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Double Top

It’s the 50th anniversary of Barry Hoban being the first British cyclist to win consecutive stages in the Tour de France, in this extract from his autobiography Vas-y Barry he relives those golden moments.

So I got through the Pyrenean stage, the one when Eddy Merckx went on the rampage and doubled an eight-minute lead to 16 minutes, and I was really fired up for the next stage, which went from Mourenx at the base of the mountains to finish on the track in Bordeaux. I’d already been second in Bordeaux twice so I was determined to win.

Barry talking to pioner journalist J.B. Wadley (right) at the start of the 1969 Tour de France
                                                   Barry talking to pioner journalist J.B. Wadley (right) at the start of the 1969 Tour de France

I got the mechanic to put my light wheels with silk tyres in my bike, and I was really psyched up, just looking for the right move. It happened somewhere between 45 and 50 kilometres to go when Pietro Guerra, Harm Ottenbros and Roland Berland broke away. I went after them, got across quickly, and when another French rider, Francis Rigon, latched on we all worked together and quickly built a one and a half-minute lead.

We held them at that, and when we entered the Velodrome in Bordeaux, Rigon went first, and I jumped onto his back wheel in the back straight with 350 metres to go. But it was too early to make my move, so when Ottenbros came past I got in behind him and I also moved up the track a little bit so I could use the banking to give me some extra speed when I needed it.

 Barry Hoban and Mercier-BP team leader Raymond Poulidor                                               
                                                             Barry Hoban and Mercier-BP team leader Raymond Poulidor

I waited, then just at the right time I jumped, effectively going downhill, going down the banking, and went straight past Ottenbros to win. I was delighted, at long last I’d made up for when I was robbed of victory in Bordeaux in 1964 by André Darrigade
.
Next day was 200-kilometre stage to Brive, which was much hillier, especially towards the end, so I wasn’t expecting to do as well. But when a small group went away with 40 kilometres to go, I jumped after them and quite quickly caught them up.

There were five riders again, and the Italian, Pietro Guerra was there, the same Pietro Guerra who’d been in the break with me the day before. I actually met him a couple of years ago, he came up to me and said, “Hey, Barry, do you remember me? It’s Pietro, Pietro Guerra. Every time I tried to win a stage in the Tour de France you beat me.” The others were Evert (Eef) Dolman from Holland, a Luxembourg rider called Eddy Schutz, and Jos Spruyt, one of Merckx’s team mates.

Image of Barry Hoban

I was still a bit tired from the previous day, so I wasn’t flying through, and Spruyt, who had been a team mate of mine in Mercier-BP, thought I might have been saving my strength. He came up alongside me and said; “If you aren’t going to work properly Barry, then neither am I.”

So I replied, honestly, because I wasn’t feeling all that good; “I’m not feeling too great Jos, but if you attack and get away I promise I won’t chase you.” He thought about that for a bit then started working again. In the end Spruyt did jump clear, and I didn’t chase him but the others did. When they caught Spruyt, Eef Dolman led out, but I got past him to win my second Tour stage within 24 hours.

The double is done, Hoban wins in Brive                                                                     
                                                                       The double is done, Hoban wins in Brive

The two stage wins in two days gained me and my team sponsor Mercier loads of publicity, and not only did my contract money for the post-Tour de France criteriums go up, the number of contracts I got went up too. In the 17 days following the 1969 Tour de France I did 19 races. That meant that, if you included the split stages in the Tour, from the start of the Tour de France I rode 45 races in 40 days.

Cycling Legends

Barry Hoban’s autobiography ‘Vas-y Barry, my Cycling Story’ is published by Cycling Legends and written from the heart by Barry Hoban. The book has received nothing but favourable comments from people who have read it, a common thread being- It’s just like being on the bike racing with Barry.

Vas-y Barry is available to buy direct from www.cyclinglegends.co.uk using this link;
https://www.cyclinglegends.co.uk/index.php/buy-books/vas-y-barry-detail

Image of Vas-Y-Barry book cover

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