By 1969, Eddy Merckx had taken victories in the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Milan-San Remo, Fleche Wallonne, Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix amongst other races. However, one race which had eluded him was the Tour of Flanders.
That was to change in 1969 though. He had gone into the race as the clear favourite having won both the Vuelta a Levante and Paris–Nice already that year.
The weather that day was terrible with heavy rain and strong winds. He initially attacked on the Oude Kwaremont but a puncture put paid to his chances of gaining an advantage.
He made another move on the Muur van Geraardsbergen with just a handful of riders able to follow. The lead group turned into a crosswind with 73 kilometres remaining and the riders with Merckx dropped off.
The Belgian was alone, but his team manager Lomme Driessens told him it was too soon and that he should hold off on going it alone. Merckx ignored him. He soloed to victory, finishing over five minutes clear of second-placed Felice Gimondi and eight minutes ahead of Marino Basso.
It was a record margin of victory in the race. He held his form after the race and in the seventeen days after the Tour of Flanders, he won nine times. That spring he also won Milan-San Remo and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
It would take another six years before he would take his second win in De Ronde. Once again, he would start the season in great form and in the days preceding the Tour of Flanders, he won Setmana Catalana.
In a similar fashion to his ’69 win, Merckx took off in Flanders with 103 kilometres remaining. ‘The Flying Milkman’ Frans Verbeeck was the only rider able to stick with him, but Merckx dropped him with five kilometres remaining.
Verbeeck finished 13″ down with another Belgian Marc Demeyer rounding out the podium.
In this video, Merckx talks about his two victories in the race and what makes Flanders special.
Below are highlights from both races.
1969 Tour of Flanders
1975 Tour of Flanders