___Race Snippets

 

56th Tour de France 1969

 
   
 

By Barry Boyce CyclingRevealed Historian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top 25 All Time Tours #2

1969: Eddy's Overwhelming Arrival

CR Timeline 1969 [also see Special Notes below]

Young Belgian sensation, Eddy Merckx, arrived at the 1969 Tour de France with racing credentials beyond his years. His early palmares included major wins:

•  1966 Milan-San Remo (his first victory as a professional),

•  1967 World Road Race Championships,

•  1967 Giro d'Italia,

•  1968 Paris-Roubaix

•  1969 Tour of Flanders

Eddy's two ultimate ambitions in cycling were “to set the hour record and win the TdF.” The hour record would wait until 1972, but the first chance at the TdF victory came in 1969. The road to his first Tour was not easy for Merckx. In 1968, he was ordered to forego the Tour because the National team format did not provide enough sponsor exposure for his Italian Faema team. One year later in June 1969, during his preparation for the Tour, he found controversy at the Giro d'Italia. While leading the race through 16 stages, Merckx was found positive at a doping control (drug test) and expelled from the Giro. Merckx steadfastly denies the charges. The cycling official in charge of administrating the test also believed in his innocence, but the test was positive and action had to be taken. Not only was the Giro victory taken away but a doping suspension put his participation in the Tour in doubt.

The controversy began to swirl when his test results were not handled in the ordinary manner. The positive doping control was released to the press before all parties (Merckx and team officials) involved were notified. The damage was done and it was too late to recover. The handling of the affair by Italian officials was described as shameful. Curiously, the night before the 'random' drug test, an Italian rival offered to pay Merckx to throw the race. Merckx adamantly refused to purposefully lose the race. The very next day, the positive doping control was administered. With emotions running high, an angry Merckx went forward with his appeals.

After great negotiations and with full support of the Belgian government, the International Federation of Professional Cycling (IFPC) heard his appeal. With the hint of conspiracy swirling in the cycling community, on June 14 the IFPC gave Merckx the benefit of the doubt and overturned the suspension. The road was now clear for his entry into the TdF.

In 1969, the National team format of the previous 2 years was discarded; race organizers brought back the favored trade team format. The Tour route started in Roubaix then raced several days in Belgium and Holland before returning to France and continuing in the clockwise direction around France . The start list includes 130 riders from 13 trade teams for the 22-stage race.

Rudi Altig gained the first Maillot Jaune (race leaders Yellow Jersey) on Saturday, June 28 by winning the prologue time trial by 7 seconds over Eddy Merckx. Defending Tour champion Jan Janssen finished a distant 9th place, 27 seconds behind.

The very next day on part two of stage 1, Merckx motivated his powerful Faema team to win the team time trial. He gained the first Maillot Jaune of his TdF career. The young Belgian temporarily relinquished the race lead to his teammate Julien Stevens (Bel) on stage 2. Undeterred in his quest, Merckx came roaring back on the stage 6 finishing climb of the Ballon d'Alsace, to take back the Maillot Jaune. His domination of the stage gained over 4 minutes on each of the main contenders in the race. [Note: His stage 6 victory marked Eddy's first stage win in the TdF.]

Two stages later, Merckx cements his hold on the Maillot Jaune with another stage win. On the 9 km individual time trial ( ITT ) in Divonne les Bains Merckx earned the stage win by 2 seconds. He gained a few valuable seconds over Roger Pingeon and Raymond Poulidor. Pingeon and Poulidor steadfastly believed a Tour victory was possible against the young Belgian.

The Tour now entered the Alpine climbing stages. Stage 9 featured the tough climbs of the Col de la Forclaz and Col de Montet. The stage provided an ideal springboard for the French hopefuls. Roger Pingeon attacked on the Forclaz and broke away from the peloton. He rode side by side with Merckx over the top of the climb. Pingeon tried everything to drop Merckx but could not shake the aggressive Belgian. The two rivals rode steadily maintaining their lead over the Col de Montet. After their long breakaway Pingeon out sprinted a tired and cramping Merckx for the stage win. The breakaway gained 1'33” on the small Poulidor group and 2'13” on the Gimondi group.

