Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Cannibal

Click here for full-size version of this photo.
Mostly they called him The Cannibal, but here he is The King. I scanned this photo from a the center-fold of a British magazine, Cycle Sport; the issue of March 2002. Here's most of the accompanying text.
Stage One 'A'
Tour de France 1971

The King Parades Before His Subjects

Mulhouse, eastern France, just before the start of a mammouth day in the saddle for the riders of the 1971 Tour de France. The day consisted of three split stages and would take the peloton first to Basle in Switzerland, then to Freiburg in Germany and back to Mulhouse. Members of the Mars-Flandria team sit kerbside, snacking on their early-morning rations, and looking on like schoolboy fans as the master, Eddy Merckx, arrives for that day's lesson.

Riders in Photo: Left to Right

Marinus Wagtmans (Hol)
riding behind Merckx
Rini Wagtmans, christened 'Kuifje' (Tufty) by the Dutch fans, on account of the tuft of white he had down the middle of his curly brown hair, was one of the best descenders in the sport.

Eddy Merckx (Bel)
centre, riding
Instantly recognisable, Merckx is clad in the yellow jersey he had won in the previous day's prologue team time trial. He would go on to win this Tour, his third in a row, and take the green jersey too, but it would not be without a struggle. On the mountainous 11th stage to Orcieres-Merlette, in stifling heat, the mercurial Spaniard Luis Ocana did what he'd been threatening to do for some time and inflicted a crushing defeat on Merckx to take over the yellow jersey and lead the Tour by over eight minutes. Ocana crashed out in the Pyrenees and did not finish the Tour.

Edy Schutz (Lux)
seated fourth right
Champion of Luxembourg six times in succession between 1966 and 1971 and three times winner of his national tour, this was Edy Schutz's last season as a pro rider.

Roger De Vlaeminck (Bel)
seated third right
This picture was taken at the beginning of De Vlaeminck's rivalry with Eddy Merckx, a rivalry heightened by language differences. At the time the Flemish felt very strongly that they were being governed unfairly by the French-speaking Walloons. De Vlaeminck, one of the best ever Classic riders, was the Flemish people's champion, and some of the more extreme of them thought that the French-speaking Merckx was their enemy, especially as he had a Flemish name.
       All this is history; however, you can see by De Vlaeminck's face that he was never intimidated by Merckx, in fact in this picture he looks like he has just cracked a joke at his expense. Wagtmans seems to have found it funny, even if Merckx looks like he's trying to ignore it.
       The Tour de France was never to De Vlaeminck's liking, even if he could trouble Merckx in a one-week stage race. In fact he didn't even get to the end of this race and in future years did everything he could to avoid it.

Eric De Vlaeminck (Bel)
seated second right
A seven times world cyclo-cross champion, Eric De Vlaeminck was no slouch on the road either as the first three placings in Flesch Wallonne and Ghent-Wevelgem testify. In this Tour he was there largely to look after his younger brother, Roger, and he finished 61st.

Eric Leman (Bel)
seated, first right
Super-fast sprinter Leman, a three times winner of the Tour of Flanders, actually won this stage. He won two others in the 1971 race, at Armiens and Nevers, but like most sprinters he found the mountains difficult and finished 91st overall.

No comments: