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Echoes' Cycling Biography #12: Eric Vanderaerden
« on: October 12, 2014, 10:35 »
Early Years

Eric Vanderaerden was born on February 11 1962 in Herk-de-Stad, Belgian Limburg though he’s grown up in Lummen a few kilometers North of it, both towns being close to Hasselt, capital city of the province.

At the time of his debut with the pros in 1983, past greats Rik Van Looy and Rik Van Steenbergen talked about Vanderaerden’s Limburgs roots.

“On the other hand it is indeed a problem that Vanderaerden is a Limburger”, says Van Looy. “There have always been good youngsters there but the transition to the pro ranks was often a failure. Limburg is the area of concrete flat roads, in a nutshell of easy races. […] This contrasts with East- and West Flanders – for instance -, where you had to cope with hills, violent winds and horrible roads. No coincidence that riders from the Flanders [by which Rik meant the two provinces of East & West Flanders] dominated cycling for so long. Behold, I don’t ignore the Limburgers because I remember their good riders: Delerm, Grondelaers, the Schoubben brothers, Hendrickx, GIelen, Luyten, Molenaers, Vannitsen. The transition to the absolute top was still not there. If Eric Vanderaerden has the same characteristics than his Limburger forerunners with regards to fortitude, than it’s not an asset in the fights that will follow.”

Van Steenbergen also implied that Limburg is not a traditionally cycling oriented province and that Limburgers have a mental strength problem: “They say it might be a disadvantage that he’s from Limburg. A good question because those Limburgers have never reached the top. I saw Hugo Scrayen do phenomenal things but he did not break through. I however don’t mistrust Eric because he’s the only Limburger with mental fortitude. Yeah the only one! He’s someone who would never be pushed over by anything or anybody. A real wood which the great champions are made of!”

On December 14 1981 Théo Mathy of the RTBF made a documentary for “Lundi Sport” about rising star Eric Vanderaerden (it’s in French a part from the interview at 2’50”, Mathy used to let Dutch-speaking Belgians to speak in their language, there are French subs though).
He was then busy doing his military service at that moment where he was a quartermaster/harbinger. Mathy describes him as a cheerful lad, a bit taciturn but he’s got many friends in the barracks. He still trains in his spare time. That is how he became military World Champion the following year.

With regards to his cycling abilities, Mathy simply describes him as the best talent that Belgium had in 10 years (10 years before brings us back to 1971 when Freddy Maertens dominated the amateur field).   Up to that point he had already won 200 races since his debut with the novices in 1977, including 6 national championships (2 on the road with the novices, 2 in cyclocross with the juniors and one in omnium on the track with the juniors, testament of his all-round abilities), and a 2nd place at the Junior World Championship (all in all Eric won 229 road races in the youth category, including the year that followed this documentary: 74 of them with the novices, 94 of them with the juniors and 61 with the amateurs according to Wilfried Journée on De Wieler) . Mathy adds to it that he can sprint and time-trial and recovers very well. The only doubt that the francophone journalist was whether he could climb, given his rather strongly built body: 74kg for 182cm.

In his first year in the amateur category in 1981 Vanderaerden quickly proved to be the best and, says Théo Mathy, he’s the man to beat at the start of each race. He won the Cerami GP and the Tour of Flanders among others.

At that point, though, one fact is rather clouding his future. The Belgian federation and the political authorities did not allow any young rider to turn pro before the age of 22, and this since 1977. This fact is one of the main reasons why talents such as Daniel Willems and Fons De Wolf did not really match expectations with the pros. They had to stay too long in the amateur ranks where they had no rivals (see our Edwig Van Hooydonck Bio) and hence wasted their talent (though it might not be the only reason by De Wolf’s and Willems’ failure).

Théo Mathy’s interview in the above mentioned documentary regarded that fact. According to this rule, Vanderaerden could not turn pro before March 1984, says the journalist. What does Eric think about that:
“I think that for me it’s really more than one lost year because I am now a 1st year amateur and I’ve mixed it up with the best and I won two or okay let us say one classic. I’d like to turn pro, after my military service, next year mid-season. Then I can still learn a bit for half a season and so in the big race. But look Eddy Merckx and Van Steenbergen were also pro at age 20 [both even turned pro younger] and they still went on to become some of the best pros. Two years [as amateur] is really far too long for me. Perhaps not for some who need to adapt to the distance but I think I can handle the kilometers.”

Merckx commented on that rule in his preface of Marc Jeuniau’s book: “La saison cyclist 1981: Les 400 coups de Freddy Maertens” (Gamma sport 1981):

“Belgians’ revival is made difficult because of the law that keeps the youngsters out of the professional circuit until age 22. There’s no lack of valuable youngsters in Belgium: “De Marteleire, Paris-Roubaix’s winner; Danny Schoonbaert, winner of the ‘Flèche ardennaise’; Edmonds [read: Nico Emonds], Marc Sergent [read: Sergeant], Rogiers, Van der Haerden [sic]. The latter might be the most gifted; he’s 19 and hence will have to wait for three seasons before joining the elite. Until then he will have had all the time to waste his strengths. […] This rule is absurd because age has nothing to do with physical maturity. One athlete might be perfectly bloomed at age 20 while another athlete might still be tender at age 25. As long as this law is not ‘modified’, Belgian cycling will deprived itself of talented young riders because prematurely ‘demobilized’ by the ease of their success in the amateur ranks and the uselessness of a too long amateur session.”

1983: Van Looy, Merckx and Van Steenbergen about Vanderaerden before his Debut with the Pros

We’ve already referred to the interviews by Gust Verwerft & Jacques Sys posted on the blog AA De Fietser.

So by 1983, the Belgian federation gave Vanderaerden permission to turn pro, despite his age. Van Steenbergen who was a major advisor to the young talent until then is grateful to the fed for this: “They often asked me whether Eric now already has passed his peak because he hasn’t had any opposition for long anymore and besides, has lived like a pro? Listen, I don’t know that either and I fear it might also be the case. Therefore it’s a good thing that the Federation didn’t let him suffocate one more year.”

Merckx however kept his skepticism (for the reasons mentioned above) stating that “the danger exists that Eric can no longer push his limits. […] Vanderaerden has had it too easy so far in the youth categories. It’s somehow not a good thing if you win your first races in the junior category and immediately can win in the amateur ranks, if you dominate each category which you start in, in such a playful way. You cannot go to your deepest, you hardly suffer. […] I’m wondering if a man like Vanderaerden is capable of “dying” on his bike, so to speak. Therefore, and I have already said that a hundred times before, we should not just become pro one year younger but also one younger junior and amateur [Vanderaerden was junior at age … 17! And amateur at age 19, just like current riders in 2014 – “amateur” reading “U23”].”

Both Merckx and Van Looy actually were skeptical about his debut and thought you had to wait at least till 1984 before his career can really start. Merckx argued that “even the greatest champion observed a period of adaption of at least one year with the pros. I still remember my first race with the pros, after 200km I was simply dropped off the wheels. Two days later I was still knocked down.”

Van Looy did not seem to appreciate his attitude during the amateur Worlds in 1982. “He retired there due to a serious injury but in the following days he was back in Belgium and one day after his return he was racing small races again and winning them. Also in the two Nationals that he raced [i.e. in 1981 & 1982], when the blue train [his team] was not leading the sprint out for him, it was twice a failure. I’m saying it once more: an exceptional rider, this Eric, we should be a bit careful with him.”

Both Merckx and Van Looy insisted on the fact that Vanderaerden has a lot of pressure on his shoulder due to the fact that there’s no “umbrella” (Van Looy’s word) above him, while Van Looy argued that he came up under Van Steenbergen’s shadow while Merckx came when all the focus on himself. A lot of other riders then came up under Merckx’s shadow, so for all these riders the early years were stress-free. Van Steenbergen however argues that that situation is in his favour but does not say why (at least it’s not mentioned on the article).

Merckx was very much impressed by Eric’s win at the Flèche ardennaise/Ardense Pijl, though. “If you look at how he won the Flèche ardennaise, hard racing in the lead, the riders were simply dying in his wheel and winning with such amazing easiness, it made a huge impression on me.”

However the more enthusiastic of the three was Van Steenbergen but he was also the one who knew him best. He argued “I never have had so much belief in somebody. In my opinion he cannot fail. I would find it wrong to race cannily or to be a lot attentist with Vanderaerden’s class. No, on the contrary, he should directly be flying, […] racing the hard races and directly attacking.  […] The people won’t accept to see him ‘wait’ in the peloton for one or two years. People are calling for stars, attackers, audacious riders, heroes. […] He does not need any adaptation. I discovered that about myself before. I do know that the sport of these days have changed but not as much as people want us to believe by commodity.”

Track master Rik I also very much regrets that Eric’s new DS Fred De Bruyne keeps him away from the track while Rik thinks it’s where he can learn to basics of the job and make money. Rik had to realize that the eighties saw another step in the decline of the track but later on in his career, Vanderaerden still won twice the Antwerp Six with Etienne De Wilde (1989 & 1990).

With regards to the road however Rik I’s predictions were very high and interesting. “He will be flying from the first races on. That is for certain. I see him win at least one or two semi-classics. I almost dare bet that he could win a major classic. Watch out for him in Sanremo, at the fountain [the famous Via Roma fountain, hopefully we’ll see it someday back on the route]. I believe so much in him because I know him well. No baloney, he’ll be straight in contention.”

The Boss’s expectations weren’t fulfilled but he was pretty close. In semi-classics, no win but Vanderaerden was straight 3rd at À travers la Belgique (now Dwars door Vlaanderen) behind De Wilde & Raas, 2nd at the Wallonia GP to Stephen Roche and 3rd in the now disappeared Monaco GP, one of many good season openers on the Riviera then (1st Kim Andersen, 2nd Sean Kelly).

In Milan-Sanremo he certainly had to be watched out for at the fountain but only for a high place: outsprinted by Bontempi and Raas for 2nd place but 44” behind winner Giuseppe Saronni. On (March 24 2001), Peter Sierksma talked about “Saronni’s mafia methods” but did not substantiate.   

