1981 Tour de France

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1981 Tour de France
Route of the 1981 Tour de France.png
Route of the 1981 Tour de France
Race details
Dates 25 June – 19 July
Stages 22 + Prologue, including two split stages
Distance 3,753 km (2,332 mi)
Winning time 96h 19' 38"
Winner  Bernard Hinault (FRA) (Renault–Elf–Gitane)
Second  Lucien Van Impe (BEL) (Boston–Mavic)
Third  Robert Alban (FRA) (La Redoute–Motobecane)

Points  Freddy Maertens (BEL) (Sunair–Sport 80–Colnago)
Mountains  Lucien Van Impe (BEL) (Boston–Mavic)
Youth  Peter Winnen (NED) (Capri Sonne–Koga Miyata)
Combination  Bernard Hinault (FRA) (Peugeot–Esso–Michelin)
Sprints  Freddy Maertens (BEL) (Sunair–Sport 80–Colnago)
Team Peugeot–Esso–Michelin
Team Points Peugeot–Esso–Michelin

The 1981 Tour de France was the 68th edition of the Tour de France, taking place between 25 June and 19 July. The total race distance was 24 stages over 3,753 km (2,332 mi). It was dominated by Bernard Hinault, who led the race from the sixth stage on, increasing his lead almost every stage, and winning the race with a margin of almost 15 minutes. Only Phil Anderson was able to stay close to him, until the seventeenth stage when he lost 17 minutes.

The points classification was won by Freddy Maertens, who did so by winning six stages. The mountains classification was won by Lucien Van Impe, Peter Winnen won the young rider classification, and the Peugeot team won the team classification.


For a more comprehensive list, see List of teams and cyclists in the 1981 Tour de France.

Late 1980, there were plans to make the tour "open", which meant that amateur teams would also be allowed to join. This would make it possible for teams from Eastern Europe to join.[1] The plan did not materialize, so only professional teams were invited. In January 1981, the organisation decided that there would be 15 teams with 10 cyclists, or 16 teams with 9 cyclists each. At that point, 16 teams had already submitted a request to join, and the organisation was in discussion with four additional Italian teams, and the American national team.[2] In the end, the American team did not apply, and the Italian teams decided to focus on the 1981 Giro d'Italia. The organisation selected 15 teams, who each selected 10 cyclists, for a total of 150 participants.

The teams entering the race were:[3][4]

Pre-race favourites[edit]

Bernard Hinault, the winner of the 1978 and 1979 Tour de France and reigning world champion, was the main favourite. His knee problems, that caused him to leave the 1980 Tour de France, were solved, and he was in form: Hinault had won important races in the spring, and he had skipped the 1981 Giro d'Italia to focus on the Tour.[5][6] His main rivals were 1980 Tour de France winner Joop Zoetemelk, 1976 Tour de France winner Lucien Van Impe and Joaquim Agostinho, although they had never been able to beat Hinault when he was in form.[5]

Freddy Maertens, the winner of the points classification in the Tour de France in 1976 and 1978, had won only three minor races in 1979 and 1980, but in 1981 he was selected again for the Tour.[6]

Route and stages[edit]

The 1981 Tour de France started on 25 June, and had two rest days, in Nantes and Morzine.[7] The route for the 1981 Tour de France was revealed in December 1980.[8] Originally, the thirteenth stage was planned as a time trial, followed by a transfer of more than 500 km on the same day, with the fourteenth stage the next day as a mountain stage. A few months before the Tour, there were many teams interested in the Tour, and the Tour organisation was afraid that there would not be enough time on 9 July to have the time trial for that many cyclists, followed by the transfer. For this reason, the thirteenth stage was changed into a criterium, and the fourteenth stage became the time trial.[9]

