Joop Zoetemelk rode the Tour 16 times and completed it 16 times - a record. He was an exceptional rider, but suffered the misfortune of being a contemporary of Eddy Merckx - so he finished second on 6 occasions. The old joke was that Zoetemelk never acquired a tan during the Tour because he was forever in Eddy Merckx’s shadow. As a consolation the fates did, finally, allow him to win in 1980.
In Britain, Raleigh, at the time possibly the world’s largest cycle manufacturer, had spent what was supposedly a vast fortune on its pro team - with the aim of winning the Tour. Joop Zoetemelk was the team leader and finally delivered the victory Raleigh pined for. There was only one fly in the ointment - Raleigh’s British operations were set up to sell truckloads of children’s bikes and cared little about continental european cycle racing. So no one, not Raleigh’s rather stuffy British management, not Raleigh’s avuncular sales reps, not Raleigh’s legion of mom-and-pop bicycle dealers, not even much of the parochial trade press, could properly pronounce his name. You don’t get many people called Joop in Nottingham, and as for Zoetemelk...
This card features an image from Het Grote Smoelenboek (possibly ‘The Big Faces Book’) published in 1982. This was a book of caricatures featuring the likes of Ronald Reagan, Leonid Brezhnev, François Mitterand, Margaret Thatcher... and Joop Zoetemelk. This particular drawing is by Ricord.
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