In 1976 Freddy Maertens was in great form early in the season winning races like the Amstel Gold and Gent Wevelgem . He was going well and was looking towards a good Tour de France when his form began to fade . Just weeks before the tour was due to begin he was having trouble just finishing races .
His final pre tour race was the Criterium du Dauphine and he was dropped in the first 20k of the first stage . The second stage started and once again he was dropped very early on and lost so much contact that even the broom wagon missed him on the road .
He was missing in action until about 8.30 pm that evening when some riders who were staying in the same hotel as his Velda Flandria team looked out a window to see a guy on a bike weaving from side to side coming along the road towards the hotel . Who was it only Freddy Maertens himself .
It turned out that he was slightly pissed off at being dropped again and saw a wine ‘Cave’ on the road and decided to pull in . The owner was delighted to see such a famous cyclist in his establishment and began an impromptu wine tasting session . Maertens thought that this was a great idea and decided to stop at every ‘Cave’ along the route of the stage . He eventually made it to the stage finish and was directed to the nearby team hotel where he wobbled up to the entrance and staggered in the door .
Most who saw him that night thought that his season was probably over there and then , but not Freddy . A week later he started the tour where he won 7 stages and the green jersey . He also won the Worlds that year .
Just imagine the furore if Cav were to pay a visit to a few ‘Caves’ before next years tour . David Brailsford might not be too impressed .