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Echoes' Cycling Biography #8 : Rolf Wolfshohl
« on: April 20, 2014, 19:08 »

The author wishes to thank Search for scanning an article about the De Vlaeminck brothers from Cycle Sport (end 2013) informing about Wolfshohl's rivalry with them and which are copied in the appendices, here.


On some other forums, a poster said in 2012 :

There's a far greater strength in depth these days. Now you have Americans, Australians, Eastern Europeans, Colombians, Brits, Scandanavians etc..
Back in Merckx's day, even Hinault's, they were very rare. Even Germans were fairly rare.

The author shocked at so much ignorance made a long list of riders racing in those days representing those countries including Germans : Rudi Altig, Dietrich Thurau, Rolf Wolfshohl, Jurgen Tschan, Horst Oldenburg, Dieter Puschel, Sigi Renz, Albert Fritz, Winfried Peffgen, Karl-Heinz Kunde which is far from being an exhaustive list since even Hans Junkermann was unforgivably forgotten. 

The poster sure of himself replied : « And of that whole long list how many actually won anything of any note? » He could name Altig or Thurau …but not Wolfshohl ! 

So let us now have a look at the amazing palmares of Rolf Wolfshohl …

Early Years
Rolf Wolfshohl was born on December 27 1938 in Cologne. His father was killed during World War II. His dream was to become a mechanic and therefore he started training sessions as metal worker and became a metal turner at age 14. His salary as a mechanic was 1.68 mark/hour and just enough to feed his family (after the loss of a father). So he decided to buy his first bike on credit (source : Dirk Van de Juchte and Pascal Sergent in La Gloire dans les labours, De Eecloonaar 1996 & this German website. It was soon noticed he was a terrific athlete though. He was a very good figure-skater ( source in German). He came to cycling under advice from his gym teacher but also took a part-time job as a newspaper carrier.  In his spare time he took care of his chrome frame. "At that time I always had a handkerchief," he says, "but not for my nose, only for my bike."

His wikipedia page (whose sources are no longer available) says about his early years :
« Wolfshohl started competing in cycling from 1953 at the age of 15 and won his first race in 1954.[1] In 1956 Wolfshohl became Junior Champion of West Germany. The head of the velodrome in Dortmund, Otto Wederlin, wanted to turn Wolfshohl into a great six day track rider but Wolfshohl preferred cyclo-cross and road racing. [2] »

Sergent and Van de Juchte (1996) also tells us that Wolfshohl already in his first junior seasons spent most of his winters in the woods on the outskirts of Cologne in which he cycles and also does outdoor gym exercises. His coach – Jupp Arendt -  told him how important it was to make the arms, the shoulders and the chest. The rides through the woods were important in order to enhance deftness, descending skills and peloton positioning but idea at that moment was not to become a cyclocross rider at all..

In any case, the transition from gymnast or figure skater (at a local level) to cyclocross/cyclist is something he has in common with the De Vlaeminck brothers.
In 1957 he was already 2nd at the cyclocross national while still an amateur rider, winner Günther Debusmann being already in his 2nd pro years (had completed the Tour of Switzerland). At a time there were no amateur World championship Wolfshohl had a chance to enter the pro race  which he finished 7th far behind André Dufraisse and Firmin Van Kerrebroeck. This performance was not the only one on the international scene since he also finished 4th at the Challenge Martini around Paris (race talked about below), on March 3, 17’’ behind Dufraisse, while Charly Gaul  *lu was 8th, 48’’ behind. (in French) 

1958 : Irresistible rise impresses former French star     

 In 1958 Rolf Wolfshohl is still an amateur rider and so he would remain for another 2 years. Anybody however could feel him coming. So says Claude Degauquier (in « Hans Junkermann : Le premier Kaizer »- Coups de pédales, 2010) : « The coming to the pro ranks of Rudi Altig, from the track and Rolf Wolfshohl from cyclocross won’t drag on. »

Cyclocross gave him the chance to mix it up with experienced pro riders (Pierre Chany considered the discipline as the synthesis of the two cycling, namely the amateur and professional ones) but this time he really impressed observers and appeared as one of the top favourites for the World Championship, in Limoges, France (in Dufraisse’s region).

Robert Oubron was the French national coach and 4 times World Champion (when the Cross Worlds were still known as the Critérium international de cyclocross). In a pre-race interview he said :

« These last few years, the Italian [Amerigo] Severini has been considered a dangerous rival for the French. In truth this danger was far less great than that which is embodied by Wolfshohl today, whose fast progress staggers me. »

Dufraisse had a bout of sciatica and wasn’t 100% fit but still got his 5th title. However it left rooms for attack. At age 19, Wolfshohl was alone ahead after lap 1. Dufraisse made a violent effort to catch him and so did Severeni who extended his attack but failed. Dufraisse finally dropped Wolfshohl in lap 4, when Severini was already 1’ behind. The German ended the race completely exhausted and in the last two laps, Severini caught him to get 2nd place while Wolfshohl was 3rd. (all in Sergent & Van de Gejuchte, op.cit. ; just as the upcoming highlights from the other World Championships)

The German also already came to Belgium to mix it up with the best local riders of the time and won a cross in Oudenaarde (on the Edelaere circuit where the 1957 Worlds took place) beating Firmin Van Kerrebroeck (7 times Belgian champion) by a minute and Roger Rondeaux (5 World titles, 2 as ‘Criterium Int.’) by 2’30’’. In Dommeldange, Luxembourg, he beat no other than Charly Gaul by 40’’ while Rondeaux was 6th, 2’53 behind, on a 15km cross.   

1959 : First battles with Longo and with Van Damme

The Italian gentleman baker Renato Longo (then also still amateur) would dominate the cyclocross World championship with Rolf for all the early sixties. In the 1959, the two would take the lead right from the start along with the Swiss Emmanuel Plattner, who won’t keep up. The decider came with two laps to go when Wolfshohl lost his shoe, so that he had to stop to put it back as fast as possible. Longo capitalized on that to become World champion with a 14’’ lead on the German. The winner said : « Wolfshohl was a tough opponent. I managed to drop him with his incident… »

The next winter – still in 1959 – came to Belgium again and won a cyclocross in Harelbeke with a rather decent field, and a first encounter with up-and-coming Belgian star Albert Van Damme :

1.Rolf Wolfshohl (Ger) 27km/ 1.05’ *de
2.Roger De Clercq (Bel) 50” (Mario’s cousin)
3.Firmin Van Kerrebroeck (Bel) 1’15”
4.René De Rey (Bel)
5.Hermanus (Manus) Brinkman (Ned) 2’45”  *nl
6.André Dufraisne (Fra) 3’10” *fr
7.Albert Van Damme (Bel) 3’45”
8.Herman Van Caester (Bel) 4’15”
9.Roger Furnière (Bel)
10.Charles Van Houtte (Bel) 4’55”

Albert ‘Berten’ Van Damme remembered Wolfshohl coming to Belgium in those days and saw him as a rather arrogant person. Van Damme remembers dropping him in a cross in Harelbeke and argued that Wolfshohl retired afterwards under the excuse that he knocked his knee against his bars. One week later, says Van Damme, they had to race in Battel and Wolfshohl told the press that he « was going to give the Belgians one minute credit and then I’m going to win with a minute lead. » Van Damme remembered that Wolfshohl never saw him in the whole race and that Van Damme himself won with a minute lead. Wolfshohl’s wife then asked his husband who this Van Damme was and he answered « a plough horse ». Van Damme replied : « You can’t handle plough horses, can you ? » He then went away.     

