___Race Snippets

 

64th Tour de France 1977

 
   
 

By Barry Boyce, CyclingRevealed Historian

 

 

Top 25 TdF

 

Merckx’s Final Attempt for Glory

CR Timeline 1977

The end of an era was near, Eddy “the Cannibal” Merckx returned for one final shot at Tour de France glory.  Defending champion Lucien Van Impe and 1975 champion Bernard Thevenet were on the list of possible champions.

SPECIAL NOTE: The Pyrenees Mountain climbing started early in 1977.  The tough stage from Auch to Pau (Col d’Aspin, Col du Tourmalet, Col d’Aubisque) was scheduled for stage 2

Young German Dietrich Thurau surprised the experts by winning the prologue time trial and putting on the first Maillot Jaune (race leader’s Yellow Jersey) of 1977.  Thurau continued to surprise with a great win on stage 2, the first stage in the Pyrenees Mountains.   

Eddy Merckx, trailing by 8 seconds, confidently started stage 5b, the 30 km individual time trial (ITT) in Bordeaux.  Merckx rode in anticipation of the Maillot Jaune, but Thurau continued to surprise everyone with his good form.  He beat the Cannibal by 50 seconds in the 30 km ITT.   

SPECIAL NOTE: The racing became apathetic during the flat stages traveling toward the Alps; none of the contenders for the overall classification attacked the race leader.  Race director Jacques Goddet wrote a scathing report in his daily newspaper column for L’Equipe, scolding the rider for their complacency. 

Stage 15b was the 14 km, 6.5% ITT climb up to Col d’Avoriaz.  Thurau struggled on the climb and lost 1’53” to the stage winner Lucien Van Impe.  He also lost 1’33” Bernard Thevenet, who took over the race lead by 11 seconds.   

SPECIAL NOTE: Scandal reared its ugly head when third place finisher Joop Zoetemelk was relegated for a positive reading at doping control.  A 10-minute penalty for the infraction put the Dutchman out of the overall victory competition.   

A determined Thurau fought back to win the next stage in the Alps.  His winning effort gained the stage win but was not enough to shake race leader Thevenet.  However, the effort caused Eddy Merckx to crack.  The struggling Belgian fell from his third place on the overall classification. 

After Van Impe and Thurau struggle on Alpe d’Huez the race for the Tour championship came down to a Thevenet-Kuiper battle.  The two were separated by only 8 second.  The next test was the 50 km ITT in Dijon.  The long grind up the slopes of Sombernon (category 3 climb) provided the race leader with the opportunity to excel.  Strategically, Thevenet started slowly and increased his tempo as the course got harder.  For his effort, Thevenet won the stage and gained a valuable 28 seconds on Kuiper. 

Trailing by 36 seconds in overall classification, Kuiper was not able to use the 6 km ITT on the Champs Elysees to close on the Frenchman.  Bernard Thevenet rode across the finish line in Paris for his second Tour de France victory. 

SPECIAL NOTE: The specter of doping became a hot issue in Paris.  Several riders were displaced after being found positive at doping control in the Alps.  The most notable rider was Joop Zoetemelk, who was displaced from a third place ITT finish on the climb of the Avoriaz.  Rumors started swirling about the top two in the overall classification, Thevenet and Kuiper.  Quickly after the end of the Tour, race official scrambled to meet, and ultimately issued the final statement confirming Thevenet as the winner of the 1977 Tour de France.  During a hospitalized that winter, Thevenet did admit to having taken cortisone.  After the reports came out, his popularity plunged in France.  Although he raced in the Tour until 1981, he never again contended for the overall championship. 

SPECIAL NOTE: Eddy “the Cannibal” Merckx rode a very strong race but was clearly off his previous TdF exploits.  The legendary Belgian finished 6th overall, 12’38” behind Thevenet.  This would be Merckx’s last Tour de France effort.  In 1978, Merckx retired from cycling only weeks before the start of the Tour.  Cycling lost its greatest champion but the legend of Eddy Merckx will live for years to come.