Stage characteristics and winners[3][10]
Stage Date Course Distance Type Winner
P 25 June Nice 6 km (3.7 mi) Individual time trial  Bernard Hinault (FRA)
1a 26 June Nice 97 km (60 mi) Hilly stage  Freddy Maertens (BEL)
1b Nice 40 km (25 mi) Team time trial  TI Raleigh–Creda[11]
2 27 June Nice to Martigues 254 km (158 mi) Plain stage  Johan van der Velde (NED)
3 28 June Martigues to Narbonne 232 km (144 mi) Plain stage  Freddy Maertens (BEL)
4 29 June Narbonne to Carcassonne 77 km (48 mi) Team time trial  TI Raleigh–Creda
5 30 June Saint-Gaudens to Pla d'Adet 117 km (73 mi) Stage with mountain(s)  Lucien Van Impe (BEL)
6 1 July Nay to Pau 27 km (17 mi) Individual time trial  Bernard Hinault (FRA)
7 2 July Pau to Bordeaux 227 km (141 mi) Plain stage  Urs Freuler (SUI)
8 3 July Rochefort to Nantes 182 km (113 mi) Plain stage  Ad Wijnands (NED)
4 July Nantes Rest day
9 5 July Nantes to Le Mans 197 km (122 mi) Plain stage  René Martens (BEL)
10 6 July Le Mans to Aulnay-sous-Bois 264 km (164 mi) Plain stage  Ad Wijnands (NED)
11 7 July Compiègne to Roubaix 246 km (153 mi) Plain stage  Daniel Willems (BEL)
12a 8 July Roubaix to Brussels (Belgium) 107 km (66 mi) Plain stage  Freddy Maertens (BEL)
12b Brussels (Belgium) to Circuit Zolder (Belgium) 138 km (86 mi) Plain stage  Eddy Planckaert (BEL)
13 9 July Beringen (Belgium) to Hasselt (Belgium) 157 km (98 mi) Plain stage  Freddy Maertens (BEL)
14 10 July Mulhouse 38 km (24 mi) Individual time trial  Bernard Hinault (FRA)
15 11 July Besançon to Thonon-les-Bains 231 km (144 mi) Hilly stage  Sean Kelly (IRE)
16 12 July Thonon-les-Bains to Morzine 200 km (120 mi) Stage with mountain(s)  Robert Alban (FRA)
13 July Morzine Rest day
17 14 July Morzine to Alpe d'Huez 230 km (140 mi) Stage with mountain(s)  Peter Winnen (NED)
18 15 July Le Bourg-d'Oisans to Le Pleynet 134 km (83 mi) Stage with mountain(s)  Bernard Hinault (FRA)
19 16 July Veurey to Saint-Priest 118 km (73 mi) Plain stage  Daniel Willems (BEL)
20 17 July Saint-Priest 46 km (29 mi) Individual time trial  Bernard Hinault (FRA)
21 18 July Auxerre to Fontenay-sous-Bois 207 km (129 mi) Plain stage  Johan van der Velde (NED)
22 19 July Fontenay-sous-Bois to Paris (Champs-Élysées) 187 km (116 mi) Plain stage  Freddy Maertens (BEL)
Total 3,753 km (2,332 mi)[12]

Race overview[edit]

Bernard Hinault (pictured in 1982), winner of the general classification

Hinault started out strong and won the prologue. Freddy Maertens showed he was still able to win sprints by winning the first part of the first stage. The second part was a team time trial, won by Ti-Raleigh, which put Gerrie Knetemann in the lead of the race. Ti Raleigh also won the second team time trial in stage four.[5]

The Pyrenees were only briefly visited, in the fifth stage.[6] For the last mountain, Hinault was the lead group, together with Lucien Van Impe and Phil Anderson. Van Impe escaped in the last kilometers and won the stage, 27 seconds ahead of Hinault. Anderson, who finished in third place, became the new leader, the first Australian cyclist to wear the yellow jersey.[5] Anderson had started as domestique for Jean-René Bernaudeau, and nobody was expecting him to be able to follow Hinault.[13] In the time trial of stage six, Hinault won as expected, and became the race leader. Anderson surprised with a third place, and he now followed Hinault by 13 seconds in the general classification.

In the following stages, through Northern France and Belgium, Hinault slowly increased his margin over Anderson by winning amelioration sprints, until lead by 57 seconds after stage 13. In stage 14, Hinault won the time trial, and added two more minutes to the margin.

In the sixteenth stage in the Alps, Anderson was not able to follow anymore. He lost 4 minutes to Hinault, but stayed in second place. Anderson lost this second place in the 17th stage, where he lost 17 minutes, making Van Impe the new second placed cyclist, nine minutes behind. Hinault showed his dominance by winning the eighteenth stage.

The time trial in stage 20 was also won by Hinault, who increased the margin to Van Impe to more than 14 minutes.[3]


In the 16th stage, Claude Vincendeau was randomly selected to undergo a doping test. Vincendeau abandoned during that stage, and had already left to his hotel. One of the doctors then went to his hotel to obtain a urine sample, but Vincendeau was unable/unwanting to give it. This counted as a positive test.[14]

Classification leadership[edit]

There were several classifications in the 1981 Tour de France, four 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.[15] The time bonus for stage winners had been absent in the years before, but it returned in 1981;[3] 30, 20 and 10 seconds for the first three cyclists in every stage.[16]

Additionally, there was a points classification, were 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.[15]

There was also a mountains classification. The organisation had categorized some climbs as either hors catégorie, 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, and was identified with a polkadot jersey.[15]

