The biggest Belgian classic takes place again on Sunday: the Tour of Flanders! In this one-day cycling race, all the great riders are present at the starting line to give the best of themselves. Winning this race is important since it can make a cyclist's career a success. Very few cycling races have such an interesting cycling history, with a legendary list of winners. Originally the race went from Ghent to Ghent, but nowadays it starts in Antwerp and ends in Oudenaarde. The course is characterised by a series of short, sharp, cobbled climbs.
A fun fact about the Tour of Flanders: the youngest cyclist ever to win the race was Rik Van Steenbergen in 1944 at the age of 19. The title for the oldest winner is held by Andrei Tchmil who was 37 when he won in 2000.
Godefroot and Moser on the Koppenberg
In the early years the Tour of Flanders was held on the same day as Milan-San Remo. Therefore, there is only one foreign rider who could win the Tour of Flanders before the Second World War, namely the Swiss Heiri Sutter. That year Sutter also won Paris-Roubaix and he is therefore the only non-Belgian in history who could win these two races in one season. A few years later, in 1953, a Dutchman won the Tour of Flanders for the first time: Wim van Est. That it took so long for a Dutchman to win has a logical explanation. Before the Second World War, Dutch road racing was not very successful. In 1905, the Motor- and Bicycle law was introduced, which meant that cycling races on public roads were not allowed. Logically, this made the sport less popular in the Netherlands and therefore did not provide potential winners of the Tour of Flanders.
In 1965, a second Dutch cyclist was able to add the Tour of Flanders to his record, namely Jo De Roo. Later, Cees Bal (1974) and Jan Raas (1979 and 1983) were also able to win this race.
Jan Raas followed by Phil Anderson and Marc Sergeant at the Tour of Flanders in 1983
Tour of Flanders 1977
The story of the 1977 Tour began the night before the race itself. All team managers came together for a briefing on the course of the race. Lomme Driessens, team leader of the Flandria team and thus of Freddy Maertens, thought it was all just pointless. That may often be the case, but that evening Driessens missed an important announcement. From that year on it was forbidden to change bikes on the Koppenberg because it was one of the most difficult climbs of the race.
De Vlaeminck and Maertens
Later, Lomme Driessens gave the unknowing Robert Jonckheere the assignment to give Maertens a new bike on the Koppenberg. A minute before Maertens, Eddy Merckx, who was at the end of his career at the time, flew over the Koppenberg in first place. In the end Merckx could not keep up the pace and had to give up. However, Kuiper, Raas, De Vlaeminck and Moser also had to give everything in the first 100 km to keep up with Merckx, so they were already very tired. In the end, only De Vlaeminck and Maertens managed to hold on and they cycled away from the group. A little later Maertens was told he had been disqualified because of a forbidden bike change, but he continued to ride. He hoped the jury would reverse their decision. After a brief consultation with his team leader, Driessens, he saw that there were only advantages to continuing the ride. For one thing, it would generate a lot of publicity, and he would get a little money from De Vlaeminck if he helped him. Freddy let Roger know that he was going to help him and so Roger was able to cycle to the finish with ease. At the end the jury decided that Maertens was allowed to sprint, but he was too tired. Eventually it turned out that it had made no difference because doping was discovered in his urine.
Freddy Maertens was one of the best riders of his time, and yet he always managed to have the craziest experiences. This time it was the lax behaviour of his team leader that unfortunately cost him a victory at the Tour of Flanders. But apart from that Maertens could add many beautiful victories to his record of achievements. A rider to remember!
Roger De Vlaeminck finally won the Tour of Flanders wearing the beautiful jersey of the Brooklyn team. This jersey is available at our webshop, get yours now!
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