What Van Steenbergen did not expect however is Eric’s amazing performance at the Paris-Nice prologue. On a 5.5km route around Issy-les-Moulineaux, Eric built a gap of 5” ahead of future GC winner Sean Kelly, Alain Bondue and Stephen Roche and 7” ahead of Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle. The gap that he’s created against some pure experienced specialists, while he had been a pro for barely 2 months, was amazing.

1983: Hardest Paris-Roubaix of his career

After some very positive performances in the opening races, Vanderaerden came to the Three Days of De Panne to prepare for the Flandrian classics but unfortunately he crashed heavily and was sent to hospital. Ironically this race later became his “exclusive domain”. Vanderaerden explained to Michel Wuyts for the TV show & book “De Flandriens” (Canvas) that Paris-Roubaix was his first race after the crash, which is inaccurate because he finished 20th at Ghent-Wevelgem. However he definitely wanted to race that Paris-Roubaix and to finish it despite lacking kilometers in the legs, in order to assess his abilities for that race in the future.

That was the hardest Paris-Roubaix he ever raced he immediately told Wuyts. After a crash he raced it almost all of it alone but when he got to the track in Roubaix he got the feeling that if he one day races it in top condition and if everything goes according to plan, he can win Paris-Roubaix.

At the end of the day he was a very good 17th, though 14’04” behind winner Hennie Kuiper (according to Sergent & Dargenton: “Paris-Roubaix: une classique unique”, Coups de Pédales 2009).

1983: The Prologue Master

For his debut years Fred De Bruyne had him race an impressive amount of stage races. Van Looy would say “if I had a word to say there would be no question for him to race all these stage races. Do people realize what we are busy doing with this kid? I already hear we want to make him start the Tour of Spain and so on…”
But on that Tour of Spain Vanderaerden won stage 2 outsprinting Saronni and finished it! We have to bear in mind that the Tour of Spain was then not really the GT that it is in 2014.

He went on to win another prologue at the Midi libre which was until 2005 a major prep race for the Tour of France and then started the Tour of France, which was not planned.

According to Eric was still reluctant to start it and asked De Bruyne a bonus of 45,000 French Franks (~7,000€) and the right to transfer at the end of the season. Pretty bold for a 21 year old! Most probably, he also planned his abandon but nevertheless, he won the prologue again. Just like at Paris-Nice, the prologue was 5.5km and this time, led Bert Oosterbosch by 2”,   Jean-Luc Vandenbroucke by 4”, Kim Andersen, Joop Zoetemelk and Stephen Roche all by 6” in that order. Phil Anderson was 7th, 10” behind. Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle was 10th, 12” behind.

1984: Transferring to Post’s Panasonic

So Vanderaerden had no intention to stay with De Bruyne’s team Aernoudt-Rossin and joined the new Panasonic team led by Peter Post, while he first had signed for Belgian team Splendor. Actually, he refused to ride for them but the Belgian federation issued for him a licence but the latter had the Splendor name on it. Therefore he didn’t own a valid pro cycling licence at that moment and couldn’t race the season openers on the French Riviera and could only just stay with his new teammates from Panasonic and follow the peloton in several races (like Bessèges) but then… unofficially!! It seems that the case was solved before the classics, though. Eric was classified 9th in the Circuit Het Volk (now Het Nieuwsblad) which teammate Eddy Planckaert won, so the cinema fortunately didn’t last.   

1984 was also the year Peter Post and Jan Raas famously parted ways. The story was detailed in our Frans Maassen and our Edwig Van Hooydonck Bios, based on the documentary by the NOS Ruzie in het peloton (Feud in the Peloton).

Let us remember parts of it. From 1974 to 1983 Peter Post led what would become one of the greatest cycling teams of all time (!): the famous Ti-Raleigh. 900 wins in 10 seasons: Dutch pride! One of his main leaders throughout the years was the tough Zealander Jan Raas.

In 1983 while Peter Post was negotiating with the Japanese Panasonic (Raleigh would retire by the end of 1983), Raas gave Post a phone call during the Tour of Romandy to tell him that he left the team at the end of the year and launched a new one called Kwantum, while still an active rider. He took half of the team with him. What sparked the feud between Post and Raas remains unknown to anybody, says Mart Smeets. Mysteries create legends, don’t they? The NOS commentator said he would give a lot to know that but Post is dead and Raas already said he would never say a word about this anymore. Smeets thinks Knetemann knew it but if he did then Kneet also kept his secret into his grave.
On May 10 1983 Peter Post improvised a press conference, footage of which was shown in the documentary. Post showed his outstanding acting talents saying: “and don’t think that I’m living at war with Raas. That is absolutely completely not true. For me, that can’t be!”

What went on was actually nine years of the most ridiculous display of classlessness and unsportsmanship in the history of Dutch cycling with riders from both teams putting spokes in each other’s wheels and letting riders from third teams win rather than going it all for the win with the risk a rider from the rival team might nail it. Besides, the two leaders (from 1985 on, two DS) also showed their charisma since none of the riders would ever revolt against this disastrous situation. “Post and Raas were too strong for this”, said Smeets (all info from “Wuyts and Smeets: Boeiende verhalen en scherpe opinies over 50 jaar toprenners in België en Nederlands” by Christophe Vandegoor, Borgerhoff & Lamberigts 2013).

Meanwhile Peter Post also stood famous for his well-known tactic, being present in every breakaway and never participating on the ground that there’s somebody coming behind.

In this respect Vanderaerden’s coming was of course a blessing. By the end of the 1984 season (which was a success for Panasonic, compared to Kwantum: 100 wins and 6 classics), Adrie Van der Poel (from the Kwantum team) analyzed [see Appendix 1]:
“A lot more teams are going to apply the same tactic. If a group breaks away and some may not ride in front because there are champions behind, then the Post team relies heavily on Vanderaerden”, because he has a sprint, of course and his sprinting skills could serve as an excuse for teammates in breakaways not to work. This ‘tactic’ is of course common in 2014 but seemed something new in the eighties.

1984: The Ghent-Wevelgem Controversial Sprint

In 1984 Ghent-Wevelgem was already a well-known classic. Its distance was 255km, which is a little longer than the present-day route (in 2014) but a lot longer than the routes from 1990 to 2009 when all the single-day races that were denied a World Cup status, also were cut short by the UCI to a distance of roughly 200/210km. Fortunately, since Ghent-Wevelgem was promoted a ProTour status in 2005, the race was entitled to a distance that was more comparable to its pre-World Cup era route. Other classics did not get that chance.

Despite the length, the 1984 Ghent-Wevelgem ended in a relatively large group sprint. 18 riders were classified in the same time, among them was Greg LeMond, Stephen Roche or Panasonic teammates Phil Anderson. So it can’t be considered a peloton either, but a hard man sprint (it should be noted that Milan-Sanremo in those days would never end in such a big group sprint).

Vanderaerden was designated sole leader by Post, like on many occasions, something that Eddy Planckaert couldn’t understand (we will come back to it).

In the book “Het Geslacht Planckaert” by Ivan Heylen (Kritak, 1989), which he collaborated with, the younger of the Planckaert sibship explained his story of the sprint (story which we should remain careful with).

His brother Walter and Anderson brought them [Vanderaerden and him] onto the last straight line. He took the lead with 500m to go at full speed. “Vanderaerden was moaning in my wheel”, says Eddy. Suddenly Bontempi past flying by them, “I couldn’t see how it exactly happened.” He straight took a 10m lead. “Goddammit, we are done”, said Eric according to Eddy’s review. As Eric rode next to his teammate, the latter gave him an enormous push, as discrete as possible (still according to Eddy) and, one second later, Eric was again in Bontempi’s wheel. “I knew that he would pass the Italian in the last 30 meters” says Planckaert, adding to it that Bontempi knew it too but “he slammed Eric to the other side of the road and won. An unbelievable sprint! Eric was wrong because I shouldn’t have pushed him but Bontempi was also guilty. The Italian sinned twice because in his first attack, he must have received a huge push too.” Serious accusation, indeed! The tumult after the finish was undescribable, says Eddy: “Bontempi was nervous, Eric super nervous and I hyper nervous. Everyone was angry: Walter, de supporters, Vanderaerden, Bontempi and I. Bontempi said that we hindered him. He was lucky that I couldn’t understand Italian, otherwise I would have paid him back in his own coin.”

Planckaert remembered his comments in the post-race interview: “Next time I’d ride the fat Italian with his **** into the ditch”, comment which was not really appreciated. The next time was Paris-Roubaix, three days later, and while Planckaert met Bontempi, he realized that the Italian was one head taller and 10kg heavier than him. So, he just coldly but correctly said: “Good Morning.”

The Sporza Website showed the footage from the sprint too. On the picture we can clearly see that Bontempi didn’t benefit from a push when he started his sprint, while Planckaert clearly pushed Eric – doubtful whether he clearly benefitted from it though. However anyone can have an opinion whether Bontempi significantly deviated from his line or not. Eric was as angry as his teammate: “if I sprinted that way in Italy, they would behead me.”

By the end of the year before the Tour of Lombardy, Peter Post was interviewed by the NOS [See Appendix 1] to reflect about the season and he came back on the Ghent-Wevelgem sprint. Post never did not seem to see anything irregular in the sprint by Bontempi. Bontempi slightly deviated from his line but nothing irregular, Post seems to imply (footage of the sprint, also in Appendix 1]. He however insisted on Vanderaerden’s big mistake when he raised his arm as a form of protest against Bontempi’s slight deviation. Without that mistake he would have won, Post argues. “Inexperience cost him that win”, Post seconded the journalist.

The usually very harsh team director seemed to be rather tolerant towards his young rider, that time. “It’s not a problem. These are mistakes that they sometimes make. They learn a lot from them. […] A young rider should not straight win everything. He must make mistakes. That’s simply better for his first two years.”

The journalist from the NOS also asked Post whether Vanderaerden were among the three best sprinters. Post positively answered: “at the moment, certainly.” Besides, “the man is still in development and I’m convinced that within two years he will improve the skills that he has as sprinter. He will get more self-confident. He will be able to analyse the race better. He will be able to conduct better during the race, able to straighten out situations better, which was a bit hard this year but he’s still a young rider, and if he improves all this, then you can expect that he becomes THE rider for the upcoming years.”

