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  Rik Van Looy    

Picture courtesy of www.corvos.nl
Rik Van Looy was born on December 20, 1933.

Nicknamed the “King of the Classics” or “Emperor of Herentals” (because he lived in the small Belgian city near the Dutch border), Rik Van Looy won just about every one-day race worth mentioning.

He was the first cyclist to win all five of cycling’s monuments (Paris-Roubaix, Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Tour of Flanders) for a total of eight victories in these races, including three wins in Paris-Roubaix.

Van Looy won the Paris-Roubaix Classic in 1961, in front of Belgians Marcel Janssens and Rene Vanderveken, in 1962, in front of Belgians Emile Daems and Frans Schoubben, and in 1965, in front of Belgians Edward Sels and Willy Vannitsen.

Van Looy was 2nd in 1963 behind Emile Daems of Belgium, and in 1967, behind Jan Janssen of Holland. Van Looy was also 3rd in 1958 behind Leon Van Daele of Belgium and Miguel Poblet of Spain.

Van Looy won the 1958 Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders in 1959 and 1962, the Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 1961, the Tour of Lombardy in 1959.

Van Looy won the 1960 World Championship Road Race in front of Andre Darrigade of France and Pino Cerami of Belgium.

Van Looy also won the event in 1961, in front of Nino Defilippis of Italy and Raymond Poulidor of France.

Van Looy was also 2nd in 1956 behind Rik Van Steenbergen of Belgium, and 2nd in 1963 behind Benoni Beheyt of Belgium.

In addition, Van Looy was 4th in 1957 behind Rik Van Steenbergen of Belgium, Louison Bobet of France, and Andre Darrigade of France.

In other one-day races, Van Looy won the Paris-Tours in 1959 and 1967, the Ghent-Wevelgem in 1956, 1957, and 1962, plus the Fleche Wallone in 1968.

In the Grand Tours, Van Looy won the Points Jersey in the 1963 Tour de France and the Mountains Jersey in the 1960 Giro d’Italia.

In the Vuelta a Espana, Van Looy was 3rd in 1959 behind Antonio Suarez and Jose Segu of Spain, and was 3rd in 1965 behind Rolf Wolfshohl of Germany and Raymond Poulidor of France. Van Looy also won the Points Jerseys in those years as well.

Van Looy’s career spanned eighteen seasons beginning at age 19 in late 1953 and ending at age 36 in 1970. During this time, he racked up an impressive 419 professional road victories.

Picture courtesy of www.rondevanvlaanderen.be

Picture courtesy of www.rondevanvlaanderen.be

Van Looy’s career was sandwiched between two other great Belgian riders: Rik Van Steenbergen and Eddy Merckx.

In fact, Rik Van Looy may not have begun bicycle race had it not been that his name was so close to that of the then-current Belgian superstar, Rik Van Steenbergen.

Van Looy rode a heavy bicycle delivering newspapers where he was teased by neighbors because of his name being so close to the established star at the time. This taunting spurned him on to ride competitively.

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