Interview with Francis Blanc. October, 2013.
"As Jaques Anquetil then stood for a start next to me he looked at my bike and said: Wow, what a great bike."
We met Francis Blanc at his home not far from Geneva. Francis Blanc was Swiss amateur champion in 1962 and was in use as a professional cyclist. In his final year as a professional cyclist, he rode in 1968 for the Italian team Molteni with Gianni Motta.
Speedbicycles (SB): At wich age you started with cycling?
Francis Blanc (FB): When i was 20 (ed.: 1958) i started with active cycling. Much too late hindsight. In addition to my work at the Geneva town nursery, I could go for training only in the evenings and on the weekends. Anyway i had the chance for to get quickly few successes and victories.
SB: What brand was your first race bike?
FB: A used Cilo for 110 francs with distorted frame. If you took the hands off the handlebars the bike rodes to the side.
SB: In 1962 you became Swiss champion of the amateurs.
FB: Yes. It was in Yverdon-le-Bains. Rolf Graf was the champion in the pros.
SB: You changed to the professionals In the following year.
FB: First I could hire at the Italian team Cynar (ed.: 1963-1964). There were Vittorio Adorni and also some Swiss driver under contract. Then at Salvarani (ed: including Robert Lelangue) and Cynar. In 1966, I was for various Swiss teams in action, including at Wohlhauser, Tigra, and Grieshaber. 1968 I could join then the team Molteni with Gianni Motta.
SB: How did you get access to this well known team?
FB: To the beginning of the season of '68, I was still without a contract. For some races in Italy Molteni team leader is Gianni Motta became aware to me and I was asked to join the team. I was then already at Molteni for the race Milano-Sanremo in March. My other cycling mates and colleagues looked generally at the end of the previous season to a contract for the coming year and got a job so mostly only for smaller teams.
SB: There had been many drivers for the Molteni team?
FB: First there were eight riders and with me still another driver was hired. Then ten of us, we were together. It is not so as imagine nowadays. Everything was still quite familiar and easy. We had no team bus, for example. We commuted by private cars or train.
SB: Who built the bikes for the Molteni team?
FB: The bikes came from Ernesto Colnago. He built bespoke frames for each driver. Colnago was the first who used rear brakes (ed.: universal) built with short arms. Ernesto modified front brakes for that. Until then, short reach brakes were used only for the front.
SB: What remains today as fond memories of your time as a professional cyclist?
FB: I always knew about my limits, was not a good driver in the rain and uphill i was only fast up to 10 km, then I left to. I was a good helper and could work well for the team and forward the leader. That was very satisfying. If there was a victory in the team then, I could earn also still good.
SB: Are there certainly also less good memories?
FB: 1964 held the Road World Championships in the French Sallanches. Not far away from my hometown of Geneva. The Swiss Federation selected four drivers for this World Cup in one single race. Unfortunately I was only seventh on this occasion. Although I actually was the strongest Swiss rider this year I could not participate therefore in the World Championship. That has disappointed me. Last but not least because it took place even before my home crowd.
SB: After this Molteni year in 1968 you shut down your career.
FB: Yes. This year I made good 44'000 km (ed.:!) on the bike. I was served. In 1969 I raced then a few senior races. That was it.
SB: What was your best bike?
FB: I always had a soft spot for Italian frames and had two Masi from Milano. These were then each painted in team color. So I had a Masi labeled with Tigra for example in 1967. As Jaques Anquetil then stood for a start next to me he looked at my bike and said: Wow, what a great bike.
SB: What drivers were the best for you?
FB: All clear - Eddy Merckx was the greatest. Jacques Anquetil for me personally was the most sympathetic of the «great». A real gentleman. Also Jan Janssen was a good guy.
SB: If you should call the best driver of all time?
FB: Eddy Merckx.
SB: Are you now still interested on pro cycling? What rider comes to your mind there?
FB: Yes, I still look the big races in the TV. Great drivers are Fabian Cancellara and Philippe Gilbert.
SB: Francis, thank you for this conversation.
Interview with Francis Blanc (team Molteni 1968) by Stefan Schäfter,
Speedbicycles Basel 17.10.2013