Another classification was the young rider classification. This was decided the same way as the general classification, but only cyclists younger than 24 were eligible, and the leader wore a white jersey.[17]

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 1981, this classification had no associated jersey.[18]

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.[19]

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 with red polka dots. Denotes the winner of the mountains classification A white jersey. Denotes the winner of the young rider classification

General classification[edit]

Final general classification (1–10)[3]
Rank Rider Team Time
1  Bernard Hinault (FRA) A yellow jersey. Renault–Elf–Gitane 96h 19' 38"
2  Lucien Van Impe (BEL) A white jersey with red polka dots. Boston–Mavic + 14' 34"
3  Robert Alban (FRA) La Redoute + 17' 04"
4  Joop Zoetemelk (NED) TI Raleigh–Creda + 18' 21"
5  Peter Winnen (NED) A white jersey. Capri Sonne–Koga Miyata + 20' 26"
6  Jean-René Bernaudeau (FRA) Peugeot–Esso–Michelin + 23' 02"
7  Johan De Muynck (BEL) Wickes–Splendor–Europ decor + 24' 25"
8  Sven-Åke Nilsson (SWE) Wickes–Splendor–Europ decor + 24' 37"
9  Claude Criquielion (BEL) Wickes–Splendor–Europ decor + 26' 18"
10  Phil Anderson (AUS) Peugeot–Esso–Michelin + 27' 00"

Points classification[edit]

Final points classification (1–8)[3][20]
Rank Rider Team Points
1  Freddy Maertens (BEL) A green jersey. Sunair–Sport 80–Colnago 428
2  William Tackaert (BEL) DAF Trucks–Côte d'Or–Gazelle 222
3  Bernard Hinault (FRA) A yellow jersey. Renault–Elf–Gitane 184
4  Alfons De Wolf (BEL) Vermeer–Thijs–Gios 152
5  Rudy Pevenage (BEL) Capri Sonne–Koga Miyata 147
6  Phil Anderson (AUS) Peugeot–Esso–Michelin 146
7  Sean Kelly (IRE) Wickes–Splendor–Europ decor 121
8  Johan van der Velde (NED) TI Raleigh–Creda 120

Mountains classification[edit]

Final mountains classification (1–7)[3][20][21]
Rank Rider Team Points
1  Lucien Van Impe (BEL) A white jersey with red polka dots. Boston–Mavic 284
2  Bernard Hinault (FRA) A yellow jersey. Renault–Elf–Gitane 222
3  Jean-René Bernaudeau (FRA) Peugeot–Esso–Michelin 168
4  Robert Alban (FRA) La Redoute 134
5  Sven-Åke Nilsson (SWE) Wickes–Splendor–Europ decor 95
6  Phil Anderson (AUS) Peugeot–Esso–Michelin 79
7  Peter Winnen (NED) A white jersey. Capri Sonne–Koga Miyata 70

Young rider classification[edit]

Final young rider classification (1–5)[20]
Rank Rider Team
1  Peter Winnen (NED) A white jersey. Capri Sonne–Koga Miyata
2  Claude Criquielion (BEL) Wickes–Splendor–Europ decor
3  Phil Anderson (AUS) Peugeot–Esso–Michelin
4  Jean-François Rodriguez (FRA) Renault–Elf–Gitane
5  Graham Jones (GBR) Peugeot–Esso–Michelin

Intermediate sprints classification[edit]

Final intermediate sprints classification (1–5)[21]
Rank Rider Team Points
1  Freddy Maertens (BEL) A green jersey. Sunair–Sport 80–Colnago 131
2  William Tackaert (BEL) DAF Trucks–Côte d'Or–Gazelle 106
3  Bernard Hinault (FRA) A yellow jersey. Renault–Elf–Gitane 61
4  Yvon Bertin (FRA) Renault–Elf–Gitane 51
5  Pierre Bazzo (FRA) La Redoute 45

Team classification[edit]

Final team classification (1–10)[20][21]
Rank Team Time
1 Peugeot–Esso–Michelin 399h 30' 24"
2 Renault–Elf–Gitane + 11' 20"
3 Capri-Sonne + 26' 46"
4 La Redoute + 42' 49"
5 Sem + 45' 53"
6 Wickes–Splendor–Europ decor + 52' 17"
7 Raleigh + 1h 55' 35"
8 Mercier + 2h 15' 53"
9 Daf + 2h 23' 29"
10 Puch–Wolber–Campagnolo + 2h 29' 20"


The 1981 Tour de France is seen as the year in which the globalization of the Tour became important. Before that most cyclists came from France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Luxemburg and the Netherlands, with only occasional successes by other European cyclists. Anderson was the first non-European cyclist to lead the Tour de France, and more would follow in the coming years.[22] The plans to make the Tour de France open to amateurs were not forgotten, and it happened in 1983.[23]

Anderson would again wear the yellow jersey in the next year, when he also won the young rider classification.

