I received a letter the other day from one of my loyal Eagle readers, inquiring as to which was my greatest memory during my professional days of racing. So I thought in this month’s column I would provide you with the re-account of a race in 1980, known as the Tour de France.

I was riding for the Holland/Ti-Raleigh team that year and on the last day, boring down on the Champs-Elysees, I found myself riding in a very unique four-man breakaway (all of us had ridden ourselves into top general classification positions) when my teammate, and designated leader, Joop Zoetemelk, snapped his front fork. I happen to ride the same size frame as Joop, so the only scenario was to sacrifice my hopes and give my leader my bike. So there I was, 28 kilometers from the finish in Paris, watching my dreams for a podium finish go up in smoke. 8 minutes and 32 seconds back was the peloton, and I had instantly been transformed from a contender to a spectator, viewing from the side of the road.

Unable to accept this fate, I climbed over the top tube of Joop’s broken machine. Yes, there was no front wheel, and only a stub of a fork crown, but I pulled up on the bars with all my determination, and headed down the road in an all or nothing wheelie. Our team car finally pulled up along side of me, and the Team Manager screams that my chances didn’t look good, the pack was working together now... But there was Fausto Coppi’s “Campionissimo Pizza Pie” option...

I had come too far to give up over a mere metallurgical setback, and I motioned to our mechanic, in the back seat, to do whatever it takes. He pulled out this relic, with a cottered spindle and skipped-tooth chainring, but boy, that dinosaur was BIG! I unclipped my right leg while he leaned out the window and went to work. With the compounded crank speed, and the rolling resistance of only one tyre, I was flying down the road. 20 kilos and I was back in contact with the leaders. Joop was looking to win, and in second place was another teammate, Hennie Kuiper, But the third rider, Raymond Martin, a Frenchman, was suffering. Now I know Ti-Raleigh would have loved a 1-2-3 team finish, but I also have known Ray since we were racing as juniors, and I’ve heard him speak on many occasions about his greatest wish would be to prove to his father (who had also been a professional cyclist) that he was a worthy son - by standing on the podium in Paris.

It was another decision without need for debate. I swung in front of an old friend and pulled him to the Champs-Elysees, whereupon Ray gratefully summoned his last bit of strength, and sprinted off for the final podium position. I was left to be consumed by the advancing field, as the peloton began to breath down my neck in the final meters. But then I jumped, just as the pack was about to absorb me, and wheelied ahead for the field sprint - and the Points Jersey to boot! Djamolidine Abdoujaparov eat your heart out.  -Euro “At least my bike’s won the Tour” Freddie.

<INDEX                                                    JULY - 1999                                                        NEXT>

Criterium Corner with Euro Freddie