July 19, 2016 by Irish Peloton
Yellow and Green – The old one-two
On Stage 11 of this year’s Tour de France we witnessed something on the streets of Montpellier which is extremely rare in the history of this great race. We were treated to the sight of Peter Sagan winning the stage in the Green Jersey ahead of Chris Froome in second place wearing the Yellow Jersey. The leaders of the two most important classifications finishing first and second on a stage of the Tour de France is something which has only happened on six previous occasions.
The last time this happened was way back in 1979. It was Stage 15, a 54km mountain time trial from Evian-les-Bains to Avoriaz. Joop Zoetemelk was in the yellow jersey and Bernard Hinault was wearing green. But it was Hinault who won the time trial by almost 2’30” from Zoetemelk who would be handing over his yellow jersey to the Badger that afternoon. But since this was a time trial, they obviously didn’t cross the line together in first and second place like Sagan and Froome.
Prior to this, yellow and green went 1-2 in 1974. On Stage 21a to Orléans, Eddy Merckx, who already had an overall lead of 3’30”, did what Eddy Merckx normally did and attacked anyway, won the stage solo putting another two minutes into everyone. His old six-day partner Patrick Sercu was in the green jersey and he won the bunch sprint for second place. But as they were separated on the road by minutes, they didn’t cross the line together.
This rare occurrence actually happened twice in the 1954 Tour. It was only the second year in which the Green Jersey was in existence and it was on the shoulders of the Swiss rider Ferdi Kubler who would keep it all the way to Paris. The Maillot Jaune was in the possession of Lousion Bobet who would also still be wearing it in Paris. On Stage 18 to Briancon, Bobet won the stage 1’49” ahead of Kubler – so again, no finish line photo of yellow and green together. And a few days later on Stage 21b, it was Bobet again ahead of Kubler, this time in a time trial.
Apart from Sagan and Froome last week, the only other times in cycling history where the yellow and green jerseys have crossed the finish line together in first and second place was in 1972. It happened on consecutive days and it involved the same two riders. Stage 14b and Stage 15 were both mountain stages, the first finishing in Aix-les-Bains and the second ending at le Mont-Revard.
Both stages were won by Cyrille Guimard wearing the Green Jersey, beating Eddy Merckx in yellow in a sprint for the line. On the second of the two stages, Merckx thought he had the Frenchman beaten and proved that he is actually fallible by celebrating too early when it was Guimard who had beaten him again. In third place that day was the Belgian climber Lucien van Impe (on the right in the photo on the left), who would go on to win the Tour just four years later with Guimard as his directeur sportif.
Merckx went on to win the Tour in 1972, his fourth in a row. But sadly, Guimard did not make it to Paris in the Green Jersey. He was forced to abandon on Stage 18 with persistent knee pain which left Merckx in pole position for both yellow and green. According to Bill and Carol McGann in their book The Story of the Tour de France at the final podium in Paris ‘Guimard was the presenter of the sprinter’s Green Jersey. Merckx, the winner, gave the jersey back to a weeping Guimard telling him it was really his’.