Belgian cyclist Herman Van Springel, who lost the 1968 Tour de France on the final stage, died Thursday at the age of 79 following a long illness, the Belga agency reported.
Van Springel enjoyed much success during a career that ran from 1965 to 1981 – he was known as “Monsieur Bordeaux-Paris” for his record seven victories in the classic – but his career was shadowed by his crushing 1968 Tour de France loss.
He won one stage and wore the yellow jersey four times during the race, including the concluding time trial.
He held a 12 second lead going into that final stage and was 16 seconds ahead of Jan Jansen but it was the Dutchman who came through stronger to snatch the crown away from Van Springel.
The 38-second gap was the tightest winning margin on the Tour until 1989 when Greg LeMond beat Laurent Fignon by eight seconds.
“The biggest disappointment of my career,” said Van Springel, who went on to win the green points jersey on the 1973 Tour de France without winning a single stage.
He won five stages and had four top 10 finishes in his 10 participations in the Tour de France. He also finished third in the 1970 Vuelta a Espana and second in the Giro d’Italia a year later.
His greatest success came in the Bordeaux-Paris, the longest classic on the calendar with distances varying between 580 and 620 kilometres and more than 13 hours on the bike.
Van Springel, who was Eddy Merckx’s teammate for two seasons at Molteni in 1971 and 1972, showed his capacity for speed and endurance by winning the race a remarkable seven times between 1970 and 1981, his final year in the saddle, when he was 37.
Belgian champion in 1971, he also won the Tour of Lombardy (1968), Ghent-Wevelgem (1966) and Paris-Tours (1979).