What's Cool In Road Cycling

San Remo 1961: Pou-Pou Gets “Back To Work”

The early 60’s were an era sans much of the technical advantages we now take for granted, the roads to San Remo, although along the same route as today, were usually in worse condition. The riders seemed tougher, the battles more epic. Make your own decision as we begin our week-long preview of this year’s “Primavera” with a look at one of the great days in cycling history.

– By Jan Didier – When Raymond Poulidor signed the official starting sheet of the 1961 Milan – San Remo on March 18, he could not imagine that he was in for one of the most memorable performances of his rich cycling career. Poulidor was not really one of the favourites for this first classic race of the year. Most newspapers had predicted a victory of one of the fast sprinters in the peloton: Rik Van Looy, Andrй Darrigade, Jo Groussard, Nino Defillipis, …

The day started rather badly for Raymond: a flat tire at the beginning of the Turchino climb – first difficulty of the race – makes him lose a lot of time since the Mercier back-up car had drawn 21st position at the start. Completely demoralised, Poulidor announces his intention to abandon to his team manager Antonin Magne. The answer comes immediately: “No way ! You have not done anything yet. Go on, back to work !”And on he goes, joining the peloton after the Turchino.

Then comes the Capo Berta. Jean-Claude Annaert launches an attack, followed by Ab Geldermans and … Poulidor. It is the decisive moment in the race.

Arriving at the foot of the Poggio, Raymond Poulidor attacks immediately, and reaches the top with a lead of 20 seconds. Three kilometres to go, Raymond dives towards San Remo.

Then a last unexpected difficulty at the entry of the Via Roma: a policeman waves his arms, Raymond doesn’t understand what he means … and takes the wrong way! Antonin Magne furiously hits the horn of his car, Raymond turns around and finally reaches the finish only … 3 seconds before a sprinting peloton. What a day !

The result: 1° Poulidor 2° Van Looy 3° Benedetti


As the son of an army officer who was a huge cycling fan, and who knew a lot of riders personally, Jan’s interest in cycling was developed in his early years. He began collecting old books and magazines, cycling cards, going to races … and he became a real “cycling nut”.

Though actively playing basketball for many years, his interest in cycling and its history and legends always remained. When he set up an autograph website with his wife Joлlle in 2000 (www.europe-autographs.com), cycling became quickly the largest section on the site, with hundreds of autographed pictures presented.

Being especially interested in the somewhat earlier history of cycling, Jan has formed personal contacts with many “older” champions including Rik Van Steenbergen, Roger Walkowiak, Wim Van Est, Andrй Darrigade, Lucien Aimar, Jan Janssen, Roger Pingeon, to name a few. It is about their heroпc and dramatic moments he likes to write.

Visit Jan’s website:
www.europe-autographs.com where you’ll find pictures and photos – many signed – of our sports greatest greatest heros.

Like PEZ? Why not subscribe to our weekly newsletter to receive updates and reminders on what's cool in road cycling?

Comments are closed.