Luis Ocana during the Tour de France 1976
Tour de France

Hurra por Luis!

Mont-de-Marsan, July 1973. Spaniard Luis Ocaña's final victory is met with great joy in this French village. For the first time, a rider from the Stade Montois, the local cycling club, manages to win the Tour. Apart from that Tour victory, Ocaña manages to build up a particularly fine record of achievements. A retrospective on the life and career of this remarkable Spanish Frenchman.

It is at the Stade Montois in Mont-de-Marsan that cycling life really begins for Luis Ocaña. At the age of seven, he and his family moved from Spain to south-western France, where he caught the cycling bug. After a brief passage with another French cycling club, Ocaña joined the Stade Montois, a few kilometres from his new home. In 1964, he wins for the first time in his new club's yellow-and-black colours.

After a steep rise through the amateur ranks, Luis turned professional in 1968 with Spanish team Fagor. He immediately became Spanish champion in his debut year. In the Tour of Italy, he bumped into Eddy Merckx for the first time. In his private life, things also went well for him. In '68, at the Chapelle Notre Dames des Cyclistes in Labastide d'Armagnac, he married the French Josiane Calède.

1970, like 1969, will be a successful year for Ocaña. Besides the Vuelta, he also wins the Dauphiné Libéré. He no longer races in the colours of Spanish Fagor, but rather in the white and orange of the French Bic team. Under the management of Maurice De Muer, Ocana achieves his greatest successes.

A year later, the Spaniard demonstrates that he has solid time trial legs. He wins prestigious time trials like the GP des Nations and the GP of Lugano, as well as several time trials in stage races. But 1971 remains the year of Orcières-Merlette and the Col de Menté in the Tour. After a stunning stage, he took yellow and put Eddy Merckx on minutes. A few days later, however, Ocaña was forced to abandon as leader after a fall on the descent of the Col de Menté.

On the descent of the Col de Mente, both Merckx and Ocana crashed. Merckx is soon able to continuewhile the Spaniard waits for a new wheel. Little later, he is unable to jump away from two falling riders and has to give up.

In Merckx's absence, Ocaña delivers a scorching performance at the 1973 Tour de France. Not only does he win six stages, he also puts his nearest rivals at more than 15 minutes. At last, Ocaña has his Tour victory in hand. However, another top performance in the Tour was not in the cards afterwards.

After the 1977 season, he calls it quits. Passages at teams Super Ser and Frisol do not amount to any success. Ocaña biographer Alasdair Fotheringham situates this decline shortly after the 1973 Tour victory. The brand-new Tour winner is unable to prepare enough that winter and also suffers setbacks. Ocaña was only 32 when he stopped racing.

Aptitude for misfortune is pretty much the common thread running through Luis' life. Crashes, a stray dog, a fall down a flight of stairs... it is hard to imagine it not happening to Luis. Outside his cycling career, too, he has had to deal with some bad luck. In 1994, the former Tour winner committed suicide. He was then only 48 years old.

Collection Claude Lachot

Many of the above objects were kept for many years by French cycling collector Claude Lachot. During 2020, this collection moved to Roeselare along with dozens of other unique items.

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Luis Ocaña

Jesús Luis Ocaña Pernía (pronounced [xeˈsus ˈlwis oˈkaɲa peɾˈnia]; 9 June 1945 – 19 May 1994) was a Spanish road bicycle racer who won the 1973 Tour de France and the 1970 Vuelta a España. During the 1971 Tour de France he launched an amazing solo breakaway that put him into the Yellow Jersey and stunned the rest of the main field, including back to back Tour champion Eddy Merckx, but abandoned in the fourteenth stage after a crash on the descent of the Col de Menté. Ocaña would abandon as many Tours as he entered, but he finished every Vuelta a España he entered except for his first, and finished in the top 5 seven times in a row.
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