Luis Ocaña always sticks in my mind as a great rider who was overshadowed by Eddy Merckx during his career. He had the potential to really threaten Eddy though, at least sometimes. Most famously in 1971 when he crashed out of the Tour de France in spectacular style, whilst leading the race over Merckx by many minutes.
The picture of this crash is probably Ocaña’s most famous and is certainly an iconic image of the heartache of racing the Tour and being a contender, only to have it snatched from you. Maybe a reminder to the GC riders today, maybe you should look a little more pissed? He finally got his Tour de France win in 1973 and for me that is memorable as I was born that year! A year where Merckx stayed away but, I don’t think that would have stopped Ocana, at least I like to think so. He took the win in a fairly convincing manner over Bernard Thévenet.
His career saw him win plenty in fine style, 110 in total! He had that class of a Tour GC rider, good at climbing and time trialling. He was at least until Miguel Indurain came along, Luis was the number one cyclist in Spain, I’m sure those that remember have a fondness for Ocana. The man who could beat Merckx was a Spaniard!
The Spanish newspaper Dicen said Ocaña was “the best time-trialist that Spanish cycling has ever had”
Sadly Luis Ocaña took his life at age 48 because of ill health and financial problems. It was many years later, after reading about his 1973 Tour win, I learnt his life had ended this way and was sad such an heroic rider should have his life cut so short. Luis Ocaña a Spanish hero.