(Source : Stefaan Van Laere in « Albert Van Damme : De Leeuw van Laarne, Bola Editions, 2011)

1960 : Cyclocross Master

In 1960 Rolf Wolfshohl finally turned pro, at age 21 and finally reached the cyclocross top. In Tolosa, Spain, the World championship saw a 31-man field representing 23 different nations (7 laps of 2.281km). Wolfshohl attacked in the first lap and took a 20m gap but crashed in a turn and was relegated to last position (?). He came back to the main group with the descent of the « Esombrera » and they were 5 men ahead at the end of lap 1.  Longo attacked in lap 2 with the surprising Swiss Hungerbühler (they had 18’’ lead ahead of Rolf at the end of Lap 2). Wolfshohl made his decisive effort in lap 4, caught the two leaders and dropped them. Longo was « asphyxiated » and even collapsed in lap 5. He was 7th.

Wolfshohl most of all impressed by his insolent audacity in the descent.

Long review in French inspiring us
His dominance over the cyclocross did not stop at the Worlds since he also won the Challenge Martini ahead of the Spaniards José Luis Talamillo and Antonio Barrutia.

According to Alain Rattat on Mémoire-du-cyclisme, the Challenge Martini was a cyclocross that was held in Vincennes [which it was in 1960] or at the Plessis-Robinson in early March and was some sort of a revenge for the Worlds. « Today it would have had World Cup status. » 

De Wielersite has the top6 :

1 Rolf Wolfshohl GER in 55m 35s *de
2 José Luis Talamillo Huidobro ESP  *es
3 Antonio Barrutia Iturriagoitia ESP  *es
4 Roger De Clercq BEL
5 A. Brule FRA
6 R Longo ITA

The German came to the Belgian fields again and won the Noordzee cross in Middelkerke – the oldest still existing Belgian cross – with again an impressive field :

1.Rolf Wolfshohl (Ger) 27,5km/ 1.25’ *de (at that time, crosses could easily exceed the hour of racing, but there were no TV constraints)
2.René De Rey (Bel) 1’10”
3.Albert Van Damme (Bel) 1’30”
4.Roger De Clercq (Bel) 1’35”
5.Charel Van Houtte (Bel) 1’40”
6.André Dufraisse (Fra) 2’05” *fr
7.Pierre Kumps (Bel) 2’30”
8.Firmin Van Kerrebroeck (Bel)

And in Mechelen :

1.Rolf Wolfshohl (Ger) 28km/ 1.24’ *de
2.Roger De Clercq (Bel) 45”
3.René De Rey (Bel) 1’35”
4.André Dufraisse (Fra) 1’40” *fr
5.Albert Van Damme (Bel) 1’55”
6.Charles Van Houtte (Bel) 2’15”
7.Firmin Van Kerrebroeck (Bel) 2’25”
8.René Verschueren (Bel) 3’05
9.Manus Brinkman (Nel) 4’30”  *nl
10.Jos Matheussen (Bel) 4’40”

His first appearances in pro road race were satisfactory. Among his best results was the 2nd place to Eddy Pauwels in the Three-Days of Antwerp, which had some prestige back then. Van Looy was 5th.

1961 : Successful World Title Defence

In 1961 Wolfshohl is confirmed as World champion in the snow and mud bath of his own Hannover. The rider from Cologne made a canon start and rapidly built up a minute gap. However at about mid race he seemed exhausted and his pedal stroke seemed heavier. Longo is informed about this by his coaches and started to strike back. He reduced it to a mere 10’’ but could not bridge those last ones and a liquified Wolfshohl crossed the line first.

Besides the World title he also won a 2nd North Sea Cross in Middelkerke against a predominantly Belgian field, but for Longo who finished 8th and fellow German (and good road climber) Karl-Heinz Kunde *de, 21st :

1962 : Loss to Planckaert in Liège and Financial Arrangement Accusation

Wolfshohl couldn’t really defend his Cyclocross title in winter because of a flu in 1962( started & retired after 3 laps) but shone on the Ardennes classics.
From 1950 to 1965 the two Ardennes classics Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Walloon Arrow (from Liège to Charleroi) were raced in the same weekend and a ranking existed that combined the two : the « Weekend ardennais. »
In Liège, Rolf seemed to be the strongest man in the finale but Jef Planckaert followed his decisive move and « discovered » he had sprinting skills. Planckaert was Van Looy’s teammate. The Emperor who had previously won two classics, finished 8th. (source: Claude Degauquier & Willy Anseeuw in Rik Van Looy : Empereur ; CdP 1999)

The book by Didier Malempré (Liège-Bastogne-Liège : une doyenne vénérable et vénéré, Céfal 2014) describes very well how it unfolded. Wolfshohl attacked in the Côte de Wanne, today the first of the legendary Wanne-Stockeu-Haute Levée Trilogy but Stockeu would only appear two years later. It was raining, the climb was apparently still non-asphalted and transformed into a mud bath, home ground for the German cyclocrosser. Yet Rolf was caught after the Rosier but stroke back in Malchamp, with 60km to go, with teammate Piet Rentmeesters *nl, Frenchman Colette and Planckaert. The gap exceeded 3 minutes in the ascent of the Mont-Theux, when Rentmeester was dropped and Colette punctured. Planckaert saved energy during the ride, unlike Wolfshohl who multiplied attempts to break free. It seemed Rolf was exhausted but Darrigade argued that he let Driessens paid him:

"Let's say I'm worth 100, Wolfshohl is worth 75 or 80 and Planckaert 20 to 25. Though tired he might have been, Wolfshohl could not have been beaten if the sprint was regular. I know what it feels like when you are dead after a hard race and you have the chance to sprint for the win. It's worth every doping in the world", said Darrigade.

Wolfshohl replied: "It's ridiculous: it's the first time I had the chance to win a major classic, you can guess I wouldn't let it go. I had worked hard all day long. I think it's evidence that I wanted to win."

1962 : Wins the Ardennes Weekend, After an Impressive Walloon Arrow

The next day Wolfshohl was hungry for revenge and his riding style was amazingly aggressive. He attacked on the Côte des Cabendes (1.4km – 6.6% – 14, accelerated over the Côtes de la Sauvenière and d’Ereffes (2.2km, 5.9% and 10% max. gr., still in the Arrow’s route in 2014) and attacked on the Côte de la Goëtte (1.3km – 4.6% – 15% max. gr.). In the short loop to Givet, France (75+km to go) and Rolf’s French teammate Jean Forestier attacked but Rolf took the risk to counter-attack alone in the Côte des Strépys. In Florennes (37km to go) and the leaders had a 1’10’’ lead. Behind 40 year old Pino Cerami made a counter but had Henri De Wolf in his wheel, teammate of the two leaders and Van Geneugden who wasn’t very active either. Cerami still closed the gap and the two former leaders dropped on the last climb (Chamborgneau). At least their effort influenced the win by teammate De Wolf, who did not have to pull with Cerami and was fresher.

Junkermann came back for 3rd (+3’’) while Forestier was 6th +52’’ just before Rolf (+ 1’02’’). Degauquier’s conclusion : « Neither did Wolfshohl’s prodigality nor Junkermann’s waiting game prevail. »
(source : Claude Degauquier – Hans Junkermann : « Le premier Kaiser », CdP 2010)

1962 : Over the « Super Ghisallo » and Sormano

In 1960 the Tour of Lombardy changed from a sprint race to a climb classic but the climbing was extreme : from one extreme to another, with the Muro di Sormano, with unbelievably steep gradient : a goat path that had been asphalted especially for the classic. Cycling is transformed into a circus, with riders climbing it on foot, faster than those who stayed on the bike.

In 1962 the classic included that infernal climb for the last time in the century. It was restored in 2011 on some other side and then in 2012 on the very same side but then on better asphalt and with lighter bikes for riders.

