My day at the Tour de France 29.6.74

Many years ago I managed to persuade my Dad to take me down to see the Tour de France which was making it debut on British soil. It was in 1974 that the Tour de France first travelled to the United Kingdom to have a circuit stage on the Plympton bypass. Contrary to popular belief the Plympton bypass was already open and in use before the Tour came to Britain. Having a road closed in those days was no easy task, the organizers had to approach the Secretary of State for the Environment to seek approval. After visits to the site and many meetings permission for road closure was finally given. The road closed at 8.30am for the 10.00am start.

The race itself consisted of several loops up one carriageway and down the other, this must have relatively been boring for the riders but excellent for the spectators because you could get too see them go past many times and due to the lack of spectators that turned up to watch the spectacle a good roadside view was easily obtained. The main reason for me wanting to watch the Tour de France that day was to see my hero, Eddy Merckx, in action and I was thrilled to see him go past quite a few times on his 'burnt orange' coloured bike. I remember British rider Barry Hoban was there too. The stage was eventually won by the Dutchman Henk Poppe and it wasn't for another 20 years that the UK once again would host 'Le Tour'.

The 'Molteni' team for the Tour that year consisted of, Eddy Merckx, Joseph Huysmans, Joseph DeSchoenmaker, Louis Bruyere, Joseph Spruyt, Ludo Delcroix, Edouard Janssens, Marc Lievens, and Frans Mintjens.

Interesting page from the BBC news website with photos - here.

The cover of the Plymouth stage programme - click here to see the complete programme in PDF format! - 12mb file.

Click the photos to see larger size.

Standing by one of Eddy Merckx's Molteni team cars!

Eddy Merckx approaches!

Eddy does another lap.

Watching the peloton go by.

The crowds gather for the finish.

The broom wagon!


Plan of the circuit from 'Cycling' magazine.