1984: First Classic Win in Paris-Brussels

Between 1983 and 1987 Paris-Brussels was with Bordeaux-Paris the only race that exceeded the 300km mark: 301km till 1986 and even 309km in 1987, so even longer than Milan-Sanremo. It was still a genuine classic. The Super-Prestige Pernod included it. The system for the 1984 is not available on the net but in 1976, for example, the SPP rated Paris-Brussels higher than Liège-Bastogne-Liège or than the Walloon Arrow.

1984 was also the first year of the FICP ranking (UCI’s professional section), which would become the UCI ranking in 1992 after the FICP and its amateur equivalent FIAC had merged, which had stood until 2004 before the creation of the ProTour. It’s some sort of an ATP ranking equivalent, as they have it in tennis, based on 52 weeks.

The races were separated into 4 “classes”. Class 1 had the three national GT’s, the 6 major classics (including Blois-Chaville aka Paris-Tours and the present-day “monuments”) and the World Championship; points granted to the winners of these races ranged between 140 and 80 points but the things they had in common was that points were given to every finishing riders. 

Paris-Brussels fell in class 2. All those races granted 60 points to their winners (45 to 2nd; 35 to 3rd; … and one point to 15th, last one to enter the points). It’s also a very favourable rating for Paris-Brussels since only 20 races – stage or single-day races – are included in that class, so on par with it: Het Volk (present-day Nieuwsblad), Paris-Nice (!), Tirreno Adriatico, Criterium international, Ghent-Wevelgem, Walloon Arrow, Amstel Gold Race, Frankfurt GP, Championship of Zurich, Four Days of Dunkirk, Tour of Romandy, Bordeaux-Paris, Dauphiné-libéré, Midi-libre, Tour of Luxembourg, Tour of Switzerland, Fourmies GP, Tour de l’Avenir, Nations GP.

Some of these races might be seen as overrated and others underrated but the fact that Paris-Brussels is considered among the top30 races in the calendar is rather positive and shows it belongs to the major classics of the time. The Class 3 races which included the Tour of Catalunya, the Tour of the Basque Country and the E3 Harelbeke GP among others granted just 30 points to their winners (twice less than Paris-Brussels) and points only to the top10. 

Now what happened during this Paris-Brussels is first a long solo breakaway by Frenchman Philippe Saude, from Renault, who wanted to show up for a new contract. By km 200 he was caught by the group of favourite [L’Unita does not talk about a peloton] led by new World Champion Claude Criquielion among others. Ludo Peeters made an attempt on the first lap of the final circuit (hard to know how many had to be covered) but his attempt also failed. Vanderaerden attacked himself on entering the final lap and was joined by Charly Mottet, Sean Kelly and Eric Van Lancker whom he outsprinted in that same order. The races ended under the rain.

The group preceded by 30” a 21-man bunch outsprinted by Pierino Gavazzi ahead of Adrie Van der Poel and Phil Anderson. Claude Criquielion was 17th and Laurent Fignon was 22nd in that group.

Eddy Planckaert, however, could not keep up with that group and ended 36th, 1’ behind Vanderaerden. Despite Eric’s win, Post was furious at Planckaert (Ivan Heylen, op.cit.). The race still inserted itself in the context of the Post/Raas rivalry. Post’s order was that Planckaert should watch out for van der Poel (racing for Raas’ Kwantum) but in the end, van der Poel dropped him. Post considered him as a “lazybone” and in a quarter of an hour, Planckaert was “as flat as a louse”. “Post can scold!” says Planckaert.

That edition of Paris-Brussels is now known for the first positive test by Irish classic great Sean Kelly, who was later disqualified from 3rd place. It’s interesting to bring here notes by Paul Kimmage on this positive test.[1]

Kimmage first referred to the book by Willy Voet (Kelly’s former soigneur in De Gribaldy’s team) “Massacre à la chaine: révélations sur 30 ans de tricheries” (Breaking the Chain: revelations on 30 years of cheating). To Kelly’s credit, Voet named Kelly in the book, which means that the Irishman found it no problem while Voet clearly said he first asked riders if he could name them before and usually they would say no. That’s why he referred to a lot of riders without naming them. Beside Kelly, the riders he named were usually dead ones.

How Voet described the positive test in Paris-Brussels, as reported by Kimmage:
"Ten days before Paris-Brussels in 1984, […] Kelly got sick. Bronchitis. He took ephedrine for a week – an excellent product for clearing the bronchial tubes – but carried the penalty of being detectable at (doping) control. Sean stopped the treatment three days before the race, because even though the tests weren't as good as they are today, he didn't want to take a chance.
"After the race – he had finished third behind Eric Vanderaerden and Charly Mottet – the Irishman was called to doping control. Not a problem. We hid a container of urine one of the mechanics had provided in his (Kelly's) shorts and he managed to pass it off as his own. This, as we had seen before, was always easier for the champions.
"A few days later, Kelly received a letter from the International federation informing him that he had tested positive in Paris-Brussels. The product? Stimul, which contains some amphetamine. He was incredulous. I started an investigation and soon got to the bottom of it: the mechanic had taken a stimulant during a long drive in the truck to stay awake at the wheel.

It’s perfectly plausible that Kelly was not in top form for the race due to an illness. Even though a loss in a sprint to Vanderaerden was no surprise because Eric in a good day could outsprint Kelly, it happened more than once, it’s more surprising to see Kelly outsprinted by Mottet for 2nd.

Even though in October 1984 Kelly told David Walsh (also reported by Kimmage):
"On the day I was going okay, but got tired in the last few kilometres and was well beaten in the sprint by Vanderaerden and Mottet. There is no way I took anything. If I had, is it likely that I would have finished third and therefore ensured I was tested at medical control? I am convinced that the mistake happened because of irregularities at the testing centre that day.
"The medical control at Paris-Brussels was very badly organised and lots of people were in the room who had no right to be there. When the rider is giving his sample I believe there should be just two people in the room. When I gave mine, there were about seven people there. In all this confusion something must have gone wrong."


Vanderaerden on Sean Kelly and the ‘Flandrians’

Eric Vanderaerden has always been respectful for his Irish arch-rival. So when famous Sporza journalist Michel Wuyts asked him about his definition of a “Flandrian”, he would straight take Kelly as model: “Kelly, he was always there. He was never driveling and he rode, oh dear! Kelly was in the foreground from Paris-Nice and the Tour of Flanders to the Walloon classics and a week later rode the Tour of Spain which was then still held early in the year. In summer he raced for a good ranking and stage wins in the Tour of France and late in the season he was still shining in Lombardy… Actually he was THE Flandrian from my generation.”

Wuyts added to it that Eric did not call himself a ‘Flandrian’. “Too much of a loafer/dawdler, curly hair and rake probably”, says the journalist. Same for teammate Eddy Planckaert! “Eddy rode sheerly on class. That’s not what Flandrians do, do they?”

(Source: “De Flandriens”, Canvas 2010)

Eric Vanderaerden can actually not be considered a Flandrian, stricto sensu. The term “Flandrien” in Belgium, though it originates from cycling, has become a more general term (thereby showing the impact of cycling on Belgian society) to refer to the people from the two provinces of East & West Flanders (which roughly means the old County of Flanders). Eric, being a Limburger, can therefore not be a Flandrian. Besides, we saw that Edwig Van Hooydonck (Edwig Van Hooydonck Bio, based on the same book) accurately described the myth of “Flandrian cycling” as the glorious generation between the 1910’s and WWII that was mainly driven by farm boys who came to cycling to escape the land. That generation was long gone when Vanderaerden turned pro. For the rest, everybody might have his own definition of the term, “Flandrian”, which he might fit or not but that would only be subjective.

1985: “Merckxian” Performance at the Tour of Flanders

The 1985 edition of the Tour of Flanders has over the years become a classic due to the extreme rainy and cold weather conditions and is Eric Vanderaerden’s most epic and most fondly remembered performance ever!

In 1984 [age 22] in the showers of Roubaix Vanderaerden told journalists from the BRTN that the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix were still too big for him (see A journalist’s question to Eric after the Highlights from the 1985 Paris-Roubaix) but 1985 is the right year. He matured up.

Yet with 75km to go a puncture might have proved fatal for the Limburger. Fortunately he was quickly helped by teammate Oosterbosch and former winner Lammerts was about to bring him back. However the Koppenberg was close and the race about to start. The cobbles of the Koppenberg in the eighties were in much worse conditions than they’ve been ever since the return of the climb in 2002. The climb already was hugely controversial. Hinault refused to race the classic because of it.

That year three Panasonic riders got clear on the climb: Verhoeven, E. Planckaert and Anderson and behind LeMond rammed the berm, causing a “traffic jam”. Being far behind on the approach of the climb Vanderaerden wasn’t stuck by the incident. “I was slaloming uphill, coming about stumbling riders. I did not dismount a single time. That was encouraging me back.”

(Source for all the info is “100 jaar: 1913-2013: De Ronde van Vlaanderen”, Borgerhoff & Lamberigts, 2013)

Further in the race, Hennie Kuiper attacked in the Varent and extended his lead in the Leberg (source: Dargenton & Degauquier: “La merveilleuse histoire du Tour des Flandres”, Coups de pédales 2004). While Eric got back in the chase group, he realized that nobody was ready to work along. So in the Tenbosse, just before the Kapelmuur, he attacked himself and was countered by his own teammate Phil Anderson. They caught the veteran Dutchman just before the Kapelmuur. Vanderaerden attacked on the 20% part and on the top he was already 10” ahead
“I must admit that I am really proud of that performance. Mainly because I was regarded as a sprinter! Those have the reputation of chosing the easiest way but that day I did it in another way. The satisfaction was in retrospect all the better. That was my best performance ever, no doubt.” Eric needed a hot bath, fries and two aspirins to get him back to normal life (“100 jaar …” op. cit.).

