As the Tour de France visits Pra-Loup for the first time in 35 years, here's a look back at the climb's most famous moment.


The Tour de France returns to the climb of Pra-Loup on Wednesday afternoon, stage 17 of 2015 Tour. It’s the first time since 1980 that the Alpine climb has been included in the race route, though it was the events of five years earlier that cemented the little-used climb in Tour legend.

>>> Eddy Merckx and the 1975 Tour de France

It was 1975, and the Tour hadn’t had a home winner since Roger Pingeon in 1967. In the intervening period, the Belgian Eddy Merckx had triumphed five times, and French fans were starting to tire of his dominance.

Merckx had taken the yellow jersey after winning the stage six time trial, and felt the vitriol of the fans first hand nine days later. Climbing to the finish of stage 14 at Puy-de-Dôme, he was infamously punched in the back by a spectator, in an attack that left him with a bruised liver.

Despite this, Merckx still led the race by 58 seconds going into stage 15. Bernard Thévenet recalls how he tried desperately to attack throughout the stage, including multiple attempts on the Col de Champs.

His efforts seemed in vain when Merckx attacked on the descent of the Col d’Allos, and it looked as though his Tour domination would be continued as he reached the foot of Pra-Loup nearly a minute ahead of his rivals.

Thévenet refused to give up though, and even though he admitted to feeling low on energy, he resolved to make a move on the final climb. Up the road, Merckx was waning, and amazingly Thévenet caught and passed the Belgian before the top, eventually taking 1-56 on the race leader.

It was end of a legend, and the last time Merckx would ever wear yellow as Thévenet defended his lead all the way to Paris, sealing the first of his two Tour de France wins.

  • poisonjunction

    I really wonder at the French attitude?

    Its 1975 – Merckx is viciously attacked by race onlooker, receiving a severe blow to his kidneys. The next day he suffers on a mountain stage and loses the yellow jersey to a Frenchman!

    2 + 2 used to equal 4!

    Merckx was apparently never to wear yellow again . . . . .

    Is that really the only way a ‘home’ rider can win – via assault on the leading rider, this year a disgusting act directed at current Yellow Jersey wearer Froome.

    and . . . .

    With the assaulted Merckx/ Thevenet incident receiving such media publicity, it begs the question was the Barguil/ Thomas incident as innocent as Barguil would have us believe?

    It certainly wasn’t a gentle collision, more a deliberate act, followed by what looks like Barguil ‘deliberately’ shouldering Thomas over the road edge, enabling himself to remain upright, get in front and back in control – check the video!

    And it worked, he lost no time and moved into the GC top ten.

    Whereas the fortunately unhurt Thomas, able to swop his machine with a teammate, and later revert to his own, did lose time on Contador[next on GC], but retained his GC place.

    How on earth can the French media publicly demonstrate pride in the 1975 Yellow Jersey, AND moreover continue to ‘Celebrate’ it 40 years later?

    Were the Press in ’75 anti Yellow jersey wearer, did they also stir public sentiment, were they ultimately responsible for Merckx injury?

    Are todays French Press adopting the same tactic – stirring public sentiment against the current Yellow Jersey wearer – apparently YES?