Rivalries propel viewership to new highs, while a mountaintop death was the tragedy that sparked new rules requiring the first drug test. Sponsored Teams Again The 1960s saw a return to sponsored teams and commercialism, but the Tour still offered plenty of intrigue and drama. The Tour was the most watched event in cycling and the sponsors badly needed publicity. The Tour’s biggest rivals, Poulidor and Anquetil, really disliked each other and this attracted fans.
Rules of Anquetil
For many years, Anquetil was the best time trial in history. He won 12 of these events in the Tour de France and even set a world record before winning the Tour for the first time. Anquetil had a certain reputation as a rebel. He once said that his training idea included “some whiskeys, blond cigarettes, and a woman.” His wayward ways extended into his private life. He had an affair with a doctor’s wife, a woman named Jeanine, and when he found out that she couldn’t have a child, he persuaded her to allow him to have a baby with her adult daughter, a woman named Annie. They had a daughter named Sophie. Of course, Annie and Jeanine began to argue. Annie moved in and Jeanine invited her son and his wife, Dominique, to move in. Anquetil quickly seduced Dominique and a son, Christopher.
Anquetil took his wild roads to his cycling events. Most cyclists always go for a ride on rest day because their bodies are so used to riding a bike. Jacques Anquetil, however, liked to enjoy life. He would go on a picnic and have fun with large portions of grilled lamb and plenty of drink.
Anquetil, the five-time winner, stayed out of 1965 and returned in 1966. But this would be his last Tour.
Tragedy strikes, doping rears its ugly head
In 1967, tragedy struck and this would be the year the Tour would be hit for the first time by a doping scandal. Tom Simpson was the best British pilot of his time. Unfortunately, he was a victim of doping, but died due to the heat when he crossed Mont Ventoux. His death led to the first drug test in 1968.
Tom Simpson was a highly regarded runner. His only goal in life was to win the Tour. Simpson knew he had to comply. He turned to drugs, something that was not new on the Tour. For some time now, many cyclists have been using a life-threatening cocktail of drugs: amphetamines as a stimulant, Palfium to relieve pain in their legs, and then sleeping pills at night to counteract amphetamines.
Cycling began to deal with this problem. The first few races were astonishingly long and tested the limits of human endurance. Early Tour stages could take more than 17 hours to complete. From the beginning, the cyclists took various substances that allowed them to complete their ordeals. When the Pélissier brothers withdrew from the 1924 Tour and gave their famous interview with Albert London, they described the long list of drugs they were taking. “We ran on dynamite,” Henri Pélissier said.
Before World War II, amphetamines were synthesized and athletes immediately understood the advantage they provided. Throughout the 1950s, it became clear to observers that cyclists were getting high. There were photographs of runners with dry foam on their faces or of runners crazed by a combination of heat and amphetamines stopping in the middle of a run to find relief in a fountain. After riding until he collapsed, Jean Malléjac lay on the ground still strapped to his bike, his legs convulsively pumping the pedals. Others would get back on their bikes and go the wrong way. Sometimes one could almost follow a race route down the trail of syringes left on the side of the road. Roger Rivière crashed in 1960 because he had taken so much of the opiate Palfium to relieve pain in his legs that he couldn’t feel the brake levers. Bahamontes said she loved a nice hot day on the mountain because cyclists using amphetamines couldn’t handle the heat.
Was Tom Simpson a bad person or a hero? It was neither. I knew that riding without drugs was not possible,
The day after Simpson’s death. the platoon agreed to ride if one of Simpson’s British companions was allowed a ceremonial stage victory to honor Simpson’s memory.
Merckx rules the way
Eddy Merckx of Belgium won in 1969, an impressive debut that earned him the nickname “cannibal”, a driver willing to devour everything necessary to win. Merckx flew to Paris with a 17-minute lead. Merckx dominated the cycling world, winning 250 major races, one a week for six years. Without a doubt, he was the most complete and capable horseman in the world.
In 1975 Merckx was finally defeated by Bernard Thevenet. Merckx had been beaten and knocked off his bike by a jealous French fan. This is the first year that the race along the Champs-Elysées ends.
France celebrated Thevenet’s second win in 1977. He was a wonderful kid, with seven more wins at home until the last one, in 1985.
The next hero of the race was a French Franc from Brittany, Hinault, who would become the third man to win five Tours. The years between 1978 and 1984 were known as the golden age of “le blaireau” (the badger).
So France cheered on a new hero, a sophisticated bespectacled young Parisian named Laurent Fignon. Fignon arrived in his hometown of Paris dressed in yellow, beating Hinault by 10 minutes and proving that 1983 had not been a fluke.
- 1960 Gastone Nencini (Ita)
- 1961 Jacques Anquetil (Fra)
- 1962 Jacques Anquetil (Fra)
- 1963 Jacques Anquetil (Fra)
- 1964 Jacques Anquetil (Fra)
- 1965 Felice Gimondi (Ita)
- 1966 Lucien Aimar (Fra)
- 1967 Roger Pingeon (Fra)
- 1968 Jan Janssen (Ned)
- 1969 Eddy Merckx (Bel)
- 1970 Eddy Merckx (Bel)
- 1971 Eddy Merckx (Bel)
- 1972 Eddy Merckx (Bel)
- 1973 Luis Ocaña (Spa)
- 1974 Eddy Merckx (Bel)
- 1975 Bernard Thevenet (Fra)
- 1976 Lucien Van Impe (Bel)
- 1977 Bernard Thevenet (Fra)
- 1978 Bernard Hinault (Fra)
- 1979 Bernard Hinault (Fra)
- 1980 Joop Zoetemelk (Ned)