The Madonna del Ghisallo is a classic in the Tour of Lombardy. In 1961 the Gazzetta dello Sport hardened the route again by extending the traditional Ghisallo with an extra loop that they called « Super Ghisallo » while presenting the route of the 1961 edition. Arriving in Guello the riders are turning right to the Monte San Primo leaving the road to the famous sanctuary aside and climbing for another 5km at a 6-7%  average gradient with a peak at 10-11%. The extension was removed from the classic’s route ever after that 1962 edition. 

Aart Aarsbergen & Peter Nijssen (in De Grootste wielerkampioenen, Rainbow 2010) are referring to this edition of the Tour of Lombardy in a chapter dedicated to winner Jo De Roo.

« The German Rolf Wolfshohl opened the race on the Ghisallo and was first on top. But De Roo appeared in top form and caught the German before the top of the Super Ghisallo. At that time Wolfshohl’s team director [Raymond] Louviot [of Team Gitane Leroux] knows that De Roo is going to win and congratulates him for the win but in the Wall of Sormano (average 14% with bits of 22%) De Roo has mechanicals and is crashing four times due to pushes from tifosos. »

The book « Le centenaire du Tour de Lombardie » (Coups de pédales, H.S., Oct. 2007) by Claude Degauquier more or less agrees and gives additional information on Wolfshohl :

« Wolfshohl is starting an acrobatic figure, swallowing the slope of the famous pass without thinking that the frightening Muro di Sormano will come next. Behind the chase was led by Jo De Roo, backed up by Daems, Baldini, Mastrotto [Frenchman], Lebaube, Thélin, Taccone and [Aldo or Enzo?] Moser. At the top, De Roo and his group are trailing 2’50’’ behind Wolfshohl and caught Trape and Cerato [we may imply from the book by Aarsbergen and Nijssen that that was the top of the traditional Ghisallo before the extension]. The Dutchman’s come back is staggering. In the Sormano, Machiavel is appearing. Pushes are favouring Italian riders while De Roo has to dismount four times ! Wolfshohl is exhausted and has to give up the ghost with 1500m to get to the top. »

Giving up the ghost means to surrender in his attack but Rolf finished the race 22nd, 6’04’’ behind winner De Roo.

1963 : Getting back his World Crown   

The 1963 Cyclocross World Championships were held in Calais, France on the dyke and in the sand. It did not suit Longo’s taste. The defending champion got his title on a totally different course in Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg, the year before. In the 21st century, this course would have been the home ground for Belgian specialists, who are used to racing on the sand dunes of Koksijde but in 1963, quite surprisingly, the Belgians could only reach places 5 and 6 (Roger De Clercq and Albert Van Damme respectively) while non specialist Renato Longo was still 2nd, ahead of old stars André Dufraisse (3rd) and Amerigo Severini (4th). Wolfshohl’s fellow countryman Wilfried Bölke (an accomplished roadie too) was 10th.

As a matter of fact the course had been frozen and hence the soil was hardened making the race shorter than expected (46’ for Rolf) and favouring a roadie like Wolfshohl was. There has never been any sort of suspense in the race. The German was head & shoulders above the rest. After three laps, Longo was already a minute behind.

1963 : Corsican Win and Jean-Paul Ollivier’s Memory

In 1963 Corsica welcomed an international cycling peloton for the first time and that was for the aforelast stage of Paris-Nice (184km between Ajaccio & Bastia).

Wolfshohl lost all hopes to improve his good performance of the year before in the GC (3rd behind Jef Planckaert and Simpson) as he lost 22’11’’ to Van Looy in stage 1 (due to echelons).

In Stage 6B – Vergèze-Margnat Village (108km) he woke up and attacked with 28km to go and held off the peloton with 34’’. Unfortunately Darrigade followed his move and the sprint was one-sided.

Just after that stage, the riders took the plane to Ajaccio, except Rolf (plane fright !). He came by ship, with his team director.

The stage had several climbs : Vizzavona, Bellagranajo, San Stefano and Teghime. Rolf launched a first attack with 53km to go, countered by Poulidor, Daems and Carlesi among others. That was in vain. At the foot of the San Stefano the German with Manuel Manzano and Giuseppe Fallarini started again and bridged an 8 minute gap with the two early escapees, Echevarria and Sorgeloos that he would drop at the foot of the Teghime.  On that last climb Anquetil attacked from behind with Poulidor in his wheel. The gap with Wolfshohl was 2’15’’ in the valley but the Norman shrinked it to 10’’ at the top. Manzano and Fallarini were caught but Wolfshohl used his descending skills and his cyclocross technique to escape the two Frenchmen again. He kept 12’’ in Bastia. Anquetil is 2nd.
 (Source : Coups de pédales n°98 September/October 2003)

Jean-Paul Ollivier is a famous French commentator, with a long experience in commentating and following races on the motorbike. He also has a great culture and historical cycling knowledge. He did follow Wolfshohl in that descent of the Teghime and tells (see Appendix 1 in French) :

« One man profited from this [Anquetil-Poulidor] rivalry and that was Germany’s Rolf Wolfshohl who raced for Peugeot at that time and who made a fantastic descent. I was following him on a motorbike. I was the ‘ardoisier’ [the person who showed the time gaps to the riders] and I asked the pilot of my motorbike to stop because it was impossible, absolutely impossible to follow him. I have never seen anybody climbing down so fast. The Italians had that reputation [as fast descenders] with the likes of Magni and then Nencini but Wolfshohl it was really hell and so he won that stage in Bastia and there really the Corsicans carried him in triumph on one side and they carried his bike in triumph on the other side. It really was a celebration that I still have in mind. »

Wolfshohl was 22nd overall, 40’27’’ behind Anquetil.

1963 : Betrayed by the finish photo on the Via Roma

This chapter is basd on the review given by Hervé Paturle and Guillaume Rebière in « Un siècle de cyclisme » (Calmann Levy, 2004).

« Two Bunches of Flowers, One Race » is the headline

« Rolf Wolfshohl created the decisive escape while attcking on the Capo Berta, followed by 5 men : Adorni, Groussard, Balmamion, Schroeders and Bocklandt. In the ascent of the Poggio Groussard attacked and was first on top but he was caught with 300m to go by Wolfshohl. The two men had such a vey tight sprint that a finish photo was needed to separate them. The German first received the winning bunch of flowers but then th name Joseph Groussard appeared on the scoreboard. The photo grants him an advantage of the quarter of a tube. Wolfshohl’s disappointment was such that nobody dared to take the bunch of flowers back from him and give him back to the new winner. »

The finish photo can be seen as Appendix 2. Anyone can be judge but the win by Groussard (Pelforth rider above seems clear) seems obvious .

1963 : Betrayed by a puncture on the way to Roubaix

The book by L’Équipe « Paris-Roubaix : une journée en enfer » (2006) gives an extensive account of the most thrilling finale in the history of Paris-Roubaix. With 24km to go (in Ennevelin – see « Paris-Roubaix : une classique unique » by Michel Dargenton & Claude Degauquier, CdP 2009 for the name and parcours) Wolfshohl attacked with Flandria rider Noël Foré and says L’Équipe (op.cit.) « you can see the victory escaping them »  but a few kilometres further Rolf is stopped by a puncture. With 5km to go Foré’s lead is 25 seconds. His DS Brik Schotte advises him to wait for Rolf as the chase group isn’t far behind and Foré is in theory faster in the sprint. The Belgian refused : « I felt like I was strong enough to win alone, so why should I have taken that risk ? » However with 2km to go, Rolf caught him and dropped him straightway. This time the German seemed on his way to win the Queen of the Classics until the Van Looy group came back on entering the velodrome but the Emperor was outsprinted by Wolfshohl’s teammate : Émile Daems. Wolfshohl was 11th in the same time as the winner, while Foré was 12th, 42’’ behind.

