The 1960s and ’70s saw some of fiercest rivalries ever in cycling with the likes of Belgian stars Rik van Looy, Eddy Merckx, Walter Godefroot and Eric Leman amongst those involved. Another pair of bitter adversaries were Freddy Maertens and Roger De Vlaeminck and their rivalry came to a head at the 1976 Tour of Flanders.
The 60th edition of the race took place on the 4th of April and the riders faced eleven categorised climbs over the course which started in Gent and finished in Meerbeke. Amongst the climbs they faced were the Oude Kwaremont, Taaienberg, Eikenberg, Muur van Geraardsbergen, Bosberg and for the first time ever, the Koppenberg.
The field thinned considerably on the Koppenberg as Maertens’ Flandria-Velda team-mate Marc Demeyer put the pressure on. Chaos ensued on the steep slopes of the Koppenberg as numerous riders either fell or were caught behind fallers. Eddy Merckx was amongst those who had to walk on the climb.
Joining Demeyer up front were Maertens, De Vlaeminck (Brooklyn), Italian champion Francesco Moser (Sanson) and Walter Planckaert (Maes-Rokado) and this would be the winning break.
Coming towards the finish, the attacks started. Moser and Demeyer went clear with four kilometres remaining with Godefroot then bridging across to the pair. However, De Vlaeminck and Maertens were unwilling to put in the effort to join the trio up front.
In the footage of the race below, Demeyer can be seen looking back, pleading with Maertens to come across. Neither Maertens nor De Vlaeminck would put the effort in though and bring their biggest rival at the time to the front group. They would arrive into the finish sixteen seconds down on the leaders.
Planckaert won the sprint ahead of Moser with Demeyer rounding out the podium. It marked the biggest win of his career. De Vlaeminck would beat Maertens for fourth place, and afterwards said that “he did not want Maertens to win”.
1976 Tour of Flanders Result
1 Walter Planckaert (BEL) Maes-Rokado 6h 10′ 00″
2 Francesco Moser (ITA) Sanson s.t.
3 Marc Demeyer (BEL) Flandria-Velda s.t.
4 Roger De Vlaeminck (BEL) Brooklyn + 16″
5 Freddy Maertens (BEL) Flandria-Velda s.t.
6 Willy Teirlinck (BEL) Gitane-Campagnolo + 22″
7 Eric Leman (BEL) Zoppas-Splendor s.t.
8 Walter Godefroot (BEL) IJsboerke-Colnago s.t.
9 Frans Verbeeck (BEL) IJsboerke-Colnago s.t.
10 André Dierickx (BEL) Maes-Rokado s.t.