Hinault won five stages as reigning world champion. This had happened before, most recently in 1979 with Gerrie Knetemann and in 1980 with Jan Raas, but after 1981 it became a rare occurrence. The next time that this happened was in 2002 with Óscar Freire, and after that in 2011 with Thor Hushovd.[24]

Maertens who also won five stages would make his comeback year complete by winning the 1981 UCI Road World Championships later that year, but after that never reached his 1981 level again.

Jacques Boyer became the first American to ride in the Tour de France, acting as a domestique for Hinault.[25]


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  2. ^ "Amerikanen willen in Tour". Limburgs Dagblad (in Dutch). 22 January 1981. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "68ème Tour de France 1981" (in French). Mémoire du cyclisme. Archived from the original on 13 August 2012. Retrieved 26 September 2016. 
  4. ^ "Vijftien ploegen in Tour". Limburgs Dagblad (in Dutch). 11 June 1981. p. 19. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d McGann, Bill; McGann, Carol (2008). The Story of the Tour de France: 1965-2007. Dog Ear Publishing. pp. 129–133. ISBN 1-59858-608-4. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c Boyce, Barry (2010). "The Badger's return to Form". Cycling Revealed. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  7. ^ Augendre, Jacques (2009). Guide Historique, Part 4 (PDF) (in French). Amaury Sport Organisation. p. 80. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 July 2010. Retrieved 17 June 2010. 
  8. ^ "Felix Levitan: niet blij met bemoeizucht UCI Meer tumult in de Ronde van Frankrijk". Amigoe (in Dutch). Koninklijke Bibliotheek. 23 December 1980. p. 9. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  9. ^ "Bergetappe minder in de Tour" (in Dutch). De Telegraaf. 4 April 1981. p. 37. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  10. ^ Zwegers, Arian. "Tour de France GC Top Ten". CVCCBike.com. Archived from the original on 10 June 2009. Retrieved 15 August 2011. 
  11. ^ ""Tour-81" Clasificaciones" [Tour 81 Classifications]. El Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). 27 June 1981. p. 28. Retrieved 19 September 2016. 
  12. ^ Augendre, Jacques (2009). Guide Historique, Part 6 (in French). Amaury Sport Organisation. p. 115. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 October 2009. Retrieved 30 September 2009. 
  13. ^ Aubrey, Jane (6 July 2011). "Tour de France: Remembering Phil Anderson's day in yellow". Cyclingnews. Future Publishing Limited. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  14. ^ "Vincendeau positief". Limburgsch dagblad (in Dutch). Koninklijke Bibliotheek. 15 July 1981. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  15. ^ a b c Christian, Sarah (2 July 2009). "Tour de France demystified - Evaluating success". RoadCycling.co.nz Ltd. Retrieved 27 April 2012. 
  16. ^ "Drie aankomsten op bergen van de eerste categorie". Het vrije volk (in Dutch). Koninklijke Bibliotheek. 23 June 1981. p. 13. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  17. ^ "TDF guides: White jersey". TeamSky.com. BSkyB. 22 June 2011. Retrieved 27 April 2012. 
  18. ^ Mark, Eddy van der. "Tour Xtra: Intermediate Sprints Classification". Chippewa Valley Cycling Club. Retrieved 27 April 2012. 
  19. ^ Chauner, David; Halstead, Michael (1990). The Tour de France Complete Book of Cycling. Villard. ISBN 0-679-72936-4. Retrieved 27 April 2012. 
  20. ^ a b c d "Laatste Tour in cijfers". Leidsch dagblad (in Dutch). Regionaal archief Leiden. 20 July 1981. p. 10. Retrieved 10 February 2012. 
  21. ^ a b c "Clasificaciones". El Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). 20 July 1981. p. 22. Retrieved 10 February 2012. 
  22. ^ Dauncey, Hugh; Hare, Geoff (2003). The Tour de France, 1903-2003: a century of sporting structures, meanings, and values. Routledge. p. 219. ISBN 0-7146-5362-4. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  23. ^ "70ème Tour de France 1983" (in French). Mémoire du cyclisme. Archived from the original on 22 March 2012. Retrieved 26 September 2016. 
  24. ^ Wilcockson, John (15 July 2011). "Inside the Tour with John Wilcockson: Hushovd joins an elite band of world champion stage winners". Velonews. Competitor Group. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  25. ^ Eric Reed, Selling the Yellow Jersey: The Tour de France in the Global Era(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015), 178.

External links[edit]

Media related to 1981 Tour de France at Wikimedia Commons