After his win the Walloon explained : « most of the chase work behind Foré and Wolfshohl was done by Peter Post and De Cabooter in favour of Van Looy. I was following in Van Looy’s shadow, watching the operation. […] Following this race, Post refused to talk to Van Looy for a long while. A victory sometimes hangs by a thread. » (in « Émile Daems : le Ketje de Bruxelles » by Claude Degauquier, Coups de pédales 2009)

This last sentence shows how at that time, racers had such strong egos that if they were to sacrifice their chances for a leader, the latter had no right to fail. In the 21st century, mentalities radically changed and helpers probably no longer mind, as it happens so often. They just do their job, period.

Rolf missed his best chance to win Paris-Roubaix and succeed Jozef Fischer as 2nd German in the palmares of the classic. In 2014 the only German in its palmares is still … its very first winner !

1965 : The Loss to Longo and Immediate Revenge

The 1965 Cyclocross World Championship was held in Cavaria, Italy (near Varese). It featured a battle between Longo and Wolfshohl, all the way. The rest of the field had nothing to say (though Britain’s Keith Mernickle claimed he was up there with the two when he broke a pedal : . Home favourite Renato Longo was relatively tall for cyclocross practice and hence was at his best in the sections on foot, where the organizers dug artificial ditches to ease bike riding, though. Wolfshohl was better on the bike but in the last lap, the Italian dropped the German, knowing he could not afford to take a faster Wolfshohl into a sprint. The World title hence went to the Italian.

On February 18, id est three days after the Championship, the two champions were back on track in Laigueglia and this time Wolfshohl got his revenge, beating Longo but by just one wheel - says L’Unita – thereby confirming that he’s faster in the sprint. We may however suggest that Longo felt the need to cool it down after winning the title, which is what mattered.   

This cyclocross win neither appear on Wolfshohl’s « Mémoire du cyclisme » palmares nor on De Wieler, so that it’s nice to have it mentioned here.

In Binningen, Switzerland (Feb. 21) there was no talk about a sprint, though. Rolf left Longo, 2nd, 1’25’’ behind him, Severini at 1’44’’  *it,  Huub Harings  *nl + 2’41’’, Tragic Frenchman Michel Pelchat *fr + 2’50’’ and Hermann Gretener +3’24’’  *ch. (source : « Le nouvelliste du Rhone », Feb. 22 1965) He won Binningen again in 1968. Switzerland became the epicenter of cyclocross and remained so until the mid-nineties.

1965 : Left a trail on the Colle del Ponte di Merlo, unique case in Milan-Sanremo history

In 1965 Milan-Sanremo got a new climb : the Colle del Ponte di Merlo. The organizers did not feel the race wasn’t hard enough, only there was roadwork on the Via Aurelia.

The website describes it very well. Let’s just see how they describes Wolfshohl’s race that day :

The course of the 1965 Milan-San Remo was changed due to work on the coast road, the via Aurelia, between Finale and Pietra Ligure. The race went over the 500m high Colle del Ponte di Merlo (better known as "Melongo"), going to the village of Magliolo, for a total of 6 km of climbing with a technical and demanding descent.

The 56th Milan-San Remo was held on the 19 March.[…] The riders left Milan in foggy and grey conditions that would improve as the race progressed. It was dominated for more than 160km by Rik Van Looy's Solo-Superia team, whose orders were to sit on every break and stop it.[…] On the long slope of the Capo Caprazoppa (km 201) which was inserted due to problems on the via Aurelia. Franco Balmamion (Sanson) and Raymond Poulidor (Mercier) take along the peloton, which lengthens but will not split. Gianni Motta (Molteni) attacked but was caught and dropped by a very active Rolf Wolfshohl (Mercier). Wolfshohl narrowly missed being the first German winner in the 1963 Sanremo when he was beaten in a two-man sprint by Joseph Groussard. The picture above right [Appendix 3] shows Wolfshohl on the descent of the Capo Mele having been away for 25km. After an exhausting chase the peloton are about to catch him.[Eventually Dutchman Arie Den Hartog wins it ahead of Adorni and Balmamion]

Rolf Wolfshohl, who had earlier crashed with Van Looy, came in 51 seconds later thinking he had won the event! Willy Vannitsen won the bunch sprint a few seconds behind the German.

The Ponte di Merlo never got back to the Primavera route. It was actually not meant to be. It wasn’t until 1982 before the organizers added another climb : the Cipressa.

1965 : Betrayed by punctures on the way to Roubaix ²

The 1965 edition of Paris-Roubaix was the last on the old route via Amiens and Arras and also the one with the shortest cobbled distance – 22km –, a wake-up call for the organizers who would next have to find some old paths and transform the race into the one as it is known today.

6 sectors are however considered very bad (according to Dargenton & Sergent ; op.cit.), among which was Mons-en-Pévèle.

Mons-en-Pévèle as its name suggests was a « mount », a climb known as the « Pas Rolland ». Until 1967 the Pas Rolland was cobbled. By 1968 Its asphaltization in that year forced L’Équipe to replace it by the relatively flat and still hard section that is still used today as well.

In 1965 Wolfshohl attacked on the Pas Rolland and the escape was decisive. 6 men could follow him : Van Looy, Sels, Janssen, Hermans, Van Schil and Foré. Adorni, Huysmans, Simpson and Vannitsen joined them later.

In less than half an hour Rolf punctured three times and crashed. Jan Janssen had the same problems in ten minutes. A picture of Wolfshohl puncturing is shown by the book by L’Équipe (op.cit.) with the comment that he was lucky to be assisted quite quickly as his car was not far away.

Yet the win was definitely away and Van Looy was rid of two serious opponents. Wolfshohl finished 19th as last of the second chase group, 2’13’’ behind the Emperor who won alone. Janssen was much further though : 59th 14’28’’ behind.

On the new route Wolfshohl would not be brilliant in Paris-Roubaix. He was still 21st in 1967, 6’05’’ behind Jan Janssen but after the addition of the Aremberg Forest, the German never even finished the race. It should be remembered that a cyclocross specialist usually does not have the best predisposition for the racing of Paris-Roubaix. In cyclocross lightweights are favoured. In Paris-Roubaix heavyweight are favoured. Wolfshohl was rather small though solidly built but probably too light for a Paris-Roubaix on the heavy modern parcours.

1965 : Battle of Egos in Spain

In 1965 Wolfshohl joined Team Mercier, Poulidor’s team. In the Poulidor biography we did not talk about the Tour of Spain because Poulidor’s career was so long that we couldn’t mention everything. Besides the Tour of Spain in the sixties was by no means considered a Grand Tour. There were only two national Grand Tours : of France and Italy. The standard of Spanish cycling was so low that the two or three foreign teams that sent a squad were sure to make a sweap over stage wins and to battle for GC wins between themselves. The 1965 edition was even more closed, since it was reduced to a battle between two very ambitious teammates : Poulidor and Wolfshohl.

Poulidor was the defending champion and seemed on his way to add a new victory, he flew over the Puerto de Pajarès, mightily won the last ITT and yet did not win.

Reason is : his teammate Rolf Wolfshohl got a credit of 14 minutes in a long breakaway in the plains. That was Stage 8 : Benidorm-Sagunto (174km). Poulidor had the leader’s jersey. After the race he came to Wolfshohl’s hotel room and in a bitter anger threw the jersey at Rolf’s face saying : « Here you are. Take it ! » At the same time, other teammate Robert Poulot – who was also in the breakaway – was accused by Poulidor of siding the German.