The gaps were gigantic. Teammate Phil Anderson was 2nd, 41” behind. Kuiper was 3rd 1’01” behind. 2’03” behind Eric was a 4-man group with Segers 4th, Criquielion 6th and LeMond 7th. Walter Planckaert was 8th but already 3’46” behind his teammate. Sean Kelly was only 14th, 6’10” behind his rival.

During the live coverage of the race the BRTN (Dutch-speaking Belgian TV) commentator Mark Stassijns talked about a “Merckxian” (“Merckxiaans”) performance. This phrase is typical of the Belgian commentators and sport journalists from the early eighties. They were stuck in a post-Merckx depression and were desperately looking for a new Merckx. A bit like in the post-Coppi depression of sixties Italy, it was just wishful thinking. Belgian cycling no longer had as many top classic riders as in the seventies and the Dutchman from the Ti-Raleigh sort of took over. It was clear from the start that Vanderaerden could not be the new Merckx. As was shown in the documentary of RTBF by Théo Mathy (see supra), he was 74kg, much heavier than the Brusseler and from this, he could not be a complete rider, beside he probably didn’t have Merckx’s engine. By the end of his career, he even said : “I won everything that my abilities enabled me to win.”

To Michel Wuyts, for the TV show and book “De Flandriens”[3], he would humbly say “You could be Merckxian on one day but never more. I have seen great things later on: Tom Boonen, Stijn Devolder; great performances.”

1985: Winning Ghent-Wevelgem with the Hands on the Brakes

Belgian cycling in the eighties seems very different from previews decades in many way. One aspect that shows striking differences is the team spirit that characterized top Belgian riders, such as Vanderaerden. The individualism that characterized the sixties and seventies when talents used cycling as a way to climb up the social ladder is over.

Vanderaerden was very altruistic as a leader and this altruism sometimes led to tragi-comical situation, such as this 1985 edition of Ghent-Wevelgem – it seems that the West-Flemish classic always provides some funny anecdotes with Eric.

Already earlier that season in Dwars door België (as it was then known), Eric showed reluctance to dispute victory to a teammate, namely Eddy Planckaert. The two were ahead but “only one could win” said Eric to Wuyts[4]. The semi-classic already ended in Waregem, that was in the midst of the “Vlaanders” (term referring to the combo of the two provinces of East & West Flanders) and since Eddy helped Eric to get the national title the year before, the decision was quickly taken. Planckaert “outsprinted” Vanderaerden and Jef Lieckens.

The 1985 Ghent-Wevelgem was 262km long – a bit longer than the year before – but despite that fact the bunch was this time much bigger: ~45 men. The Panasonic controlled the breakaway by Jean-Marie Wampers who sadly for him was caught with but 700m to go. The most surprising fact about that chase is that sprinter Eddy Planckaert was the driving force behind it (see Appendix 3), while he could have been much more efficient as a lead-out man to Vanderaerden, for example. But actually Eric had decided he would not win that one, rather leave it to Phil Anderson. For Eric that was returning the favour after all the work done by the Aussie in the previous Tour of Flanders.

So in the last straight line it seemed that Anderson was leading out the sprint for Vanderaerden. When Eric started his sprint it was so impressive that Mart Smeets from the NOS talked about a “display of power” (“Een vertoon van macht!”). “You may say that.” But then Eric looked like he’s having a look at his teammate Anderson and was waiting for him to pass. At the same time he realized that “I feared that if I had really stopped pedaling, someone from another team would have passed us”, he told Wuyts. “So I kept pedaling, saw that Anderson was getting closer and I pulled up in a final attempt to let him win. No then!”

Eric’s Generosity

There are more examples and testimonies about Eric’s generosity than that edition of Ghent-Wevelgem.

Eric explained to Michel Wuyts how at each criterium he entered he would impose the presence of true teammate Ludo De Keulenaer. He entered 25 of them in 1985, all for 100,000 BEF. De Keulenaer would then earn 20,000 for each, too. “A lot of money for him, too”, he says.

Eric’s altruism is confirmed by another of his former teammate. *au Allan Peiper joined Panasonic in 1986. He said that in his career he’s raced for Robert Millar, Phil Anderson, Eddy Planckaert, Urs Freuler, Adrie van der Poel… but that the only real leader he’s had was Vanderaerden. He would have done everything for Eric and he rather dreamed to see Eric win races than himself. Eric was a simple man, didn’t feel superior nor did he wish to look like a star. If the team went out to have a drink, he would pay. He earned more money than them and it was a way for him to show he appreciates his mates, says the Aussie. Allan also added to it that the only present he ever got from a fellow cyclist came from Eric: a leather jacket. 

1985: Long Range Attack Stops at Bourghelles

The 1985 edition of Paris-Roubaix remains ine of the muddiest in history and the crossing of the Aremberg forest was one of the biggest crash fests in Paris-Roubaix history.

Eric Vanderaerden was leading the peloton himself, through Aremberg, followed by Gregor Braun, Francesco Moser, Sean Kelly, an unidentified rider, Eddy & Walter Planckaert, Greg LeMond and a bit further Jef Lieckens and Phil Anderson with sunglasses on!!

Ahead was Eric’s teammate Theo De Rooij, first to come out of Aremberg, accompanied by Yvon Madiot. The two were later joined by Moser, who attacked in Orchies. Behind Vanderaerden had a lot of mishaps: one puncture, one crash and one chain problem but came back each time with the help of a very strong Panasonic team (Lammerts gave him a wheel, once again), which also did a lot of work ahead of the peloton not to let Moser gain to much ground, despite the presence of De Rooij.

In the meantime Y. Madiot dropped and (source: Michel Dargenton & Pascal Sergent: “Paris-Roubaix: une classique unique”, Coups de Pédales 2009) on the section of Phalempin – with 52km to go – (is this section still in the course in 2014?) Vanderaerden joined Moser and De Rooij, on his own. Moser had to fight big time to keep Eric’s wheel. Teammate De Rooij was not too much helpful for Eric and dropped as well. The chase group led by Kelly was not far behind, they could see the two remaining escapees and with about 45km to go by Martinsart, the “brilliant” Vanderaerden (says John Tesh from CBS) dropped Moser who was stuck in a rut and crashed – definitely a crash caused by fatigue, shows perfectly that crashes in Paris-Roubaix are not always bad luck (See Appendix 4). Confusion arose after Moser’s crash. He saw no mechanic coming and decided to run. As he run, the mechanic tried to chase him. “A mechanic in panic is not a good one” says Tesh, as you see him struggling to place the new wheel inside the seat stay. The Renault riders, Marc Madiot and Bruno Wojtinek passed by as did so many. So behind Vanderaerden were at first, three riders: the two Renault and Kelly. The second chase group was also a trio: LeMond, Lieckens and Eddy Planckaert, who, of course, does not work along. Moser is further back with Kuiper (probably Van der Poel and Dhaenens were somewhere between the second trio and the duet).

During his solo raid Vanderaerden impressed Mart Smeets of the NOS, a lot with the way he took his notes on the route in his rear pocket, showing a beautiful profiled position on the bicycle. “Only the greatest can do that”, argued the Dutch commentator. That was with 33km remaining. But in the next section of Bourghelles – ~25km remaining – Eric paid the price for all his efforts and experiences a terrible stroke from the man with the hammer. A group of seven riders was gathered together back then – so the riders mentioned above -, caught him back and dropped him. In the end Vanderaerden ended at a disappointing 13th place, 5’41” behind winner Marc Madiot.

A mud-covered Vanderaerden explained afterwards in the Roubaix showers (see Sporza highlights, link above) that he waste too much energy in coming back after his mishaps. He said he was still good but not 100%. His attack looked like “panache”, the way he explained it. “If I had stayed in the wheels, and they had started to ‘race’, perhaps I would have dropped that way. That doesn’t lead to anything either. So I attacked and could race in the lead for a moment, which is also very good for me. And for the sport, too! Besides, Eddy Planckaert was in an ideal position behind, he didn’t have to pull.”

It was a bad loss but if you are to lose anyway, rather lose in style!

That edition of Paris-Roubaix is famous for that interview that Theo De Rooij gave John Tesh, while he had abandoned after a very good race, for the team and for Eric:

De Rooy: “It’s a balls this race! You’re working like an animal, you don’t have time to pee, you wet your pants. You’re riding in mud like this, you’re slipping, it’s a piece of sh*t…”

Tesh: “Will you ever ride it again?”

De Rooy, not hesitating for a second: “Sure, it’s the most beautiful race in the world!”

That interview very much translates the epicness of the race and the love-hate relationship that the riders feel for it, surely a race like no other.

1985: “Unbelievable How Fresh Vanderaerden Still is!”
At the 1985, Eric’s best achievement definitely was the win in the 31.8km ITT between Lans-en-Vercors and Villars de Lans on a route that wasn’t panflat and relegating no other than Bernard Hinault 1’07” behind him.

1   Eric Vanderaerden *be 41m 04s
2   Bernard Hinault *fr +01m 07s
3   Thierry Marie *fr + 01m 08s
4   Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle *fr + 01m 17s
5   Marc Sergeant *be + 01m 23s
6   Stephen Roche *ie
7   Joël Pelier *fr
8   Phil Anderson *au
9   Iñaki Gaston Crespo *es
10   Sean Kelly *ie
11   Kim Andersen *dk
12   Gerrit Solleveld *nl
13   Jelle Nijdam *nl
14   Steve Bauer *ca
15   Sean Yates *uk
16   Maarten Ducrot *nl
17   Czesław Lang *pl
18   Laurent Biondi *fr
19   Greg LeMond *usa
20   Jozef Lieckens *be

Vanderaerden was one of the early starter in the schedule. Nobody would have bet a penny on him and therefore neither a single cameraman  nor a single photographer covered his performance.

Aldo Tonnoir was a photograher working for the Belgian magazine Sports 80. His editor-in-chief was the sometimes hot-tempered Karel Vander Mijnsbrugge. He would never appreciate the fact that no picture had been taken of Vanderaerden winning the race and very soon Tonnoir got a visit…

He had to find a subterfuge. So he went to Vanderaerden’s hotel. Eric had already had a shower and got dressed. Tonnoir would just ask him to mount his bike again and ride again on the a few kilometers on the ITT route. Eric had no problem with that. He took his outfit on again and rode back. He’s covered about another 10km. Tonnoir quietly made a series of photographs. He sent them to his editorial office in Brussels. Mr Vander Mijnsbrugge appreciated the work of his photographer and had these memorable words: “it’s unbelievable how fresh Vanderaerden still is!” In Villars-de-Lans, Tonnoir was laughing his head off.

