there were no entries for the surname Krebbs in the key family history index. There were plenty for Krebs - but then none for a Fred Krebs; so perhaps he was still alive and had never married or had moved overseas. There was just one entry for a Frederick Krebs but the date was wrong. Checking on the French cycling history site - - gave me the name Alfred Krebs born 23-Nov-1931; but this too was equally untraceable.

Krebs-Hercules-1955BThen I bought a copy of the 1955 ToB programme (see right) and that gave me a new name - Frederick Otma Krebs

This was enough of a clue to find some references to Frederick Otma in the online sources. These showed, sadly, that Freddie had died sometime before 1998. However I did decide to send a letter to his last known address. And here are the key points from the reply sent by his widow -

Freddie married in 1960 and by then had left all thoughts of cycling behind. But still being a keen sportsman he became a 2-handicap golfer. He had a successful business career but died suddenly whilst playing golf in 1995 (aged 64). He left behind two children and now two grandchildren

So, for me, that closes this particular chapter - but I did send a copy of the 1955 programme entry to memoire-du-cyclisme for a correction to their entry.

Krebs 1954 HerculesThis bicycle was ridden in the 1955 Tour de France by Fred Krebs of the Hercules team. This bicycle was crashed by Krebs in Paris-Roubaix resulting in the original fork being replaced along with one of the rims. After the 1955 season, the bike was purchased by Bill Hodgson who rode it thousands of miles as a semi-pro in England. This bike was custom built with a real mix of components including a Louison Bobet Huret rear derailleur with two levers on one down tube braze-on. One lever did the shifting and the other controlled pulley tension. It has a rod operated Simplex front derailleur and steel cottered cranks.

Thanks to Rydjor Bike Shop for this photo and info.

Krebs 1955 TdF Stage 11 Freddie was forced to retire on the mountainous Stage 11 of the 1955 Tour de France - but with Hercules in Europe he did finish 17th in Milan-San Remo, 10th in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and 29th in Fleche Wallonne as well as his historic 5th place in the 1954 Tour of Europe

In the 1954 Tour of Britain he won the 90 mile Lincoln to Manchester stage by 6 seconds from Eugene Tamburlini; the final overall winner. And as more material from the 1950s is checked plenty of other results are found. Some are shown below - but the “Personality Parade” article from 1953 requires a separate page >>>

Could Freddie have become a successful pro in a European team? Of course!

But then why should he? There were better ways of making a living for a qualified engineer than toiling around Europe racing against “medicated” opponents. Pro cycling in 1955 was much removed from the situation in 2010.

Krebs-Hercules-1955CMore yet to find?

Well here is an Hercules team photo signed by Freddie Krebs spotted recently on eBay (Feb-2010).

Hercules 1954 JerseyHas anyone got an Hercules jersey hidden away? Or even a GB jersey from the 1955 Tour? Who knows? But if one turns up I will be bidding - and might even have a few replicas made up; if there any other equally crazy people to buy them.
This example seems to be just one of many variations of design and colour combinations that were used within just 3 or 4 seasons.

The Bicycle, 23-Sep-1953
FRED KREBS, R.A.F. land-flyer, took his wings to Coventry, on Sunday, and, easily the best man on view during Coventry C.C. 72-mile mass start, thoroughly deserved his victory. He was in evidence all the way, and at the beginning of the last nine miles, Krebs, Bernard King, T. Jeoffrey, Ealing Manor, and B. Swindells, Solihull, were over a minute up. Krebs arrived at journey's end unaccompanied, and riding easily.
1, F. Krebs R.A.F. C.A., the 72 miles in 2h. 56m. 55s.; 2, B. Swindells, Solihull C.C., at 10s.; 3, T. Jeoffrey, Ealing Manor C.C., at 1m. 20s.; 4. B. King, Coventry C.C., at 2m. 20s. Team Race. - Coventry C.C.

