Theo Middelkamp, Dutch, 1914 - 2005
Theo Middelkamp's life was filled with the unusual - at least by modern standards.
As a youth, he wanted to be a footballer - but took up cycling because there was more money in it!
He came from the endless flatness of the Netherlands, and before his first Tour de France (1936) he had never even seen a mountain. Nevertheless he won stage 7, a ferocious mountain stage from Aix-les-Bains over the Col du Galibier to Grenoble. He was the first Dutchman ever to win a stage of the Tour.
Always short of money, he was unable to race during the Second World War, so he took to smuggling (why not?). He was caught and imprisoned.
After the war he took up cycling again and became the World Road Race Champion in 1947. He was the first of many Dutchman to hold this title.
He retired from cycling in 1951, and conforming to stereotype at last, bought a bar.
Theo Middelkamp died in 2005.
This atmospheric picture captures the chaos at the end stage 7 of the 1936 Tour de France - the most famous stage that Theo won. He is shown, towsle-haired and bewildered, holding his bike in the middle of a throng of people - almost all of whom are looking at something other than him. It is one of two images of him on this site, the other is here.
The derailleur that Theo Middelkamp used to win his World Championship Road Race is a bit of a mystery. An image in the Dutch National Archive appears to show him using a fork type derailleur - possibly a Super Champion model. However the Super Champion price list from 1948 mentions Hans Knecht's 1946 victory but makes no mention of 1947 at all. There are also some post war images that appear to show Theo using a Simplex pull-chain derailleur or something similar - but Simplex is notably reluctant to claim the 1947 Worlds in this advert from 1951.
(Source gallica.bnf.fr/ Bibliothèque nationale de France)