Vanderaerden also denied the imprtance of the sudden change in the wind direction for all riders who started after 2pm, as was argued. “This story of the wind that changed direction is crap… The last three stages demanded a lot of effort [for those racing for GC]. I have been riding at my rhythm, preparing for that stage.” At least he had time to check whether it was right or not when he mounted his bike back. We may guess that it did play a role, though.

1985: Win at the Eddy Merckx GP

During the live coverage of that year’s Paris-Roubaix, Mart Smeets stated that Vanderaerden could do well in ITT, provided these were rather short. If you have a look at his career’s results, this proved to be rather true. Most of his best results in ITT’s were gained on small distances of maximum 20km.

You could say that one exception was the Villars de Lans ITT mentioned above but skeptics argued that he benefitted from the change in wind direction. However his two wins at the Eddy Merckx GP in his two best years 1985 & 1987 might prove Smeets wrong.

The Grand Prix Eddy Merckx was created in 1981 in honour of the ever greatest. A roughly 60km long ITT in the streets of Brussels! It became a time-trial by pairs in 1998, only to disappear after a last edition in 2004.

The route in 1985 was 64km long, exactly. It’s rather long compared to 21st century ITT but short compared to the GP des Nations in the same years.

On Sep. 15 Vanderaerden crushed the field with huge gaps ahead of his opponents, the 2nd and 3rd being both teammates: Bert Oosterbosch and Phil Anderson, resp. On the whole, the field yet seemed rather solid on paper.

1 Eric Vanderaerden in 1h18’31” *be (45,850kmh)
2 Bert Oosterbosch +1’13” *nl
3 Phil Anderson +2’05” *au
4 Paul Haghedooren +3’39” *be
5 Stephen Roche +4’05” *ie
6 Claude Criquielion +4’06’’ *be
7 Greg LeMond +4’10’’ *usa
8 Marc Sergeant +4’16’’ *be
9 Sean Kelly +4’41’’ *ie
10 Jean-Luc Vandenbroucke +4’43” *be


After his crushing defeat against Eric, Greg LeMond decided to withdraw from the Nations GP that was scheduled on September 22, knowing he had no “chance”(El Mundo Deportivo of September 20, article which showed a preview of the Nations GP). Also according to that Spanish newspaper, Vanderaerden would have been top favourite for the Nations if he had entered but for some reasons, withdrew as well.

1986: The “Back Saddle” Affair

In the prologue of the Tour of France – the shortest in the history of the race: 4.6km in Boulogne-Billancourt – Eric Vanderaerden lost for 258 1000th of a second to Frenchman Thierry Marie.

Shortly after the end of the race, Peter Post lodged a complaint to the UCI at the benefit of his rider VdA, arguing that Marie’s bike broke the rule. Thierry Marie used a bike that was equipped with some sort of an upturned back edge.

The article 49 of the UCI ruling clearly stipulated that only three resting points were permitted for the rider on the bike: the hands on the bars, the seat on the saddle and the feet on the pedal mechanism. By adding a back to the saddle, Cyrille Guimard gave his rider a 4th resting point on their back, on which to rest the lumbars (Appendix 6). It seems that Post was utterly right. Yet the UCI decided to meet halfway. They rejected Post’s complaint and refused to disqualify Marie (and his teammates). On the other hand they ordered Marie never to mount such bikes again. It seems that Vanderaerden was screwed very hard!

It remains to be shown whether Thierry Marie really gained from such devices. Guimard claimed that this “shark fin” enabled the rider to better distribute the muscle power (link above).

According to another article, however, “Thierry Marie rode this interesting saddle in some prologues in the early 90s.  This was not for additional power, as many believe.  Rather, this saddle was a modified toilet seat that accommodated Thierry's penchant for crapping himself during hard efforts”.

1987: A Skilful Cyclocrosser

That Vanderaerden had talent for cyclocross is clear from his national titles in the novice and junior categories but due to his abilities on the road, he’d rather left cyclocross aside since the amateur category before a come-back in 1987 for the Nationals.

The best Belgian cyclocrosser of the time was Roland Liboton. He considered the National Championship in those days as often harder than the World Championship (seems over the top!) and the presence of Eric Vanderaerden in the National is one of the main reasons for that statement[8]

As a matter of fact Liboton didn’t like the presence of such roadies in cyclocross championships. He said about Vanderaerden’s presence in the 1987 nats: “he was fresh and we were tired after a long and hard winter and he came to annoy us” (same source).

That year the Championship was held in Mol (Boonen’s hometown where he’s organized a charity event since 2008), in the Antwerps Campine: a very sand route. Sand does not seem suited to Vanderaerden’s heavy weight. He would dig trenches in there. Yet his performance was amazing.

We may report three different versions of that race.

Version 1:

According to Luc Lamon & Mark Van Hamme[9], Vanderaerden took the fastest start but very quickly Paul De Brauwer took over and broke away. In lap 2, De Brauwer was caught by only Liboton and … Vanderaerden. Lamon & Van Hamme added to it that Eric dropped somewhere in the race and was replaced in the lead group by Messelis. Liboton would capitalize on a supporter knocking De Brauwer, which also hindered Messelis to break away. The whole thing happened with 4 laps to go.

The final results looked like:

1 Roland Liboton in 1h 14’48’’ (notice that the race time easily exceeds the hour, mandatory winning time in present-day crosses)
2 Paul De Brauwer +1’15’’
3 Yvan Messelis s.t.
4 Eric Vanderaerden + 1’47”
5 Danny De Bie + 2’11”

Version 2:
However in the book by Truyers, Liboton argued that it was hard to drop him and that with 3 laps to go, Eric was still in the lead group. “The route was taylor-made for him: fast, not technical and not heavy” (but the sand?!). A further comment by Liboton however contradicts the idea that Eric was still in contention for the win with 3 laps to go: “At mid-race, I put my foot down on one of the climbs. I started to ride like a racket. 70m far! Then it was over for Eric. He died in my wheel.”

Version 3:
In 2011 Roland Liboton was invited by Michel Wuyts for the tv-show “De Flandriens van het veld” about cyclocross, on Belgian public broadcaster Canvas. Canvas published an eponymous book over it. In the book Liboton described the finale of that race again, with Wuyts specifying he was in the lead group with De Brauwer and … Vanderaerden (not Messelis!): “the route wasn’t hard enough to create gaps. I gambled everything on the final lap. There were three molehills which we had to run on. That is where I tried to make the difference. I dropped Eric Vanderaerden and on mounting the bike back, I punctured. I then raced a half lap with a flat tube. I was dead scared. […] But I won. Unbelievable.”

It seems clear that Liboton’s versions do not fit with Lamon’s & Van Hamme’s “neutral”description of the race and probably he very much wanted to boast about his beating a road star, as if to make his win look more special.

In the interview with Wuyts, Liboton still really praised Eric’s skills: “Vanderaerden, he could do everything. He was a Roger De Vlaeminck type.” He was no longer angry with him about his light calendar but his anger rather turned to Pascal Richard and Adrie van der Poel (1st & 2nd at the 1988 Worlds) in much the same way as Eric raced the nats: racing a few crosses as preparations for the road. “You couldn’t do anything then if you’d been full gas for the whole winter.”

In Liboton’s opinion, it’s a race falsification and he argued that crossers should race 20 crosses in the season to be selected for the Worlds.

Liboton’s comments help us understand that Stybar’s light calendar (6 races) in the 2013/2014 season was definitely beneficial for him and not the opposite. The freshness of a rider largely adds up for the lack of technical training, unlike some observers claimed then.

1987: Descending Skills on the Poggio, Insufficient for the Win

1987 was the first time in years that Milan-Sanremo does not finish on the Via Roma but on the Corso Cavaloti, closer to the Poggio, the reason seems to be roadwork on the Via Roma. Fortunately, this “intermezzo” only lasted for 7 editions. In 1994 the Primavera got back its most prestigious, long windproof and slightly uphill street – perfect for hard men and attackers -, and its beautiful fountain.

It’s a tragedy for the cycling sport that the second “interlude” lasted as long as the previous one: 7 editions between 2008 and 2014. RCS seems to be talking about yet another street for 2015 [Edit on July 29 2015: The Via Roma came back in 2015]. They of course don’t care about this classic and they are mocking history. It’s sad to see that neither riders nor observers are making any protest to get the Via Roma back!

The 1987 saw a long breakaway of 9 riders, among whom the eventual winner was: Erich Maechler or Dutchmen Jelle Nijdam and Frank Pirard. Vanderaerden’s teammate Peiper also was a part of that breakaway and he escaped on the Cipressa, Maechler came back before the top. On the Via Aurelia Anderson attacked from the peloton, passed the rest of the former lead group but Phil wasn’t in top form yet and couldn’t join the two riders in front. Maechler and Peiper worked along very well but on the Poggio, while the two leaders saw Anderson coming, Maechler attacked and Peiper couldn’t follow.

In the peloton a very rare event happened: a crash on a climb. This mishap partially disturbed the chase and boosted the leader’s chances. On the top of the Poggio, Maechler had a 17” lead ahead of the peloton that had caught all other escapees. It’s a huge advantage considering the fact that the finish line is closer to the Poggio than the Via Roma. Leading the peloton were Kelly and Vanderaerden. The two arch-rivals were fiercely battling and Kelly dives first but Eric made quite an achievement in surprising Kelly on the Poggio descent. God knows that the Irishman successfully showed his amazing bike handling skills on that same technical descent on other occasions. The peloton had already negotiated 5 hairspin turns, the Sporza Highlights (see Appendix 6) found Eric back in the 6th one and his lead ahead of the peloton was still barely 2”. In the following turn, you could tell he gain one more second. On the Corso Cavaloti, he’s kept these two seconds. Unfortunately that was still 6” behind Maechler.

