Jesús Luis Ocaña Pernía (pronounced [xeˈsus ˈlwis oˈkaɲa peɾˈnia]; 9 June 1945 – 19 May 1994) was a Spanish road bicycle racer who won the 1973 Tour de France and the 1970 Vuelta a España. During the 1971 Tour de France he launched an amazing solo breakaway that put him into the Yellow Jersey and stunned the rest of the main field, including back to back Tour champion Eddy Merckx, who was the best rider in the world at the time. Ocaña would abandon many of the Tours that he entered, but he finished in the top 5 of the Vuelta a España on seven occasions.

Luis Ocaña
Tour de France, Luis Ocaña, Bestanddeelnr 926-5233.jpg
Personal information
Full nameJesús Luis Ocaña Pernía
Born(1945-06-09)9 June 1945
Priego, Spain
Died19 May 1994(1994-05-19) (aged 48)
Nogaro, France
Team information
Rider typeClimber
Professional team(s)
1975–1976Super Ser
Major wins
Grand Tours
Tour de France
General classification (1973)
9 individual stages
Vuelta a España
General classification (1970)
6 individual stages

Stage races

Tour of the Basque Country
General classification (1971, 1973)
Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré
General classification (1970, 1972, 1973)

One-day races and Classics

National Road Race Championship (1968, 1972)
Grand Prix des Nations (1971)


Early yearsEdit

Ocaña was born in Priego, Cuenca, Spain but his family moved to Mont-de-Marsan (Landes, France) in 1957. Ocaña took up racing with a club in Mont-de-Marsan and began his professional career in 1968 with the Spanish Fagor team, becoming Spanish champion that year. The following year he won the prologue and two time trials, the mountains classification as well as finishing second in the Vuelta a España.

In 1969, he won the Catalan Cycling Week.[1]

In 1970, Ocaña signed with the French team Bic. In the 1970 Vuelta a España, he battled with Agustín Tamames, losing the leader's jersey to him on the 13th stage. Ocaña performed well in the time-trial on the final day putting himself back into the Gold jersey as he won his first Grand Tour with an advantage of 1:18 over Tamames. The Spanish newspaper Dicen said Ocaña was "the best time-trialist that Spanish cycling has ever had".[2] In the 1970 Tour de France, Ocaña won the stage to Puy-de-Dôme and finished 31st in the Tour.[citation needed]

1971 Tour de FranceEdit

Before the Tour de France, Ocaña finished third behind Eddy Merckx in Paris–Nice and second behind Merckx in the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré. On the uphill finish of stage eight with four kilometres to go, Ocaña launched the decisive move and broke away from the favourites for that year's Tour, which included Merckx. He succeeded in a 15-second gain on Merckx but built on that the following day. Then on stage 11 to Orcières-Merlette, Ocaña rode himself into the yellow jersey with eight minutes over Merckx.

After a rest day, Merckx cut that lead to 7 minutes and in the Pyrenees, on the Col de Menté, Merckx attacked as he descended the mountain. Merckx lost control and skidded into a low wall. Ocaña could not avoid Merckx[citation needed] and fell himself. Merckx was up quickly and sped away. Ocaña struggled to release his cleats from the toe clips and was struck by the pursuing Joop Zoetemelk. The leader of the general classification lay on the ground screaming with pain. He was taken by helicopter to the hospital in Saint-Gaudens. He recovered but his 1971 Tour dreams had come to an end.[3] The following day Merckx refused to wear the yellow jersey, in tribute to Ocaña. There is a memorial at the scene of the accident on the western side of the Col de Menté in the Pyrenees (at 42°54′55.9″N 0°44′37.7″E / 42.915528°N 0.743806°E / 42.915528; 0.743806).

The following year, 1972, Merckx had intended on not participating in the 1972 Tour de France in order to ride the Vuelta a España for the first time, but due to critics saying that Merckx only won the Tour because of Ocaña's fall, Merckx decided to ride. There was speculation of a duel. Ocaña had won the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré and the national championship. In the Pyrenees, Ocaña repeatedly attacked Merckx without success, before withdrawing with bronchitis.

In 1973, Merckx decided to ride the Vuelta a España and Giro d'Italia. It was the first time that Merckx contested the Vuelta a España and that year he would not be contesting the Tour de France. Ocaña battled Merckx in the race with Bernard Thévenet also present. In the end Ocaña finished second, almost 4 minutes behind Merckx.

1973 Tour de FranceEdit

Because Ocaña had only finished one of the four previous editions of the Tour de France that he had started, he was not considered a favourite for overall victory. Merckx, who was not competing, had picked José Manuel Fuente, Joop Zoetemelk and Raymond Poulidor for the podium. Indeed, Zoetemelk and Poulidor had finished first and second after the prologue while Ocaña crashed during the first stage when a dog ran into the peloton.[4] However, on the third stage, Ocaña and his team distanced his rivals. The stage began in Roubaix and when the peloton went over cobblestones at Querenaing, Ocaña and four teammates together with six others, attacked, and gained five minutes at one point, although the chasing group reduced this to two and a half minutes at the finish. However, Fuente finished seven minutes back.[5]

