March 1976. The 67th Milan-San Remo was won for a record
seventh time by Eddy Merckx.
For once the man who had made Molteni sausages a dish royalty knew about was not the pre-race favourite. His inconsistent form in Tirreno-Adriatico, which had finished three days earlier, saw him finish second overall to Roger De Vlaeminck. Merckx however had not fully recovered from an earlier bout of bronchitis.
|Frenchman Bernard Thévenet reads La Gazzetta before the start||Felice Gimondi (L) and Franco Bitossi take it easy|
|The SCIC team lead the peloton on the Turchino Pass||Renato Laghi reaches the summit of the Turchino first followed by a forty year old Raymond Poulidor|
|Photos © Angelo Gaudenzi / Ciclismo D'Italia Illustrato|
|Eddy Merckx, along
with Gianbattista Baronchelli, Walter Godefroot, Gerrie Knetemann,
Michel Laurent, Luc Leman, Rik Van Linden, Freddy Maertens, Francesco
Moser, Wladimiro Panizza, Walter Planckaert, Patrick Sercu, Jean-Luc
Vandenbroucke, Roger De Vlaeminck and Wilfried Wesemael, was part of a
leading group of fifteen riders that formed on the descent of the Capo
Berta which came after the 240 km mark. Along the rolling coast road
Merckx attacked three times. Each time he caught the rest of the group
by surprise with bursts of effort that took him up to 100 metres clear.
Each time his rivals fought back up to him, but having to dig deep into
their reserves of strength. Then suddenly the race route turned right
off the wide coastal road and onto the narrower road of the Poggio
climb. Here came the fourth and vital attack. Again it was a surprise
move but this time there was hesitation. De Vlaeminck (Brooklyn) and
Maertens (Flandria) looked at each other, each hoping the other would
bridge the gap. Instead it was a young Vandenbroucke
(Peugeot-Esso-Michelin) who crossed and joined Merckx.
The two Belgians climbed side by side and at the top it was clear the victory would be between these two. "Eddy asked me to do my share but I had to confess that I was virtually at the end of my strength." Vandenbroucke said later. At the top the nearest, Paris-Nice winner Laurent (Miko-De Gribaldy), was 15 seconds behind followed by Panizza (SCIC) with the rest not far back. Merckx had out-witted his rivals once again for most had been expecting an attack over the top of the Poggio, scene of several of his winning moves in the past.
Into San Remo itself Vandenbroucke took over the lead from Merckx who motioned him through. With 300 metres remaining Merckx erupted from Vandenbroucke's back wheel and the race was over. On the descent of the Poggio only Panizza could get by Laurent who stayed just clear of the sprint won by Planckaert (Maes-Pils-Rokado) from Van Linden (Bianchi) and Sercu (Brooklyn).
"In order to win this race, I had to get to San Remo without taking Roger De Vlaeminck along for the sprint. To do this I had to choose my moment to attack." said Merckx
|Eddy Merckx wins his seventh Milan-San Remo - Photo © Cor Vos|
attacked I coudn't do anything to go with him." Laurent said at the
finish. "I tried to get away on the climb but I coudn't quite manage
that either, but I'm pleased with fourth place. I think I was stronger
today than I was during Paris-Nice."
Maertens was not among the finishers as he punctured on the descent of the Poggio. Also among the non-finishers were crash victims Dietrich Thurau (TI-Raleigh) who dislocated his shoulder and Davide Boifava of the Jolliceramica team who fractured his wrist.
The 1976 Milan-San Remo however was to finish on a sour note when Jean-Luc Vandenbroucke was later disqualified for doping. Panizza was given second position with third place left vacant.
|Merckx celebrates a unique victory - photo © Cor Vos|
Eddy Merckx (Molteni-Campagnolo) in 6h 55' 28" media
2. Wladimiro Panizza (Scic-bic.Colnago) à 28"
4. Michel Laurent (Miko-De Gribaldy) à 31"
5. Walter Planckaert (Maes Pils-Rokado) à 33"
6. Rik Van Linden (Bianchi-Campagnolo)
7. Patrick Sercu (Brooklyn)
8. Roger De Vlaeminck (Brooklyn)
9. Francesco Moser (Sanson)
10. Walter Godefroot (Ijsboercke-Colnago)