In retrospect it seems that the Panasonic failed tactically. Had Peiper not worked with Maechler in the break away, it was another story. Peiper admitted it: “Quite strangely, Vanderaerden lost the 1987 by my fault. Before the Cipressa I attacked from the lead group but a bit later Maechler caught me. After a few turns on the Poggio, we saw below that Anderson was coming. At that moment, Maechler switched to the high gear and broke away. At the finish he had a 6” lead ahead of Vanderaerden. Had I not attacked before the Cipressa, then perhaps the outcome of the race was a win for Eric.”

At the question whether Vanderaerden was angry with him, Peiper answered: “Eric never said a word about it but I still read in the papers that that Milan-Sanremo Eric’s biggest loss is. I realize that it’s partly my fault.

(Beside the video in Appendix 6, also see Highlights from the RTBF about that race)
 2. - See more at:
 3.  (op. cit.)
 4. (op. cit.)
 6. (in Dutch)
 8. (in Noël Truyers – “Roland Liboton: ik ben de grootste”, BMP 2006)
 9.  (in “Van Thijs tot Nys: 100 jaar Belgisch Kampioenschap Veldrijden”, Houtekiet 2011)
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    "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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    1987: A Sunny Tour of Flanders is not for Eric

    In 1987 the Tour of Flanders was won by French-speaking Belgian Claude Criquielion. The weather conditions for that race were exceptionally hot for that time of the year. In Vanderaerden’s opinion, as he told Michel Wuyts in the book/TV show “De Flandriens” (op. cit.), Criquielion would never have won under cold weather. It’s true that the Cric got his biggest successes in warm temperature, which he loved. However, fair-play as he is, Eric does not want to take anything away from Criquielion: “Beware! All respect to Criquielion. Otherwise you are no World Champion and you don’t shine on Liège-Bastogne-Liège. But if on such a day, you had real race weather, let us say ‘dung weather’, than he does not win the Tour of Flanders. Not in that rain. Not on those cobbles. Not in that wind.”

    In an RTBF documentary about Criquielion “Merci Claudy”, the latter argued that in 1985 as World Champion, he felt forced to race the Tour of Flanders, Eric’s Tour. He was 6th, 30” behind Eric, in a real “dung weather”, as we saw: “rain, wind, gust, something unbelievable”, says Claudy and the Walloon adds that a Flemish friend of his argued that “if you can be 6th, you can also win. There’s no big difference between 1st and 6th.” This might show that after all, Criquielion did have the potential to win that race.

    The race as usual started in the Koppenberg where Eric, Kelly and Bauer attacked. “The three strongest side by side”, said Smeets in the commentaries (See Appendix 7). Criquielion was at that point a bit behind and even was slightly hindered by a crash by Anderson and had to dismount but it didn’t prevent him from getting back in the lead[1].

    This was the last edition of the Tour of Flanders with Koppenberg in the 20th century. A renewed version of the infamous climb came back in 2002, with better aligned cobbles and no car allowed on it, just a fixed camera on top. As a matter of fact the 1987 ascent of the Koppenberg remains famous for the crash by Jesper Skibby, hit by a car on the climb, while he was alone in the lead (see Appendix 7). The mishap hastened the scrapping of an already very controversial climb. When, in 2005, there was another debate to scrap it again, Criquielion reminded journalists that himself dismounted on the Koppenberg the year he won.

    After the Koppenberg, the royal trio mentioned above was joined by 3 other riders who seemed clearly less strong on the climb: Sergeant, L. Peeters and Rooks. Criquielion made a great second part of the ascent because he was seen not far behind with van der Poel and the two were soon to get back, as well: to make it an 8-man group ahead with a gigantic gap with the rest of the race. Only Ronny Van Holen and Eric’s true helper, Peiper joined the group again after that.

    Nothing happened in the climbs and Criquielion attacked on the plains. Kelly and Bauer were leading the group at that moment, Sergeant and Peiper tried to counter but failed.

    In the documentary “Merci Claudy”, the eventual winner explained that he very much capitalized on the rivalry between Eric and Kelly. “At that time, it was the war between Kelly and Vanderaerden. They were the two fastest.” But Kelly has always been a friend of his. So when he attacked, Kelly did not move. “Vanderaerden waited a little bit after Kelly but Kelly still did not move. They hesitated and I took 50m, 100m, 30”, 1’ and it was over.”

    Classic scenario in classics when chasers are waiting for the others to move behind an attacker and the others don’t move and the attacker flies. Vanderaerden also seems to have lost to a Kelly/Criquielion “coalition” but it’s part of the sport.

    Kelly is 2nd and Vanderaerden 3rd. The whole group finished exactly 1’ behind Criquielion.

    1987: The Vanderaerden-Kelly Rivalry Continues

    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.

    Eric’s only regret about this victory is that it was not on the Velodrome. Between 1986 and 1988, the organizers decided to move the finish line in a street of Roubaix: the “Rue des Nations-Unies” (what a name for a tradition breaking operation!) because it was where the mail order selling company “La Redoute” - co-sponsor of the race – had its registered office. Publicity is the enemy! The irony being that in the meantime the amateur Paris-Roubaix still ended on the velodrome. In September 1988, Jean-Marie Leblanc wrote an article in L’Équipe (he was a journalist then, and not ASO’s President yet) headlined “The Nostalgy of the Velodrome”, pleading for a return of the track. He’s been listened to[3].

    In 2005 Eric was a spectator in the velodrome when Boonen won for the first time. “Entering that track, the people that shouted and you ride and you make your whole lap and then to the line, those hands raised. I haven’t experienced that. So when I saw Boonen, I was still a bit jealous against this fellow.”

    The trophy was also not the legendary cobble trophy that modern winners receive. That tradition precisely started the following year: 1988. However Vanderaerden received a tiny little golden cobble that he brought with him in 2011 when he was invited by Michel Wuyts for the TV-Show “De Flandriens” and that he showed to the cameras.

    Sébastien Japrisot (1931-2003) was a French author and film director, his book “Un long dimanche de fiançailles” (“A Very Long Engagement”) was adapted into a well-known film.

    He followed the 1987 Paris-Roubaix and wrote a column about it called “La dynastie des Forsythias” that was copied in the book by L’Équipe[4]. He didn’t agree with all the criticists who thought it was not a great Paris-Roubaix. Not one to raise the enthusiasm “of my childhood” but “I’ll remember how the blondie Eric inexorably swallowed Versluys and Dhaenens in order to outsprint them, with his two opened arms like the Christ’s that mark off the road of Hell.”

    Japrisot also wondered if “King Kelly” (in English in the text) would have followed “a boosted Vanderaerden, without his crash; would he have sprinted with him, a dream sprint that everybody waited for? Mystery will remain. Mystery sparks legends. At the end of the day, it’s what makes sure that a defeat just as two victories places you in a dynasty” [referring to Kelly’s two victories].

    Japrisot ends his column with this respectful quote: “There are no losers in Paris-Roubaix!”

    1987: The 2nd win in the GP Eddy Merckx

    In 1987 Eric Vanderaerden ended another great season with his 2nd GP Eddy Merckx win in the streets of Brussels.

    Mostly the speed in which he got it was impressive: 49.566kmh. That speed is the 2nd fastest average speed in the history of the race in the ITT period, the fastest one will remain Chris Boardman’s 1996 performance: 51.246kmh, but in a different era, with tri-bars and other more advanced technology and on the smallest distance in the history of the race: 52km. It seems amazing that before Boardman, no riders have been able to break his record, while they had tri-bars, some of them are known EPO dopers and the distance was shorter (ranging from 52 to 63km). The weather conditions surely played a role and the route might have changed but it remained mainly flat (as we remembered it).

    The field was not as impressive as in 1985 but still some renowned ITT specialists were there:

    1 Eric Vanderaerden
    2 Edwig Van Hooydonck + 35”
    3 Charly Mottet + 1’49”
    4 Erik Breukink + 1’52”
    5 Claude Criquielion 2’05”

    The two GP Merckx that Eric has won are certainly not among his most prestigious wins but still they are testament of his having a big engine. ITT’s are the ultimate test in the cycling sport. You can’t cheat, you can’t draft in ITT’s. That is why they deserve a mention here.

    The Hotel Room Door and Other Jokes

    Eddy Planckaert and Eric Vanderaerden were known as funny jokers inside the peloton. One of their jokes than remained famous even among future generations of Belgian riders is the famous hotel room door joke.
    It happened in a French hotel. When? Where exactly? During which race (if it were not during a training session)? Impossible to say!

    Michel Wuyts describes it in the book “De Flandriens”. In order to cool down, Vanderaerden took Planckaert’s hotel room door off its hinges, placed it in the lift and called the ground floor. What he did not know was that Post was waiting for the lift on the ground floor along with … the hotel manager. They of course knocked against Planckaert’s door.

    Wuyts knows that Planckaert claims it was the reverse: he took Vanderaerden’s hotel room door off its hinges and put it in the lift, calling for the ground floor.

    Planckaert usually embroiders his stories. He talked about a French 5-star hotel. About a lot laughs but not for long as Post came up really angry at Eric – who was innocent in Planckaert’s story but according to Wuyts, was guilty (source: “Het Geslacht Planckaert”, op. cit.)

    Planckaert also added another jokes to that which happened two days after, according to him. They were staying on the 6th floor of another hotel and they were throwing plastic bags full of water from the balcony. Coincidence had it that the hotel manager was among their victims. Post was again furious.

    One joke that Post appreciated though is the hosepipe joke. Whenever they found one in a hotel, they couldn’t refrain. They took it, knocked on a rider’s room door and the latter got the full content. At one moment said Planckaert[5], “we knocked on my brother Walter’s door. Right at the moment Eric wanted to come in, Post came up in the hall. ‘Now’ he said,’if you are true man you’d spray that at me.’ We were looking at each other a bit and in the end, Eric did turn the lever. Post was drenched.”