Ocaña won the first mountain stage and took the yellow jersey, while Thévenet won the second mountain stage. L'Equipe newspaper predicted a duel.[6] However, on the third mountain stage, Ocaña delivered a crushing defeat to his rivals. Fuente attacked early on the Col du Télégraphe and a group of favourites was established. On the following climb of the Col du Galibier, Ocaña led. After the descent, Ocaña and Fuente had a minute on Thévenet, while the next group were five minutes and 30 seconds behind. Fuente suffered a flat tire and Ocaña won by 52 seconds over Fuente, almost seven minutes over Thévenet & Martinez, and 20 minutes & 24 seconds over Zoetemelk, Van Impe and Poulidor. Ocaña then led the general classification by nine minutes over Fuente, ten minutes on Thevénet, with Zoetemelk fifth, over 23 minutes behind.[4] Ocaña then won the stage 12 time trial. A duel in the Pyrenees was expected between Ocaña and Fuente but Ocaña won the longest stage in the Pyrenees. L'Equipe had the headline Ocaña appuie sur l'accélérateur translated as Ocaña steps on the accelerator.[7] Ocaña won the last individual time trial and also the mountain stage to Puy-de-Dôme, eventually winning the race with 15 minutes over Bernard Thévenet. He also won the combativity award. After his win, Ocaña declared that after the 1974 Tour de France, he wanted to try the hour record.[8]

Ocaña's team Bic jersey.

Post-Tour careerEdit

After his win in the Tour de France, Ocaña finished third and won the bronze medal in the world championship road race. He also won the Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco in 1973 and finished fourth in the 1974 Vuelta a España, won by Fuente. Ocaña was unable to defend his Tour de France win in 1974 due to an injury sustained during the Midi-Libre. He finished fourth again in the 1975 Vuelta a España. In 1976, he was back to top form and finished third in Paris–Nice and second overall in the Vuelta a España, a minute behind José Pesarrodona.

Ocaña's yellow jersey, 1973 Tour de France.

Ocaña retired at the end of 1977 after finishing 25th in the 1975 Tour de France. He had won 110 races including nine stages of the Tour de France. He retired to his vineyard in 1977. It is said that despite their rivalry on the road, Merckx organised for a Belgian distributor to order a sizeable quantity of wine from Ocaña's ailing vineyard.


Ocaña committed suicide,[9] in Nogaro, Gers, France by gunshot in 1994. It is said he was depressed over financial matters and was also suffering from liver cirrhosis, hepatitis C, and cancer.[9]

Career achievementsEdit

Major resultsEdit


1st   Road race, National Road Championships
1st   Overall Grand Prix du Midi Libre
1st   Overall Setmana Catalana de Ciclisme
1st Overall Vuelta a La Rioja
2nd Overall Vuelta a España
1st Mountains classification
1st Stages 1a, 16 & 18b
1st   Overall Vuelta a España
1st Prologue & Stage 19
1st   Overall Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré
1st Stage 17 Tour de France
1st   Overall Tour of the Basque Country
1st   Overall Volta a Catalunya
1st Grand Prix des Nations
3rd Overall Vuelta a España
1st Stage 12
Tour de France
1st Stages 8 & 11
1st Trofeo Baracchi (with Leif Mortensen)
1st   Road race, National Road Championships
1st   Overall Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré
1st   Overall Tour de France
1st Stages 7a, 8, 12a, 13, 18 & 20a
1st Combativity award Overall
1st   Overall Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré
1st   Overall Tour of the Basque Country
1st Trophée des Grimpeurs
2nd Overall Vuelta a España

Grand Tour results timelineEdit

Grand Tour 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977
Tour de France DNE DNF-8B 31 DNF-14 DNF-15 1 DNE DNF-13 14 25
Stages won 0 1 2 0 6 0 0 0
Mountains classification NR NR NR NR 3 NR NR NR
Points classification NR 9 NR NR 3 NR NR NR
Stages won 0
Mountains classification NR
Points classification NR
Vuelta a España DNF 2 1 3 DNE 2 4 4 2 22
Stages won 0 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 0
Mountains classification NR 1 4 4 NR 2 3 5 NR
Points classification NR NR NR NR NR NR NR NR NR
1 Winner
2–3 Top three-finish
4–10 Top ten-finish
11– Other finish
DNE Did Not Enter
DNF-x Did Not Finish (retired on stage x)
DNS-x Did Not Start (no started on stage x)
DSQ Disqualified
N/A Race/classification not held
NR Not Ranked in this classification


  1. ^ "Journal de Genève - 01.04.1969 - Pages 8/9". Retrieved 2018-09-26.
  2. ^ "Vuelta retro;Luis Ocaña". Chechu Retrieved 2007-12-09.
  3. ^ "Top 25 All Time Tour 1971- Unbeatable Merckx Gets a Major Scare". Barry Boyce, CyclingRevealed Historian. Retrieved 2007-04-10.
  4. ^ a b "Moutiers-Les Orres, 237.5km". Archived from the original on 2008-01-29. Retrieved 2007-12-09.
  5. ^ "Roubaix-Reims, 226km". Archived from the original on 2008-01-29. Retrieved 2007-12-09.
  6. ^ "Ocaña-Thévenet:Duel engage". L’équipe newspaper. July 9, 1973. page 1. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. ^ "Ocaña apuie sur l'accélérateur". L’équipe newspaper. July 14–15, 1973. page 1. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. ^ "Projet d'Ocaña:"l'heure" apres le Tour en 74!". L’équipe newspaper. July 24, 1973. page 1. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. ^ a b "Sporting Digest: Cycling". The Independent. 20 May 1994. Retrieved 23 May 2009.
  10. ^ "Luis Ocaña". Cycling Archives. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  11. ^ "Palmarès de Luis Ocaña (Esp)" [Awards of Luis Ocaña Luis Ocaña (Esp)]. Mémoire du cyclisme (in French). Retrieved 27 September 2017.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

  Media related to Luis Ocaña at Wikimedia Commons