Yves Jean in his Poulidor biography « Les victoires de Poulidor » (Arthaud, 2013) argued that team manager Antonin Magne came to talk with Wolfshohl and asked him to put « one cog more » (which means to slow down). Wolfshohl was very fluent in French (that is right, very fluent !) but that time, argues Jean, he did not seem to understand what Magne ordered him to do and rather seem to increase the speed even more, so much that in the end they were outsprinted for stage win (behind Jean-Claude Wuilemin and Michel Van Aerde, Rolf was 3rd). Wolfshohl was the leader in the GC, with a 4’ lead over his « leader ». Jean knows that the two riders argued that they were only informed about the gap with the peloton when they were under the showers in their hotel but he argues that Poulidor was taken in (Jean does not seem to believe them), hence the scene of the jersey throw.
Jean further argues that Magne was again in the hot seat, due to his lack of authority, he says.

There’s another side to the story.

In 2002 (37 years after) Robert ‘Bob’ Poulot spoke to « La Dépêche du Midi » and gave his version of the event, which was also commented on by some French forumers (but also knowledgeable witnesses from that era) on the website Vélo101.

Basically Poulot argued that before that famous stage Poulidor was the leader in the race but he did not control it. Michel Crépel on Vélo101 argued that he never could. It seems he lacked the charisma for that. So did Wolfshohl and Poulot sneak into that breakaway with two Ford riders (Geminiani’s team without Anquetil) and two teammates of Van Looy’s. Poulot still stood by his claim that he had never been informed but whether he had to ride along or not. He led out the sprint for Wolfshohl, then went to his hotel. He also stood by his claim that it was not until he was having a shower that he was informed about the gap that the breakaway had dug. He remembered Poulidor throwing the jersey at Wolfshohl and accusing him – Poulot – of riding for the German, which Poulot denied. Poulot also remembered that in the 15th stage from Pamplona to Bayonne, he kept waiting for and bringing back Poulidor and then other teammate Le Dissez who had crashed. Consequently he was dropped in the « Col d’Ibardin » and Magne could only hypocritically conclude «  You don’t climb, you won’t race the Tour of France ». If Jean’s claim that Magne feared for his job was right, the explanation seems crystal clear. Magne had to show Mercier that he was still a leader and poor Poulot paid the price for it. Poulot also argued that in an earlier race he had bawled his mechanic out because his brakes were about to break. Only that scene occurred before Émile Mercier’s eyes and from then on he was Mercier’s bad book.

Poulot only raced the Dauphiné libéré in 1966 before leaving the sport for good, in which he never felt at home.

Crépel added that in the early noughties he wrote a ‘paper’ about Poulidor he had read a ‘thing’ about Mercier and « Tonin » (Magne) which was not really nice. Along with Poulidor they formed a Devil’s trio, tough businessmen, not always honest and impartial. On that forum he called them a « trio of j*rks » but could not write it that way on his paper.

Marcel Ferran (still on Vélo101) argued that Poulidor was not just careful with money, but was miserly and lacked a personality, was scared of Magne. Magne and Mercier were two « j*rks of the worst order » (his words !) and Poulot who was a « good guy » was considered a « good-for-nothing » (still Ferran’s words).

Poulidor’s miserliness actually refers to his supposed refusal to share the prices on that Tour of Spain as opposed to Wolfshohl (argued by Émile Arbes on the same forum thread).

In the overall GC Rolf led Poulidor by 6’36’’ and Van Looy by 8’55’’

1966 : Erik De Vlaeminck in Wolfshohl’s Footsteps

By 1966 Belgium was still yet to get an official Cyclocross World title. Actually they had titles but that was in the thirties when the unofficial World Championship was called the Critérium international de cyclocross but between 1934 and 1966 they never get the World crown.

Van Damme’s explanations (in Stefaan Van Laere, op.cit.) : « First, Wolfshohl and Longo and then Erik De Vlaeminck were often simply the best at the Championships. Yet I believe that we could have rivalled with Wolfshohl and Longo with the same preparation. They hardly had to race all out during the winter season. They raced 20 crosses a year at best and had to deal with a lesser field. […] Hence they could stress-free focus on the Worlds.[…]

Here the cross scene was dominated by fierced rivalries throughout the winter. […] the result being that we were exhausted when going to the championships. »

His description pretty much still seems topical in the 21st century, about Belgian cyclocross.

Erik De Vlaeminck had another explanation (in « De Flandriens van het veld », Canvas 2012) : « We went racing but we did not know how to train, there was nothing. Only Rolf Wolfshohl trained focused. […]» . Michel Wuyts who rode the book  « De Flandriens van het veld » : « what [Erik] De Vlaeminck wished to take from Rolf Wolfshohl, the Van Damme brothers in turn wanted to see it in De Vlaeminck and in turn they will try to emulate him. »

From Erik De Vlaeminck’s comment it can be concluded that Wolfshohl did a lot to make the sport progress in terms of training methods and therefore should be praised !

The 1966 World Championship in Spain’s Beasain was a battle between E. De Vlaeminck, Wolfshohl, Spain’s Antonio Barrutia and the Swiss Hermann Gretener who was dropped but managed to get back. Rolf was very good and did most of the work, De Vlaeminck admitted, when he dropped with 3 laps to go. He finished 3rd behind De Vlaeminck and Gretener.

1968 : Crushed by E. De Vlaeminck and tested positive

The Championship was held in Luxembourg. Wolfshohl was the only one able to follow E. De Vlaeminck but just until mid race. Then De Vlaeminck built up 1’ lead that he held through. Wolfshohl was ranked 2nd until it was announced that he tested positive. So Gretener was 2nd and Pelchat 3rd (apparently no X in the ranking).

We could find no report about the offending substance (only Museo Ciclismo - op.cit. – talked about stimulants ; obvious for that time)  but what is certain is that Rolf drew a one month suspension.

However an interesting article by the Independent Press Telegram (June 22 1968) is connecting Rolf’s doping case to the case of boxer Jupp Elze who tragically died in a match against Carlos Duran of Italy (Argentinian descent). The article argues that Elze suffered from brain damage after which the 15-round match and that
‘Professor Guenther Dotzauer of the Cologne Institute of Legal Medicine declared that a “doping substance” was found in the decedent’s urine sample.’

Elze’s soigneur was Peter Herzig a pro cyclist, teammate of Wolfshohl’s in 1967 but stopped his career in 1968 (says Dewielersite) and was Wolfshohl’s handler, says the article from the IPT. Herzig of course denied Elze took dope "Absolutely not! Jupp was clean, I'm sure" and « was involved in a doping scandal only recently when professional cyclist Rolf Wolfshohl drew a month's suspension for allegedly using dope », says the IPT. Interesting is the word « allegedly » which seems to suggest that for the journalist, the suspension might have been an unfair treatment. More info is needed though.

What is sure is that Wolfshohl did not receive the notification of the suspension, says the Paris-Nice French Wikipedia page before the start of Paris-Nice (March 7 while the Cyclocross Worlds were held on Feb. 25). Coups de pédales #104 (Sep/Oct. 2003) argues that the suspension was meant to start on March 10 but since Rolf had started Paris-Nice, the sanction would be postponed. Ironic that he actually … won that Paris-Nice !

1968 : The Paris-Nice Win

Paris-Nice was probably the biggest win in Wolfshohl’s career. Today of course his Tour of Spain win is seen higher but as was argued above the Vuelta in the sixties had a depleted field. Paris-Nice on the other hand regularly saw the best riders of the era battling out for the win, when Tirreno Adriatico was still a young race with a predominantly Italian field.

