The West Flemish cyclist Michel Pollentier has an impressive palmares: winner of the Giro d'Italia 1977, Tour of Switzerland 1977, Tour of Flanders 1980, Belgian champion 1977 and 1978, Dauphiné Libéré 1978, Brabantse Pijl 1980 and numerous other places of honor.

Michel Pollentier during his victory of the 1977 Giro d'Italia

In total, Michel Pollentier won no less than 89 times with the professionals, but what is strange is that the largest part of his victories is from 1977.

Michel Pollentier was the bosom friend of that other clapper, Freddy Maertens, for whom he took on the role of servant for 100%. Pollentier went all out during every race to help Freddy win. In the sprint train of the Flandria team, which both riders rode for, he was the last link.

However, Michel Pollentier, who was recognizable in the peloton by his ugly angular style on the bike, had a lot of talent and turned out to be a very good climber and time trialist. In his first participation in the Tour de France in 1974, for example, he won the last time trial for none other than the cannibal Eddy Merckx. He was 7th in the final standings.

The 10th stage in the 1977 Giro d'Italia and a new leader in the Flandria team

But leading a Grand Tour was too stressful and Pollentier preferred to be in the shadow of Freddy Maertens until that 8th stage in the 1977 Giro d'Italia.

Freddy Maertens had only just won the Tour of Spain and was the absolute leader of the Flandria team for the 1977 Giro d'Italia. Pollentier would play super-servant together with Marc Demeyer as usual. The 10th stage was a flat ride arriving at the Mugello car circuit in Tuscany.

A piece of cake for the Flandria team. After all, nobody could beat Freddy in a bunch sprint and in Mugello he would take his 8th stage victory. However, it turned out differently. Freddy came into contact with Rik Van Linden in full sprint and both riders crashed heavily. Maertens lay unconscious for a while and was taken away with a fractured wrist. His Giro was immediately over.

That evening itself, the Flandria team was thinking to leave the Giro d'Italia, after all, their leader quitted the race. Fortunately for Michel Pollentier and for the Belgian cycling fans, the teamleader decided to continue. All riders were now allowed to go for their own account and Pollentier emerged as the new leader.

In the Dolomites, Pollentier even conquered the pink jersey and then did not relinquish it and thus became the 2nd Belgian, after Eddy Merckx, to win the Giro d'Italia. It was with this victory that Michel realized that he was more than a luxury servant for his friend and teammate Freddy Maertens.

The pink jersey with which Michel Pollentier won the 1977 Giro d'Italia

Sportsman of the Year 1977

Also in the Tour de Suisse there was no measure for him and a few months later he also became Belgian road champion. It earned him the title of Belgian sportsman of the year.

Pollentier was also in the spotlight after his great year in 1977, with a 2nd place in the Tour of Flanders, again Belgian champion and places of honor in the Brabantse Pijl and Waalse Pijl. After his victory in the Giro d'Italia the year before, he was even the big favorite for the overall victory in the Tour de France. We now know how this Tour ended, Pollentier was caught doping and was excluded from the Giro.

In 1980 the Tour of Flanders and the Brabantse Pijl came along and in 1982 a 2nd place in the Vuelta of Spain.

Michel Pollentier in the pink jersey in the 1977 Giro d'Italia

After that things went less, partly due to a depression after his bookkeeper ran off with a considerable amount and in 1984 Michel also hooked up his bicycle.

1979 the final end of the servant Michel Pollentier

The friendship with Freddy Maertens also took a big dent after his victory in the Giro d'Italia in 1977 and this is also largely due to the role of Lomme Driessens, then sports director at Flandria. Driessens only had eyes for Maertens until the infamous accident in Mugello.

Suddenly Maertens was no longer important and Pollentier was Driessens' new god. Maertens continued to struggle with his wrist fracture afterwards and due to some bad investments he also ended up in trouble.

In 1979, Michel Pollentier had also exchanged the Flandria team for Splendor Eurosoap, where he was the only leader, thus ending a (possibly new) role as servant for Freddy Maertens.

How one person's misfortune can be another's happiness.