Stage and Distance

Stage Winner

Race Leader

Prologue FLEURANCE, 5 km ITT

Dietrich Thurau (Ger)

Dietrich Thurau  (Ger)

Stage 1 FLEURANCE-AUCH, 237 km

Pierre-Raymond Villemiane (Fra)

Dietrich Thurau  (Ger)

Stage 2 AUCH-PAU, 253 km 

Dietrich Thurau (Ger)

Dietrich Thurau  (Ger)

Stage 3 OLORON STE MARIE-VITORIA (Spa), 248 km 

Jose Nazabal (Esp)

Dietrich Thurau  (Ger)

Stage 4 VITORIA (Spa)-SEIGNOSSE LE PENON, 256 km 

Regis Delepine (Fra)

Dietrich Thurau  (Ger)

Stage 5a MORCENX-BORDEAUX, 138 km

Jacques Esclassan (Fra)

Dietrich Thurau  (Ger)

Stage 5b BORDEAUX/Circuit du Lac, 30 km ITT

Dietrich Thurau (Ger)

Dietrich Thurau  (Ger)

Stage 6 BORDEAUX-LIMOGES, 225 km

Jan Raas (Ned)

Dietrich Thurau  (Ger)

Stage 7a JAUNAY CLAN-ANGERS, 139 km

Patrick Sercu (Bel)

Dietrich Thurau  (Ger)

Stage 8 ANGERS-LORIENT, 246 km

Giacinto Santambrogio (Ita)

Dietrich Thurau  (Ger)

Stage 9 LORIENT-RENNES, 187 km 

Peter Klaus-Thaler (Ger)

Dietrich Thurau  (Ger)

Stage 10 BAGNOLES DE L'ORNE-ROUEN, 174 km

Fedor Den Hertog (Ned)

Dietrich Thurau  (Ger)

Stage 11 ROUEN-ROUBAIX, 242 km

Jean-Pierre Danguillaume (Fra)

Dietrich Thurau  (Ger)

Stage 12 ROUBAIX-CHARLEROI 192 km

Patrick Sercu (Bel)

Dietrich Thurau  (Ger)

Stage 13a FREIBOURG IM BREISGAU (Ger), 46 km

Patrick Sercu (Bel)

Dietrich Thurau  (Ger)

Stage 13b ALTKIRCH (Ger)-BESANCON, 159 km

Jean-Pierre Danguillaume (Fra)

Dietrich Thurau  (Ger)

Stage 14 BESANCON-THONON LES BAINS, 230 km 

Bernard Quilfen (Fra)

Dietrich Thurau  (Ger)

Stage 15a THONON LES BAINS-MORZINE, 105 km

Paul Wellens (Bel)

Dietrich Thurau  (Ger)

Stage 15b MORZINE-AVORIAZ, 14 km ITT

Lucien Van Impe (Bel)

Bernard Thevenet (Fra)

Stage 16 MORZINE-CHAMONIX, 121 km

Dietrich Thurau (Ger)

Bernard Thevenet (Fra)

Stage 17 CHAMONIX-ALPE D'HUEZ, 184 km

Hennie Kuiper (Ned)

Bernard Thevenet (Fra)

Stage 18 ROSSIGNOL VOIRON-ST ETIENNE, 199 km

Eddy Merckx  (Bel)

Bernard Thevenet (Fra)

Stage 19 ST TRIVER-DIJON, 171 km

Gerrie Knetemann (Ned)

Bernard Thevenet (Fra)

Stage 20 DIJON-DIJON, 50 km ITT

Bernard Thevenet (Fra)

Bernard Thevenet (Fra)

Stage 21 MONTEREAU-VERSAILLES, 141 km

Gerrie Knetemann (Ned)

Bernard Thevenet (Fra)

Stage 22a PARIS/Champs Elysees, 6 km ITT

Dietrich Thurau (Ger)

Bernard Thevenet (Fra)

Stage 22b PARIS/Circuit des Champs Elysees, 91 km

Alain Meslet (Fra)

YJ Bernard Thevenet (Fra)

POLKA DOT JERSEY

PDJLucien Van Impe (Bel)

  GREEN POINT'S JERSEY

GJJacques Esclassan (Fra)



TdF June 30 - July 24, 1977
4,093 Km

1. Bernard THEVENET (Fra) 115h38'30"

2. Hennie Kuiper (Ned) +48"

3. Lucien Van Impe (Bel) +3'32"

Starters: 100
Finishers: 53
Average Speed: 35.585 km/h

 

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