1971 Tour de France

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1971 Tour de France
Route of the 1971 Tour de France
Route of the 1971 Tour de France
Race details
Dates 26 June – 18 July
Stages 20 + Prologue, including three split stages
Distance 3,608 km (2,242 mi)
Winning time 96h 45' 14"
Winner  Eddy Merckx (BEL) (Molteni)
  Second  Joop Zoetemelk (NED) (Flandria–Mars)
  Third  Lucien Van Impe (BEL) (Sonolor–Lejeune)

Points  Eddy Merckx (BEL) (Molteni)
  Mountains  Lucien Van Impe (BEL) (Sonolor–Lejeune)
Combination  Eddy Merckx (BEL) (Molteni)
  Sprints  Pieter Nassen (BEL) (Flandria–Mars)
  Combativity  Luis Ocaña (ESP) (Bic)
  Team Bic
← 1970
1972 →

The 1971 Tour de France was the 58th edition of the Tour de France, one of cycling's Grand Tours. It took place between 26 June and 18 July, with 22 stages covering a distance of 3,608 km (2,242 mi).

The race was won by Eddy Merckx, his third consecutive victory, although it had looked unlikely after the 11th stage, when Merckx was more than eight minutes behind Luis Ocaña in the general classification. But Ocaña had to retire from the race during the 14th stage after he crashed on the descent of the Col de Menté, in what has been named the most famous fall in Tour de France history.[1]


The 1971 Tour started with 13 teams, each with 10 cyclists, a total of 130.[2]

The teams entering the race were:

Pre-race favourites[edit]

Eddy Merckx, who had won the 1969 and 1970 Tours, was the big favourite. 1970 second place finisher Joop Zoetemelk, Luis Ocaña, Bernard Thévenet, and 1971 Giro Winner Gösta Pettersson were among the GC contenders for podium positions. All pre-race predictions were that, unless he became ill or crashed, Merckx would be the winner, and there was speculation whether he would be able to lead the race from start to end.[3]

Route and stages[edit]

The 1970 Tour, with fewer flat stages, fewer time trials and more mountain stages, had been thought to be a route that suited climbing specialists.[3] There were five split stages, and cyclists had complained about it. Nevertheless, the 1971 Tour again used split stages: one reason was that the UCI rules did not allow long stages, to prevent the use of doping; another reason was that split stages generated more income.[3]

There were two rest days, in Le Touquet and Orcières, and during the first rest day, the cyclists were transferred by airplane,[4] the first time this happened during the Tour.[2]

Stage characteristics and winners[2][4][5]
Stage Date Course Distance Type Winner
P 26 June Mulhouse 11 km (6.8 mi) Team time trial  Molteni
1a 27 June Mulhouse to Basel (Switzerland) 59.5 km (37.0 mi) Stage with mountain(s)  Eric Leman (BEL)
1b Basel (Switzerland) to Freiburg (West Germany) 90 km (56 mi) Plain stage  Gerben Karstens (NED)
1c Freiburg (West Germany) to Mulhouse 74.5 km (46.3 mi) Plain stage  Albert Van Vlierberghe (BEL)
2 28 June Mulhouse to Strasbourg 144 km (89 mi) Stage with mountain(s)  Eddy Merckx (BEL)
3 29 June Strasbourg to Nancy 165.5 km (102.8 mi) Stage with mountain(s)  Rini Wagtmans (NED)
4 30 June Nancy to Marche-en-Famenne (Belgium) 242 km (150 mi) Plain stage  Jean-Pierre Genet (FRA)
5 1 July Dinant (Belgium) to Roubaix 208.5 km (129.6 mi) Stage with mountain(s)  Pietro Guerra (ITA)
6a 2 July Roubaix to Amiens 127.5 km (79.2 mi) Plain stage  Eric Leman (BEL)
6b Amiens to Le Touquet 133.5 km (83.0 mi) Plain stage  Mauro Simonetti (ITA)
3 July Le Touquet Rest day
7 4 July Rungis to Nevers 257.5 km (160.0 mi) Plain stage  Eric Leman (BEL)
8 5 July Nevers to Puy de Dôme 221 km (137 mi) Stage with mountain(s)  Luis Ocaña (ESP)
9 6 July Clermont-Ferrand to Saint-Étienne 153 km (95 mi) Stage with mountain(s)  Walter Godefroot (BEL)
10 7 July Saint-Étienne to Grenoble 188.5 km (117.1 mi) Stage with mountain(s)  Bernard Thévenet (FRA)
11 8 July Grenoble to Orcières 134 km (83 mi) Stage with mountain(s)  Luis Ocaña (ESP)
9 July Orcières Rest day
12 10 July Orcières to Marseille 251 km (156 mi) Plain stage  Luciano Armani (ITA)
13 11 July Albi 16.3 km (10.1 mi) Individual time trial  Eddy Merckx (BEL)
14 12 July Revel to Luchon 214.5 km (133.3 mi) Stage with mountain(s)  José Manuel Fuente (ESP)
15 13 July Luchon to Superbagnères 19.6 km (12.2 mi) Stage with mountain(s)  José Manuel Fuente (ESP)
16a 14 July Luchon to Gourette 145 km (90 mi) Stage with mountain(s)  Bernard Labourdette (FRA)
16b Gourette to Pau 57.5 km (35.7 mi) Plain stage  Herman Van Springel (BEL)
17 15 July Mont-de-Marsan to Bordeaux 188 km (117 mi) Plain stage  Eddy Merckx (BEL)
18 16 July Bordeaux to Poitiers 244 km (152 mi) Plain stage  Jean-Pierre Danguillaume (FRA)
19 17 July Blois to Versailles 185 km (115 mi) Plain stage  Jan Krekels (NED)
20 18 July Versailles to Paris 53.8 km (33.4 mi) Individual time trial  Eddy Merckx (BEL)
Total 3,608 km (2,242 mi)[6]

