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Echoes' cycling biography #1: Edwig Van Hooydonck
« on: July 31, 2013, 19:34 »
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Edwig Van Hooydonck was Junior Belgian champion in his 18th year. He turned amateur in 1985 and was already 7th in the amateur Paris-Roubaix at age 18, against riders who were 5 years older than him. His 1986 season at age 19 was even more promising. His biggest rival among the Belgian field was Benjamin Van Itterbeeck, two years and 4 months his senior, whom he was second to at Paris-Troyes in France and at the Omloop der Vlaamse Gewesten. But most importantly he beat him at the amateur Tour of Flanders. Van Itterbeek won altogether 120 races in his 6 years as amateur but his biggest achievement as a pro was his national title in 1991. He would later say (in 2001, he started a career in … kickboxing!): “By winning two Tour of Flanders and 4 Brabantse Pijl, Edwig proved he had more talent than me.”
No talk about Johan Museeuw back then as Stéphane Thirion said in 2004, when Museeuw stopped: “In the youth categories, he could not compete with the Van Hooydonck and co.” Museeuw would start performing on the amateur Belgian scene in 1987, which means after Van Hooydonck turned pro. Yet he was 10 months his senior.

In 1986 as an amateur he also raced a stage race in Belgium, with an international field: The Tour of West Hainaut (8 stages, 3 subdivided in semis + 1 prologue). Edwig won the 159.5km long 5th stage in Wasquehal, France – The start of that stage was in Beuvry-la-Forêt, renowned for its Paris-Roubaix cobble section -  and be second in the prologue to an Italian rider who already had the reputation as a multi-talent in his own country and who was later to become one of his fiercest opponent. His name is Maurizio Fondriest. And again the South Tyrolian was 1 year and 7 month his senior.

And finally, he raced the Circuit de la Sarthe, an open stage race which he – amateur rider - ended 5th, behind three pro riders (Didier Garcia, Wyder and John Talen) and Luc Leblanc but ahead of experienced pro riders like Gilbert Glaus and Atle Pedersen.

Van Hooydonck was ahead of his time, so told me a former amateur rider of the time who raced against at the Tour of Namur in those years. And quite logically he turned pro on September 14 1986, just one month and 10 days after his 20th birthday.

From 1976 to 1982 amateur riders in Belgium could not turn pro before the age of 22. That was a ridiculous rule by the Belgian federation as talented riders such as Fons De Wolf and Daniel Willems lost one or two seasons in the amateur ranks where they dominated a field that was not in the same league as them, impairing their performances as pros. Van Hooydonck was lucky to come after that period.

First pro season and first big win at the Brabantse Pijl

The Brabantse Pijl/Flèche brabançonne was 227km long that year. With 70km Van Hooydonck is already ahead in a group of 4, whose advantage on the bunch would go up to 2 minutes, with Van Hooydonck doing most of the load work and they would be cought up with a bit more than 40km to go. Van der Poel would then attack in a short cobbled section (that still existed in Brabant in the eighties), countered by the old Knetemann. Van Hooydonck still had strength and would joined the lead group of a dozen riders a bit later, with Peter Harings in his wheel. Harings would then attack and Van Hooydonck accompanies him. With 27km to go and two laps around the climb of Alsemberg there would be 9 leaders, with Edwig and Wampers, Van der Poel, Winnen, Frison and De Wilde, among others. Van Hooydonck made his decisive attack 4km further in the first ascent of the Bruine Put. On the top he already made a gap of 13 seconds. He finishes 1’05” ahead of Harings and 1’11” ahead of Wampers. Winnen is 8th, Van der Poel 9th and Millar 20th.

With the best in first Paris-Roubaix

In Paris-Roubaix 4 Belgian journeymen had a shot at victory: Versluys, Dhaenens, Lieckens and Vandenbrande. In the group with the top favourites they all were giving a sharp eye each other because of the fierce rivalry between Vanderaerden and Kelly. So when Van Hooydonck he could hear a rider say “let him go!”. And indeed he would remain “en chasse-patate” for the rest of the race. Only on the Carrefour de l’Arbre Kelly and Van der Poel crashed, which benefitted Vanderaerden. First Eric caught Lieckens from the lead group who had crashed with Dhaenens and was exhausted. Then Vanderaerden joined Edwig. Vanderaerden would later tell Michel Wuyts (in 2010): “Edwig was the type of rider that could keep the same pace the whole day but I had the acceleration in my legs.” Planckaert would say: “Van Hooydonck was a flat iron. He phoned hundreds of meters in advance when he attacked.” So when he joined him, he accelerated straight and dropped him. In the streets of Paris-Roubaix Vanderaerden joined the 3 leaders, so that a surprise win was avoided. There was a controversy round his win because you could clearly saw him talk with his break mates, who eventually did not even sprint. Vanderaerden denied any financial arrangement but he encouraged to ride along “because Van Hooydonck and Kelly weren’t far away”, he said, which he admits was poker because he did not know what was going on behind. Van Hooydonck was 5th in his first Paris-Roubaix at age barely 20, which only the best could. He always said it was the race that suited him the best, with his power style and yet he never won it. However he admitted later to Wuyts that it was “easy” at that time. The five first were Belgians and the Berlin Wall had not yet fallen.

Van Hooydonck and the Time Trials

In his first two years, Edwig Van Hooydonck would prove to be a very talented time-trialist. In 1987 he was already second to Vanderaerden at the Eddy Merckx GP but ahead of Mottet.

In 1988, he would race the Ruta del Sol. The Andalucian race has been established for two decades by then as a most prestigious season opener. The prologue was a 4.65km time-trial in the streets of Cadix and Van Hooydonck won it 4 seconds of Indurain (2 years his senior) and Jesus Blanco, who finished 3rd. Mauri was 4th at 8” and Gölz 5th at 9”. Edwig would retain the leader’s jersey till the end, with also a second place to Van der Poel in the final stage. Blanco is 2nd and Edwig’s teammate and present-day commentator for the NOS Maarten Ducrot is 3rd.

