MICHEL NEDELEC, a Breton pursuiter, slim and delicate looking, proved that even a frail trackman can succeed in the hard road game when he sustained, alone, a 110-mile break in Bordeaux-Paris, to set up a new event record for the first time in 11 years.
The youngest rider in the event, at 24 just one month younger than our own Barry Hoban, Nedelec did not really believe in his own chances. Too many failures in hard events in the past had given the Breton a complex about his own success during the two years he has been a professional.
"If Michel can really gain some confidence in himself he can go a long way” Tom Simpson told CYCLING before the race, "he has lots of class, but until this year he has not really been able to master himself.
" As a trackman he was very good and got the French amateur hour record, and was a brilliant pursuiter, but was beaten by Marcel Delattre on the track, which gave him an uncertainty."
This uncertainty was dismissed on the road from Bordeaux. when the young Frenchman, encouraged by Tom's win last year - they are in the same team and plan to ride the Tour together - made a bold attack when he still had nearly a third of the distance to cover behind the Derny motors.
De Roo, Stablinski, Maliepaard and Groussard, confident that he would be beaten by the hills, let him go until he had a lead of more than nine minutes. Then it was too late.
Barry Hoban, who had started well and had been looked to as one of the main hopes of the new riders in the race, faded suddenly and disastrously when the Derny motors took over.
The pace until then had been a steady evens, but once the pacers came into the road, the speed leapt up to more than 35 mph, and the sudden change proved too much for the Yorkshireman unaccustomed to such a move.
He was not alone, and with Velly, Daems, Kherkhove and Maliepaard, he abandoned, simply beaten by the pace, and facing realistically that there was nothing left to be gained by struggling along at the back.
Nedelec's final victory came on four fronts at once. First, he won the race at his first attempt; second, he was never seen by the rest of the field once he had broken away; third, he broke Kubler’s record, set up when the former world champion won the event after an epic chase wiyj Wim Van Est: and fourth, Michel had enough left to win the prize for the fastest lap of the Parc des Princes track at the end. He covered the last lap in 28.6 seconds, beating his nearest challenger, the Belgian Nys, who was third, by two and a half seconds.
Jean Stablinski, the French former world champion, attacked hard towards the end of the event, when he realized the tactical error his team had made, and managed to gain two minutes on Nedelec, though he still came in more than seven and a half minutes down the new youngster. But during this period Michel had continued to gain steadily on the pursuing field in any case. proving that it was a battle of one strong man against another.
This was only Nedelec's second big win with the professionals, both of them gained on the same day. Last year he won the Tour of the Oise on the day that Tom Simp won Bordeaux-Paris.
On Sunday. his jump was severe, coming just after an attack the little Emile Daems who rides the same team, that he gained two clear minutes lead in the distance of six miles, which themselves were covered in only nine minutes.
Once this first attack had succeeded, the tall (6ft. 3in.) Frenchman simply continued as if he had all time in the world, riding steadily and without any sign of distress through the whole valley of Chevreuse, usually the testing point on the course.
Michel Nedelec, Peugeot B.P., the 346 miles in 14-28-46, 1; Stablinski (F), 14-36-25, 2; Nys (B) 14-40-29, 3.