1953 Tour of the Chilterns
Krebs wins Tour of the Chilterns (above)

The Bicycle 7-Oct-1953
THREE days after his fine "Tour of the Chilterns” victory, Fred Krebs won the R.A.F. High Wycombe 52-mile mass start event, over which part of the course incorporated the same roads as the Chilterns. The young Service rider stormed his way over the hills, near Princes Risborough, and was on his own when he arrived at the finish, having covered the 52 hilly miles in 2h. 14m. 8s.
R. Bridge, R.A.F. Wyton, whose earlier efforts in the race, which was run off in far from ideal conditions. told on him as the race neared its finish, and he finished 45 seconds behind Krebs.
1, F. Krebs, R.A.F. Henlow, the 52 miles in 2h. 14m. 8s.: 2, R. Bridge. R.A.F. Wyton. at 45s.: 3, Seddon. R.A.F. Lindholme, at 2m. 44s.: 4. Goddard. R.A.F. Henlow, at 6m. 6;.: McFarlane. R.A.F. Leconfield, 6m. 8s.: Drayton. R.A.F. Upwood. 26m. 30s.
First Team. R.A.F. Henlow. Primes. Smith, Nuneham Pk.: Krebs, Henlow

Fred Krebs, winner of the Tour of the Chilterns, has been invited by Le Derailleur Simplex, Ltd.. to spend a month on the French Riviera at the company's training camp when he is released from the R.A.F. Other British roadmen of promise will be given similar facilities in France and Italy. [The Bicycle 21-Oct-1953]

Bicycle 1954 Tour of Europe

Paris-Nice 1955 Krebs-BedwellFreddie leads David Bedwell in a stage of the very tough Paris-Nice race of 1955. A race where over 50 riders retired - including Fausto Coppi.
Freddie finished 42nd in Nice and the best of the three Hercules team riders to finish - 5m58s ahead of Bedwell and 7m58s ahead of Den Talbot - but still some 33m behind overall winner Raymond Impanis of Belgium.

Bicycle 1954 Krebs Bedwell TalbotFreddie Krebs, Dave Bedwell and Dennis Talbot out training in the West Country is the first photo in The Bicycle for 10-Mar-1954

Credit: Cycling 27-May-1954
AFTER fighting his way to seventh position in general classification in the four-day Tour of Luxembourg, Fred Krebs, R.A.F. and Hercules professional, found nothing would go right for him on the final 143-mile hilly stage and finally finished 16th, both on the day and in general classification. D. Buttle was forced to retire on this stage and the "English" team was thus reduced to Krebs and the last-minute substitute, the Belgian Jobe (Bedwell and Parker had previously retired.) Schmitz, of Luxembourg, attacked almost from the start of the stage, and, against all expectations, not only maintained, but increased his lead to over 18 minutes by the end of the day. Krebs missed this vital break and after some fine chases he twice caught the main group, only to puncture on each occasion.
On the last day of the Tour of Luxembourg, the 143-mile stage from Diekirch to Esch, the route, included practically every hill in Luxembourg, resulting in hard racing - and big intervals between finishing groups. Both the British riders now left in the race started, although Buttle was having a lot of trouble with  his badly bruised leg - a legacy of  his crash on the third stage when he finished fifth.
After a fast start, two Italians, Sforachi and Polo, pulled away on the 5-mile climb of the Bourscheid hill, but were caught after 25 miles. Immediately Schmitz, who was leading on general classification, and Gaul of Luxembourg, jumped ahead. Krebs had waited in the back bunch for Buttle, who found the cold damp weather prevented him from working his leg in, and he retired at 20 miles. That left Krebs in a bunch of 12 riders, none of whom would work together. He eventually got a break going with Alec Close of Belgium and Tour de France fame, Croci-Torti of Switzerland, and several others. In the meantime, Schmitz and Gaul were steadily increasing, their lead over the group ahead of Krebs, being 1 min. up at 27 miles and 3 min. at Knaphoschieh hill (32 miles). It was here that Krebs caught the front group, completing the chase with a lone effort. Close and others soon followed him. Then Krebs punctured, caught up, then punctured again. This time he changed wheels with the Belgian Jobe and again chased on his own to catch the bunch. Schmitz and Gaul were still ahead, nearly 6 minutes. Krebs again caught the chasing group, but a fresh attack broke out and they were split into two, Krebs being left in the second half. He attacked again and got away, but was now 8 min. 30 sec. behind the two leaders and 1 min. behind the main peloton with 86 miles yet to do. His earlier efforts now began to tell on him and he steadily lost time on the leaders until he was 15 min. down at 84 miles and 17 min. 40 sec. at 130 miles. He finally finished only 16th, over 31 min. down on the winner and consequently dropped from 7th to 16th on final classification. Winner of the stage was Gaul, Schmitz not bothering to contest the sprint. This was not surprising: with 18:29 advantage on that stage Schmitz had won the Tour in great style.

