___Race Snippets

 

62nd Tour de France 1975

 
   
 

By Barry Boyce, CyclingRevealed Historian

 

Thevenet Exploits a Vulnerable Merckx

CR Timeline 1975

SPECIAL NOTE: Three major innovations were introduced in 1975:

The Tour Ending Finish Line was Moved- Tour organizers recognized the increasing popularity of the final stage spectacle and moved the finish line from the Parisian velodrome finish (Parc des Princes Velodrome 1903-1967, Vincennes Velodrome 1968-1974) to the Champs Elysees

King of the Mountains- Although the Best Climber Category had been in place since 1933, it was not until 1975 that the organizers awarded a distinctive jersey to the best climber.  The Maillot Pois (Polka Dot Jersey) was sponsored by Poulain Chocolates.  The candy company wanted increased public exposure for its products and jumped at the chance to sponsor a Tour jersey.  The white jersey with red polka dots was chosen for the sponsor’s distinctive candy bar wrapper.  Over the years the Polka Dot Jersey has become the second most recognizable jersey in cycling.

Best Young Rider Prize- The Maillot Blanc (White Jersey) had always meant the lead rider in the Combination Classification (best rider in the overall, points and climbing competitions).  In 1975 the Best Young (under 26 years of age) Rider Classification was awarded the Maillot Blanc.  The classification was calculated the same as the Maillot Jaune (race leader’s Yellow Jersey), but only available to young riders.

Eddy “the Cannibal” Merckx enters the 1975 Tour de France in search of a record setting sixth championship. In Charleroi (Bel), young Italian star Francesco Moser won the prologue time trial by 2 seconds over defending champion Eddy Merckx.  This dynamic-duo took turns setting a torrid pace on the early, flat stages.  By the end of the first days racing, Merckx and Moser had gained 1’30” on the contenders Bernard Thevenet and Lucien Van Impe. 

Bernard Thevenet had moved up into third place in the General Classification and seemed primed for a great battle with Merckx in the Pyrenees Mountains.  A brutal Stage 11 featured the climbs of the Col du Tourmalet, Col d’Aspin, and the finishing climb to Pla d’Adet.  Lucien Van Impe won the first two climbs and drove the pace toward the Pla d’Adet.  At the bottom of the final 8 km climb Thevenet attacked the lead group.  Merckx, Joop Zoetemelk, Van Impe and Luis Ocana quickly chased the move.  Once caught Zoetemelk launched the next attack.  Thevenet was the only one to respond.  The inspired Dutchman gained a 6 second stage win ahead of Thevenet.  Merckx struggled in with Van Impe 55 seconds behind.  Merckx retained the Maillot Jaune, but the Cannibal showed his first sign of weakness in the mountains. 

The finishing climb on the Puy de Dome (12 km, 7%) was next on the schedule.  Just over halfway up the finishing climb, Thevenet charged off the front with Van Impe in tow.  The two slowly pulled away from Merckx and a struggling Zoetemelk.  The race leader, trying to limit him time loss, was forced to do all the work in pursuit of the breakaway.  Near the top of the climb, an angry, drunken fan jumped onto the road and delivered a punch to Merckx’s kidney.  He staggered in pain and gasped for breath but continued to climb.  Slowed by the punch he did not catch the breakaway, but held on to finish third.  Van Impe took the stage win 15 second ahead of Thevenet and 49 seconds ahead of Merckx.  Thevenet cut further into the overall lead and he trailed Merckx by only 58 seconds as the Tour headed into the Alps.

After a rest day in Nice, the Tour continued with a 5-climb stage, which finished at the top of the Pra Loup.  On the third climb of the day, the Col des Champs, Thevenet rode confidently attacking 6 times in an effort to crack the race leader.  Merckx was able to cover all of Thevenet’s moves.  Merckx launched an attack of his own on the descent.  The ever-vigilant Thevenet managed to catch Merckx in the valley just before the Col d’Allos.  The always-aggressive Maillot Jaune, searching for weakness, attacks again on the Allos.  Over the top with a lead, he plunges down the descent.  On the narrow bumpy road, Merckx took all the risks necessary to gain time.  He sailed through the bottom of the descent with over a minute lead on the chasers.  The Cannibal now sets his sights on the final climb to the top of Pra Loup.  He had a 2-minute lead on the chasers as the road turned upward.

Merckx was 6 km from putting the race out of reach.  However, the breakaway effort had taken its toll and Merckx begins to slow.  Gimondi was the first to catch the leader, then Thevenet, then Van Impe and Zoetemelk.  The Frenchman sensed a weakness and sprinted by the tired race leader.  Thevenet took the stage win by 1’58” over Merckx and gained the Maillot Jaune. 

