Eric Leman won the Tour of Flanders for the first time in 1970 at the age of 23. A proper ‘Flandrien’, the race was perfect for him. Leman found himself competing that day with favourite Walter Godefroot and the great Eddy Merckx. In awful conditions, Merckx dropped back due to a flat and Leman made his name by winning the two-up sprint with Godefroot .
He went on to win three stages of the 1971 Tour de France, before winning Flanders again in 1972 and 1973.
In 1973 he was in a breakaway group with Eddy Merckx and Freddy Maertens but was not to be denied a record equalling third victory.
Despite a glittering career with multiple stage wins in Paris-Nice and the Tour, along with numerous other 1 day races, Leman will always be remembered for his three victories in Flanders.
Johan Museeuw was a classics specialist, winning Tour of Flanders of 1993, 1995 and 1998 riding for the famous Mapei team. Museeuw could actually have won six in a row were it not for mechanical problems in 1996 and 1997 and a costly mistake allowing Bugno to win in 1994. Known as the ‘Lion of Flanders’, Museeuw was a dogged classics rider with three Roubaix titles also to his name.
Like many champions of the 90’s, his involvement in doping eventually caught up with him and tainted the legacy of a great classics rider.
Achiel Buysse was the first man to win the Tour of Flanders three times, his victories coming during World War II in 1940, 1941 and 1943. With the route modified by order of the occupying forces and only Belgian riders competing, Buysse’s achievements were often not given credit.
He was recognised posthumously by the organisers for the 2009 edition, naming his hometown Wetteren as ‘Dorp van de Ronde’ – which means the ‘Village of the Tour’ – with a local bakery serving an Achiel Buysse pastry.
Fiorenzo Magni is the only rider to win the Tour of Flanders three times in a row: in 1949, 1950 and 1951. The powerful Italian rider won 109 races in his career. Magni acquired numerous nicknames like ‘the colossus of Monza’, ‘The White Wolf’ and ‘The Tuscan Flandrien’. The latter suited him perfectly, he was Flemish at heart and that toughness was displayed most memorably in the 1956 Giro d’Italia where he famously finished second with a dislocated shoulder, steering his bike up mountains with a bandage wrapped around his bars and pulling with his teeth!
The rider from Mol won the race in 2005, 2006 and 2012. He was not able to add a fourth victory to his glittering Palmares before he bid farewell to the peloton in 2017.
When the Swiss machine did set his mind to something, he usually achieved it. In 2010, he stated numerous times that the Tour of Flanders was his big goal the year. He didn’t disappoint, soloing away from Tom Boonen on the Muur van Geraardsbergen and powering to the win.
His 2013 win was just as impressive when he left his fellow escapees Sagan and Roelandts behind on the Paterberg with a fierce attack.
Two impressive solo victories before Cancellara showed his versatility by winning a sprint against three Belgians (Van Avermaet, Vanmarcke and Vandenbergh) in 2014.