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Jan Janssen, still a champion

February 4, 2016

In the photo: Giancarlo Brocci and Jan Janssen at the presentation of Eroica Limburg, first edition of the event that will become the Eroica of the North. Below we publish a tribute to Jan Janssen and to the generation of cyclists which raced in those years. Finally, a video portrait, unfortunately only in Dutch...

The 1964 World Cycling Championships, on 5 September in Sallanches, was won by a young, unknown cyclist, but it was not a surprise. Jan Janssen was 24 years old, he had already won several races and was considered a really good cyclist. He had just completed the Tour de France in which he won two stages and the green jersey in the final classification.
Indeed the bespectacled Dutchman was considered one of the few favourites on the eve of the championships, together with Belgian rider Van Looy e Seels and French man and local hero, Poulidor.
Jacques Anquetil was not among these, despite the fact that he had completed the Giro and Tour duet; partly because one-day races were not his speciality and also because the huge effort of competing in the two stage races had tired him out. At the Giro, Anquetil left the pack of the best Italians behind as they were busier competing with each other than against the French man. They finished, within just over a minute of each other, first Zilioli, then De Rosso and, in fourth place, the usual Vittorio Adorni, who would go on to win the Giro the following year.
The Tour that followed went down in history precisely because of the epic shoulder to shoulder duel between Anquetil and Poulidor, on the Puy de Dome. Jacques managed to maintain a 55-second advantage.
That World Championship was one of the best. It was a constant battle on a route that did not exclude anyone. The Italians weren’t favourites but, under the direction of their coach, Fiorenzo Magni, they were protagonists in every stage of the race. Anglade animated most of the breaks, together with our own Vito Taccone and Tommy Simpson from the UK, who later, in 1967, became a victim of amphetamines on the Ventoux.
For an idea of what cycling was like at that time: there were 62 participants representing 10 (only!) countries; but there were 70 thousand paying spectators.
Less than 40 km from the finish line, it was Adorni, acting alone, who shook up the chasing group to catch up with Anglade, Taccone and Simpson. He then stayed with Anglade. From behind, on the climb, Poulidor came to the fore, bringing the others with him. A group of 11 was formed, while the Italians Taccone and Motta, who had worked well up until then, disappeared. On the last climb, Passy, only Janssen was still with Poulidor. Adorni, who was not too far behind, caught up with the pair on the descent.
With the chasing group behind him, the Dutchman went for it: for the first part of the sprint, Adorni gave the impression that he could keep up and Janssen was only ahead by the length of a car. Poulidor, notoriously taking his time in the sprint, came third.
At the foot of the podium were Simpson, Zilioli, Den Haan and Anquetil; who hadn’t featured at all up to then. The French champion showed his class by emerging in the final to honour his home World Championships.


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