Race overview[edit]

The Molteni team during the opening team time trial prologue in Mulhouse, which they won

The race started with a team time trial as prologue, won by Merckx' team, which gave them a 20 seconds bonification for the general classification. After the first part of the first stage, Merckx' team mate Wagtmans briefly took over the leading position in the general classification, only to lose it to Merckx in the second part.

Eddy Merckx at the front of the group of leaders on stage two between Mulhouse and Basel, Switzerland

In the second stage, Zoetemelk attacked early in the stage. Some cyclists, including Merckx, followed him, and soon a group of 15 cyclists was away. At the end, the margin to the rest of the field was almost 10 minutes.[7] Merckx beat Roger de Vlaeminck in the sprint, and everybody not in the first group was no longer a threat for Merckx.[8][9]

In the seventh stage, the leader in the points classification, Roger De Vlaeminck, crashed and had to leave the race. Merckx was expecting a dangerous sprint so he chose not to participate.[10] While Merckx took part in intermediate sprints and final sprints, Ocaña had been saving his energy on the advice of Jacques Anquetil, and waited for the mountains to come.[9]

Stage eight saw the first attack by Ocaña on the mountaintop finish of Puy de Dôme. Merckx was not able to chase him, and Ocaña got away. Zoetemelk and Agostinho also got away from Merckx, and gained some time on him. After that stage, Merckx was still leading, but only 36 seconds before Zoetemelk and 37 seconds before Ocaña.[9] In the end of the tenth stage, Merckx lost contact after a flat tire, and lost time on Zoetemelk, Ocaña, Bernard Thévenet and Gösta Pettersson. Zoetemelk took over the lead, one second ahead of Ocaña.[11] In the eleventh stage, Ocaña attacked. At first, Zoetemelk, Van Impe and Agostinho were able to stay with him, but Ocaña left them and soloed to the victory, more than six minutes ahead of Van Impe. Merckx and Zoetemelk finished in third and fourth place, almost nine minutes behind.[12] Ocaña had set such a pace, that 61 cyclists finished outside the original time limit, leaving only 39 in the race.[9] The time limit was consequently extended such that 58 more were allowed to start the next day.[12] Ocaña seemed so strong, that Merckx abandoned the idea to win his third Tour.[13]

In the twelfth stage, Merckx organised an attack, and won back two minutes. This could have been more, had it not been for a mistake of an assistant team leader of Molteni, Merckx' team: when Bruyere had a flat tire in the chasing peloton, the assistant team leader called for the remaining members of Merckx' team to help Bruyere to get back to the peloton. The rival teams in the peloton were now without Molteni cyclists, and could organise the chase. The group with Bruyere was unable to get back into the peloton. Because of the high pace of Merckx in the first group, the group with Bruyere almost did not make the time cut, in which case they would have been eliminated.[14] The average velocity of the winner was a new record, and the cyclists arrived one hour ahead of the earliest time schedule, and the preparations at the finish line had not been completed yet. The mayor of Marseille, where the stage ended, was so upset that he refused to let the race visit Marseille again.[9]

In the thirteenth stage, a time trial, Merckx was the strongest and won back more seconds.[14]

