The second Monument of the season, the Tour of Flanders, has long been–along with Paris-Roubaix–one for the hard men, its rolls of glory including names like Eddy Merckx, the Lion of Flanders Johan Museeuw, Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara. Perhaps the most extraordinary winner is 1992 champion Jacky Durand, known more as a swashbuckling breakaway ace. His triumph is the story of a peloton caught by surprise.
Bon anniversaire @JackyDurand ! Dire que c'est moi qui t'ai appris à " faire le départ " en ma compagnie ! 🚴♂️🚴♂️ #TourdesFlandres, vive la @lamayenne, département fleuri. pic.twitter.com/Pmcp2LcwoQ
— 🅰ntoine VAYER 📸 (@festinaboy) April 4, 2020
It was only his second Monument, his first a month and a half previous when he came 185th in Milan-San Remo. Racing for Castorama in the days of its denim lederhosen kit, “Dudu” had yet to earn his reputation as a rider who would attack from far out, often solo. Castorama hadn’t even sent its A-team that April.
Durand shuffled away in the company of three other riders with 217-km to go. By the time the escape reached the first climb, the Tiegemberg, after 122-km, its lead was an enormous 24-minutes. Despite good weather that would favour a breakaway however small, the peloton was confident it could bring the quartet back. By the time of the Oude de Kwaremont the foursome still had a 15-minute gap.
Thomas Wegmüller’s presence in the break was important, as he was Sean Kelly’s Lotus-Festina teammate. Reigning champ Edwig Van Hooydonck’s Buckler squad and Maurizio Fondriest’s Panasonic was left to do the majority of the chasing. Wegmüller did a lot of the work and slowed the group when Durand went through a bad patch with 60-km to go.
And then there were two. Durand only had Wegmüller for company by the final cobbled climb, the Bosberg. There he went kicked on alone. With 3-km to go the race director’s car drew level, a window rolled down and Merckx stuck his head out to say, “Young man, you’ve won the Tour of Flanders”. Durand prevailed by 48-seconds over Wegmüller, with Van Hooydonck and Fondriest +1:48. He was the first Frenchman since Jean Forestier in 1956 to win and remains the last.
Durand was known for his pirate do-rag before Marco Pantani was, but he could rock a headband, a helmet, a casquette or even a visor.
Durand’s panache earned him three stages of the Tour de France, two combativity awards in La Grande Boucle, stints in the polka dots, and even two days in the yellow jersey after the opening day prologue of the 1995 version. In 1999 he was both the lanterne rouge and most combative rider, having survived getting his leg run over and shoulder separated on one stage.
Years after his Ronde victory, while a member of a Belgian team, Durand was caught speeding on a Belgian motorway and pulled over by a policeman, who took a look at the Frenchman and let him go for taking the 1992 win. “Winning the Ronde made me a bit of a naturalized Belgian,” he told L’Equipe.