Tour de France Historical Society – Stage Five 1973


Today’s stage 5 and that of the 1973 edition were both mountain stages after running through the first five days of flat fast roads. A first chance to see who has the climbing legs, who has the ability to take the GC. A glimpse at best though. 1973 should have seen the return of Eddy Merckx, winner of the previous four editions, at the start. This was partly to avoid angry French fans and partly to please his sponsor; instead he rode and won the 1973 Vuelta a España and the 1973 Giro d’Italia. In his absence, Luis Ocaña dominated the race.

Tour de France Historical Society

Although he didn’t particularly show himself on stage five, in fact, he had only finished one out of the four previous editions of the Tour de France that he had started, he was not considered a favourite for overall victory, but his ability to win was more than common knowledge. Having already won the Vuelta once and taken the podium on two other occasions. His palmarès before 1973 were substantial and he didn’t let anyone down at the tour. Merckx, who was not competing, had picked José Manuel Fuente, Joop Zoetemelk and Raymond Poulidor for the podium. Ocaña even crashed during the first stage when a dog ran into the peloton! Luis hailed from Priego, Cuenca, Spain but his family moved to Mont-de-Marsan (Landes, France) in 1957. The Spanish newspaper Dicen said Ocaña was “the best time-trialist that Spanish cycling has ever had”. There is much written about Luis Ocaña but he was a tour great and should be remembered as such.

Stage five feature three climbs, Schlucht, Grand Ballon, Silberloch on a 188 km course form Nancy to Mulhouse. It was won by Walter Godefroot with a time of 5hr 12min 19sec. The Grand Ballon (German: Großer Belchen) or Great Belchen is the highest mountain of the Vosges, located 25 kilometres northwest of Mulhouse, France. It is also the highest point of the Alsace French region. It has featured in the Tour various times and first appeared in 1969. It is the only Hors categorie (beyond categorization) climb in northern France and a popular one too. Charly Grosskost broke away and was alone and away on the col de la Schlucht, he was also first over the Grand Ballon and the Silberloch. He was caught and finished 104th. An often told tale in the Tour.

Like many (if not all) editions of the Tour there was doping. The penalties in 1973 were very lenient in comparison to today. Three cyclists tested positive; Barry Hoban, Claude Baud and Michel Roques. All three received a fine of 1000 Swiss Francs, one-month suspension and ten minutes penalty time in the general classification. Poulidor, a favourite to win, crashed, and was taken away with a helicopter on stage 13. All in all a fantastic stage 5 and a fine edition of the Tour de France.


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