Later that year [September 4] Edwig would, this time, get the win at the Merckx GP. The race was shortened to 56km that year. The field was pretty decent with specialists like Mottet, Marie or Anderson. However Van Hooydonck dominated the race from start to finish. At the first time check after 14km he was ahead of his teammates Gölz and Maassen (who would drop in the finale) while at that moment Mottet and Marie had the last two places. Mottet would eventually improve to 8th overall. Gölz would retain the 2nd place at the finish 46” behind his teammate, with Estonian Kuum being 3rd. Merckx was not surprised by Van Hooydonck’s win “he bore out the promise of last year’s performance, when he finished second. The course suited him. He was able to use all his power. And how he has improved with time! He has literally outclassed his rivals on this circuit of almost 50km [sic, rather 60].”

Ten days later, Edwig would win the 110km TTT of the GP de la Libération in Eindhoven with his team Superconfex, consisting of him and Maassen, Solleveld, Nijdam, Poels and Jakobs. But in the GP des Nations, his performance was slightly more disappointing. He still finished 8th in a field of 22 riders. Mottet won. Merckx said “that contest required more climbing skills than Heysel [referring to the stadium in which his GP finished] and he has shown himself a little tender in that area.” Let’s also add that the Nations GP was a very prestigious 90km ITT and a real goal for top guys like Charly Mottet.

Van Hooydonck and the Mountains

In an interview given to Le Soir in July 1989, Edwig said that the mountains was a terrain where “the Columbians could teach him a lesson. However I realized last year at the Dauphiné that if there’s no big rhythm variations, I could almost follow the best.”

In the 1988 Dauphiné Edwig actually finished 15th overall, which is a great performance for a non-specialist, though still 14’19” behind winner Herrera. Ironically he finished just above Gilles Delion in the ranking, who was a 1966-born, just like him and would also get a reputation as a clean rider. In stages, Edwig did some great performances. 3rd in the 6th stage from Chambéry to Le Fontonil, behind Ruttimann and Herrera (first two in the final GC, reversed order) and 5th in the 5th stage from La Roche sur Foron to Chambéry, won by Mottet.

The BRTN (Dutch-speaking Belgian public broadcaster) followed Edwig's performances on that Dauphiné libéré but Michel Wuyts argued that it quickly appeared Van Hooydonck was no climber[1]

Earlier that season he was already second to Rominger in the Mont-Faron time trial of the Mediterranean Tour after winning a stage in Antibe ahead of Mottet. He was a very good 4th overall, behind Nevens, Mottet and Leblanc.
Van Hooydonck would never be as good in mountain races as he was then at age 21.

In the spotlight with Tour of Flanders win

Edwig did not like the Tour of Flanders with its constant fighting and pushing to keep position and was happy that the Koppenberg was scrapped from the first Flanders. But in 1989, under heavy rain, it looked as if it was all the same, in the Taaienberg, he was lagging behind and a rider in front dismounted and so did he have to too. But after the Eikenberg he joined the leaders again and in the Berendries came the decisive escape with Peiper, Sergeant, Sörensen, Frison, Hermans, Lauritsen and Van Hooydonck. Since his captain Maassen had crashed, Edwig could race for himself. In previous winter, Edwig trained in the area and climbed the Kapelmuur and the Bosberg 10 times each per training. On the Bosberg he noticed an electric pole on the left, which was his marker, the moment to accelerate. In that edition Edwig first countered a Lauritsen attack and then attacked, when he passed the pole by. He would no longer be caught. French commentator and former rider Robert Chapatte said: “When Van Hooydonck takes 100m, you need a whole coalition of riders to catch him.”
He cried on the podium, that’s unfortunately what he’s remembered for and it caused sarcasm, notably from Brik Schotte, who won the race at the same age. When Wuyts noticed that it did not match the image of the Flandrian he would respond by saying that he was not one. “The story behind the Flandrians no longer exists. It was a pre war West-Fleming who had work hard in the field. Someone who suffered a lot and earned a small amount of money. Brik Schotte was the last.” The analysis is very much accurate and shows Van Hooydonck knows his history. Besides, Van Hooydonck was a shy rider who had the chance as a kid to watch the Tour of Flanders every year on TV. The first colour coverage with motorbikes and helicopter views in the Dutch-speaking part happened in 1973. Enough to make a kid dream. The older generations did not have that chance. The future generations were also TV riders who would make any sort of silly antics.

That win gives Van Hooydonck the newly created World Cup leader’s jersey – which strangely had only white stripes on the two sides the rest being in the Superconfex colours -, which he consolidated with a 3rd place in Paris-Roubaix, joining the decisive with Wampers, De Wolf, Duclos-Lassalle and Planckaert at Mérignies after having punctured at the worst moment, but since Madiot punctured at the same moment, they would gather their efforts together to get back. He would leave the World Cup jersey to Kelly after the Wincanton Classic in August where he scored zero point.