In the fourteenth stage, there was heavy rain. On the way up to the Col de Mente, Merckx attacked several times, but each time Ocaña was coming back. During the descent, Ocaña fell. Zoetemelk punctured and was unable to avoid him, and hit him at high speed.[15] Ocaña was hit, injured his shoulder and had to give up.[2]

Merckx became the new leader, but out of respect for Ocaña, he refused to go to the ceremony at the end of the stage, and refused wear the yellow jersey the next stage.[15] Merckx considered to leave the race, because he did not want to win because of Ocaña's bad luck. Tour directors Levitan and Goddet convinced him to continue the race.[15] The fifteenth stage was the shortest mass-start stage in the history in the Tour, at only 19.6 kilometres (12.2 mi).[16]

The decision was expected to fall in the first part of the sixteenth stage, when four mountains were scheduled. Van Impe, in second place, was expected to challenge the leader Merckx, and third-placed Zoetemelk could profit from their struggle. But although Van Impe tried to attack, Merckx was able to stay with him, and the three cyclists stayed together.[17]

By this point only Van Impe and Zoetemelk were within striking distance of Merckx, both being just over two minutes behind. Thevenet in 4th place was over six minutes behind and the rest of the field was well over ten minutes back.

In the seventeenth stage, Merckx surprised Van Impe and Zoetemelk with attack, won the stage and increased his margin with more than two minutes.[18] By winning the stage, Merckx solified his lead in the points classification.[9]

The time trial that closed the race was an easy win for Merckx. The battle for the second place was won by Zoetemelk.[19]


In total, 100 doping tests were done during the 1971 Tour de France, from which 2 returned positive:

Both received the customary punishment: a fine of 1200 Francs; being set back to the last place in the stage's results and getting ten minutes penalty time in the general classification.[20]

Classification leadership[edit]

There were several classifications in the 1971 Tour de France, three of them awarding jerseys to their leaders. The most important was the general classification, calculated by adding each cyclist's finishing times on each stage. The cyclist with the least accumulated time was the race leader, identified by the yellow jersey; the winner of this classification is considered the winner of the Tour.[21]

Additionally, there was a points classification, where cyclists got points for finishing among the best in a stage finish, or in intermediate sprints. The cyclist with the most points lead the classification, and was identified with a green jersey.[21]

There was also a mountains classification. The organisation had categorized some climbs as either first, second, third, or fourth-category; points for this classification were won by the first cyclists that reached the top of these climbs first, with more points available for the higher-categorized climbs. The cyclist with the most points lead the classification, but was not identified with a jersey in 1971.[21]

Another classification was the combination classification. This classification was calculated as a combination of the other classifications, its leader wore the white jersey.[22]

The fifth individual classification was the intermediate sprints classification. This classification had similar rules as the points classification, but only points were awarded on intermediate sprints. In 1971, this classification had no associated jersey.[23] 1971 saw the introduction of bonus seconds for sprints in the intermediate sprints classification.

For the team classification, the times of the best three cyclists per team on each stage were added; the leading team was the team with the lowest total time. The riders in the team that lead this classification wore yellow caps.[24]

The combativity award was given to Luis Ocana.[4] The new rider classification was won by Zoetemelk.[25]

Classification leadership by stage
Stage Winner General classification
Points classification
Mountains classification Team classification
P Molteni Eddy Merckx no award no award Molteni
1a Eric Leman Eric Leman
1b Gerben Karstens Rini Wagtmans Walter Godefroot Joop Zoetemelk
1c Albert Van Vlierberghe Eddy Merckx Gerben Karstens
2 Eddy Merckx Roger De Vlaeminck Flandria–Mars
3 Rini Wagtmans
4 Jean-Pierre Genet
5 Pietro Guerra
6a Eric Leman
6b Mauro Simonetti
7 Eric Leman Gerben Karstens
8 Luis Ocaña
9 Walter Godefroot Walter Godefroot Peugeot–BP–Michelin
10 Bernard Thévenet Joop Zoetemelk Cyrille Guimard
11 Luis Ocaña Luis Ocaña Bic
12 Luciano Armani
13 Eddy Merckx
14 José Manuel Fuente Eddy Merckx Lucien Van Impe
15 José Manuel Fuente Eddy Merckx
16a Bernard Labourdette
16b Herman Van Springel
17 Eddy Merckx
18 Jean-Pierre Danguillaume
19 Jan Krekels
20 Eddy Merckx
Final Eddy Merckx Eddy Merckx Lucien Van Impe Bic

Final standings[edit]

A yellow jersey. Denotes the winner of the general classification A green jersey. Denotes the winner of the points classification
A white jersey. Denotes the winner of the combination classification

