Joop Zoetemelk

Procycling - - Rider Diaries -

3 Dec 1946 – One of only two Dutch rid­ers to have claimed cy­cling’s big­gest prize, Zoetemelk rode his first Tour de France in 1970. He came sec­ond to Mer­ckx… who else? He went on to ride 16 Tours, at the time a record. He won once, came sec­ond six times and was in the top 10 on a fur­ther five oc­ca­sions. The ro­bust Dutch­man was the very epit­ome of con­sis­tency.

But ‘con­sis­tent’ and ‘ro­bust’ aren’t terms to set a cy­cling fan’s heart a- flut­ter. Such rid­ers do not read­ily gar­ner un­con­di­tional af­fec­tion and Zoetemelk was no dif­fer­ent. De­spite his im­mense pal­marès, he was crit­i­cised more than com­mended. “Why is Zoetemelk so pale? Be­cause he rides in the shadow of Mer­ckx,” ran the fa­mous joke. Even the 1980 Tour, the race he won, is re­mem­bered more in France for Hin­ault’s in­jured knee than Zoetemelk’s win, with the Dutch­man forced to de­fend him­self as a valid win­ner. But Zoetemelk does de­serve his place in his­tory. He won 10 stages of the Tour, in­clud­ing leg­endary as­cents of Puy- deDôme and L’Alpe d’Huez. In 1985, he be­came world cham­pion aged 38, at­tack­ing in the fi­nal kilo­me­tre be­fore the sprint. No one could call him a mere fol­lower any longer. Tour de France 1980: When Hin­ault aban­doned due to ten­donitis, Zoetemelk swooped. He in­her­ited the race lead and ce­mented the win in the fi­nal TT in St-Éti­enne to fi­nally claim a Tour after 10 at­tempts Tour de France: 1980 Vuelta a Es­paña: 1979 World Cham­pion: 1985 Paris-Nice: 1974, ’ 75, ’ 79 Tour de Ro­mandie: 1973 Tir­reno-Adri­atico: 1985 La Flèche Wal­lonne: 1976 Am­s­tel Gold: 1987 Paris-Tours: 1977, 1979

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