Controversy at the 1989 Merckx GP

At the start of the Merckx GP in September 1989, Fignon came with a bike equipped with a clip-ons tri-bars such as the one LeMond used at the Tour of France, a month earlier. However this time, Mr Ledent prohibited the use of such an equipment, strictly enforcing the three-point rule (bars, saddle, pedals; the tri-bars offer a 4th resting point on which the forearms may rest). In his book “Nous étions jeunes et insouciants” Fignon said that the UCI official who served at the Merckx GP was the same as the one who served at the Tour of France and gave LeMond a green light to use the tri-bars. That’s inaccurate. The UCI official at the Tour fo France was Mr Jacquat. Mr Ledent, however, served at the Tour of Italy, where he already prevented Hampsten from using the tri-bars. He was thus consistent with himself. Also Fignon seemed to imply in his book (20 years after the event) that he was kept from racing the Merckx GP but he was allowed to race with his reserve bike – he had one - , which other riders did, probably his teammate Thierry Marie. Fignon actually refused to start as a form of protest.
The race in itself, however, was dominated by Sean Yates who was 15” ahead of Van Hooydonck at the first time check after 16km, 1’ ahead at half-race and 2’19” on the finish line of the 56km long time-trial. The gap is gigantic. It’s not a surprise if Yates wins the race for after he’s a specialist in his prime, while Van Hooydonck is still young, even though he was ahead of him in the 1988 Nations GP. The gap, however, is more surprising. But Yates actually used an older form of one-piece tri-bars, first used by the American squad at the 100km TTT at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, which was tolerated by Ledent. The one-piece tri-bars may also offer this 4th resting point, giving Yates a serious advantage. Eugène Boschmans from Le Soir said that Van Hooydonck did not have such bars, but he also said that about Yates, which is inaccurate. The third in the classification – Museeuw finishing at 3’08” – who was LeMond’s teammate at ADR, did use the one-piece tri-bars as well, hence perhaps he as a non-specialist could beat specialists Thierry Marie who finished 4th at 3’20 and the pursuit specialist Dean Woods 5th at 3’39”.
However a 2’19 gap on 56km cannot be explained by the bars alone and so Yates is probably a deserved winner.

The Raas vs Post rivalry

Jan Raas was Van Hooydonck’s team director throughout his career, with his main sponsors being Kwantum (1984-1986), Superconfex (1987-1989), Buckler (1990-92), WordPerfect (1993-94), Novell (1995) and Rabobank (1996-…). Jan Raas was a great champion in the late seventies and early eighties with Peter Post’s superteam TI-Raleigh but in 1983 Raas and Post no longer could stand each other and Raas wished to promote his own team Kwantum, with Giesberts and Driessens as team directors and took a handful of ex-Ti-Raleigh with him – which Post did not appreciate. A heavy crash in the Cipressa descent at the 1984 Milan-Sanremo hastened Raas’ cycling career and he would become team director the following year but Post (whose team was now sponsored by Panasonic) and Raas would still be in conflict with each other for a decade. It provided a pathetic display riders from both teams countering riders from the other team in order to make them lose rather then win themselves, for the biggest benefit of all the teams. This will have consequences for Van Hooydonck’s career notably in 1990.

1990 À travers la Belgique/Dwars door Belgïe

Until 1999 the race that is now known as Dwars door Vlaanderen was called Dwars door België or À travers la Belgique in French (Across Belgium) and it had a whole part in the French-speaking area with an ascent of the very hard cobbled climb Côte du Beau Site – arguably harder than the Kapelmuur, that is now abandoned by the pro peloton but the hardest climb of the Tryptique Monts & Châteaux. In that year’s Across Belgium the Post/Raas quarrel came to a climax. In the lead group Nijdam would attack. Planckaert (Post’s rider) reacted but Van Hooydonck tried to protect his teammate’s breakaway and took a turn too wide, thereby Eddy was led aside. Then came Planckaert next to Edwig and gave a huge blow on his bars and Edwig crashed. “In a ‘French anger’ I rode back to the lead group and won, all thanks to Planckaert.” He said in the TV show "De Flandriens", in 2010. Planckaert was disqualified. They would make peace afterwards, or would they?

Strange Paris-Roubaix

The 1990 season showed the first signs of EPO use, which ultimately got the better of Van Hooydonck. The Tour of Flanders showed the great results of the Argentin/Ferrari partnership, with former Kelly domestique, Rudy Dhaenens (PDM) being the only one to hold his wheel. Yet Edwig could still compete and made a beautiful Paris-Roubaix despite not being in top form. But Planckaert’s Paris-Roubaix that year was weird in many ways. First he attacked alone in the Aremberg Forest with 100km to go. “Were you mad?” asked Wuyts, in 2010. “I felt too good.” He replied with a smile. No worry for Van Hooydonck, he knew he’d be caught sooner or later, which happened. However Planckaert attacked again in Orchies (despite head wind). After 10km solo, he was joined by Gayant and Kurt Van Keirsbulck (Guillaume’s father) in the section of Auchy. When the 3 had a 1’ advantage, Van Hooydonck attacked and bridged the gap alone with 35km to go. Bauer and Van den Akker would subsequently come back to. When Bauer attacked on the Carrefour de l’Arbre, Planckaert reacted immediately, hands on the top of the bars, bust upright and looking very relaxed on one of the worst cobbled sections of the race. “Almost like he’s on a Sunday run” said Liggett. It raises questions. Van Hooydonck join them on the approach of Gruson after having had them as a target for the whole Carrefour. He knew that he was the slowest in the sprint was a bit out of form since a small acceleration by Bauer in the streets of Roubaix dropped him almost definitely, but he found a way to come back and at the velodrome entrance, he tried a long sprint but it failed. In the meantime, Gayant and Planckaert’s teammate Wampers joined the group. Wampers led out the sprint for Planckaert. Van Hooydonck knew it was all over and between Bauer and Planckaert he would rather Planckaert wins, despite what happened at À travers la Belgique and despite the Raas/Post conflict. So he moved up on the track to leave Planckaert a gap to dive in but Planckaert went up with him and then the sprint with Bauer was a millimeter issue. They needed to widen the finish photo. Up until 2010 Planckaert claimed Van Hooydonck made that move out of anger for what happened in Across Belgium but the pictures showed that he was still behind him and could dive in.

Planckaert admitted after the end of his career that he used EPO but only in his last year (1991). However his Paris-Roubaix was very suspicious and he was already known for taking weird treatments based on calf’s blood, in Switzerland. He also had back problems. Whether he used EPO for that race, or blood doping remains a mistery.

