The prologue was won by Maertens. He won some more stages in the first week, and was firmly leading the race. The contenders for the overall victory, thought to be Bernard Thévenet, Joop Zoetemelk and Lucien Van Impe, were waiting for the mountains to start their battle.
The first mountain stage was stage 9, and there a group of 40 cyclists broke loose. Zoetemelk won the stage, but Van Impe took the lead in the general classification, with Zoetemelk only 8 seconds behind. In the next stage, Zoetemelk won the stage, but Thévenet and Van Impe were only one second behind him.
The 11th stage did not see major changes in the top of the general classification, but it was remarkable as the stage with the biggest winning margin in post-World War II history. José-Luis Viejo won the stage, 22 minutes and 50 seconds ahead of the next cyclist.
Then the Peugeot team from Thévenet took control. Raymond Delisle sped away in the 12th stage, took a five minute lead and won the stage, thereby taking the lead in the general classification.
After the 13th stage, won by Régis Ovion, Ovion failed the doping test. He was taken out of the results, and Teirlinck and Panizza, who originally were second and third, gained one place. In the official classification, the other cyclists were not upgraded, so the third place remains unoccupied.
In the 14th stage, there was a group of attackers away, including Luis Ocaña. Van Impe was told by his team leader, Cyrille Guimard, that he should attack, but was reluctant to do so. Only after Guimard threatened to run Van Impe off the road by his car, Van Impe attacked. Zoetemelk waited for the Peugeot team to defend their position of leader in the general classification, but they were not able to. After a few kilometers, Zoetemelk noticed that his tactics did not work, and started chasing Van Impe by himself. Zoetemelk decreased the gap to 50 seconds, but then Van Impe reached the group of early attackers, and started to work together, especially with Ocaña. Ocaña and Zoetemelk had battled in the early 1970s against Merckx, and Ocaña remembered that Zoetemelk never helped him back then, so decided to work against Zoetemelk now. Zoetemelk could not follow them on his own, and lost three minutes in that stage. Van Impe and Zoetemelk had been going so fast, that 45 of the 93 cyclist finished outside of the time limit, but the tour organisation decided to waive the elimination rule for that stage.
Van Impe won some more time in the time trial of stage 17, and Zoetemelk won a few seconds back in the 20th stage and in the time trial of the 22nd stage, but the Tour had been decided in the 14th stage at the moment when Zoetemelk decided to wait for the Peugeot team.
The battle for the third place was between Raymond Delisle, Raymond Poulidor and Walter Riccomi. Poulidor, 40 years old, was racing his final Tour de France. After the 20th stage, they had exactly the same time in the general classification, and Riccomi was only 12 seconds behind them. In the time trial of stage 22A, Poulidor won a few seconds on Delisle and Riccomi, and was on the podium in Paris.
At the end of the Tour de France, the combativity award was given to Raymond Delisle.
Read more about this topic: 1976 Tour De France
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