Paris-Nice was at that time the best springboard for Milan-Sanremo. In 1968 it ended on March 15, id est 4 days before the Primavera, then traditionally raced on Saint-Joseph’s Day. Hence it was a better prep for Milan-Sanremo than it is since 1985 when for the first time Paris-Nice ended one week before Milan-Sanremo.

In 1968 the race was also particularly long in terms of race days : March 7 to 15 including to days with 2 semi stages. It also revolutionized with the introduction of a 4km prologue won by Merckx.

Wolfshohl already was very active in Stage 1, though the stage was panflat – 185km between Athis-Mons and Blois. With 4km to go Wolfshohl countered a move by Harry Steevens and Vic Van Schil along with Leo Duyndam and Michael Wright.

On the Blois velodrome the officials forgot to stop the peloton while the lead group was passing in front of the entrance. Wolfshohl was leading out the sprint for his lightening fast British teammate Michael Wright but Dutchman Leo Duyndam took advantage of the confusion created by the coming of the peloton to outsprint his companions.

Stage 4B to Saint-Étienne was almost for Wolfshohl when Belgians Ferdinand Bracke and Valeer Van Sweevelt (see the Jempi Monseré Biography for more on Van Sweevelt) attacked on the Côte de Saint-Héand, with 15km to go. Saint-Héand is apparently 5.9km of climbing and rarely exceeds 5%, just some peaks at 7% :

Wolfshohl finished that stage as 22nd, 1’47’’ behind Van Sweevelt. Bracke is solid leader with a more than a minute lead over everyone else. Wolfshohl is provisionally 5th.

The 7th stage Marignane – Toulon (129.5km) over Mount Faron (which was no MTF by then !) saw a radical change in the ranking. After 4km Ferdinand Bracke crashes and broke a wheel. The main contenders played rats and attacked the leader while on the ground. Very soon Bracke would lose his teammates one by one and after 46km he trailed the main group by 1’45’’.

On the Col du Corps de Garde (6.7km – 5.5% : Wilfried David attacked and went on to win the stage. Bracke’s nightmare increased, he was then 8’30’’. Mount Faron does not change anything except for the fact Rolf make use of his outstanding descending skills to go for White (in these good old days – pre-ASO – when Paris-Nice organized by Jean Leulliot via the company Monde-Six that he created, the Paris-Nice leader’s jersey was white !!). In Toulon he was trailing David by 20 seconds but now was 3’53’’ clear of Bracke.

The Walloon with Flemish roots Bracke took his revenge in the last time-trial – 29.7km between Antibes & Nice – winning and proving he was the best. Wolfshohl impressed with a 2nd place, 55’’ behind. At the final ranking Bracke ended 2’58’’ behind Wolfshohl. Jan Janssen was 5th (6’08’’). Anquetil was 10th (8’09’’).

Yves Guilleux from Coups de pédales (op.cit.) argued that that Paris-Nice showed that « tactical games and team relations have more and more impact and being the strongest is no longer sufficient to win. »

Typical of the late sixties when the approach to the races modernized and his pretty much similar to early 21st century from that angle.

Rivalry with Rudi Altig

Racing for Salvarani at that moment, Altig was not at Paris-Nice but at Tirreno Adriatico. He became the first ever Milan-Sanremo winner to come out of Tirreno.

An article by celebrating Wolfshohl’s 75th birthday argued that Wolfshohl was in the shadow of Rudi Altig in the sixties despite being the better stage racer while Altig was a better sprinter. It forgot to mention that Altig was also a mighty great time-trialist giving him a lot of classic wins and track titles. Wolfshohl admitted : « Rudi was always in the spotlight. Furthermore I never was angry [about that fact]. »

Altig said about Wolfshohl that he epitomized of reliability but sometimes he did crazy thing. « After his win in Paris-Nice Rolf was in top form but instead of exploiting it he dug for several days an enormous hole at home for his swimming pool. »

Altig’s comments are weird since after his win in Paris-Nice Rolf drew his one month suspension, giving him time for some house work !

1970 : One De Vlaeminck for Another

Overijse is known in Belgium as the « Mother of All Crosses » but in the sixties it was still a rather Belgium centered cross. Its reputation as the most famous of all Belgian cyclocrosses comes from the very hard parcours with an ascent of the Tenotsberg on asphalt at every lap (at least back then). The 1970 edition on January 25 was the 10th in history. Wolfshohl and his compatriot Horst Maier accounted for the internationalization of the field, some Dutchmen aside.

Erik De Vlaeminck withdrew due to a crash earlier on in Germany. Rid of his main rival, Wolfshohl would realize that from now on he would have to deal with the younger brother. Roger De Vlaeminck attacked by the end of the second lap. Freddy Nijs – no relation to Sven, not the same spelling – countered but never could join him. Wolfshohl did not seem in great shape as in the 7th lap he was dropped by Auguste Badts and Berten Van Damme. His come-back in the aforelast lap was a champion’s return as he reached third place. Only trailing the Gipsy by … 2’38’’, on a 25km cross.

De Wielersite gave an extensive review of the race in Dutch (with some nice pictures too) :   

1970 : Finish Photo Finally in his Favour
In the 20A Stage of the Tour of France – 231km from Mourenx to Bordeaux – 15 riders separated themselves from the peloton. Among them were Raymond Delisle, Franco Balmamion, Jos Huysmans, Wladimiro Panizza and Johny Schleck and Rolf Wolfshohl but it’s an obscure Molteni rider Franco Mori that is going to be Rolf’s biggest rival in the sprint. The Italian was first declared a winner before the finish photo grants the win to Rolf. The peloton finished 3’10’’ behind.

Rolf had previously won a stage on the Tour of France in 1967 when he outsprinted Dutchman Zilverberg, while the latter had hardly pulled during the break. In 1968 he finished 6th overall 1’50’’ behind Jan Janssen. A crash earlier in the race blew away his chances when his team car was dragging on before helping him, national coach being more experienced with Six-Days racing than road racing (Tour of France was raced by national teams in 1968).

1972 : Crossing Swords with Merckx and Motta in the Poggio Descent

It’s no wonder that Paris-Nice and Milan-Sanremo were the two road races where Wolfshohl was at his best. His winter crosses trained him perfectly while in the sixties the road calendar prior to Paris-Nice was not that heavy – though that changed pretty quick in the seventies with numerous races created - and still existing for some of them – around the Med. Besides the Milan-Sanremo finish on the Via Roma after a very technical descent was taylor-made for him.

In 1972 Rolf was again 2nd to Eric De Vlaeminck in the Cyclocross Worlds and 16th in Paris-Nice won by Poulidor.

Milan-Sanremo was raced under sunny conditions, which made Merckx fear a bunch sprint. At the foot of the Poggio, all the sprinters were still there, said the Brusseler in his diary « Plus d’un tour dans mon sac » (Arts & Voyages, 1972). Yet the Cannibal will win alone after getting clear of Wolfshohl in his speciality, the descent !   

« I plunged ahead in the descent. Raging Motta [who had attacked on the Poggio] and Wolfshohl hugged the first bend but in the 5th I went again and never turned back. »

Motta was 2nd and Rolf was still 5th at age 33, both part of a 11-man royal chase group, 9’’ behind Merckx (with De Vlaeminck, Dancelli, the Pettersson brothers, Verbeeck, etc.) , while the next group was relegated 21’’ behind the winner.

1973 : The Crystal Palace Mystery

For the first time the Cyclocross World Championship was organized in England, in London’s Crystal Palace.
The Chris Barber Band were livening things up. The famous jazz musician Chris Barber actually sponsored a cycling team from 1970 to 1980, with notably Keith Mernickle who finished 10th in that World championship. (see linked op.cit. about Keith Mernickle)

Erik De Vlaeminck narrowly got a selection in the Belgian team. After dominating the field for half a dozen year, the Belgian rider started to pay the price for too much riding and traveling at an insane rhythm and became the « wild child of Belgian cycling» [says an article from Cycle Sport from Dec. 2013].