General classification[edit]

Final general classification (1–10)[2]
Rank Rider Team Time
1  Eddy Merckx (BEL) A yellow jersey. A green jersey. A white jersey. Molteni 96h 45' 14"
2  Joop Zoetemelk (NED) Flandria–Mars + 9' 51"
3  Lucien Van Impe (BEL) Sonolor–Lejeune + 11' 06"
4  Bernard Thévenet (FRA) Peugeot–BP–Michelin + 14' 50"
5  Joaquim Agostinho (POR) Hoover–de Gribaldy–Wolber + 21' 00"
6  Leif Mortensen (DEN) Bic + 21' 38"
7  Cyrille Guimard (FRA) Fagor–Mercier–Hutchinson + 22' 58"
8  Bernard Labourdette (FRA) Bic + 30' 07"
9  Lucien Aimar (FRA) Sonolor–Lejeune + 32' 45"
10  Vicente López Carril (ESP) Kas–Kaskol + 36' 00"

Points classification[edit]

Final points classification (1–10)[2][25]
Rank Rider Team Points
1  Eddy Merckx (BEL) A yellow jersey. A green jersey. A white jersey. Molteni 202
2  Cyrille Guimard (FRA) Fagor–Mercier–Hutchinson 186
3  Gerben Karstens (NED) Goudsmit–Hoff 107
4  Marinus Wagtmans (NED) Molteni 97
5  Joop Zoetemelk (NED) Flandria–Mars 93
6  Eric Leman (BEL) Flandria–Mars 82
7  Jan Krekels (NED) Goudsmit–Hoff 81
8  Jean-Pierre Danguillaume (FRA) Peugeot–BP–Michelin 71
9  Lucien Van Impe (BEL) Sonolor–Lejeune 64
10  Joaquim Agostinho (POR) Hoover–de Gribaldy–Wolber 64

Mountains classification[edit]

Final mountains classification (1–10)[2][25]
Rank Rider Team Points
1  Lucien Van Impe (BEL) Sonolor–Lejeune 228
2  Joop Zoetemelk (NED) Flandria–Mars 180
3  Eddy Merckx (BEL) A yellow jersey. A green jersey. A white jersey. Molteni 137
4  José Manuel Fuente (ESP) Kas–Kaskol 89
5  Cyrille Guimard (FRA) Fagor–Mercier–Hutchinson 74
6  Joaquim Agostinho (POR) Hoover–de Gribaldy–Wolber 68
7  Bernard Thévenet (FRA) Peugeot–BP–Michelin 48
8  Vicente López Carril (ESP) Kas–Kaskol 47
9  Désiré Letort (FRA) Bic 38
10  Lucien Aimar (FRA) Sonolor–Lejeune 37

Combination classification[edit]

Final combination classification (1–8)[25]
Rank Rider Team Points
1  Eddy Merckx (BEL) A yellow jersey. A green jersey. A white jersey. Molteni 5
2  Joop Zoetemelk (NED) Flandria–Mars 9
3  Lucien Van Impe (BEL) Sonolor–Lejeune 13
4  Cyrille Guimard (FRA) Fagor–Mercier–Hutchinson 14
5  Joaquim Agostinho (POR) Hoover–de Gribaldy–Wolber 21
6  Bernard Thévenet (FRA) Peugeot–BP–Michelin 22
7  Marinus Wagtmans (NED) Molteni 34
8  Bernard Labourdette (FRA) Bic 42

Intermediate sprints classification[edit]

Final intermediate sprints classification (1–10)[25]
Rank Rider Team Points
1  Pieter Nassen (BEL) Flandria–Mars 52
2  Jos van der Vleuten (NED) Goudsmit–Hoff 35
3  Eddy Merckx (BEL) A yellow jersey. A green jersey. A white jersey. Molteni 34
4  Barry Hoban (GBR) Sonolor–Lejeune 26
5  Robert Mintkiewicz (FRA) Sonolor–Lejeune 21
6  Joop Zoetemelk (NED) Flandria–Mars 20
7  Gerben Karstens (NED) Goudsmit–Hoff 17
8  Raymond Riotte (FRA) Sonolor–Lejeune 16
9  Roberto Ballini (ITA) Ferretti 14
10  Wilmo Francioni (ITA) Ferretti 14

Team classification[edit]

Final team classification (1–10)[25]
Rank Team Time
1 Bic 292 01' 40"
2 Molteni + 20' 20"
3 Peugeot–BP–Michelin + 31' 39"
4 Sonolor–Lejeune + 56' 32"
5 Ferretti + 1h 22' 31"
6 Kas–Kaskol + 1h 35' 39"
7 Werner + 1h 51' 43"
8 Fagor–Mercier–Hutchinson + 1h 56' 08"
9 Flandria–Mars + 2h 10' 32"
10 Hoover–de Gribaldy–Wolber + 2h 13' 11"


This Tour de France was considered the most exciting in recent years.[26]

From this year's race the second, third and fourth place finishers, Joop Zoetemelk, Lucien Van Impe and Bernard Thévenet would each win at least one Tour during their careers. Ocana fully recovered from his injuries, and would win the 1973 Tour de France.