Second Tour of Flanders win

Before the 1991 Tour of Flanders, Van Hooydonck had problems with his knee. Hence he’s responsible for a small innovation mentioned on his Wikipedia page:

One minor innovation in cycling credited to Van Hooydon[c]k are three quarter length bibshorts. After he had aggravated a knee problem during the 1989 [it’s definitely the 1991 edition] Tour of Flanders, he had cycling shorts made that stretched below the knee, as an alternative to bandaging the knee

In that Tour of Flanders, Edwig felt more and more the strength of the Italian riders, when Ballerini attacked on the Berendries, but fortunately that was his last shot. On the Tenbossestraat – sealed climb with maximum gradient 18% and not even classified as a climb by then – Edwig attacked, was countered by former teammate Rolf Gölz, Sörensen and Museeuw joined them. After the Kapelmuur, Gölz who talked some Dutch after staying 3 years in Raas’ teams would have a talk with Van Hooydonck, former teammate and also roommate: “I’m scared of you and of the Bosberg.” In the approach of the Bosberg, he would constantly look for his wheel. On the Bosberg, Edwig attacked again at the level of ‘his’ electric pole. Gölz was on his wheel but could hardly take his wheel. Edwig pedaled ‘en danseuse’ for most of the climb and would no longer be caught back. At that moment, he got his nickname ‘Eddy Bosberg’. In 2010, Museeuw told Wuyts that he was badly placed at that moment and that he could have gone with him. When Wuyts told Edwig about that he was furious “No, just no. At that moment, Museeuw was not yet the rider he later would be.”

Van Hooydonck’s 1991 season was very good. In Liège-Bastogne-Liège he finished 9th 2’30 behind the lead group outsprinted by the bionic man, Argentin.

He finished 5th at the Championship of Zurich, where Museeuw finally got his first classic win (older than Van Hooydonck but wins his first classic after Edwig won his two Flanders) and that was a bunch sprint of 73 riders. Zurich was a fast race at that time, not comparable with its last editions. Yet after a 240km long classic, even a non-sprinting hard man like him or Fondriest (who ended 4th) can place highly.

At Paris-Tours, he was still in contention for win in the World Cup and he made an attempt just after the Côte du Petit Pas d’Âne, a sprint is hardly avoidable on that classic. He will finish 4th in the World Cup ranking, won by Fondriest (who did not even win one leg but was very consistent). The World Cup by then consisted of 12 one-day races with final race being a ITT (merging of the Baracchi Trophy and the Nations GP), which he ended at a disappointing 11th place.

With Buckler (Solleveld, Nijdam, Maassen, Eyk, De Vries and Zuijderwijk) he won a second GP de la Libération but unfortunately did not finish in the same time as his teammate. The GP de la Libération counted for the Team classification of the World Cup and Raas badly wanted to beat Post’s Panasonic at the final GC. That failed. Due to Fondriest’s impressive consistency, Panasonic won the GC and Buckler was 2nd, for what it was worth.

The wagons finishing ahead of their locomotive

In the 1992 Tour of Flanders, a morning breakaway including Durand, Wegmuller, Patrick Roelandt and the Walloon Hervé Meyvisch took 22’10 after 102km. A “bidon” breakaway as the French would say but Thomas Wegmuller was a real strong men who already influenced Dirk Demol’s win in Paris-Roubaix four years earlier in an exact same scenario. There were no radio back then and the top teams were still looking at each other and nobody took their responsibilities. In the decisive climbs, only Durand and Wegmuller remained. On the Kapelmuur, they still had an advantage of 10’. The Swiss drove the Frenchman like a derny just the way he did with Demol in the past and in the Bosberg, Durand dropped the Swiss. Behind, Van Hooydonck attacked again on the Bosberg, with Fondriest and they would give it all but still land 1’44 behind Durand and 56” behind Wegmuller. Durand would later make a better career in terms of results than Demol, until it was found in June 2013, that he tested positive for EPO in 1998. But it seems unlikely that he was already on EPO at the time of that Tour of Flanders.

Wegmuller’s compensation

There’s an ironic follow-up to this Tour of Flanders and that came with the 3rd stage of the Tour of Ireland, Galway-Limerick, that same year. The stage was 140km. Wilfried Nelissen was the leader after his win in Stage 1. With about 65km to go (40 miles), Van Hooydonck attacked and had Wegmuller in his wheel. He could then realized how “phenomenally strong” the Swiss was and he does not hold himself back but he had no sprint, so he could outsprint him quite comfortably. He attributed his win to Wegmuller (according to The Independent). He was also lucky with a crash in the chasing bunch. Close to the finish, the riders had to climb the Gallow’s Hill. Nelissen does not climb well and so was helped by teammates De Koning and former Liège-Bastogne-Liège Van Lancker. But the two would crash in the descent leaving Nelissen without helpers for a while. Van Hooydonck and Wegmuller kept an advantage of 15”. Wegmuller who was responsible for Edwig’s defeat in the Tour of Flanders found a way to be forgiven but surely Edwig would’ve traded a stage in the Tour of Ireland for the Tour of Flanders. It was Wegmuller’s third effort in vain after the 1988 Paris-Roubaix as well. Van Hooydonck also took the leader’s jersey but will surrender to Anderson the next day and still finish at a good 4th place in the final GC.

1993: The decline at age 26

In the Tour of Flanders 1993, the decisive escape happened surprisingly early in the race, with still 75km to go. 8 riders would battle for win: Edwig Van Hooydonck, Frans Maassen, the surprising Italian Dario Bottaro, Marc Sergeant, Franco Ballerini, Maurizio Fondriest, Max Sciandri and Johan Museeuw. Museeuw attacked in the Tenbosse climb which was still not classified as a climb. Maassen countered. Van Hooydonck probably did not have a great day but still Raas played poker and prohibited Maassen to take over from Museeuw, with the excuse that two-time champion Van Hooydonck was still behind. Museeuw who transferred from Lotto to GB-MG, was suddenly very strong and he took all the work for himself knowing that in the sprint Maassen was no problem for him. In the last kilometers of the race Van Hooydonck was even forced to let the one-hit wonder Bottaro take third place and Sergeant 4th at 33”. The rest of the group finished 46” behind with Edwig at the 7th place.

