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The story of the saddest rainbow jersey curse in the history of cycling

Jean-Pierre Monseré’s tragic tale

Photo by: The World of Cycling @twocGAME

In 1971, Jean-Pierre Monseré, wearing the rainbow jersey of world road champion, died in while racingin the Grote Jaarmarktprijs in Retie, Belgium. Many cite this as one of the most tragic examples of the so-called “curse of the rainbow jersey,” but his death was only part of the sad story.

The Belgian had won the worlds in 1970 in Leicester, England at just 21 years old, which made him the second-youngest road world champion at the time.

But his promising career, and life, would would be abrpubly halted in March of 1971 when a motorist drove on to the course and collided with him, killing him instantly. His teammates screamed for help as they gazed at his lifeless body clad in the rainbow jersey.

Chris Sidwells wrote a book about the terrible incident, called “The Prodigy, Jean-Pierre Monseré.” In the book, he describes the horrific day.

“On the Saturday, Monseré was second to his great friend and kindred spirit, Roger de Vlaeminck, then ninth the next day. One more kermesse in the little village of Retie, near Antwerp, and it was off to Milan. Monseré had wanted to race at Retie because it was the place where he had taken his first victory wearing the rainbow jersey the previous autumn, a sentimental thought which somehow encapsulates the west Flandrian’s generous nature. All through the race, his rainbow jersey was plain for the large crowd to see, at the front. Then disaster struck.”

This wasn’t the first tragedy to befall the Monseré family. His father had died in 1970 during the party for his son winning the rainbow jersey, suffering from a heart attack. His father was apparently unable to drink alcohol as it would exacerbate his heart condiiton, but in the celebrations of his son’s win, decided to anyway.

But the sad story of Monseré doesn’t end there.

The young Monseré was a father, and when he died, left behind a son named Giovanni who was two at the time

On his first communion, his son’s godfather, the legendary Belgian Freddy Maertens had given him a replica rainbow jersey and a Flandria bike to ride, to remember his father.

In 1976, just 5 years after the death of his father, Giovanni would be riding on his special bike, and the jersey which was a tribute to his father. His young son would suffer the same fate as his father, killed in a collision with a motorist.

To remember the former world champion, The Grote Prijs Jean-Pierre Monseré is held every year in Belgium.