Roger de Vlaeminck was one of the few riders who could challenge Eddy Merckx at the peak of his career. This was reflected in the results he achieved during his professional cycling career. Alongside Eddy Merckx and Rik van Looy, he was one of the only riders to win all five cycling classics. De Vlaeminck had a real talent for these classics, which is why he was at the starting line of no less than 69 classics. He was able to finish in the top five 32 times, of which 23 times with a podium place. Moreover, he managed to win 11 times, which makes him the second strongest in the cycling classics ever! Only Eddy Merckx performed better with 19 victories.
Roger de Vlaeminck at Paris-Roubaix in 1973
These are very impressive achievements, yet De Vlaeminck is mostly known as 'Monsieur Paris-Roubaix'. This nickname is not much of a surprise if you know that he was able to win this race no less than four times. A record that was not equalled until 2012, when Tom Boonen won Paris-Roubaix for the fourth time. Still, De Vlaeminck remains the true champion of Paris-Roubaix, because he finished second four times and he could win the Tirreno-Adriatico six years in a row.
De Vlaeminck himself was less impressed with his victories in Paris-Roubaix. He said he could have easily won this race five or six times. The parcours suited him well, so he would have liked to perform even better. Nevertheless, these are and remain quite spectacular achievements!
Hell of the North
1972: The terrible weather conditions predicted nothing good. Eddy Merckx crashed early in the race, increasing Roger's chances of winning. It became tense when Willy Van Malderghem escaped, but Roger went all out and caught him again. The first solo victory for De Vlaeminck was a fact!
1974: It looked like Francesco Moser was going to take the first place but Roger was able to catch up. Roger's fans watched with bated breath until Moser suffered a flat tyre. It was a pity for him, but De Vlaeminck took advantage of the situation and was able to secure his second solo victory.
1975: De Vlaeminck was able to escape together with Eddy Merckx and two others. Merckx also suffered a flat tyre, which was repaired in time. Merckx tried to catch up but De Vlaeminck beat him in the sprint. De Vlaeminck looks back with pride on this victory and that is certainly deserved!
Roger De Vlaeminck and Eddy Merckx
1977: The last year De Vlaeminck was able to win was thanks to his teammate Walter Godefroot. Earlier that year, at the Tour of Flanders, Freddy Maertens helped him to the victory. In return, De Vlaeminck was not allowed to respond to Maertens when he attacked at Paris-Roubaix. However Walter Godefroot had come up with a little plan that allowed Roger to take home gold in '77!
1978: In 1978 Roger joined the team of Francesco Moser. When the Italian rider went on the attack early on, it was already over for Roger. He was not allowed to attack his own team leader and so he missed out on his fifth victory.
1979: This year Roger changed teams again and wanted to win from Moser. But when they escaped with a group of four, De Vlaeminck, Marc Demeyer and Hennie Kuiper all got flat tyres. This allowed Moser to win for the second time in a row.
1980: One year later De Vlaeminck was also in the lead, but then he had a lot of bad luck. Not only did his tyre burst, but he also suffered a bad fall. In the end it was Moser again who was able to take first place. If he could win again, he would have equalled De Vlaeminck's record, but he failed to do so.
1981: In 1981, De Vlaeminck made another attempt to take first place. It didn't look too good when he had equipment failure, but eventually he was able to join the leading group. However, Bernard Hinault, who was then world champion, was too fast for him in the sprint.
1982: The last time Roger de Vlaeminck made an attempt in Paris-Roubaix. But it was in vain, in the end he had to be happy with sixth place.
Eddy Merckx and Roger de Vlaeminck at Paris-Roubaix
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