Yet in the second lap, four men are still in with a chance : Berten Van Damme, Frenchman André Wilhelm, Wolfshohl and … Erik De Vlaeminck.

In the 6th lap Rolf punctured* and Van Damme took the initiative but is countered and dropped by E. De Vlaeminck. The man from Eeklo shocked everyone. He was nowhere to be seen for the whole winter. However Wolfshohl’s come back after a puncture was also very impressive indeed, though. He caught and dropped Van Damme too and caught De Vlaeminck on entering the last lap before Wilhelm did the same. The sprint was one-sided though. De Vlaeminck got his 7th title. Wilhelm is 2nd and Wolfshohl 3rd. Van Damme is 4th. The latter would say (in 1996 : Sergent & Van de Gejuchte, op.cit.) : « Today this race is still a mystery to me. »

*Sergent & Van de Gejuchte (op.cit.) are also mentioning another incident. Rolf crashed in the last lap. Despite the fact that he kept contact with De Vlaeminck and Wilhelm, he had to change his back in the last pit stop. Only he noticed that his mechanics were no longer there because they were celebrating Klaus-Peter Thaler’s victory in the amateur race. However the pictures from the race clearly showed that Rolf managed to get to a sprint with his two companions.

The Last Hurrah

Wolfshohl’s Mémoire-du-cyclisme palmares (op.cit.) stops at year 1973. Sergent & Van de Gejuchte (op.cit.) claim that Wolfshohl raced his last Worlds in Crystal Palace. That is actually inaccurate. While being pretty much absent from the 1974 season Wolfshohl raced the 1975 Championship on the very hard parcours of Melchnau, Switzerland) which he finished at a decent 8th place (at age 36) :

1.   Roger DE VLAEMINCK (Bel) in 1h09'53" *be
2. Albert Zweifel (Swi) + 31"  *ch
3. Peter Frischknecht (Swi) + 1'21"  *ch
4. Eric De Vlaeminck (Bel) + 2'03" *be
5. Albert Van Damme (Bel) + 2'18" *be
6. Marc De Block (Bel) + 2'48" *be
7. Herman Gretener (Swi) + 3'49" *ch
8. Rolf Wolfshohl (Ger) + 4'22" *de
9. Michel Baele (Bel) + 6'14" *be
10. Richard Steiner (Swi) + 6'28" *ch
11. André Wilhelm (Fra) + 7'08" *fr
12. John Atkins (UK) + 8'18"  *uk
13. José Antonio Martinez (Spa) + 8'32"  *es
14. Juan Gorostidi (Spa) + 9'05"  *es
15. Mariano Martinez (Fra) + 9'33" *fr
17. Keith Mernickle (UK) + 1 lap *fr
18. Barry Davies (UK) + 1 lap  *uk
19. Martin Martinez (Fra) + 1 lap *fr
20. Wolfgang Hellwig (Ger) + 1 lap *de
21. Ian Jewell (UK) + 1 lap  *uk
In his last seasons Wolfshohl also had enough class to share his knowledge and experience of the sport with younger talents, notably rising star Klaus-Peter Thaler, future dual Pro World champion.

Thaler considered Wolfshohl as his « teacher ». Museo Ciclismo argued : « The career of Klaus-Peter Thaler really started when he started riding with the amateurs. He was one of the best of his country, both on the road and in the field. He was given many pointers by Rolf Wolfshohl, who taught him a lot, especially the technical aspects. »

Combining Cyclocross & Road

Rolf Wolfshohl remains a good example among others who were able to succeed in both cyclocross and road. He considers cyclocross as the best preparation for the road. He argued (in Van de Gejuchte and Sergent, op. cit.) that Museeuw and Pascal Richard were testament for it. De Vlaeminck also thinks it's the best school for road racing.

However this is not everybody's opinion.

In Vélo Magazine #127 (Feb. 1979) Louis Caput argues: "when I hear that it's a school for deftness I have to disagree. Deftness at 20kmh or at 60kmh, is not exactly the same. The deftness you acquire it on the track during the Six-Days. You have to admit that cyclocross is a matter for specialists [...]. It's the domain for guys who don't do well on the road like Plaisance or Gérardin. It's not because there have been a few exception: De Vlaeminck, Wolfshohl or Guimard that it changes anything to it. A guy who does the whole cyclocross season all out wouldn't have recovered before August."

Michel Nedelec (former Bordeaux-Paris winner) agrees (same source): "Cyclocross is a matter for specialists. Nobody has ever demonstrated that you could do a whole intense cyclocross and road season. When I hear about Wolfshohl or De Vlaeminck I argue that both could have done much better on the road if they hadn't tired themselves out in winter."

Nedelec also argued that Madison racing on the track is the real school for deftness and that the violent efforts of cyclocross are not good ways to care for your physical condition. He was in favour of promoting cyclocross ... but for specialists.

Post Cycling Career

It requires a huge archivistic work to define when exactly Rolf Wolfshohl retired from competitive cycling. We saw in the previous chapter that he still raced the 1975 cyclocross World Championship while several sources considered him to be retired at that moment. De Wielersite his last pro contract in 1976 but his last sponsor was Rowona, which as we shall see was nothing more than his own bicycle shop that he founded in 1973 when he first stopped his career.

Cyclisme Magazine n°118 from March 1978 still tracks a Wolfshohl at the cyclocross of Luxembourg on February 22, that year. Since his son who also became an amateur cyclist - as we shall see - was only 17 at that time and there does not seem to have been another Wolfshohl in the peloton, we take for granted that this was Rolf, at age 39:

1 André Wilhelm *fr (19.8km in 1h2'55")
2 Cees van der Wereld *nl + 1'30"
3 Lothar Kinas *de +1'40"
4 Roger Gilson *lu +1'47"
5 Lucien Zeimes *lu +2'20"
6 Rolf Wolfshohl *de +2'25"
7 Ommer (probably Frank at age 18!?) *de +3'55"
8 ??
9 Jos Sluyts *be +5'17"
10 Claude Michely *lu +6'20"

We can't know which team he raced for. He have raced it as an amateur rider.
Museo Ciclismo (op.cit.) says (in 2006):

« After his career, Rolf Wolfshohl set up a good bicycle shop. He markets racing bicycles under this [his ?] own name and he also has a frequently visited race specialist shop, where his Rowona (Rolf Wolfshohl Natürlich) bicycles are sold as well. Annually, he sells approximately one thousand racing bicycles of his own brand. As a coach of young German cyclo-cross riders he has never lost touch with his beloved sport. »

Rolf’s love for cyclocross was such that he refused an offer from the German federation to coach mountain-bikers in order to strictly train crossers. (Sergent & Van de Gejuchte, op.cit.)

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  • « Last Edit: July 29, 2015, 17:02 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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    On June 28 1999 Rolf who was thus coach for the national amateur selection made some serious doping accusations against the Freiburg University Clinic. He called them « seducers in white coats ».
    The former champion argued that some of the riders that he trained were sent by the Federation to the Freiburg clinic for routine tests. On their way back they carried a box full of pills that could enhance performances by 15 to 20%. The Freiburg clinic was known for following Telekom riders.

