Veertig jaar geleden gingen de renners in de Tour in staking tegen de vele ritten (soms twee per dag) en de vele verplaatsingen. De leider was Bernard Hinault (zie foto). Op enkele meter voor de aankomstlijn in Valence d’Agen hielden de renners halt en na een kort oponthoud gingen ze te voet over de meet. Het is ontgoochelend hoe weinig verhalen je nog terugvindt op het internet over dit uitzonderlijke staaltje van solidariteit onder de renners (zie hiervoor ook mijn interview met Maurice Lippens), daarom wend ik me maar tot Feargal McKay en zijn “Complete book of the Tour de France” (p.440-442).

The Tour’s riders were getting fed up with the way things were going on. Since the end of the 1950s Félix Lévitan had been needing more and longer transfers between stages in order to join up the towns and cities willing to pay to host the race. (The Tour had actually had its first transfer as far back as 1906, when the riders had to travel the short distance from Lille to Douai, but they only became a regular feature after 1958.) And Lévitan was also packing in split stages, two and sometimes three stages in one day of racing. The riders were
being pushed to the limit, often arriving at team hotels — which sometimes weren’t actually hotels and were in fact school dormitories – late in the evening after race traffic had delayed their journey.
On 12 July, on what was the second split stage of the race, the riders struck. A 7.30 start was required in order to pack in all the day’s riding, and that meant an even earlier rise for the riders, which itself came after the race had transferred by car the night before from Saint-Lary-Soulan to Tarbes (a distance of about 60 kilometres, give or take). In the morning the peloton was meant to race from Tarbes to Valence-d’Agen (158 kilometres) and then, after a brief rest, remount and race on to Toulouse (98 kilometres). And then transfer up to Figeac (about 150 kilometres north) that evening.
The riders travelled the road to Valence-d’Agen at touring pace, with the plan being for the peloton to dismount and walk the final kilometre. Jacques Goddet implored the riders to race, if only that final kilometre, so the fans in Valence-d’Agen would still get the spectacle. But the riders were deaf to his entreaties.
Alt the riders participated in the strike. But, singled out as their spokesman, was France’s 23-year-old national champion, Bernard Hinault (Renault). Hinault was a mercurial talent, having won Gent-Wevelgem, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré and the GP des Nations in 1977. Coming into the Tour he was the winner of the 1978 edition of the Vuelta a Espana.
There were shades of Henri Pélissier about Hinault in the way he stood up to race organisers — and the agents, Daniel Dousset and Roger Piel, who still held considerable sway in the sport — but he was more in the model of Jacques Anquetil, a man who felt he was doing a professional’s job and deserved to be treated as a professional.
De mensen van Valence d’Agen paaide hij met een deelname aan hun na-Tourcriterium, alhoewel ik me afvraag of die zoveel nadeel hadden van deze “staking”: anders hadden zij een massasprint te zien gekregen, waarbij de renners in een flits over de meet bolden, terwijl de supporters nu alle tijd hadden om hun idolen van nabij te zien en er zelfs mee te praten.
Die Tour zelf veranderde er uiteraard niets (dat kon men niet zo maar improviseren), maar de staking heeft zeker invloed gehad op de Tours van de komende jaren. Die halve ritten b.v., dat zien we nu niet meer, de hotels werden beter, maar de lange verplaatsingen die zijn er nog steeds!

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