___Race Snippets

 

63rd Tour de France 1976

 
   
 

By Barry Boyce CyclingRevealed Historian

 

Top 25 TdF

 

Van Impe Trades Polka Dot for Yellow

CR Timeline 1976

Defending champion Bernard Thevenet came to the Tour de France in 1976 with less than ideal racing form.  Belgian climber Lucien Van Impe and Dutchman Joop Zoetemelk led the pre-race list of favorites.

SPECIAL NOTE: In 1976, Cyrille Guimard returned to the TdF as a team director of the Gitane team.  Four years earlier Guimard was racing very high in the overall classification before being forced to abandon the Tour with a severe knee injury.  Guimard returned to the Tour with talented lead rider Lucien Van Impe.  As team director, Guimard’s strategic plan would play a large role in the story of the 1976 Tour.

The climbers took control of the Tour in the mountains.  Joop Zoetemelk set a very hard tempo on the climb to Alpe d’Huez and shook everyone except Lucien Van Impe.  Guimard’s plan was to match, not attack, the Dutch climber.  At the finish Zoetemelk surged away from Van Impe to win the stage by 3 second. 

The route of stage 10 traveled 166 km from Bourg d’Oisans to the top of Montgenevre and included the infamous Col d’Izoard midway through the stage.  Joop Zoetemelk again set the tempo up the final climb.  Van Impe, again under orders from Guimard, matched the Dutchman pedal-stroke for pedal-stroke.  Van Impe held a slim 7-second lead in the overall classification as the Tour left the Alps. 

After a rest day in Port Barcares, the climbing stages continued in the Pyrenees Mountains.  Peugeot’s Raymond Delisle (Fra) attacked the peloton at the top of the first climb on stage 12.  Anxiously, the race leader looked to Guimard for instructions.  Guimard ordered Van Impe not to chase Delisle, but to stay with Zoetemelk.  Delisle continued to push the lead group of three over the Col du Jau and up the finishing climb of the Pyrenees 2000.  The group of the Maillot Jaune did not mount a serious chase.  The strategy put the Van Impe’s race lead in jeopardy.  Jubilantly, Delisle rode solo into the finish at Pyrenees 2000 for the stage win.  Van Impe and Zoetemelk rolled up to the finish line almost 7 minute behind.  Raymond Delisle scored a minor surprise with the stage win and took the Maillot Jaune from Van Impe. 

Stage 14 had four major climbs and finished at the top of St. Lary Soulan/Pla d’Adet.  Guimard’s master plan became evident.  He ordered Van Impe to attack Zoetemelk on the first climb of the day, the Col de Mente.  Van Impe was reluctant to attack so early on the hard stage and was scolded by Guimard.  Respecting his director’s order, the Belgian climber attacked.  Zoetemelk, new race leader Delisle, and Raymond Poulidor did not react to the foolhardy move and Van Impe rolled away.  On the Col du Peyresourde, the third climb of the day, Van Impe caught a 5-rider breakaway group (Ocana, Ricconi, Torres, Pesarrodona, Bellini) and gained a 2-minute lead on the race leader’s chase group.  Zoetemelk now realized the urgency of the situation and started to work on a solo chase.  Through the valley leading to the Pla d’Adet and finish at St. Lary Soulan, Van Impe worked smoothly with the breakaway group, while Zoetemelk chased alone.  An inspired Van Impe, climbing aggressively, dropped the final two riders in the break and rode alone to the finish.  A hard charging Zoetemelk passed the remnants of the original breakaway and finished second on the stage, but was 3’14” behind.  Race leader Raymond Delisle cracked on the final climb and rolled in 12’08” behind the Belgian climber.  Van Impe was back in the Maillot Jaune.

Zoetemelk had one final chance to take time from the Maillot Jaune, the fabled climb of the Puy de Dome.  Van Impe held a 4’33” lead on the Dutchman and merely needed to avoid disaster to claim the Tour victory.  True to form, Zoetemelk set a brutal pace up the steep climb, but the effort could not crack Van Impe.  Zoetemelk did get the stage win but the time gain was only 12 seconds.  Lucien Van Impe rode down the Champs Elysees in Paris for his first Tour de France victory.  Guimard’s master plan in the Pyrenees Mountains had paid big dividends. 

SPECIAL NOTE: Raymond “Pou Pou” Poulidor rode a great race as he bid farewell to the Tour.  At the age of 40, the very popular Frenchman backed up a 1975 prediction by finishing on the podium in third place overall.  During his career “Pou Pou” started 14 Tours (1962-70, 1972-76) and finished on the podium a record setting 8 times (3 seconds, 5 thirds).  Unfortunately, for such a talented rider, he never won the overall Tour.  Amazingly, he never had the honor of wearing the Maillot Jaune for even a stage.  Poulidor joined the company of two superb riders Eugene Christophe and Rene Vietto as “eternal seconds.”