    Ten years later an independent commission revealed that two doctors from the Freiburg clinic ran an organised doping programme for the enormously successful German Telekom/T-mobile squad from 1995 to 2006, involving Sinkewitz, himself accusing Klöden. The prosecutors however closed the case in 2012 with a lack of evidence
    Though Rolf’s attitude would be considered hypocritical by some due to his own positive test, thirty years before, others may consider he took his responsability as coach and former champion and the kind of doping he denounced has not much to do with the stimulants that he was accused of using in 1968.
    In 2011 Wolfshohl’s shop was robbed. The robbers however had left the bike of his 1965 Tour of Spain win. They are too stupid to estimate the value of such a bike. For Rolf it’s a treasure.
    In 2009 Rolf lost a finger in a bike crash. At age 70 Rolf still rides an impressive 6,000 to 7,000km a year :

    All these mishaps seem rather futile compared to the tragedy that hit his own son Rolf-Dieter, a former amateur rider who suffered a violent crash in the 1984 amateur national championship. He became paralyzed at the neck and spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair, until he past away in 2011 at age 51.
    Rolf still found the energy to remain active despite all the misfortune, though. "I need the work , otherwise I would feel uncomfortable. Sitting on the couch, that really is not my world ," says the former Cologne cycling star at age 70.
    By 2008 he got back to Middelkerke, Belgium and took part in a cross for veterans along with Eric De Vlaeminck, Roland Liboton, Nico Mattan, Danny De Bie, Paul Herygers, Norbert Dedeckere and Robert Vermeire among others. At that time the North Sea Cross had not yet been promoted back to Superprestige status.

    Reconciliation with Poulidor

    After the incident of the 1965 Tour of Spain, Poulidor was a loyal helper to Rolf, says Yves Jean (op.cit.). Wolfshohl left Mercier in 1967 only to join it again in 1970. Probably the two men had already made peace.
    In 2004 some local authorities in the Limousin organized the cyclotourist ride « L’échappée belle en Limousin » in honour of local star Raymond Poulidor. The ride has been organized every year since and is now organized by the « Amis de Raymond Poulidor and André Dufraisse » (ARPAD), both are native from the Limousin, still fit and healthy and each in their specialities happened to be fierced opponents to Rolf Wolfshohl. The organization was created on Dec. 27 2005, meant to organized sporting and/or cultural events in the Limousin.
    On September 9 & 10 2005 some 500 cycling lovers backed Poulidor on the « Échappée belle ». Among the other stars present in the ride were Henry Anglade, Bernard Gauthier and … Rolf Wolfshohl. (the 8th picture showed Wolfshohl on the left with his Rowona cap. with  Poulidor, Anglade and Gauthier – Gauthier is the one who brought Poulidor to pro cycling as we showed in our Poulidor biography).
    On September 15 & 16 2012 Rolf went back to the Limousin for the event. At the end of the celebration champions & celebrities went to Oradour-sur-Glane. Oradour is a small village in the Limousin. On June 10 1944 the original village  was destroyed by a German Waffen-SS company killing 642 villagers, including 247 women and 205 children.
    Rolf placed a spray of flowers on the Oradour memorial, along with Poulidor and Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle. Being German his presence was very symbolical. He had previously told about his hope of seeing sport and cycling in particular seal reconciliation and peace between peoples. (in French)

    This nice gesture actually announced the new project by the ARPAD. A  Dachau-Oradour ride to start on June 2 in Dachau and end on June 8 2014 in Oradour for the 70th anniversary of the massacre.

    It can easily be understood that such feuds like those between Poulidor and Wolfshohl are nothing compared to such tragedies. It is only sport.


    Jean-Paul Ollivier telling his story of the aforelast stage of the 1963 Paris-Nice, won by Wolfshohl. Some old footage of Wolfshohl racing are included. (in French)

    The 1963 Milan-Sanremo sprint between Wolfshohl (below, with his Peugeot jersey) and Joseph Groussard. (Finish photo)

    1965 Milan-Sanremo : Rolf in the Capo Mele descent after a 25km breakaway and the profile for that edition (

    Rolf at the 2008 cyclocross in Middelkerke

    Rolf remembering the victims of the 1944 massacre in Oradour sur Glane, with Raymond Poulidor and Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle, in 2012


    Footage from a cyclocross race in the Sixties featuring Wolfshohl and Longo (winning) [in Italian]

    the Cycle Sport article about the De Vlaeminck Brothers (Dec. 2013?) which informed a lot about Wolfshohl's rivalry with the two.

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  • « Last Edit: July 29, 2015, 16:56 by Echoes »


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    I've edited my article.

    First I separated my chapter relating to the 1962 Ardennes Classics: "1962 : Loss to Planckaert in Liège and Financial Arrangement Accusation" "1962 : Wins the Ardennes Weekend, After an Impressive Walloon Arrow".

    Reason being that I've just bought the book by Didier Malempré "Liège-Bastogne-Liège : une doyenne vénérable et vénérée" (Cefal 2014) which is pretty extensive about the 1962 edition of Liège. I added nothing new regarding to the Arrow that year, though.

    Towards the end of the biography I added a chapter regarding the cyclocross + road combo which Wolfshohl was famous for and parts of a discussion that I found back in the Vélo Magazine from Feb. 1979, #127 in which Wolfshohl is mentioned.

    Also in the Appendices I've added a link towards some footage of an old cyclocross from the sixties featuring Wolfshohl and Renato Longo winning in his rainbow jersey. ;) 

    Edit: Second edit of the whole profile on February 21 2015. Addition of a comment on a cyclocross that Wolfshohl raced in Luxembourg in 1978, see the chapter Post Cycling Career.

    Edit on July 29 2015: Some new information about Rolf Wolfshohl have been added from this interview in German:,15185860,31267142.html

    The first paragraph of the chapter "Early Years" has been modified. The extra info: Wolfshohl's father was sadly killed during World War II, Rolf had to care for his family was a teen with a job as metal turner/mechanic, he bought his first bike on credit and got a new job as newspaper carrier, among other things.
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  • « Last Edit: July 29, 2015, 16:53 by Echoes »


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    Short extension:

    The cyclotourists from the Dachau-Oradour ride have started last Monday in Dachau. They've covered the German part in 3 days:

    Rolf was present but it's unclear how much he's ridden. It would be quite amazing if he's to ride the full distance (1150km!) at his age. Most probably not !!

    (On the picture in the link above, Rolf is with his jersey "le loup" on, "the wolf" in French, which was his nickname back in the days)

    An article from "Le Républicain lorrain" says that the riders are mainly from the Limousin and from Germany and showed a meeting in Sarrebourg, Lorraine, France between Rolf and local rider André Wilhelm, the local star. The two riders haven't met since the Worlds at Crystal Palace in 1973 when the Frenchman was 2nd and Rolf was 3rd.

    (Wilhelm on the far right, I think)
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  • Echoes

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    So actually unlike I thought Rolf raced EVERY stage of the Dachau-Oradour ride, at age 76 !! "Since the start in Dachau, he rode all stages in front and he was the one who set the pace. Quite frankly, he amazes me!" said one of his mates.

    The last stage was ridden yesterday, with the mayors of both towns Florian Hartmann and Philippe Lacroix. Poulidor followed the stage in the car, along with Robert Hébras, one of the 6 survivors of the Oradour massacre, one of the two of them, still alive today. In 1958 Mr Hébras already organized a "critérium de la Renaissance", in which Louison Bobet and Jacques Anquetil took part.

    André Dufraisse, the 5 time Cyclocross World Champion and former fierce opponent to Rolf, visited the peloton when it passed in Saint-Pardoux (feed zone), which is close to where he lives. The French stages of the ride were coordinated by the Arpad (Amis de Raymond Poulidor & André Dufraisse).

    Hats off to young Michael Gaulier (aged 25) who has had cystic fibrosis for 6 years and rode all French stage from Strasbourg to Oradour.

    Rolf far left, Poulidor far right. The Mayor of Oradour left of Poulidor and then the Mayor of Dachau.
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