Paris – Roubaix: Marc Demeyer

Paris – Roubaix, 1976. The 11th of April was a sunny, cold Sunday. There were no clouds to be seen and 154 riders took off in Chantilly. At the beginning of the race, the riders were held up twice by employees of the newspaper Le Parisien Libéré. A department of the newspaper held a strike to protest against the fact that they were going to be fired in the nearby future. After some negotiation with the employees it was decided that the riders could pass the striking men one by one. Favorites to win this edition of Paris – Roubaix were De Vlaeminck, Godefroot, Merckx, Moser and Maertens. Both De Vlaeminck and Merckx could win the race for the fourth time.  This never occurred before and it would make them a hero in Belgium. De Vlaeminck placed an early attack on the first cobbled road to test the legs. Some of the riders were dropped immediately, but all the favorites were in his wheel. Later in the race, he sent two of his teammates away, but Merckx worked hard to get them back. Not long after this, there was a crash. Maertens was on the ground and he was in pain. It was the end of the race for him. With 31 kilometres to go De Vlaeminck placed another attack with in his wheel Kuiper, Demeyer and Godefroot. Merckx could not follow. Moser also was not able to follow at first, but he made the jump to the first group. Godefroot felt strong and had the feeling that he could beat everyone in that group. Unfortunately, he got a flat tire and he was not able to rejoin the group. Now they were with four. One of them was going to win Paris – Roubaix. De Vlaeminck and Demeyer did most of the work, while Kuiper and Moser followed in their wheels. Demeyer and De Vlaeminck were rivals. Demeyer was a teammate of Maertens, the biggest rival of De Vlaeminck at the time. With the crash of Maertens, Demeyer saw his chance to ride for himself. At the end of the race, Kuiper and Moser placed many attacks, but De Vlaeminck still managed to get them back each time. On the court of Roubaix, it was him who started the sprint. It was too early. In the last metres Demeyer and Moser outsprinted him. De Vlaeminck was angry, because this was his chance to become a legend. Instead, the win went to Marc Demeyer, a rider from the enemy. That made the loss even bigger and more disappointing. In the same year, a Danish documentary about this edition of the race was released. It showed the events of the day, through the eyes of the riders themselves. It was unique for that time. Some people say that it is the best film that has ever been made about professional cycling. You have the opportunity to watch the whole documentary below on YouTube and see Marc Demeyer surprisingly win ‘the hell of the North’.

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