___Race Snippets

 

58th Tour de France 1971

 
   
 

By Barry Boyce CyclingRevealed Historian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top 25 All Time Tours #18

1971- Unbeatable Merckx Gets a Major Scare

CR Timeline 1971

Eddy ”the Cannibal” Merckx was unbeatable in his first two Tour de France (TdF) appearances. At the start line of the 1971 Tour Merckx was the overwhelming favorite. The best riders of this year's Tour planned an unofficial alliance to combat the Cannibal's huge talent.

The race started in Mulhouse on June 27, 1971 with the prologue team time trial (TTT). The Tour proceeded with a strange figure 8 route. It started in the counter-clockwise direction across northern France , then after an air transfer (*) to Rungis, a continued in a clockwise direction around Southern France .

SPECIAL NOTE: The July 3 rd (*) airplane transfer on the rest day following stage 6 was the first in Tour history.

When the hard climbing stages began, a young generation of talented climbers began to attack Merckx. Stage 8 featured a finish at the top of the renowned Puy de Dome . Dutchman Joop Zoetemelk, Luis Ocana, Lucien Van Impe, Bernard Thevenet, Joaquim Agostinho and Gosta Pettersson all took turns attacking the race leader. Four kilometers from the finish, Spaniard Luis Ocana launched the decisive move and broke away from the elite group. At the finish line Ocana had well deserved stage win, but his time gain was only 15 second on the race leader. The time difference was not great but the psychological gain was significant. Merckx maintained the Maillot Jaune, but the seeds of doubt had been planted.

Two days later on stage 10 from St. Etienne to Grenoble , the aggressive racing continued. As the lead group crossed the summit of the Col de Cucheron , Merckx punctures on the descent. While the race leader waited for a wheel change, the lead pack rolls away. The breakaway, led by Luis Ocana, opened a 1-minute gap on a hard chasing Merckx. The breakaway gained 1'09” on Merckx with Joop Zoetemelk taking the Maillot Jaune by 1 second over Ocana.

Tensions were high for stage 11 in the Alps , Ocana, Zoetemelk and Van Impe joined a breakaway group ahead of Merckx and Gosta Pettersson, who were in hot pursuit. Through the valley Ocana drove the pace of the breakaway, knowing that Merckx was chasing hard. Teammates Joseph Huysmans and Marinus Wagtmans deliver Merckx to the beginning of the 11.1 km, 6% finishing climb to Orcieres-Merlette well behind the breakaway. The defending champion charged up the climb trying to limit his time loss to Ocana. He finished the stage 3rd, 8'42” behind the new race leader, Ocana. The beleaguered Cannibal was in the unfamiliar position of trailing by 9'46” in the overall classification. Following the largest defeat of his career, Merckx uses the rest day to re-formulate his own plan.

The Tour was set to enter the tough climbing of the Pyrenees Mountains . Stage 14 from Revel to Luchon was a legendary stage and featured the climbs of the Portet d'Aspet, Col de Mente , and Col du Portillon . The weather was less than ideal as the riders left Revel. Thick black clouds threatened as the peloton traversed the narrow Portet d'Aspet descent. Merckx attacked and pulls away on the Col de Mente . Ocana answered immediately and joined Merckx. As the two approached the summit of the climb the black clouds opened up with torrential rain, hail, lightning and thunder. Rivers of water flowed down the narrow mountain road.

Over the foggy summit of the Col de Mente , Merckx, an excellent downhill rider, plummets insanely down the narrow, mountain road. Ocana followed Merckx taking serious risks of his own. Flying through the corners the Cannibal lost control and skidded into a low retaining wall at the side of the road. Ocana trailing close behind cannot avoid the fallen Merckx and crashed heavily. Merckx was up quickly and sped away. Ocana struggled to release his cleats from the toe clips and was struck in the kidney by the pursuing Zoetemelk. The Maillot Jaune lay on the ground screaming with pain. Quickly help arrived and Luis Ocana was rushed by helicopter to the hospital in St. Gaudens for treatment. His 1971 Tour dreams had come to an end.

Merckx was so shaken by the affair; he wanted to withdraw from the race. Long into the night his team director and teammates tried to persuade him to continue the race. Relenting the following day he did continue, but with respect for Ocana's efforts Merckx refused to wear the Maillot Jaune by default. He must wait until he earned the right to wear it. Four days later, he won the stage 17 breakaway sprint in Bordeaux and donned the Maillot Jaune again.

Eddy “the Cannibal” Merckx arrived in Paris to win the final stage individual time trial (ITT) and extend his overall lead. He took his third consecutive Tour de France victory.

Stage and Distance

Stage Winner

Race Leader

Prologue MULHOUSE, 11 km TTT

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 1a MULHOUSE-BAZEL (Sui), 59km

Eric Leman (Bel)

Marinus Wagtmans (Ned)

Stage 1b BAZEL (Sui)-FREIBURG, (Ger) 90km

Gerben Karstens (Ned)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 1c FREIBURG (Ger)-MULHOUSE, 74km

Albert Van Vlierberghe (Bel)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 2 MULHOUSE-STRASBOURG, 144km

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 3 STRASBOURG-NANCY, 165km

Marinus Wagtmans (Ned)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 4 NANCY-MARCHE EN FAMENNE, 242km

Jean-Pierre Genet (Fra)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 5 DINAN-ROUBAIX, 208km

Pietro Guerra (Ita)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 6a ROUBAIX-AMIENS, 127km

Eric Leman (Bel)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 6b AMIENS-LE TOUQUET, 133km

Mauro Simonetti (Ita)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 7 RUNGIS-NEVERS, 257km

Eric Leman (Bel)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 8 NEVERS-PUY DE DOME, 221km

Luis Ocana (Esp)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 9 CLERMONT FERRAND-ST ETIENNE, 153km

Walter Godefroot (Bel)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 10 ST ETIENNE-GRENOBLE, 188km

Bernard Thevenet (Fra)

Joop Zoetemelk (Ned)

Stage 11 GRENOBLE-ORCIERES MERLETTE, 134km

Luis Ocana (Esp)

Luis Ocana (Esp)

Stage 12 ORCIERES MERLETTE-MARSEILLE, 251km

Luciano Armani (Ita)

Luis Ocana (Esp)

Stage 13 ALBI-ALBI, 16 km ITT

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Luis Ocana (Esp)

Stage 14 REVEL-LUCHON, 214km

Jose-Manuel Fuente (Esp)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 15 LUCHON-SUPERBAGNERES, 19.6 km

Jose-Manuel Fuente (Esp)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 16a LUCHON-GOURETTE/Les Eaux Bonnes, 145 km

Labourdette Bernard (Fra)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 16b GOURETTE/Les Eaux Bonnes-PAU, 57.5 km

Herman Van Springel (Bel)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 17 MONT DE MARSAN-BORDEAUX, 188km

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 18 BORDEAUX-POITIERS, 244km

J-P Danguillaume (Fra)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 19 BLOIS-VERSAILLES, 185km

Jan Krekels (Ned)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 20 VERSAILLES-PARIS/Piste de Vincennes, 54 km ITT

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

 

BEST CLIMBER PRIZE

Lucien Van Impe (Bel)

    Eddy Merckx (Bel)



TdF June 26 - July 18, 1970
3,580 Km

1. Eddy MERCKX (Bel) 119h31'49"

2. Joop Zoetemelk (Ned) +9'51"

3. Lucien Van Impe (Bel) +11'08"

Starters: 130
Finishers: 94
Average Speed: 36.925 km/h

 

 

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