Stage and Distance

Stage Winner

Race Leader

Prologue ST JEAN DE MONTS, 8 km ITT

Freddy Maertens (Bel)

Freddy Maertens (Bel)

Stage 1 ST JEAN DE MONTS-ANGERS, 173 km

Freddy Maertens (Bel)

Freddy Maertens (Bel)

Stage 2 ANGERS-CAEN, 237 km

Giovanni Battaglin (Ita)

Freddy Maertens (Bel)

Stage 3 LE TOUQUET PARIS PLAGE, 37 km ITT

Freddy Maertens (Bel)

Freddy Maertens (Bel)

Stage 4 LE TOUQUET-BORNEM, 258 km

Hennie Kuiper (Ned)

Freddy Maertens (Bel)

Stage 5b LOUVAIN-VERVIERS, 144 km

Miguel-Maria Lasa (Spa)

Freddy Maertens (Bel)

Stage 6 BASTOGNE-NANCY, 209 km

Aldo Parecchini (Ita)

Freddy Maertens (Bel)

Stage 7 NANCY-MULHOUSE, 206 km

Freddy Maertens (Bel)

Freddy Maertens (Bel)

Stage 8 VALENTIGNEY-DIVONNE LES BAINS, 220 km

Jacques Esclassan (Fra)

Freddy Maertens (Bel)

Stage 9 DIVONNE LES BAINS-ALPE D'HUEZ, 258 km

Joop Zoetemelk (Ned)

Lucien Van Impe (Bel)

Stage 10 BOURG D'OISANS-MONTGENEVRE, 166 km

Joop Zoetemelk (Ned)

Lucien Van Impe (Bel)

Stage 11 MONTGENEVRE-MANOSQUE, 224 km

Jose-Luis Viejo (Spa)

Lucien Van Impe (Bel)

Stage 12 PORT BARCARES-PYRENEES 2000, 206 km

Raymond Delisle (Fra)

Raymond Delisle (Fra)

Stage 13 FONT ROMEU-ST GAUDENS, 188 km

Willy Teirlinck (Bel)

Raymond Delisle (Fra)

Stage 14 ST GAUDENS-ST LARY SOULAN, 139 km

Lucien Van Impe (Bel)

Lucien Van Impe (Bel)

Stage 15 ST LARY SOULAN-PAU, 195 km

Wladimiro Panizza (Ita)

Lucien Van Impe (Bel)

Stage 16 PAU-FLEURANCE, 152 km

Michel Pollentier (Fra)

Lucien Van Impe (Bel)

Stage 17 FLEURANCE-AUCH, 38.8 km ITT

Ferdinand Bracke (Bel)

Lucien Van Impe (Bel)

Stage 18a AUCH-LANGON, 86 km

Freddy Maertens (Bel)

Lucien Van Impe (Bel)

Stage 18b LANGON-LACANAU OCEAN, 123 km

Freddy Maertens (Bel)

Lucien Van Impe (Bel)

Stage 18c LACANAU OCEAN-BORDEAUX, 70 km

Gerben Karstens (Ned)

Lucien Van Impe (Bel)

Stage 19 STE FOY LA GRANDE-TULLE, 219 km

Hubert Mathis (Fra)

Lucien Van Impe (Bel)

Stage 20 TULLE-PUY DE DOME, 220 km

Joop Zoetemelk (Ned)

Lucien Van Impe (Bel)

Stage 21 MONTARGIS-VERSAILLES, 145 km

Freddy Maertens (Bel)

Lucien Van Impe (Bel)

Stage 22a PARIS/Champs Elysees, 6 km ITT

Freddy Maertens (Bel)

Lucien Van Impe (Bel)

Stage 22b PARIS/Champs Elysees, 91 km

Gerben Karstens (Ned)

YJ Lucien Van Impe (Bel)

POLKA DOT JERSEY

PDJ Giancarlo Bellini (Ita)

  GREEN POINT'S JERSEY

GJ Freddy Maertens (Bel)



TdF June 24 - July 18, 1976
4,023 Km

1. Lucien VAN IMPE (Bel) 116h22'23"

2. Joop Zoetemelk (Hol) +4'14"

3. Raymond Poulidor (Fra) +12'08"

Starters: 130
Finishers: 87
Average Speed: 34.514 km/h

 

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