BRUSSELS -- Belgian cyclist Herman Vanspringel, who lost the 1968 Tour de France on the final day and became famously known as Monsieur Bordeaux-Paris for winning the marathon classic seven times, has died. He was 79.
Tour de France organizers confirmed the death Thursday in a tribute to the sweet-tempered rider known as much for his close finishes as his victories.
In 1968, he entered the concluding Tour time trial with a 16-second lead over Jan Janssen only for the Dutchman to overtake him in the final kilometers to win the yellow jersey.
Vanspringel also finished second in Italy's Giro and third in Spain's Vuelta during a hard-luck career spent all too often in the shadows of his great compatriot Eddy Merckx.
Yet no one could touch him on the victory podium of the 550-plus kilometer trek from southwestern Bordeaux to the French capital. First raced in 1891, it represented the halcyon days of cycling, with its 2 a.m. start and late afternoon finish in Paris. No one came even close to Vanspringel, and he should keep the title forever since the race was dropped from the calendar.
Vanspringel did take home the Tour's green jersey for best stage finishes in 1973 and won five stages overall in his career. Other major victories were the one-day "monument" Tour of Lombardy in 1968 and Paris-Tour the year after.