___Race Snippets


53rd Ronde van Vlaanderen 1969 / Tour of Flanders (Belgium)


By Barry Boyce, CyclingRevealed Historian





Top 20 All Time Major Classics #2

“You'll Die in the Headwind…”

The year was 1969. It was the year of Merckx and arguably the greatest individual racing year in the history of cycling. Twenty-four year old Belgian sensation, Eddy Merckx, arrived at the Tour of Flanders with racing credentials beyond his years. His early palmares included major victories:

  • 1966 Milan-San Remo (his first victory as a professional)
  • 1967 World Road Race Championships
  • 1967 Giro d'Italia
  • 1968 Paris-Roubaix

He brought a special performance for the 1969 Tour of Flanders and left the others far behind.

Typical spring weather conditions for Flanders greeted the riders: heavy rain, gale force wind off the North Sea, and cold temperatures. An aggressive early pace generated a 22-rider lead group going into the famous cobbled climb of the Oude Kwaremont. Eddy Merckx pushed the pace over the climb and did most of the work for the next 60 km. "If I have to do all the work, I can ride by myself!" he said after the race. The group was slowly being reduced.

Merckx attacked on the Muur de Geraardsbergen and shattered the remaining group. The race course turned back toward Gent in Ninove and into a fierce headwind.

Merckx shattered the group

“Are you nuts?”

There were still 70 km to the finish near Gent and Merckx's team director Guillaume Driessens pulled along side. He emphatically stated Are you nuts?!? You'll die in the headwind, wait for the group!” The reply was equally emphatic, “Go ( Flemish expletive deleted) yourself!!!” Full steam ahead, Merckx drove his lone breakaway into the wind.

Merckx alone in the wind

These were not sophisticated tactics employed today. Talent, superior conditioning, and a little anger gave the Belgian hero and all of Flanders a legendry ride. Into the finish in Merelbeke (a suburb of Gent ) Eddy Merckx completed the grand victory. He won with an advantage of over 5 minutes on Italian champion Felice Gimondi and more than 8 minutes on the peloton.

SPECIAL NOTE: An angry Merckx refused to share the victory with Driessens, who had taken credit for the winning race strategy. Merckx only acknowledged the hard work of his teammates.

Flanders March 30, 1969
259 Km, Gent to Merelbeke

1. Eddy MERCKX (Bel) 6h20'00"

2. Felice Gimondi (Ita) +5'36"

3. Marino Basso (Ita) +8'08"

Starters: 178
Finishers: 40
Average Speed: 33.091 km/h

RVV 1968

RVV 1970

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