Tour of Flanders
Twenty Years Later, Tour of Flanders Winner Jacky Durand Rides Again
A former champion revisits the victory that launched his career
Fortunately for the 25-year-old racer, his breakaway companion, Wegmuller, was an experienced long-break specialist. The Swiss rider had proven he could go the distance after finishing second to Dirk Demol in the 1988 Paris-Roubaix with a similar breakaway.
As the race wound down, Wegmuller continued to pull at key moments, allowing Durand to recuperate.
"I started pulling again before the Muur and when we there I was just like, 'OK, Wegmuller has been killing me on the climbs. I’ll just do my best to hang on.' But then I noticed that he didn’t climb it that fast."
Still, Durand harbored no hope of victory. Back in the days before race radios, riders struggled to get reliable information on the gap between the breakaway and the favorites. "Some said three minutes, others said two minutes, and you know, two minutes is not much when you have been off in a breakaway since the morning!"
With the finish now less than 20 kilometers away after the Muur, Durand was uncertain of the best tactic as the duo approached the day's final climb, the Bosberg. "I didn't know the gap," he says. "Wegmuller wasn’t riding that fast, so I signaled for my director, Bernard Quilfen. But I couldn’t find him. There were so many motos, so many official cars that Bernard couldn't get through!"
Taking matters into his own hands, Durand attacked.
"I had seen on television where Edwig van Hooydonck (winner in 1989 and 1991) attacked here on the Bosberg and I just said to myself, 'OK, I’m going to do just like Van Hooydonck. I’m going to attack on the Bosberg. I might do it five or six kilometers an hour slower, but I’m going to attack like van Hooydonck!' And that's what I did. I attacked right in the middle of the climb."
Gapping Wegmuller, he crested the Bosberg and charged toward Meerbeke, the finish town of the Tour of Flanders until 2011. But still he refused to think of victory.
"I was like, 'OK, I’ve dropped Wegmuller but where is Van Hooydonck? Where is Fondriest?' I'd heard they attacked on the Muur and just thought, 'Boy, is it going to look funny when they catch me!' Fortunately, at that point I had a tailwind. I was turning over the biggest gear I had and was surprised that I still had some strength."
And it was then that Durand was introduced to cycling legend Eddy Merckx for the first time.