Merckx 1969 – Stage 17 – riding alone for 140km

It would have been ‘interesting’ if Merckx had been riding in the present generation of riders. In 1969, Merckx won his first tour de France by a margin of 17 minutes 54 seconds.

On the 17th stage, over four cols from Luchon to Mourenx, he won by eight minutes after riding alone for 140 km. He climbed the col du Tourmalet in a small group including Roger Pingeon and Raymond Poulidor, having dropped Felice Gimondi. On the final bend to the summit, Merckx attacked and opened a few seconds. By the foot of the col d’Aubisque he had more than a minute and by the top eight minutes. He maintained the pace for the remaining 70 km to Mourenx, an industrial town near Pau.

Different days.

When he was winning everything, Merckx wasn’t always popular – at least until he retired – where he became revered as the mini-god of cycling. (Eddy Merckx biography)

It’s often the case Tour de France winners are not popular. Probably the most popular Tour de France rider was Raymond Poulidor ‘the eternal second’. Heroic failures are usually more popular than dominating wins.

But, I suppose the Tour de France is not a popularity contest.

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