Roger De Vlaeminck
24 Aug 1947 – Eddy Merckx once said, “When all’s said and done, Roger was just better than the rest. I respected everyone but he was the only one I really feared.”
Where to start with the ‘Gypsy of Eeklo’? He is one of only three riders to have won all five Monuments. Add in a record-setting four Paris-Roubaix, three Milano-Sanremo and two Giri di Lombardia and, statistically at least, you have one of the best ever Classics riders. Over his 15-year career, De Vlaeminck won over 500 bike races.
Even the numbers, though, don’t tell the full tale. He turned pro in 1969, at the height of Merckxism. Many of his greatest wins were over Merckx and when Eddy called it quits, the warrior De Vlaeminck simply turned to Moser, Hinault and Maertens, the giants of the next generation. He also won Het Volk, Fléche and the 1975 cyclo-cross Worlds; the road version is the one glaring omission from his palmarès.
Though he seldom rode the Tour, his Giro record – four points jerseys and 22 stages – was exceptional, and he was all but unbeatable in short stage races. He won Tirreno-Adriatico a record six times.