Merckx's Tour of 1969

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Nineteen sixty-nine was the only Tour de France to see a single cyclist win all jerseys. Eddy Merckx won the general, points and mountains classification as well as the combination jersey, which was an award given up until 1989, given to the best all-around rider. Merckx certainly proved that he was one of the best all-round riders of all time in those four weeks alone.

The '69 Tour was an interesting one because it saw the return of commercially sponsored teams and from 1969 on, commercially sponsored teams have been used. National teams were used from '30 to '61 and again in 1967 and 1968. Bringing back national teams was an attempt to reduce the use of drugs and teams that either allowed it or were oblivious to it. In fact, in recent years the Tour director has thought about bringing back the use of national teams, especially in 2007 when series of drug scandals continued to eat away at the image of cycling in the public eye. However, this proved less than adequate with the death of Tom Simpson on the slopes of Mont Ventoux in 1967.

This Tour was one of Merckx's biggest marginal victories, but many people do not know that in '69 Merckx was pulled from the Giro with a leading position because of a positive dope test. His suspension was initially not going to allow his participation in the Tour, but the suspension was lifted. Merckx had been sharing the yellow jersey with Rudi Altig, Desiré Letort and his teammate Julie Steevens until Stage 6 when he grabbed and maintained it for the rest of the race. Merckx sealed the deal with an infamous 140km solo break on the 17th stage from Luchon to Mourenx. Over the Tourmalet he absolutely murdered the field, more than 16 minutes behind him at the end of the day. He ended up gaining two minutes on the final individual TT and went on to win 18 minutes ahead of Roger Pingeon in second place. That must have been absolutely outstanding to see the assault on the Tourmalet and finish into Paris. Chapeau to The Cannibal.

Posted on September 13, 2010 and filed under Legends.