The 1975 Tour de France was the 62nd edition of the Tour de France, one of cycling's Grand Tours. It took place between 26 June and 20 July, with 22 stages covering a distance of 4,000 km (2,485 mi). Eddy Merckx was attempting to win his sixth Tour de France, but became a victim of violence. Many Frenchmen were upset that a Belgian might beat the record of five wins set by Frenchman Jacques Anquetil. During stage 14 a spectator leapt from the crowd and punched Merckx in the kidney. Frenchman Bernard Thévenet took covering a distance of the lead, and after Merckx fell and broke his cheekbone, he was unable to take back the lead, and Thevenet became the winner of the race.
Belgian cyclists were successful in the secondary classifications: the points classification was won by Rik Van Linden, mountains classification by Lucien Van Impe, and the intermediate sprints classification by Marc Demeyer. For the first time, there was young rider classification, won by Italian Francesco Moser.
There were 14 teams participating, with 10 cyclists each.
The teams entering the race were:
Eddy Merckx, who had won all five times that he participated, was again the big favourite. Merckx' first part of the season had been going well, winning Milan–San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Liège–Bastogne–Liège. If Merckx would win again, he would beat Jacques Anquetil and become the first cyclist to win the Tour six times. Merckx did not care about that record: "The idea doesn't interest me very much because then people would want me to go for a seventh and then an eighth".
A few months before the race, Merckx was unsure if he would start the Tour. His race schedule had been very busy, and he thought riding the Giro and the Tour in the same year would not work. Merckx preferred to ride the Tour, but his Italian team preferred the Giro.
Bernard Thévenet contracted shingles during the 1975 Vuelta a España, but recovered and won the Dauphiné Liberé.
The 1975 Tour de France started on 26 June, and had two rest days, the first in Auch the second after the finish on the Puy de Dôme, during which the cyclists were transferred to Nice. The 1975 Tour de France did not include a team time trial for the first time since 1962. After 1975, it would be included again every year until 1995. The final stage had become more popular over the years, and the Tour organisers therefore moved the finish line from the Vélodrome de Vincennes to the more prestigious Champs-Élysées.
Francesco Moser won the prologue, and kept the lead until the first time trial. Merckx started the Tour aggressively, which caused the peloton to split in two groups in the first stage. Merckx and Moser were in the first group, and won a minute on most of their competitors. In the second part of the first stage, the field split again, but this time Thevenet and Poulidor were also in the first group. In stage six, a time trial, Merckx beat Moser and became the leader.
The first climbing was done in the tenth stage, but the favourites stayed together, and the general classification was not changed. The major Pyrenéan mountains were scheduled in stage eleven. In that stage, Bernard Thévenet and Joop Zoetemelk escaped together, while Merckx could not follow them. Zoetemelk won, with Merckx almost one minute behind. Other favourites finished much later, and lost their hopes of winning the Tour. The fourteenth stage had its finish on top of the Puy de Dôme. When Merckx was about to catch Joop Zoetemelk, a French spectator punched Merckx in the stomach.
After the rest day, the fifteenth stage would end in Pra Loup. Merckx was still the leader, and escaped from the rest. But on the final climb, Merckx was out of energy, and Thévenet was able to reach Merckx two kilometers from the finish, leave Merckx behind, and win with a margin of two minutes. During that stage, the team car of Bianchi fell 150 meters down, but the driver survived. Thévenet was the new leader, and improved his margin in the sixteenth stage by winning with more than two minutes on Merckx.
While riding to the start of the seventeenth stage, Merckx collided with Ole Ritter, and broke a cheekbone. Merckx' broken cheekbone gave him problems with eating, and the Tour doctor gave him the advice to abandon the race. Merckx decided to stay in the race, because of the prize money for his team mates that his second place in the general classification and other classifications would earn them.
After every stage in the 1975 Tour de France, the leader of the race, the winner of the stage and the runner-up, and two random cyclists were checked. In total, 110 tests were done, of which three returned positive:Régis Delépine, after the fifth stage
Felice Gimondi, after the fifteenth stage
José-Luis Viejo, also after the fifteenth stage
All three were fined with 1000 Swiss Francs, received one month suspended sentence, were set back to the last place in the stage where they tested positive, and received 10 minutes penalty time in the general classification. This meant that Gimondi, who initially finished the Tour in fifth place, was set back to the sixth place.
There were several classifications in the 1975 Tour de France, four of them awarding jerseys to their leaders. The most important was the general classification, calculated by adding each cyclist's finishing times on each stage. The cyclist with the least accumulated time was the race leader, identified by the yellow jersey; the winner of this classification is considered the winner of the Tour. Time bonuses for stage winners were removed for the 1975 Tour.
Additionally, there was a points classification, where cyclists got points for finishing among the best in a stage finish, or in intermediate sprints. The cyclist with the most points lead the classification, and was identified with a green jersey.
There was also a mountains classification. The organisation had categorized some climbs as either first, second, third, or fourth-category; points for this classification were won by the first cyclists that reached the top of these climbs first, with more points available for the higher-categorized climbs. The cyclist with the most points lead the classification. 1975 was also the first year that the leader of the classification wore a polka dot jersey.
The combination classification was removed, and the young rider classification was added. This was decided the same way as the general classification, but only neo-professionals were eligible, and the leader wore a white jersey.
The fifth individual classification was the intermediate sprints classification. This classification had similar rules as the points classification, but only points were awarded on intermediate sprints. In 1975, this classification had no associated jersey.
For the team classification, the times of the best three cyclists per team on each stage were added; the leading team was the team with the lowest total time. The riders in the team that lead this classification wore yellow caps. There was also a team points classification. After each stage, the stage rankings of the best three cyclists per team were added, and the team with the least total lead this classification, and were identified by green caps.
The combativity award was given to Eddy Merckx.
Later, Merckx said that his decision to stay in the Tour after he broke his cheekbone was stupid. He felt that it cut his career short.
Thevenet later confessed that he had used cortisones in 1975.