Through the remaining Alpine stages Merckx and Pingeon battled to a draw. Merckx sustained an 8'03” lead going into the difficult Pyrenees Mountain stages. The Tour entered the “Circle of Death” (the hardest day in the Pyrenees , where a rider's hope of a TdF victory can die) on stage 17. The peloton stayed together on the early climbs of the Col du Peyresourde and the Col d'Aspin with Merckx's Faema team in full control. On the Col du Tourmalet, Faema teammate Martin Vandenbossch set a blistering pace early. Slowly, and under pressure from the Faema team, the group was down to 10 riders. Aggressively, Merckx sprinted over the top of the Tourmalet for the maximum Best Climber points. On the descent, he soft-pedaled, waiting for the re-grouping of the breakaway, but when Merckx looked back to see no one coming the talented Belgian instantly made the decision to attack. Merckx pushed his pace with 130 km remaining to the finish in Mourenx and built a lead of 2'40” by the base of the Col d'Aubisque. The solo breakaway lead grew to 7 minutes over the top of the Aubisque and Merckx cruised into Mourenx. An exhausted, but driven Merckx refused to slow the effort in the final 20 km and finished the stage 7'56” ahead of the 7-rider chase group. The 1969 TdF had 6 stages remaining until the finish in Paris , but the championship was decided in Mourenx.

Eddy Merckx went on to win the 37 km ITT from Creteil to Paris on the final stage. The ITT win capped a sensational Tour de France effort for Merckx. He had won the Maillot Jaune for the overall victory, the Maillot Vert (Green points Jersey ), the Best Climber's Prize , and the Maillot Blanc (White Combined Jersey).

SPECIAL NOTE: A relatively unknown French rider from the Peugeot team, Christian Raymond, called Merckx a “Cannibal," because of his insatiable appetite for victory and astonishing ability to devour a peloton. The nickname was so fitting for Merckx it remained with him throughout his career. The TdF legend of Eddy “the Cannibal” Merckx had begun in grand style.

Stage and Distance

Stage Winner

Race Leader

Prologue ROUBAIX , 10.4 km ITT

Rudi Altig (Ger)

Rudi Altig (Ger)

Stage 1a ROUBAIX-WOLUWE ST PIERRE (Bel), 147 km

Marino Basso (Ita)

Rudi Altig (Ger)

Stage 1b WOLUWE ST PIERRE (Bel), 16 km TTT Faema (Merckx) Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stg 2 WOLUWE ST PIERRE (Bel)- MAASTRICHT (Hol) 181 km

Julien Stevens (Bel)

Julien Stevens (Bel)

Stg 3 MAASTRICHT (Hol)-CHARLEVILLE MEZIERES, 213 km

Eric Leman (Bel)

Julien Stevens (Bel)

Stage 4 CHARLEVILLE MEZIERES- NANCY , 214 km

Rik Van Looy (Bel)

Julien Stevens (Bel)

Stage 5 NANCY-MULHOUSE, 193 km

Joaquim Agostinho (Por)

Julien Stevens (Bel)

Stage 6 MULHOUSE-BELFORT/Ballon d'Alsace, 133 km

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 7 BELFORT-DIVONNE LES BAINS, 241 km

Mariano Diaz (Spa)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 8a DIVONNE LES BAINS, 9 km ITT

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 8b DIVONNE LES BAINS-THONON LES BAINS, 136 km

Michele Dancelli (Ita)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 9 THONON LES BAINS-CHAMONIX, 111 km

Roger Pingeon (Fra)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 10 CHAMONIX-BRIANCON, 220 km

Herman Van Springel (Bel)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 11 BRIANCON-DIGNE, 198 km

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 12 DIGNE-AUBAGNE, 161 km

Felice Gimondi (Ita)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 13 AUBAGNE-LA GRANDE MOTTE, 195 km

Guido Reybroeck (Bel)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 14 LA GRANDE MOTTE-REVEL, 234 km

Joaquim Agostinho (Por)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 15 REVEL, 18 km ITT

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 16 REVEL/Castelnaudary-LUCHON, 199 km

Raymond Delisle (Fra)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 17 LA MONGIE-MOURENX/Ville Nouvelle, 214 km

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 18 MOURENX-BORDEAUX, 201 km

Barry Hoban (GBr)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 19 BORDEAUX-BRIVE, 192 km

Barry Hoban (GBr)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 20 BRIVE-CLERMONT FERRAND/Puy de Dome, 198 km

Pierre Matignon (Fra)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 21 CLERMONT FERRAND-MONTARGIS, 329 km

Herman Van Springel (Bel)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 22a MONTARGIS-CRETEIL, 112 km

Joseph Spruyt (Bel)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 22b CRETEIL-PARIS/Vincennes Velodrome, 37 km ITT

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

BEST CLIMBER PRIZE
Eddy Merckx (Bel)
GREEN JERSEY PRIZE
Eddy Merckx (Bel)
 
TdF June 28 - July 20, 1969
4,121 Km

1. Eddy MERCKX (Bel) 116h16'02"

2. Roger Pingeon (Fra) +17'54"

3. Raymond Poulidor (Fra) +22'13"

Starters: 130
Finishers: 86
Average Speed: 35.409 km/h

 

 

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