Joop Zoetemelk, Dutch, 1946 -
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...
In 1985 Joop won the World Championship Road Race and this card features an image of Joop in the colours of his Kwantum team that year. In the image, the team strip is perfectly conventional, the beautiful Colnago dressed in Campagnolo Super Record is exactly what you would expect, but the set is some kind of perverse and exotic horticultural nightmare.
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