Attacking Ride Gives Him Fine C. J. Fox Memorial Race Victory

Credit: Cycling 1-Jul-1954
WHEN Fred Krebs beat Ken Mitchell by a length at the conclusion of the C. J. Fox memorial road race, "finis" could be written on a five-man breakaway story that had started 50 miles farther back.
The race was won and lost on the 1,000-ft. climb to Mountain, the name of a village overlooking Bradford, through which the riders had to pass seven times. On this grind, made harder by a N.W. wind, D. Booker, F. Krebs, K. Mitchell, D. Petty and T. Fenwick went away in the second lap to a lead of 1 1/2 min. Petty dropped back on the. third climb and was absorbed, and the same fate occurred to Booker on the fifth lap. On the same circuit local boy Brian Robinson burst away from the bunch but was hauled back five miles later.
Krebs launched a searing attack; to split the breakaways on the last ascent and gained 10 sec. on Mitchell and Fenwick. Mitchell made contact with the R.A.F. rider but Fenwick faltered and was caught by the pursuers. Krebs out-sprinted a tiring Mitchell and Bedwell used his famous burst to gain third place. Brian Robinson broke a spindle with four miles to go and finished on a borrowed cycle.
Result. - F. Krebs (Hercules cycle, Dunlop tyres, Cyclo gears, G.B. brakes, Renold chain, Fibrax brake- blocks), 3 hr. 15 min. 44 sec., 1; K. Mitchell, at one length, 2; D. Bedwell. at 31 sec., 3: C. Parker, 4; T. Fenwick. 5; R. Maitland, J. Pottier, L. Wilson and A. llsley, equal 6

Bicycle19530923-1“F.O." before the name of  Krebs refers to his initials, for the Cambridgeshire R.C. star is still a modest airman. But promotion has come rapidly in the cycling world; last year he was successful in East Anglian time trials; this year in his first serious attempts at mass start riding he rode for England at Lugano. Now he is rounding off the season with a splendid come-back into the time trial game. >>

The Bicycle 16-Sep-1953
AFTER a successful season in mass start events, Cambridgeshire R.C. rider Fred Krebs surprised the time trial specialists in the Bournemouth Arrow C.C. 100 with his winning 4h. 11m. 25s. This beat his previous best by nearly 10 minutes and beat Ken Whitmarsh's course and event record by five minutes.
Whitmarsh was to have made an appearance in this event but was indisposed. General verdict was that the Southampton man seemed to have missed the B.B.A.R. "boat" on this, the fastest morning in the South D.C. this year.
Following Krebs came fellow-R.A.F. man Dave Moss, of the promoting club. This was his first-ever open 100, but he "doubled" by recording 4-17-26 and crashing into the first 12 in,the B.B.A.R. contest.
Moss led his rival at 50 miles by one second, but surrendered the lead during the next 25 miles, for at the three-quarter distance check. Krebs, showing 3-7-55, was the "pathfinder” by 1m. 45s.
For third man D. Rolt, North London C.C., it was a bitter-sweet morning. His "actual" of 4-21-47, allied to his allowance of 19m. 15s.. would have given him second handicap award. He failed to notify a recent slight improvement to the timekeeper until after the event and was ruled out of the handicap section under Regulation 27 Eventual winner, w s G. Smith, Icknield R.C., who improved some 12 minutes.
Another notable improvement was that of George Attenborough, the event secretary, and first man off, who was inside 4h. 40m. for the first time.
Only one and a half minutes separated the leaders in the team race. Middlesex R.C. just took the honours with 13-30-39 against Icknield R.C.'s 13-32-17.
F. Krebs, Cambs. R.C. 4 11 25
D. Moss, Bournemouth Arr. 4 17 26
D. Rolt, N. London  4 21 47
A. Nuttgens, Middx. R.C.  4 24 8
D. Gambles, Poly  4 25 20
J. Mills. Southgate  4 25 37
S. Leaver, University  4 25 54
G. Ballands. Silchester  4 26 47
Handicap - G. Smith, Icknield R.C. (33). 4-1-43
Team Race - Middx R.C., 13-30-39

Apologies for the entries being out of sequence with the dates - will correct this once the remaining sources have been checked