10 November 2021 By Elien Kaes History

Hendrik Gerardus Joseph Zoetemelk is a legendary cyclist, who is known as one of the best Dutch racing cyclists ever. However, he was nicknamed 'the eternal second' because he finished second in the Tour de France no less than six times! Finally, in 1980, he was able to put an end to this streak. However, while he always had to be satisfied with silver at the Tour, he did achieve other impressive victories. He won the Vuelta (1979) and became world champion at the sportingly advanced age of 38 in 1985. This wasn't all that easy, because in that period there were many strong riders active such as Eddy Merckx, Raymond Poulidor (who was also called the eternal second), Felice Gimondi, Bernard Thévenet and Bernard Hinault.

Retro fietskleding - tour de france

Hennie Kuiper, Bernard Hinault and Joop Zoetemelk  the Tour of 1978

The Tour de France

In 1970 Joop Zoetemelk started his professional cycling career and immediately tried his luck at the Tour de France. His performance was already impressive: he finished second to Eddy Merckx. In the years to come, Joop regularly wore the yellow jersey, but he always lost it before the finish in Paris. In 1973 he won the combined jersey and in 1975 he was the first rider ever to wear the polka dot jersey. 

In 1979 the battle for the victory was clearly between two riders, namely Zoetemelk and Hinault. During the ninth stage Hinault had a flat tyre which left him three and a half minutes behind Zoetemelk, who then took the yellow jersey. Joop kept the yellow jersey until the climbing time trial from Evian to Morzine-Avoriaz. Here Hinault showed that he was clearly the best climber and Joop lost two and a half minutes and had to give up the yellow jersey. Bernard Hinault was the rightful Tour winner that year and so Joop became second for the fifth time.

Retro wielerkledig

Joop Zoetemelk and Bernard Hinault at the Tour 

The 70s were golden years for the Dutch cycling world. The Ti-Raleigh team of Peter Post was at the top with riders like Gerrie Knetemann, Jan Raas, Henk Lubberding and Hennie Kuiper. Joop Zoetemelk on the other hand was riding for the French Miko-Mercier team for several years. In '79 Kuiper decided to leave Ti-Raleigh to ride for Peugeot. Peter Post therefore had to look for a new leader for his team and Joop was perfect for this. In 1980 Ti-Raleigh had already won all the classics except the Tour de France. Time to change this, thought the motivated Peter Post. That year they gave it their all to win the Tour de France and with success! Although it initially looked like Hinault would win the Tour, he had to give up with a knee injury before the start of the 13th stage. At the end of this stage Zoetemelk was allowed to take the yellow jersey and he never gave it away again! 

Nearly one hundred thousand Dutch fans were present in Paris, according to the French police. It was raining cats and dogs, but nothing could spoil the joy: the Dutch entered Paris singing. Fans everywhere were shouting out for Joop, an impressive crowd of supporters! Cold, wet, but very satisfied, the supporters accompanied Zoetemelk back to the hotel where the Raleigh team stayed. The crowd continued to sing and party for hours outside the hotel, it was a day to remember!

That it was such a big celebration is entirely justified. After Jan Janssen, who won the 1968 Tour, Zoetemelk was the second Dutch cyclist to take home the yellow jersey. Two years later, in 1982, Zoetemelk finished second in the Tour for the last time. In 1983 he seemed to be on his way to victory again, but had to stop because of a positive doping test. In total, Joop was able to wear the yellow jersey no less than 22 times, which in itself is a very strong performance.

Tour de france retro wielerkleding

Tour de France 1980

Other achievements 

While he finished second in the Tour all those times, he also won many other big races like the Vuelta, three times Paris-Nice, the Amstel Gold Race and he became world champion in 1985 and is thus still the oldest world champion ever. He also won Olympic gold in the 100 kilometre team time trial at the 1968 Games in Mexico City. 

Joop was named Sportsman of the Year after both the 1980 Tour de France and the 1985 World Championships. More recently, in 2016, he also received the Fanny Blankers-Koen Career Award (recipients of the award are sportsmen and women of exceptional merit to Dutch sport). Joop Zoetemelk's career was truly an impressive one!


During 18 years Joop was active as a professional cyclist and of course he had the opportunity to put on many beautiful jerseys. Would you like to wear these jerseys just like him? Then you are in luck, the jerseys of Ti-Raleigh, Gan-Mercier and Miko-Mercier are available in our shop. We also have the yellow jersey that Joop wore when he won the Tour in 1980. 

Ti raleigh wielershirtGan Mercier wielershirtGele trui Joop ZoetemelkMiko Mercier retro wielershirt

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