    Those jokes are still famous enough among Belgian riders. Leif Hoste referred to the hotel room door and the hosepipes in a 2009 interview on He referred to them as “rock & roll situations”, which were then gone.
    1988: A Peiper Tale from Tirreno-Adriatico


    Answering the question which domestique performance he was the proudest of, Allan Peiper recalled the 5th stage of the 1988 edition of Tirreno-Adriatico: 207km from Porto Recanati to Appiano.

    Peiper remembered that the roadbook rather told about a flat stage but the finale was hillier than planned. With about 20km to go he was in a small chase group with Vanderaerden. “I then joined the lead group with Erik and we took turns, along with two guys from Adriano Baffi’s team and with the wind full in the face. I then lead out the sprint myself for Erik and he nicely won the stage.” When Allan crossed the line he got a nod from Giuseppe Saronni: “well done!” “Saronni, he was THE World champion, the rider I admired so much and he showed his appreciation to me. I won’t forget that moment anymore.”

    The finish was slightly uphill says Gino Sala in L’Unita. The stage had been animated by the long escape by Fabio Roscioli. But probably in the final 20km – based on the testimony by Peiper – two Belgians tried to escape: Ludo Peeters and Edwig Van Hooydonck and then another pair of riders: Jean-Claude Leclercq and Danilo Gioia.

    Eric outsprinted Adriano Baffi, Maurizio Fondriest 4th, Steven Rooks 8th, Adrie van der Poel 9th. The fact that some of the top10 riders were not pure sprinters suggests that the finale was quite heavy.

    The final day was divided into two semi-stages. Eric outsprinted Baffi again in the morning in-line stage but was relegated for irregular sprint. According to Gino Sala he deviated from left to right and nailed down his rival to the barricades. The relegation was justified according to the journalist.

    The 2nd stage was the classic ITT in San Benedetto del Tronto – which at that time was still 18.3km, so twice as long as the 2014 final ITT (that is no longer a semi-stage – and Erich Maechler surprisingly consolidated his lead by winning it, with a 3” lead ahead of Rolf Sörensen. Van Hooydonck was 3rd (+6”). Eric was 4th (+8”) and Rominger was 5th (+10”).

    In the general classification, Vanderaerden was also 4th, 28” behind Maechler, Rominger 2nd (+16”), Sörensen 3rd (+21”) and Van Hooydonck 5th (36”).

    1988: Planckaert Leaving Panasonic, Suddenly Thrust into the Position of a Leader

    In 2010, Eddy Planckaert and Roger De Vlaeminck were invited together on the TV show “De Laatste Show” on Canvas, for the promotion of the series & book “De Flandriens”[7].

    Roger said about Planckaert (in a good spirit): “What I saw from him is that he led out the sprint for Vanderaerden and if he sprinted through, then he won himself [Eddy laughs]. You don’t do that as a champion. He was a champion and … [interrupted by the interviewer]. In my opinion, Tour of Lombardy aside, he could also perform in Liège-Bastogne-Liège [Eddy is dubitative]. He precisely didn’t believe in it. Not enough confidence, I think.”

    Typical De Vlaeminck who always admitted that his own partnership with Moser was one of the most stupid things he ever did. He does not believe in co-leadership. That applies to Planckaert and Vanderaerden.

    He saw that in the 1984 Ghent-Wevelgem, the lead out role for Vanderaerden was an order from Post (at least that is how Planckaert explained it).

    In the “Flandriens” show and book, Michel Wuyts asked Planckaert why, he thought, Post favoured Vanderaerden above him. Planckaert answered that Post liked the riders who could time-trial and had “rouleur” abilities and he admitted that Vanderaerden could do that very well. “Eric was Post’s favourite. He always wanted him to win”, said Planckaert.

    In other words he admitted that Vanderaerden was a better rider than he was. He had a better engine. However in the sprint, he was probably intrinsically faster in sprints. That is at least what he told Wuyts and might very well be the case. “In retrospect I should have gone away much sooner. […] I should never have stayed for so long with Post.”

    By 1988, however, Planckaert emancipated from the domestic role for Vanderaerden in Post’s system and became a leader at the ADR team of flamboyant millionair businessman François Lefebvre and won straight the Tour of Flanders while his teammate Dirk Demol, surprisingly won Paris-Roubaix. Planckaert won Paris-Roubaix himself two years later but at that time, while ADR went bankrupt, he was back to Post’s Panasonic… but Vanderaerden had left …

    Planckaert’s rise to stardom with this win at the Tour of Flanders also corresponded with Vanderaerden’s decline.

    1988: The Decline at Age 26

    The excellent performance at the 1988 Tirreno Adriatico seemed to mark the end of Vanderaerden’s heydays. Of course he was involved in a massive crash in the 1988 Tour of Flanders that former teammate Planckaert won but the rest of the season was also very poor. His 1986 season was already poor but not as much as the 1988 one and he brilliantly came back on top in 1987, while after 1988, Eric never got back at his best. He was still to race for 9 years at that point, still winning decent semi-classics and small stage races (he had not become a total mug!) but a win in a major classics was then out of reach and even top10’s in them were getting rare.

    To Michel Wuyts in the Flandrien show and book, Vanderaerden explained that he was “too old for modern training.” It was hard to convince him to do fitness training in winter and even less to race with a heart rate meter (which had been in use in the peloton since 1983 at least, Emanuele Bombini was the first use it. The GIS Gelati team from 1984 used it, too – sources: Fer Schroeders in “De wielerklassiekers tot 2000”, De Eecloonaar 1999 and Roger De Vlaeminck & Carl Huybrechts in “Mijn memoires, onverbloemd”, Borgerhoff & Lamberigts, 2012). In winter Eric would rather take out his cross bikes and have a ride in the woods, he told Wuyts. Does that mean that strictly his inability to adapt to new methods and equipments was the reason behind his quick decline?

    In October 1989, Eric explained to Le Soir that he regularly had visited his doctor in Maastricht throughout the season and that all the tests were good. He could not explain what happened that year. The results, mainly in the classics didn’t follow.

    We should also consider the possibility that Eric might also have been cheated by dopers. EPO doping probably started generalizing in the peloton by 1990, with exceptional performances by some supposedly obscure riders. By that time it seems clear that Eric was cheated as were so many. But we are now in 1988.

    His former teammate, climber Peter Winnen, argued in an interview for NRC in 1999 (“Toen doping nog onschuldig was”/”When Doping Was Still Innocent”) that until 1987 doping was an accepted data but that sponsors and staff were in search of an elixir. […] Thereafter the mentality changed. When the real things such as EPO and HGH were discovered, everybody had secrets for each other again in the peloton.

    In 2013, Winnen completed his story to Thijs Zonneveld[8] that “in 1988, it all went wrong. Some riders dropped as though they had a motor. […] In the late eighties, there were a lot of stories about PDM. They had a lab in Eindhoven. In 1988 they seemed to have used blood transfusion.” This reading, says Zonneveld, seems to be confirmed by another (anonymous?) rider: “Peter Janssen, the team doctor, found somebody in Germany for blood doping” (East or West Germany?).

    The use of blood doping by PDM in 1988 was confirmed by the team soigneur in 2013 as well, which hit the big line because it only concerned the Tour of France squad. We are yet to know whether they already used this technology in the classics but their global results already suggest it might be the case. Unless cycling observers in the 21st century suddenly widely get interested in the classics, we’d never know that.

    The first efficient use of blood transfusion might be traced back in 1984, when Moser made his two “hour performances” on an aerodynamic bike. He admitted later on to blood transfusion. It would be surprising if he was the only rider to have access to this new technology between 1984 and 1988. Yet many testimonies from the eighties suggest blood transfusion was not that widespread until 1988, which might be another first turning point in “doping history”. 

    Did other team than PDM resort to blood doping by 1988? It might be. ADR won the two cobbled classics back then. There’s no evidence either Planckaert or Demol used blood doping then but later Planckaert admitted to injecting cells of sheep blood as an early form of blood doping for his 1990 Paris-Roubaix win. He later admitted to EPO use.

    Perhaps, history will tell us what really went on in the classics in 1988 and 1989 because in October 2014, it still is mist.

    However the fact that many riders with a good reputation regarding doping could do better than Vanderaerden in all those years show that doping cannot be the only reason and probably upright as he is, Eric himself, will never say so.

    1989: Fourth Straight Win in De Panne

    Despite a poor 1988 season, Post still seemed to trust Eric – at least at the start of the 1989 season. He got a pay rise to 10M Belgian Franks (yearly salary probably; 250,000€ of that time), according to Le Soir.

    However says Eugène Boschmans from Le Soir, only De Panne seems to inspire him, now. He had won the three previous editions.

    In 1989 the first day was the one divided into two semi-stages, while in 2014 it’s the last one. The first semi-stage was the one over the Flandrians climbs, 8 of them in total but the final one – the Kemmelberg – was only situated 80km far from finish. Eric won the sprint but a big crash created a 10” gap in the peloton after the 12th. Kelly and LeMond were stopped by the crash.

    In the ITT – 16.7km in Herzele (it’s again interesting to note that the De Panne ITT of that time was longer than in the 21st century: e.g. 14.3km in 2014 or 11.5km in 2006) -  Vanderaerden was managed to catch Etienne De Wilde, who started 1’ before him and to beat Jelle Nijdam by 2”.

    ITT result:

    1 Eric Vanderaerden
    2 Jelle Nijdam +2”
    3 Allan Peiper +29”
    4 Phil Anderson +35”
    5 Claude Criquielion 37’’
    6 Sean Kelly +38’’
    7 Edwig Van Hooydonck +49’’
    8 Thierry Marie +50”
    9 Charly Mottet +51”
    10 Herman Frison +53”
    11 Frans Maassen +58”
    12 Dag-Otto Lauritzen +1’03”
    13 Laurent Fignon +1’03”
    14 Rolf Sörensen +1’04”
    15 Marc Sergeant +1’04”

    LeMond is 19th. The top15 seems exceptionally solid for De Panne standard, compared to the present-day field. The gap between Nijdam 2nd and Peiper 3rd, is impressive.

    The following two stages also ended in bunch sprints, both won by Baffi, despite another ascent of the Kemmel on the 2nd day.

