From heaven to hell

In the 1974 Giro d’Italia, a completely unknown 21-year-old Belgian, Wilfried Reybrouck, won the first stage from Vatican City to Formia, and wore the maglia rosa in his first professional Grand Tour.

Wilfried Reybrouck won Girobio (the amateur or "Baby" Giro) in 1973
Wilfried Reybrouck won Girobio (the amateur or “Baby” Giro) in 1973


Wilfried Reybrouck (born in Bruges, January 27, 1953) is the younger brother of Guido Reybrouck[1]. He was a professional from 1974 to 1979. A year before turning into professional, he had won both the Tour de l’Avenir and the Girobio (the amateur or “Baby” Giro) in 1973.

The first stage of the Giro d’Italia 1974 was a 164 km flat stage from Vatican City to Formia. There were plenty of strong sprinters like former world champion (1972) Marino Basso, 4-time Paris-Roubaix winner Roger de Vlaeminck, Tour de France points classification (1968) and Giro di Lombardia (1967, 1970) winner Franco Bitossi, and Tour de France points classification (1974) winner Patrick Sercu. But with 400 meters to go, the young Reybrouck launched a powerful attack, took the stage win, and wore the pink jersey.

The next day he defended his jersey successfully. But in the 3rd stage, a 137 km mountainous stage from Pompei to Sorrento, the climbers started testing their legs. The powerful Spanish climber José Manuel Fuente set an incredible pace even Eddy Merckx couldn’t keep up with, and won the stage.

And Reybrouck? He got a hard lesson in the intensity of climbing in Grand Tours. Shelled on an early minor climb, he finished outside the time limit. One day he was a young hero wearing the coveted maglia rosa, the next day he was in tears packing his bags for home.[2]

José Manuel Fuente was the new maglia rosa.

Eddy Merckx won the 1974 Giro d’Italia. It was his 5th Giro victory, an achievement reached by only Alfredo Binda and Fausto Coppi before.

Notes

[1] Guido Reybrouck (born in Bruges , December 25, 1941) is a former Belgian cyclist. During his professional career he won some important races, including Paris-Tours, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and the Amstel Gold Race. He was a professional cyclist from 1964 to 1973.
[2] The Story of the Giro d’Italia – Volume Two; McGann B&C.; McGann Publishing; Cherokee Village; 2012

M. Özgür Nevres

I am a software developer, an ex-racing cyclist (at the amateur level) and a science enthusiast. Also an animal lover! I write about cycling on this website, cycling-passion.com. You can check out my social media profiles by clicking on their icons.

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