In Paris-Roubaix, Van Hooydonck split the field in the section of Mérignies (later called Mons-en-Pévèle) with 60km to go. The main group was reduced to 9 riders, including Duclos-Lassalle, Yates, Capiot, Museeuw, Van der Poel, Ballerini, Ludwig and teammate Nijdam. But 5km later, 11 riders came back, including Maassen and Moncassin, two other WordPerfect and former amateur rival Van Itterbeek who would even attack in the following section and eventually finish 9th. The win would not escape one of those 20 and if Edwig was responsible for that escape, he could not do anything when Ballerini and Duclos-Lassalle (aged 39) attacked like bombs in the section of Cysoing, he couldn’t do anything, except being part of a quartet with Museeuw, Ludwig and Van der Poel. He finished 6th at 2’09.
Van Hooydonck is winding down at age 26, when he should normally be in his prime.

Controversial Tour of Luxembourg

The Tour of Luxembourg is a small stage race but with a very decent history since the last war, one of the races that welcomed East-blockers before the nineties, and it’s always good to have it on a palmares. In the 1993 edition Van Hooydonck convincingly won the 12km ITT in Bettembourg, 2” ahead of teammate Jelle Nijdam and 15” ahead of other teammate Frans Maassen. Sciandri is 3rd at 21”. Since Sciandri won two stages before he was still in contention for the win in the final stage, with the help of time bonuses. Den Bakker won the final stage alone but in the sprint for second place, Sciandri was threatening and Van Hooydonck made an unfair move in the sprint to prevent Sciandri from getting the time bonus. He would not only be disqualified from the stage result but also from the GC. The sanction was very harsh but in strict application of a new article (#127). He could at least have been demoted to 2nd place because the other riders were no longer in contention, but the rule is what it is. The decision is probably justified even though the pictures are lacking. However, not to take anything away from Sciandri, it shows how artificial the time bonus system is. Van Hooydonck was the strongest in the field, he in any case raced faster than Sciandi and time bonuses falsified the race.

The martyrdom of 1993 Tour of France

When the Tour of France reached the Lorraine Van Hooydonck started feeling sick. He visited Dr Porte who found nothing. Given what we know today, it might seem that he simply could no longer keep up with a field that is running EPO. But in an interview given to Le Soir on February 22 1994 he confirmed that he was sick and he was yet to survive the Alpes and the Pyrenees. It was a constant battle with the broomwagon and with the grupetto but Van Hooydonck was not a quitter and he was obstinate in reaching Paris, which he will do as dead last ! An anonymous French spectator was so impressed that he gave him a reward of some 100 French Franks (around 40€) to salute his courage. In the interview mentioned above Van Hooydonck said that if it was up to him he wouldn’t race the Tour of France because he couldn’t do anything great there but he was forced by his sponsors to.

1994: Italian putsch on “his” Flèche brabançonne

Van Hooydonck added in 1991 and 1993 two more wins at the Brabantse Pijl/Flèche brabançonne.
In the 1994 edition 13 riders are in contention for the win when entering the final lap, among others Van Hooydonck, Tchmil (who had won the E3 the day before), Bugno, Lauritzen, Ballerini and De Wolf but the decisive attack would come on the Bruine Put from the young Michele Bartoli, who wasn’t yet known to the greater public but he was the last rider to hold Fondriest’s wheel in the previous year’s Walloon Arrow. Den Bakker followed a little while but dropped very quickly. On the climb to Alsemberg Van Hooydonck attacked. Maassen and Van Lancker, his teammate had made a greater job earlier on to pave the way for their captain, but Edwig wasn’t able to finish the job. He finished 4th behind Bartoli, Den Bakker, Bugno and Tchmil. Bugno would go on to win the Tour of Flanders, Van Hooydonck finishing 9th, worse and worse.

At the post-race interview for the BRT an exhausted Van Hooydonck, hardly able to hold his breath would made allegation of doping for the first time: “They’re on another planet.” Van Hooydonck became an outcast. Each time he attacked, he’d be countered. They even threatened to ban him from Italian races. At that time Davide Cassani was the riders’ representative. After his career he became a consultant for the RAI. About Van Hooydonck in 1994 he said he wouldn’t accept Van Hooydonck’s allegation and that he should back them up with evidence.

Van Hooydonck still raced in Italy. During the Tour of Lombardy he was reduced to being a part of the morning breakaway. A first climb early on the route in Esino Lario enables 18 riders to escape with Edwig, Bauer, Bontempi, and Prudencio Indurain among others. They would hardly make it to the Ghisallo. Disappointing end to a disappointing season.

1995: Spartan training for an epic 4th win at the Brabantse Pijl
Convinced that he can still mix it up with the best on classics, Van Hooydonck went on training very hard, or too hard in the winter 1994/95: 13, 000km before the Het Volk Circuit (now known as Het Nieuwsblad). At first it paid off.
In that Het Volk he was in the good breakaway with Ballerini and Tchmil. The Mapei decided to go for Ballerini instead of Museeuw. In the finale, Ballerini thought he was the slowest in the sprint and attack … 4 times. The 4th was the right one. “If they could counter I would attack once more”, he said. Van Hooydonck was second, 6 seconds behind. Bruno Deblander from Le Soir found an expression that he couldn’t know about its accuracy “The Italians found the magic potion to shine on the Flemish climbs.”

At the Flèche brabançonne, the Novell’s did a great job at paving the way for their leader’s 4th win. Notably Marc Wauters who got into two breakaways. However Edwig took an enormous risk when he attacked with 65km to go ! He’s never been able to create a gap any greater than 1’ and yet he would never be caught again by a whole bunch. With 25km to go when he seemed to start weakening two Russians joined him: Gontchenkov and Konyschev. That was actually a blessing. He could hold their wheel and recuperate a little. Van Hooydonck had actually raced intelligently during his solo break, saving energy. He would then only have to attack at the right time on the climb to Alsemberg. That was a win that he fondly remembered for beating two Easterners. Their come to the West after the destruction of the Berlin Wall made the field much stronger in his opinion. A fourth victory, which is still a record till date.

