Roger de Vlaeminck is one of only three riders to win all five monuments, along with Rik Van Looy and Eddy Merckx. They called him “The Gypsy” and also “Monsieur Paris-Roubaix”. His family were not travelling folk, although his parents did sell cloth from an itinerant market stall.
Mr Paris-Roubaix is a bit more obvious, he was at ease on the cobbles thanks to cyclo-cross expertise and took the race four times. His career reeks of style, he turned pro and won his first race, no less than Het Volk and became Belgian champion later in the year. His palmarès is too long to cite, click here to see it.
5am training rides
But he was also a very sneaky rider. One anecdote… He would get up at 5am each day and hit the road by 6am, often beginning the ride in the dark and biting cold. He would arrive home before 10am and stick his bike behind his house.
After wolfing down some food his doorbell would ring, it was none other than training partner Walter Goodefroot. Goodefroot would arrive each morning only to see a tired-looking De Vlaeminck appear at the upstairs window. “I’ll be down in a minute” he’d say, infuriating Goodefroot who thought De Vlaeminck was just rising from bed. The pair would eventually get going only for De Vlaeminck to turn back after three or four hours. Goodefroot thought little of his lazy training partner and would ride De Vlaeminck off his wheel. But in actual fact it was “the Gypsy” who was training harder and as soon as the classics came, De Vlaeminck left even Goodefroot behind.
Many a cyclist might not admit to the full extent of their preparation but this was taking things to a new level.