The beauty of fatigue and the thrill of conquest

After Anquetil, also Eddy Merckx collected 5 Tour wins. The Cannibal is probably the most successful rider in the history of competitive cycling.

 But in 1971, the year of his third triumph at the Tour, Merckx had to deal with the strength, class and audacity of Luis Ocana. The Spanish rider was the first to seriously question the Belgian supremacy. In the eleventh stage, on the way to Orcieres-Merlette, Ocaña attacked on the climbs and The Cannibal finished almost nine minutes behind. Merckx attacked the very next day but he gained only two minutes by the time. On the Pyrenees Merckx attacked several times Ocaña, and was the first to hit the deck. But during the descent of the Col de Menté, Ocaña fell and Zoetemelk slam into him as he lay on the deck, leaving the maillot jaune bruised and broken on the tarmac. Merckx finished almost 10 minutes ahead of second finisher Joop Zoetemelk, and over 11 minutes ahead of third finisher Lucien Van Impe. In 1973, Merckx decided to ride the Vuelta a España and Giro d'Italia and Luis Ocana took back the well-deserved glory at the Tour, leading the general classification by nine minutes over Fuente, ten minutes on Thevénet, with Zoetemelk fifth, over 23 minutes behind.

Giancarlo Brocci