Videos du jour: Rik van Looy

September.  Back to school jongens.

OK, enough of this marginal gains, carbon fiber stuff.  Today's class filmstrip is a good ol' black and white, behind the scenes, old school metier- lifestyle lesson from none other than the winningest classics rider of all time:  The Emperor of Herentals himself -  Rik Van Looy.

Check out a great RTBF profile I found here.   This was filmed in early 1964, so call it 50 years ago.  OK, it's in French...but a good video compilation-summary of the entire career of the only man to win ALL the classics.   Not even Eddy Merckx did that!

I dig the opening clip of Rik training - likely filmed at his favorite winter-training venue -  Lake Garda.   A pedal stroke that exudes power and ease at the same time.  In the interview that follows he talks about 'twice-a-day' training rides, and piling on the km (starting with 40k in the morning and 40k in the afternoon and building from there) to get ready for the season.   4,000 km.

What's that you said jongen?  50 years ago you say?   Things have changed?

Well, the roads were still paved..or pave.  The wind gusted just as hard.  Pedals still moved a chain. Tires were virtually the same weight.  And Rik didn't need an SRM to figure out how to ride 30 mph or to know the right moment to force an escape on the cobbles.   No, when you strip away the trappings of modernism, I'd wager that very little has changed.   Still got to put out the watts whether you're counting them or not.

Funny how on this Rik talks about going into the mountains after the Vuelta ended in May to 'go on vacation' and prepare for the Tour in the high Alpine mountain passes.   You'd have thought from the media brainwashing we've received over the last decade, that a certain Texan invented that moutain route recon concept.   La plus ca change...

There's some great race footage in this clip, especially of his battle during the final classic he added to complete his classic palmares at the end of his career - the '68 Fleche Wallonne.

Below is another Rik van Looy profile clip:  This one an 'up close and personal' 1962 French INA profile of Van Looy at home in Herentals.  And you young hipster fashion victims out there have to love the early 1960's style exemplified by both his wife Nini, and their 'modern' home decor.   Period classic nostalgia.

FAEMA director Guillaume Driessens is quoted on this one saying that Rik was 'a more complete rider than Fausto Coppi' (!)... and that Rik 'had the ability to win all the classics'.   (This was before he did it...)     Lomme was a good salesman.  Audacious and preposterous... but a good salesman, and PR frontman advocating his star to the rest of the world.

After he retired, Rik managed the BLOSO youth cycling school in Herentals for years (below).   Gets maximum cafesupporter points for that.    It's called giving back.

This December the Emperor will turn 80.   Yikes.  Hard to believe.  For me anyway.  I can still hear my old DS John Ireland and other older guys from UK and US who raced in Belgium in the 60's and 70's talk about how dominant Van Looy was - in what was then just a few years before.  How strong he was.  How much a patron.  How much a trainingsbeest.

Let Rik be your reference jongens.   Magnetic north for metier compasses in need of re-calibrating by an overload of too much programmed cyclisme by the numbers.


  1. Fantastic post. Thanks eddy. RVL was always one of my idols. Great sixties musak too!

  2. Great stuff, thanks for sharing! One thing always strikes Larry with so many of these old films - Rik looks like ....well....a human being, despite being a great champion, Far too many of today's cycling champions look like.......well........ someone who was just liberated from a Nazi concentration camp...or worse...Chris Froome. Guys like Rik are a marvel to watch riding a bike - pure "poetry in motion" for lack of a less shop-worn phrase. Tom Boonen is one of the few of today's riders who looks that good on a bicycle, though I'm sure others can name some more.

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