The Last Tango in Roubaix

In the preview of the 1995 Paris-Roubaix De Vlaeminck said he was convinced that Van Hooydonck in a good day could still mix it up with the best. He was right. Van Hooydonck had to pull out of De Panne due to a virus that hit the Novell riders (Ekimov and Maassen too). He was not ready for Flanders but in Paris-Roubaix he is in the main group with Museeuw, Tchmil, Ballerini, etc. His teammate Ekimov is in the lead with Vanderaerden, Tafi and Dietz. With 32km to go, Edwig could not react to Ballerini’s attack but he still remained in the main chasing group with Museeuw. The two Motorola riders Bauer and Yates tried to escape each in turn but Museeuw control. On the approach of the section of Bourghelle, Yates attacked again, again controlled by Museeuw but Van Hooydonck followed and on the section itself he attacked. That’s when Rodrigo Beenkens from RTBF said “Now Van Hooydonck is risking it all, that’s the Van Hooydonck that we love.” Yet he wouldn’t gain 10 meters, but he did not drop on that section. Neither on Camphin, nor on the Carrefour de l’Arbre. Edwig does not drop. In the streets of Roubaix he let Tchmil, Museeuw, Capiot and Ekimov take a slight advantage to sprint for second place but he remained a few seconds behind and take the 13th place. That was his last performance in the Queen of the Classics. During the live coverage Liggett said he earlier found Van Hooydonck saying that the field is harder than it had ever been and that he seems like a defeatist.

Career end at age 29

Long time teammate Frans Maassen ended his career in 1995. He was 30. During the 1995 Tour of Spain Van Hooydonck told Raas that if he did not perform until May 1 1996, he would retire. And he did, precisely on that date. “It didn’t come as a surprise, though I hoped better.[…] It’s a pity but I understand him”, said Raas to the newspaper Trouw. A couple of days after Van Hooydonck in May 1996, Delion called it an end as well. Certainly no coincidence.

The comments by Van Hooydonck were:
“I race for the win. Last season was already disappointing for me. I gave an ultimatum to myself: if I don’t win any notable race anymore, I stop. I’ve done everything to get back on top. There’s been talk of a progression, but not enough to my feeling for win in the great races. Being anonymous in the peloton is nothing for me. That was not the goal that Raas gave me either. You then have to face the reality. It’s a relief !” (also on

In Le Soir, Deblander tried an analysis. Van Hooydonck came to the pro ranks very early and stopped early, which might be the cause to the effect. In his second year, he raced the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne, Amstel Gold, the Francfurt GP, the Dauphiné, Zurich, San Sebastian, the Merckx GP, the Nations GP and Paris-Tours and was forced to perform in each while others would just contend with learning. In other words, he raced too much, too early. Just some sort of a Fons De Wolf or a Freddy Maertens. Yet insiders would say that even those two had talent enough to handle such a heavy calendar but they also were partymen, and De Wolf’s problem was rather his coming too late to the pro ranks and not too early.

Hence the idea that Van Hooydonck raced too much at a young age does not hold. He did not even race a GT before his 3rd year, his calendar was way lighter than Maertens’. The fact that he still was a hard-training man in the winter 94/95 – admitted by journalists from that same journalist – shows that he was not used.

One thing they got right was the field being more international by 1990, and “discovering some new customs” (which is ambiguous). However recalling his loss to Criquielion at Belgian nats 1990, which could have affected him seems ludicrous.

The reasons for his early decline blatantly lay elsewhere.

Palmares stolen by dopers

Van Hooydonck’s first allegations of doping against his opponents date from the 1994 Flèche brabançonne but he was not heard except by his enemies.

On July 16 1998, in the heat of the Festina affair, one may read in Le Soir – article by Deblander – “This new form of doping […] enables us to explain lightning careers with disappointing tomorrows. It also justifies brutally stopped careers. And if Delion, winner of the 1990 Tour of Lombardy, or Van Hooydonck, dual winner of the Tour of Flanders, in 1989 and 1991, placed their health above their ambitions?”

The journalist most probably knew what he was talking about here. But they were just two sentences in an article that had nothing to do with the two riders in question.

On March 25 2000, while Van Hooydonck was appointed consultant by the BRT for the Tour of Flanders, Le Soir confirmed their inkling from a year and a half before:
“However, in his time, Van Hooydonck cast doubts on the outstanding performances of some his Italian colleagues. They reacted with mockery, indignation, stigmatizing his inability to adapt his training methods. […] Van Hooydonck, as family father, took his responsabilities at the expense of his sporting performances. In order to keep the dignity of a man loving the simple things in life, he made a choice that ultimately seems consistent and honest and he assumes it.”

Journalists who criticized him throughout his career, now know what was going on. But a wider public should know.

In September 2003 the Landuyt/Versele affair had the effect of a bomb in Belgium and revealed the doping methods of riders such as Johan Museeuw, Chris Peers and Jo Planckaert.

In June 2006 the Spanish Guardia Civil revealed the way a certain Dr Fuentes transfused blood for a number of riders. On May 2007 an article by the Gazzetta dello Sport showed that Michele Bartoli was his patient under the codename Sansone. That article went astoundingly unnoticed, because in the meantime, classic races no longer interest the international public (while the guy’won’ 8 of them !) . The rider never denied the accusation by the Gazzetta. Van Hooydonck’s hangman from the Brabantse Pijl 1994 is now busted.

In January 2007 Museeuw under pressure, finally admitted but partially. “At the end of my career, I made a mistake.”

In May 2007, three ex-Telekom riders in turn admitted to doping use: Zabel, Aldag and Riis. This led a journalist from Het Nieuwsblad, followed by one from the VRT to ask Van Hooydonck for an interview. And this time, he will be heard (at least in Belgium).