Eddy Merckx has one intention at the start of stage 17 in Valloire, get back the Maillot Jaune.  Merckx launched an all-out attack from the starting line, but slid and crashed heavily.  Although injured, he remounted his bicycle and continued the race.  His injuries include a bruised hip and knee, as well as a broken jaw, but he continued to ride hard.  Although struggling to breathe, he refused treatment.  By the end of the stage, the injured Cannibal finished third, 2 second ahead of Thevenet.  The never say die Belgian was fighting all adversities to the end. 

Gamely Merckx gained another 15 seconds on the final ITT in Chatel, but the finish in Paris was only four flat stages away.  When the Tour reached the Champs Elysees, Thevenet had an insurmountable 2’47” lead on Merckx.  He cruised down the Champs Elysees for his first grand Tour victory. 

Gracious in defeat the second placed Merckx said, “I tried everything and it didn’t work.  It’s always the strongest that wins, and the strongest is Thevenet.”  The winner returned the compliment saying, “Tell me who was second to you and I will tell you the value of your victory.” 

SPECIAL NOTE: The first winner of the Maillot Pois (Polka Dot Jersey) was Belgian Lucien Van Impe, who also finished third overall

Stage and Distance

Stage Winner

Race Leader

Prologue CHARLEROI (Bel), 6.3 km ITT

Francesco Moser (Ita)

Francesco Moser (Ita)

Stage 1a CHARLEROI (Bel)-MOLENBEEK (Bel), 94 km

Cees Priem (Ned)

Francesco Moser (Ita)

Stage 1b MOLENBEEK (Bel)-ROUBAIX, 109 km

Rik Van Linden(Bel)

Francesco Moser (Ita)

Stage 2 ROUBAIX-AMIENS, 122 km

Ronald De Witte (Bel)

Francesco Moser (Ita)

Stage 3 AMIENS-VERSAILLES, 169 km

Karel Rottiers (Bel)

Francesco Moser (Ita)

Stage 4 VERSAILLES-LE MANS, 223 km

Jacques Esclassan (Fra)

Francesco Moser (Ita)

Stage 5 SABLE SUR SARTHE-MERLIN PLAGE, 222 km

Theo Smit (Ned)

Francesco Moser (Ita)

Stage 6 CIRCUIT MERLIN PLAGE, 16 km ITT

Eddy Merckx  (Bel)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 7 ST GILLES CROIX DE VIE-ANGOULEME, 235 km

Francesco Moser (Ita)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 8 ANGOULEME-BORDEAUX, 134 km

Barry Hoban (GBr)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 9a LANGON-FLEURANCE, 131 km

Theo Smit (Ned)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 9b FLEURANCE-AUCH, 37 km ITT

Eddy Merckx  (Bel)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 10 AUCH-PAU, 206 km

Felice Gimondi  (Ita)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 11 PAU-ST LARY SOULAN, 160 km

Joop Zoetemelk (Ned)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 12 TARBES-ALBI, 242 km

Gerrie Knetemann (Ned)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 13 ALBI-SUPER-LIORAN, 260 km

Pollentier Michel (Bel)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 14 AURILLAC-PUY DE DOME, 173 km

Lucien Van Impe (Bel)

Eddy Merckx (Bel)

Stage 15 NICE-PRA LOUP, 217 km

Bernard Thevenet (Fra)

Bernard Thevenet (Fra)

Stage 16 BARCELONNETTE-SERRE CHEVALIER, 107 km

Bernard Thevenet (Fra)

Bernard Thevenet (Fra)

Stage 17 VALLOIRE-MORZINE/Avoriaz, 225 km

Vicente Lopez-Carril (Spa)

Bernard Thevenet (Fra)

Stage 18 MORZINE-CHATEL, 40 km ITT

Lucien Van Impe (Bel)

Bernard Thevenet (Fra)

Stage 19 THONON LES BAINS-CHALON SUR SAONE, 229 km

Rik Van Linden(Bel)

Bernard Thevenet (Fra)

Stage 20 POUILLY EN AUXOIS-MELUN, 256 km

Giacinto Santambrogio (Ita)

Bernard Thevenet (Fra)

Stage 21 MELUN-SENLIS, 220 km

Rik Van Linden(Bel)

Bernard Thevenet (Fra)

Stage 22 CIRCUIT PARIS/Champs Elysees, 163 km

Walter Godefroot (Bel)

YJ Bernard Thevenet (Fra)

POLKA DOT JERSEY

PDJ Lucien Van Impe (Bel)

  GREEN POINT'S JERSEY

GJ Rik Van Linden (Bel)



TdF June 26 - July 20, 1975
3,996 Km

1. Bernard THEVENET (Fra) 114h35'31"

2. Eddy Merckx (Bel) +2'47"

3. Lucien Van Impe (Bel) +5'01"

Starters: 140
Finishers: 86
Average Speed: 34.899 km/h

 

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