20 September 2021 By Elien Kaes History

Next Sunday (26 September) the Road World Cycling Championship will take place again. It is a special edition, because this year it will take place in the Belgian city Leuven. Moreover, after a long period without events due to COVID-19, everybody can attend the World Championship live again without mouth masks. So it will feel like a cosy folk festival again. Definitely not to be missed!

Road World Cycling Championship Heerlen 1967 - Jan Janssen and Eddy Merckx


The Road World Cycling Championship has taken place annually since 1921, with the exception of the years during the Second World War. The location of the event changes every year, so the event is always organised by a different country. Italy organised the World Championship the most times, but also Switzerland, Belgium, France and the Netherlands have been able to hand out the rainbow jersey regularly. The fact that these countries are actively involved with the World Championship is also reflected in the results. With 239 medals (of which 90 gold medals) Italy stands out, but the Netherlands (148 medals) and Belgium (126 medals) have also performed quite strongly in recent years!

The rainbow jersey has been worn by many riders over the years, but there are only a few riders who have been able to wear it more than once.

  • Two victories: Briek Schotte, Gianni Bugno, Georges Ronsse, Paolo Bettini, Freddy Maertens, Greg LeMond and Rik Van Looy.
  • Three victories: Peter Sagan, Eddy Merckx, Óscar Freire, Rik Van Steenbergen and Alfredo Binda.


This year it will be 50 years since the great Eddy Merckx won the Road World Cycling Championship for the second time. That's why we look back at these great victories in this blog. Eddy Merckx already surprised everyone in 1967 by taking home the rainbow jersey, but a few years later (in 1974) he was able to win this jersey again. In 1964 he also became World Champion with the amateurs.


In 1967 the Road World Cycling Championship also took place not far from home, namely in the Dutch-Limburg town of Heerlen. That year 70 riders took up the challenge to become World Champions. It was 22-year-old Eddy Merckx who beat everyone in the 265 kilometre race and thus won his first professional world title. Prior to this he had already won several other major stages such as Milan-San Remo twice, La Flèche Wallonne, Gent-Wevelgem and several stages of the Giro.

In 1967 Merckx had not yet acquired the nickname 'Cannibal', but other great riders knew they had to consider him for the world title.  When the riders had only ridden five kilometres, Merckx was already ahead with Ramón Saez, Gianni Motta and Jos Van der Vleuten, among others. Merckx was not widely regarded as a Belgian top rider at that time, but he was able to join the breakaway immediately. Jan Janssen was three minutes behind the leading group, but he was able to close the gap with the help of Van der Vleuten. As a great sprinter and top favourite, Janssen began the final meters. Against all odds, the five year younger Eddy Merckx eventually beat him by half a wheel, which was a great disappointment for Jan Janssen.

Eddy Merckx WK 1967

Eddy Merckx - Victory at the 1967 Road World Cycling Championship


Exactly 50 years ago, in 1971, the Road World Cycling Championshiptook place for the seventh time in Switzerland. The race covered 269 kilometres. That year, 93 promising riders started the race and 57 of them fought until the finish line, but it was Eddy Merckx who was able to win the Rainbow jersey. Again he won in the sprint, this time against the Italian Felice Gimondi. That year, the third place went to the French cyclist Cyrille Guimard, who finished one minute and 23 seconds behind Merckx.

The film below shows some shots of the 1971 World Championships and at the end the victory of the great Eddy Merckx.

The last time Eddy Merckx was able to win the world road title was in 1974. That year the 262 kilometre long World Championship took place around the Canadian city of Montreal. This location was a first, because it was the first time the World Championships took place in Canada and also the first time they were held outside Europe. That year Eddy beat the French cyclist Raymond Poulidor and was thus able to wear the rainbow jersey for the third time.
In this film you can again see how Eddy Merckx finishes first at the World Championships. He follows Poulidor, but manages to pass him and finish first!
Do you also want to cycle like Eddy Merckx in a Rainbow jersey? Well, then you are in luck! The Molteni, Peugeot and Faema Rainbow cycling jerseys are available in our webshop!



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