It all started with comments against one of these Telekom riders: Rolf Aldag. “In my last Merckx GP, I started 2’ before him and he caught me. Me, a former winner while he’s never been a time-trialist.” Van Hooydonck then commented on EPO becoming gradually more widespread from 1990 on. But he also insisted on the fact that it was not the only doping substance that was used by then and he mentioned HGH and testosterone. He also noticed that the three Telekom riders never addressed that issue.

In his teams Raas would always had a zero-tolerance policy towards all this medication. He knew about many cases of sudden deaths and health problems that was attributed to some new forms of doping and didn’t want to be a part of it. Peter Winnen suggested that Raas was among the team directors who called on the UCI to act in order to preserve riders’ health (leading to the blood tests of 1997). When new recruit came to the team at the beginning of every year, they were stunned at how the team worked, said Van Hooydonck. Abdujaparov raced for Raas at Novell in 1995 and according to Edwig, would eventually pass every Italian teams in review because he couldn’t stay with Novell any longer, he was addicted o the thing. Van Hooydonck also suggested it went likewise in other Dutch and Belgian teams like Tulip and Lotto (in the early 90’s. De Standaard relayed Peter De Clercq’s comments (former Lotto) at the time of Van Hooydonck’s allegations: “We were victims.”

That is why according to Van Hooydonck all the Belgian riders who wanted to perform moved to Italy or Spain.

When he was asked about Museeuw, Edwig replied that he was one of them (many newspapers presented his comments as Museeuw bashing while he took a much more global viewpoint), adding that he found him very dishonest when he said that “only at the end of my career, I made a mistake” (he repeated Museeuw’s comments with a sarcastic tone). When asked on which evidence he thought that Museeuw doped throughout he replied that he found “abnormally strong” notably at the 1996 Brabantse Pijl when they were in the lead group on the climb to Alsemberg. Museeuw had raced the GPE3 the day before and Edwig thought he was the fresher of the two but then he sees this man outsprinting him with three more teeth on the chains!

In 2009, Van Hooydonck was invited by Karl Vannieuwkerke from Sporza on the Saturday before the Tour of Flanders, during the Tour for cyclotourists, celebrating the 20 years of his first win. At the end of the interview, Vannieuwkerke asked two questions:
“Didn’t you regret stopping so early?”
“No, if you have the feeling that you can no longer mix it up with the best, it’s time to retire. If I race it’s for the win.”
“We may remember the story. EPO era?”
“I’ve already told that story hundreds of times …”

In 2010, the TV programme on the Belgian public broadcasting channel Canvas, called De Flandriens, and announced by Michel Wuyts – the famous commentator – reviewed the careers of all Belgians who were successful on the Tour of Flanders and/or Paris-Roubaix, including Van Hooydonck. After reviewing his wins - part of the information mentioned above came from the programme and from the book that was made of it – Wuyts asked a couple of questions about doping.

EVH: “Not just on the classics, but also on all these semi-classics, you had the feeling: ‘What is going on here?”
MW (referring to the decline in 1993): “Intrinsically, on your natural value, this can’t happen because you’re barely 26.”
EVH (after a short break): “Yeah, logically that can’t be, of course. Your best years are yet to come. If you’re 26 and already past your prime, that’s not really logical.”(laughing on the other side of his face)
MW: “You were already suspicious in your comments behind the microphone after the 1994
Brabantse Pijl. Did you already knew about the existence of EPO at that moment?”
EVH: “Yeah, of course, at that time the whole peloton knew about it, you know.”
MW: “And you weren’t a part of it?
EVH: “No. I didn’t find it honest. If you can eat, drink and train well in a natural way and win races… You know I can’t imagine that after winning the Tour of Flanders, while you know that you’re full of EPO, testosterone, growth hormones – you didn’t only talk about EPO at that time – you are lifting your arms. Come on !
MW: “How long has it been before you finally could accept it?
EVH: “I still can’t accept it. When I talk about it I normally get angry. When I think of all that they stole from me, in terms of palmares, financially, but the money I still can live with it but most of all the palmares, that they stole from me, I’m still angry about it.

In September 2012 Museeuw finally admitted to the Gazet van Antwerpen that “virtually everyone took doping at that time”, implying that he lied in 2007.

In March 2013 after Boogerd’s admition, Van Hooydonck said he would still shake hands with Boogerd, he still met with him a couple of times, even after his career, he had the famous ‘black hole’. He remembered from 1994 when Boogerd was a stagiair with WordPerfect, a nice guy with respect for established values. I got on well with Raas but not with the Belgian co-director Van der Schueren. When the latter left the team in 1996, he felt better.

Post cycling career

By 2000 Van Hooydonck has become a PR for a company specialized in aluminum frames [source:]. But he never disowned cycling, despite all the trouble (or thanks to the good moments). He was an assistant to Merckx in the Tour of Flanders Organization and an advisor to cyclocrosser Bart Aernouts who by then was dominating the field in the junior category (including World Championships) and is now still among the best in the field.

In De Flandriens (the book, published in 2010) he’s very critical about how young Flemings are trained. The Belgian press and the Fed essentially focuses on the cobbled races, from the very start, while the youngsters should rather go and train in the Ardennes. Gilbert aside (at that time) Belgians can no longer perform in the Ardennes classics. [Now we have riders for asphalt hills (Meersman, Bakelandts) who did not really focused on the cobbles when younger.]

