Gerben Karstens, a legendary cyclist and well-liked clown

19 October 2022 By shamim kordbache News

Gerben Karstens, the medal winner in the 100 km team trial at the 1964 Summer Olympics, died on Saturday, October 8th, at the age of 80, from a cerebral infarction, while his excellent sense of humour and strange antics in the cycling peloton will be remembered for the rest of his life among all cycling fans.

Gerben Karstens 1978
Gerben Karstens, 1978

Cyclist or clown?

"Karst, without you there is nothing to laugh about," said the late Gerrie Knetemann, former professional dutch cyclist, about his former teammate. 'The Clown' was one of his three nicknames. The other two were 'De Karst' and 'De notariszoon uit Leiden' (literally translated: 'The notary's son from Leiden'). When cycling was not yet dominated by large money, Karstens was recognized as a first-rate prankster. He was riding backwards, pulling his pants down, or hiding after a run-off, only to emerge from behind a shed and rejoin the passing peloton in the back. Meanwhile, the unsuspecting group in front had begun chasing.

Karstens performed his most famous stunt during the Tour of 1975: he jumped on the back of Eddy Peelman during the race. He quickly gave his bike to another rider in the peloton. In this position, the two cyclists rode on for about half an hour! A comical stunt that has gone down in history. However, the board of the Tour de France thought otherwise, because Peelman and Karstens were almost expelled from the Tour. Fortunately, Eddy Merckx was able to put a stop to this in time and the two riders were allowed to stay.


Gerben Karstens, Tour de France 1975

 Gerben Karstens, Tour de France 1975

Gerben Karstens roll of honour

Among the most notable achievements of this legendary cyclist is his gold medal in the 100 km team trial at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, which he shared with Bart Zoet, Evert Dolman, and Jan Pieterse. Gerben finished 27th in the individual road race in the same Olympics. Karstens also excelled in Grand Tours. He won six stages in the Tour de France, including the 1976 final stage on the Champs-Élysées, and rode in the famous yellow jersey for two days. Gerben also won fourteen stages of the Vuelta a España, and one Giro d’Italia stage. His great achievements placed him as one of only four Dutchmen to have won a stage in all Grand Tours.


He also set records in the Five Monuments, the oldest, most difficult, and renowned one-day events in men's road cycling. On his resume are victories in Milan-Sanremo (second, 1970), the Tour of Flanders (sixth, 1975), Paris-Roubaix (ninth, 1970), and the Tour of Lombardy (second, 1965). However, his greatest classic triumph is not officially recorded. In 1969, Karstens dominated the Como velodrome, which was the pinnacle of the Tour of Lombardy at the time. However, after the race, Karstens was discovered to have supplied a positive puddle, not his own, but that of driver and confidant Jan Leijs. As a result, Belgian cyclist Jean-Pierre Monseré won the race.

Gerben Karstens, Tour de France 1966

Gerben Karstens, 1966

Cycling team

Gerben Karstens began his professional cycling career with the Televizier, the Dutch former professional cycling team of team leader Kees Pellenaars in 1965. In 1968, he joined the renowned Peugeot-BP-Michelin team, with which he scored his major victories. Gerben also worked with a number of other professional cycling teams during his career, including Goudsmit-Hoff, Rokado, Bic and Gitane-Campagnolo. Later he rode in French service for several years and was part of Peter Post's successful TI-Raleigh team for two years.

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