The Five Greatest Tour de France GC Duels

Tour de France Stage 8 and the Tour starts today

Tour de France Stage 8 and the Tour starts today


PARIS, July 01, 2014 (AFP) – In anticipation of a monstrous battle between
champion Chris Froome and two-time winner Alberto Contador at the 2014 Tour de
France, which starts in Leeds on Saturday, looks at five classic yellow
jersey duels from the past:

1964 – Jacques Anquetil (FRA) beat Raymond Poulidor (FRA) by 55-sec
This was the classic clash between timetrial specialist Anquetil and the
gravity-defying climber Poulidor. Anquetil, who was going for his fifth Tour
crown, had the edge on Poulidor since the ninth stage in Monaco when he won a
sprint finish to take a one minute time bonus on the line. Known as the
“eternal second” for finishing second three times and third five times on the
Tour without ever winning it, Poulidor gradually closed the gap until going
into the final 27km timetrial 14 seconds down. He was up by 5-sec at the first
time-check but Anquetil showed his class against the clock and claimed the
final stage to win by 55-sec.

1971 – Eddy Merckx (BEL) beat Joop Zoetemelk (NED) by 9min 51sec
Although Merckx’s final winning margin was sizeable, the true battle took
place between him and Luis Ocana until stage 14. Merckx was a twice former
winner and overwhelming favourite but Ocana stunned everyone by winning the
11th stage in the mountains by more than 6-min, taking more than 9-min out of
Merckx. He went so fast that 61 of the 100-rider field failed to make the time
limit. Merckx pulled back time on the next two stages but Ocana still had more
than 8-min on Merckx going into the 14th stage but many still believed the
great Belgian, who would go on to win five Tour titles, being the chaser,
could succeed. Yet Ocana crashed out on the 14th stage and the path was left
open for Merckx to win comfortably. Ocana would at least go on to win the 1973

1987 – Stephen Roche (IRL) beat Pedro Delgado (ESP) by 40-sec
Although neither seemed in the mix earlier in the race, Roche took the lead
on the 19th stage, won by Delgado. But the next day on Alpe D’Huez he finished
15th as the Spaniard took the overall lead. The 21st stage was the pivotal one
as Roche clawed back more than a minute on the better climber Delgado to lose
only a few seconds on the stage. The next day he took 18-sec out of Delgado to
leave him just 21-sec behind. Two days later Roche comfortably beat Delgado in
the 38km timetrial to take overall victory by a mere 40-sec.

1989 – Greg Lemond (USA) beat Laurent Fignon (FRA) by 8-sec
The greatest ever finish to a Tour ended with Lemond breaking French hearts
on the final stage timetrial on the Champs Elysees. The race pitted twice
former winner Fignon up against the 1986 champion, with the pair separated by
less than a minute throughout the race. Since Lemond took the lead by 5-sec on
the fifth stage timetrial, the lead changed hands four times. It came down to
the final stage 24.5km timetrial with Fignon leading Lemond by 50 seconds. But
the American put in the race against the clock of his life to snatch victory
by the tightest ever margin in Tour history, before going on to win a third
title the next year.

2010 – *Alberto Contador (ESP) beat Andy Schleck (LUX) by 39-sec
Although Contador would later be stripped of this win for doping, it was
still a thrilling race. Schleck won stage eight and took the yellow jersey on
the following stage from Cadel Evans. He led until stage 15 when on the climb
of Port de Bales he dropped his chain. Contador attacked with a group of
others and took 39-sec out of Schleck to take yellow by 8-sec. The key stage
was 17 when Schleck and Contador pulled clear of the field. The Luxemburger
repeatedly attacked the 2007 and 2009 Tour winner over the final 15km but
couldn’t shake him. Contador then gained a further 31-sec on Schleck in the
penultimate stage timetrial to secure victory by 39-sec, the exact amount he
gained on stage 15. However, the record books now show Schleck as the winner
after Contador’s doping ban.