He also said he really enjoyed the Boonen/Devolder generation (he said that when Devolder was at his best) because they have to cope with a much more international than himself, himself racing in a more international field than earlier generations. When he was 5th in his first Paris-Roubaix, it was easy, he said, because the first 4 also were Belgians. The Berlin Walls wasn’t destroyed yet and it was mostly a whole Belgian affair with on the odd occasion a lost Italian or a Canadian but then in the nineties, the Russians, the East-Germans, the Uzbekhs and the Moldavians came along (of course he wouldn’t say that the Uzbekh he’s referring to is the same guy whom he said was addicted to drugs).
 1. in "Wuyts en Smeets : Boeiende verhalen en scherpe opinies over 50 jaar toprenners in België en Nederland" by Christophe Vandegoor, Borgerhoff en Lamberigts, 2013
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  • « Last Edit: September 02, 2015, 18:00 by Echoes »
    "Paris-Roubaix is the biggest cycling race in the world, bigger than the Tour de France, bigger than any other bike race" (Sir Bradley Wiggins)


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    Goodness I've typed so much !  :D
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  • L'arri

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    If you can find some kind of common thread that ties these bios together plus good links with a photographer, you've got a book here, man! Go for it!  :yuush
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  • Cycling is a Europe thing only and I only watch from Omloop on cause I am cool and sh*t
    RIP Craig1985 / Craig Walsh
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    Slow Rider

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    You made Francois look like JSG with that post!

    Brilliant read though, it's good to hear about the clean riders for a change. They are the victims of the doping era, but Van Hooydonck handled it well. And despite only having half a career, he still has a palmares 90% of cyclists can only dream of.

    Thanks for posting this. It took a while to read, but was well worth it ;) Looking forward to the next one!
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  • chmod_775

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    Nice to see you found this site.  Looking forward to 'cross!?!?!?!?

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  • Echoes

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    If you can find some kind of common thread that ties these bios together plus good links with a photographer, you've got a book here, man! Go for it!  :yuush

    Lol I also thought of that. :D But don't worry, I've just typed every day little by little and not all at once, lol.

    Hey Dim, what's that? My post in the arcade? It's scary. Now, I'll have to be careful with everything I say (+ spelling).  :D [Edit: Forgot that but I should say thanks though ;)]
    Quote from: chmod_775
    Nice to see you found this site.  Looking forward to 'cross!?!?!?!?

    Yes, lol. The moment the cross season ends I'm looking forward to the next one.  :D

    Quote from:  Slow Rider
    Brilliant read though, it's good to hear about the clean riders for a change. They are the victims of the doping era, but Van Hooydonck handled it well. And despite only having half a career, he still has a palmares 90% of cyclists can only dream of.

    Yes, Slowy. I think he was 'lucky' he could still win two classics when it was still time. After that it was no longer possible to do so but in all these semi-classics he could still perform. If we believe him that is certainly positive for the sport.

    By the way I think I need to list my sources: (no longer available; consulted on April 25 2009; article from June 14 1993 in Trouw)
    De Flandriens - Canvas (no author mentioned; Michel Wuyts uncredited)
    Nous étions jeunes et insouciants - Laurent Fignon (Grasset)
    La merveilleuse histoire du Tour des Flandres - Michel d'Argenton & Claude Degauquier (Coups de pédales)
    Paris-Roubaix, une classique unique - Pascal Sergent & Michel d'Argenton (Coups de pédales)
    100 jaar 1913-2013 De Ronde van Vlaanderen - Collective author (Borgerhoff & Lamberigts)

    THERE WAS a touch of irony about Edwig van Hooydonck's victory in the third stage of the the Nissan Classic Tour of Ireland which earned him the leader's yellow jersey.

    When van Hooydonck attacked 40 miles from the end of the 87-mile journey from Galway yesterday, he was joined by Thomas Wegmuller, the Swiss rider who had ruined the Belgian's chance of a third triumph in his home classic, the Tour of Flanders.

    Van Hooydonck attributed his success to Wegmuller. 'He was phenomenally strong. I was happy to have him there because he does not hold himself back. His style of riding lost me the the Tour of Flanders, but thanks to him this time I won,' van Hooydonck said. 'I was not feeling so strong, but Thomas does not sprint so well so I was able to pass him at the finish.'

    Wilfried Nelissen, of Belgium, finished 15 seconds behind van Hooydonck to surrender the lead he had held for the first three days of the race.

    His challenge was handicapped when his Panasonic team-mates, Eric van Lancker and Louis de Koning, fell. Nelissen, who is not a good climber, had been relying on their help to ascend Gallow's Hill.

    The leaders completed the climb with a 2min 15sec advantage, but had less than two minutes in hand by the time they reached the finishing circuit.

    As the last-lap bell sounded the lead had been cut to less than one and a half minutes and the chasing pack reduced it to 15 seconds by the final 4 1/2 -mile circuit.

    Gallow's Hill ended Nelissen's lead, and van Hooydonck fears his challenge could founder on St Patrick's Hill, a 1 in 4 incline in Cork which has to be tackled three times today. 'I may have twice won the Tour of Flanders on the Bosberg hill, but St Patrick's Hill is not my kind of hill. Last year I had to walk it,' he said.

    NISSAN CLASSIC TOUR OF IRELAND (Third stage, Galway to Limerick, 87 miles): 1 E van Hooydonck (Buckler, Bel) 3hr 41min 23sec; 2 T Wegmuller (Festina, Swit) same time; 3 W Nelissen (Panasonic, Bel) +15sec; 4 A van der Poel (Tulip, Neth); 5 C Bomans (GB-MG, Bel) s/t; 6 E de Wilde (Telekom, Bel) +16. Selected: 10 C Lillywhite (Banana, GB); 15 D Rayner (Buckler, GB); 19 S Kelly (Festina, Irl); 22 S Roche (Carrera, Irl); 26 H Redant (Lotto, Bel); 36 S Yates (Motorola, GB); 41 E Breukink (PDM, Netherlands); 46 M Earley (PDM, Irl) all +16sec. Overall: 1 Van Hooydonck 13:52:27; 2 Wegmuller +5sec; 3 Nelissen +6; 4 Redant +20; 5 Van der Poel +23; 6 P Anderson (Motorola, Australia) s/t. Selected: 9 Earley +26; 18 Kelly +29; 21 Rayner; 23 Yates; 30 Roche; 33 Breukink +29.

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