Before R.EV, the last Vuelta winner was a… sprinter! In May 1977 (the Vuelta was then contested earlier in the season), Freddy Maertens wins the Tour of Spain after a rather impressive tour de force. The route of this 32nd edition offers few mountains and a lot of massive arrivals. Tip-top for Freddy’s qualities and he takes advantage of it! Maertens won 13 of the 20 stages and posted an incredible success rate of 65%.
At that time, the Vuelta was not very popular. Badly placed in the calendar, this first grand tour of the season is neglected by the tenors who prefer the Giro and the Tour de France. But Freddy Maertens is at the start and with the world champion’s rainbow jersey on his shoulders and he is presented as the successor toEddy Merckx.
From the prologue, he grabs the orange leader’s jersey and won’t let go. Freddy Maertens chained stage victories, accumulated bonuses and left only a few crumbs to his opponents. He clings to the passes and manages to remain the boss of this Tour of Spain.
On the 10th stage, in Barcelona, big surprise! After five consecutive stage victories, Maertens is beaten in the sprint, on his ground by the Dutchman Cees Priem. But no impact on the general classification and the morale of the Belgian rider who quickly resumed his collection of stage victories. Halfway through the race, he has already won ten times in 12 days!
The queen stage disputes between Barcelona and Igualada, five passes are on the menu. The Spaniards are launching offensives and the leader is in trouble. Freddy Maertens concedes almost two minutes, but well helped by his teammate Michael Pollentierhe retains first place.
In the last stage, Maertens won his 13th bouquet and the final classification. Another era, another cycling, two days after his victory, Freddy continued with the Giro, where he would win seven of the first nine stages. The result will be more unfortunate with an abandonment on fall.