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  4. ^ a b c Augendre 2016, p. 62.
  5. ^ Zwegers, Arian. "Tour de France GC Top Ten". CVCC. Archived from the original on 10 June 2009. Retrieved 5 March 2010. 
  6. ^ Augendre 2016, p. 109.
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  9. ^ a b c d e f McGann, Bill; McGann, Carol (2008). The Story of the Tour De France: 1965-2007. Dog Ear Publishing. pp. 53–66. ISBN 978-1-59858-608-4. Archived from the original on 13 June 2013. Retrieved 2 March 2011. 
  10. ^ "Val ontneemt De Vlaeminck groene trui". Nieuwsblad van het Noorden (in Dutch). De krant van toen. 5 July 1971. p. 16. Retrieved 2 March 2011. 
  11. ^ "Historische dag in de Tour". Nieuwsblad van het Noorden (in Dutch). De krant van toen. 8 July 1971. p. 17. Retrieved 2 March 2011. 
  12. ^ a b "Luis Ocana geeft Tour sensationele wending". Nieuwsblad van het Noorden (in Dutch). De krant van toen. 9 July 1971. p. 13. Retrieved 2 March 2011. 
  13. ^ "Merckx berust in nederlaag". Nieuwsblad van het Noorden (in Dutch). De krant van toen. 10 July 1971. p. 23. Retrieved 2 March 2011. 
  14. ^ a b "Eddy Merckx slaat toch terug". Nieuwsblad van het Noorden (in Dutch). De krant van toen. 12 July 1971. p. 13. Retrieved 2 March 2011. 
  15. ^ a b c "Merckx wil Ocana's trui niet dragen". Nieuwsblad van het Noorden (in Dutch). De krant van toen. 12 July 1971. p. 16. Retrieved 2 March 2011. 
  16. ^ "58ème Tour de France 1971 - 15ème étape" (in French). Mémoire du cyclisme. Archived from the original on 26 September 2012. Retrieved 2 March 2011. 
  17. ^ "Merckx nu wel zeker van derde Tourzege". Leeuwarder Courant (in Dutch). De krant van toen. 15 July 1971. p. 11. Retrieved 2 March 2011. 
  18. ^ "Merckx gaat toch in de Tour nog heersen". Leeuwarder Courant (in Dutch). De krant van toen. 16 July 1971. p. 9. Retrieved 2 March 2011. 
  19. ^ "Merckx benadrukt overmacht in tijdrit". Nieuwsblad van het Noorden (in Dutch). De krant van toen. 19 July 1971. p. 15. Retrieved 2 March 2011. 
  20. ^ "Twee Fransen "positief"". Limburgsch Dagblad (in Dutch). Koninklijke Bibliotheek. 19 July 1971. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  21. ^ a b c Christian, Sarah (2 July 2009). "Tour de France demystified - Evaluating success". RoadCycling.co.nz Ltd. Archived from the original on 9 February 2013. Retrieved 27 April 2012. 
  22. ^ Mark, Eddy van der. "Tour Xtra: Other Classifications & Awards". Chippewa Valley Cycling Club. Archived from the original on 2012-07-01. Retrieved 25 April 2012. 
  23. ^ Mark, Eddy van der. "Tour Xtra: Intermediate Sprints Classification". Chippewa Valley Cycling Club. Archived from the original on 2013-06-13. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  24. ^ Chauner, David; Halstead, Michael (1990). The Tour de France Complete Book of Cycling. Villard. ISBN 978-0-679-72936-5. Archived from the original on 2014-04-04. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  25. ^ a b c d e f "Clasificaciones oficiales". El Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). 19 July 1971. p. 19. Archived from the original on 2011-07-20. Retrieved 8 March 2011. 
  26. ^ "Een mythe is voorbij". Nieuwsblad van het Noorden (in Dutch). De krant van toen. 12 July 1971. p. 13. Retrieved 2 March 2011. 


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to 1971 Tour de France at Wikimedia Commons