    The top10 of the ITT is the top10 of the GC with only increased gaps (Eric caught bonus in sprints) and Frison moving up to 7th place.

    Eric Vanderaerden got his 4th win in De Panne. That record still has never been broken till date … but by himself!

    1989: The “Tour de Trump” Farce

    The « Tour de Trump » was a new race in the cycling calendar in 1989. It replaced the Coors Classic, even though the Coors Classic was set in Colorado and the “Tour de Trump” on the East Coast.

    The race names already suggests the cosmopolitan aspect of the upper-class that Donald Trump represents (who sponsored the race): a French name for an American race, a mix of everything, a bit like the character Mustapha Menier in Huxley’s “Brave New World”.

    Donald Trump is Fred Trump’s son: An entrepreneur who helped re-building Brooklyn & Queen’s after the war (NY Times).Trump officially joined his father’s company in 1968 (Elizabeth Trump & Son) and was given control of it in 1971, renaming it “The Trump Organization”.

    On March 15 1982, Trump received a gaming licence from New Jersey’s Casino Control Commission.

    Between 1984 and 1988, Trump opened three hotels/casinos in Atlantic City: The Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, the Trump Marina and the Taj Mahal Casino.

    In 1990, while Trump sponsored the 2nd and last edition of his race, financial analyst Marvin B. Roffman was ousted from his companies for negative comments on Taj Mahal. In November that year, Taj Mahal declared bankruptcy for the first time.

    The 1989 Tour de Trump ended with an ITT in Atlantic City, just before the Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino: an awful stage passing before those ugly hotels & casinos with kitsch tasteless post-modern architecture. The East Coast in all its arrogance!

    That city seems to epitomize the way Christopher Lasch, after Ralph Waldo Emerson described the city life: “babyish”. “It fosters vanity, luxury, and frivolous display. Though it sometimes puts wealth to good use […] for the most part it subordinates the public uses of wealth to private amusement and thus make wealth a ‘toy’.[…] ‘They degrade us by magnifying trifles.’ ”

    The drama will happen in that environment.
    It however all started in a beautiful natural landscape of the Appalachians, in Albany, NY. The prologue though was falsified by weather changes. That is how a young American Thomas Craven, won the prologue by racing in dry conditions. The complete results for the prologue are hard to find but the footage from NBC (see Appendix 10 to 13) says Vanderaerden did 4” better than Davis Phinney who could prologue very well when he was on and 3” better than Viacheslav Ekimov.

    The decisive stage was the 2nd one between New-York and Allentown when a 3-man breakaway had formed with Dag-Otto Lauritzen, veteran Henk Lubberding and Paul Curran. Lubberding won the stage but Lauritzen took the lead in the GC and will hold it trough.

    Leaving Allentown, Vanderaerden was trailing Lauritzen by 3’49”. However the promoters were very generous with their time bonus system: 30” for stage win and 20” for 2nd place in stages. This is in a way abnormal and given this fact we may argue that Lauritzen deserves his win anyway because he was the fastest in the race, if you strictly consider real time.

    Nevertheless, these time bonuses - his 3 stage wins in sprints and two 2nd places – gave him 2’10” for free and he was back in the race. In the meantime, he also won another ITT in Richmond (14.5km) in which he took 39” back from Lauritzen. Ekimov was 2nd in the stage.

    Before the final ITT in Atlantic City, Vanderaerden trailed in the GC by 50”. Given the fact that he gained 39” from Lauritzen in a 14.5km ITT in Richmond, he was confident he could gain 50” in a 38.6km ITT in Atlantic City.

    But first the 7-Eleven riders – like Lauritzen and Phinney but not Hampsten – used new equipment which will revolutionise cycling: the clip-ons aerobars, giving them a huge advantage.

    A)   The Aerobars

    Let us remember that the first use of aerobars in cycle racing date from the Seoul 100km TTT Olympic race. The American squad used it but it was not the same kind of bars as the 7-Eleven riders used in 1989. They were one-piece aerobars and they were sanctioned by the UCI.

    The “clip-ons” aerobars were first used by triathlete Ray Browning in the Ironman of New Zealand in March 1989, hence it’s commonly referred to as “tri-bars” (see our Andy Hampsten Bio) and brought to cycling by the 7-Eleven in that Tour de Trump.

    The “clip-ons” bars were illegal in 1989 as they broke the earlier mentioned 3-point rule (see Chapter about Marie’s “back saddle fairing” – Article 49 of the UCI ruling – which stated that only 3 resting points were allowed on the bicycle: the hands on the bars, the seat on the saddle and the feet on the pedal mechanism. Since the clip-ons were also equipped with arms rests that enabled the rider to rest their forearms on the bike in addition to the other three points, you may argue that the clip-ons give one or two additional resting points. It was illegal.

    That is why during the Tour of Italy, Mr Ledent – UCI commissar – stopped Hampsten (& probably the other 7-Eleven riders too) from using it. His colleague Mr Jacquat was not as strict on the Tour of France and LeMond and the 7-Eleven were allowed to make use of it because of the UCI laxness with its own rules. In the Eddy Merckx GP in September, Fignon entered with a bike equipped with clip-ons and was denied starting with it by Mr Ledent. In a form of protest he decided not to race at all, despite having a reserve bike. However he won the Baracchi Trophy with Marie, using the old one-piece aero-bars used by the American team at the 1988 Olympics, but not with the clip-ons which were only allowed on September 24 for the GP des Nations.

    During that ITT in Atlantic City, commentator Greg Lewis interviewed Connie Carpenter – Davis’ wife and Taylor’s mother – saying that Phinney had tried it out one week before. They knew that the triathletes were using it. “They make you more aerodynamic, they let your arms relax a bit more and let you use your legs better.” It was kind of an experiment but it might pay off, she also said.

    Lauritzen who was not an ITT specialist did not seem at home with this new piece of equipment, though. He didn’t even rest his forearms on the rests. However this new piece of equipment was planned for the GT’s to come and not for the Tour de Trump. Only the prospect of a win for an American team on home soil was so tempting.

    B)   The Off-Course Excursion

    Before half-way Eric went off-course as he had to negotiate a turn but went straight ahead. He probably raced an extra 800m or so:

    A controversy arose. Vanderaerden being European is used to motorcycle preceding riders but race organizer Mike Plant only allowed motorcycle following them, to supply them with wheels in case of puncture. In that turn, Plant argued that there were cones and a marshal to indicate the route. Vanderaerden said he saw no marshal there. For many it seems that it was vitally important for the race to be won by a rider from an American team and only Eric could stop this to happen. Especially the fact that Eric was one of the latest to start shows that something was weird in the absence of any marshal at that point.

    According to the above mentioned article from the NY Times: Theunisse had little sympathy for Vanderaerden:''Everybody must know the course,'' Theunisse said. ''It's in the book. Maybe the marshal was looking the other way. My teammate, [the late] Johannes Draaijer, told me he got lost twice in the race and told me to look out. He said the marshals were signaling for cars and he thought they were signaling for him.''

    To Greg Lewis, Eric argued in his broken English that he did recognize the route in the morning but there were so many turns that you could not know the route by heart. He also seemed resigned to his fate and accepted it: “it’s too late. There’s nothing you can do.” Lewis in a diplomatic way congratulated for his brilliant performances throughout the 10 days of racing.

    1989: The Irish Razzia

    The Tour of Ireland has existed since 1953 as an amateur race and was opened to professional riders in 1985 after the success and popularity of Sean Kelly and, to a lesser extent, Stephen Roche. It disappeared in 1992 as those two riders were past it, with a short revival between 2007 and 2009.

    In 1989, Eric Vanderaerden made a real sweap over the race winning 4 of the 6 stages (the four of them in a row!), including the ITT and of course wins the GC.

    The ITT on Oct 1 was a masterpiece. Its distance was 40km from Kilkenny to Carlow, showing once again that Eric could perform on longer ITT and against a tough field.

    Eric did not make use of the tri-bars which yet was made legal since the GP des Nations (see previous chapter) and so started with a disadvantage against his opponents. Mottet had made use of them in the Nations, just like Wegmuller and they very probably still used them here.

    Half-way in the race, Eric was only trailing Charly Mottet by 7” but he was ahead of Kelly by 26”. The 2nd part was just breathtaking. With 5km to go say “Le Soir” (or 7 miles to go, according to this article) he had Kelly in focus who had started 1’ before him and passed him on entering Carlow. On the line, this time, he was 9” clear of Mottet, though he was a bit favoured by having Kelly as a target. Kelly is classified a minute behind, so he must have crossed the line with VdA.

    Defeating his arch-rival, on his home soil, a champion who was adulated by a whole people, shouting his name, that was quite an achievement indeed. Kelly was as always super motivated in front of his public announcing he would fight for every second in bonus sprints[9]. Besides, since Eric is no longer on good term with Post[10], this blasting victory showed he still had a placed in the peloton.

    ITT Results

    1. Eric Vanderaerden, in 51.19;
    2. Charly Mottet 0.09;
    3. Thomas Wegmuller 0.20;
    4. Johan Museeuw 0.59;
    5. Sean Kelly 1.00;
    6. Tony Doyle 1.04.
    7. Brian Walton 1.14;
     8. Eric Breukink 1.21;
    9. Ron Kiefel 1.28;
    10. Benjamin Van Itterbeek, 1.34;

    Final GC:

    1. Eric Vanderaerden, 24.18.15;
    2. Charly Mottet 0.46
    3. Thomas Wegmuller 0.56;
    4. Sean Kelly 1.16;
    5. Johan Museeuw 1.30;
    6. Brian Walton 1.54;
    7. Eric Breukink 2.01;
    8. Ron Kiefel 2.08;
    9. Benjamin Van Itterbeeck 2.10;
    10. Dag-Otto Lauritzen (Nor), à 2.17

    The Tour of Ireland was a perfect springboard of the last classic that suited him: Paris-Tours. Unfortunately, on the Avenue de Grammont, he finished 2nd to Jelle Nijdam. The Flying Dutchman was known for his late attacks under the 1km banner but this time he calmed down when passing under the red kite and waited for the sprint to beat Eric.

    1989/1990: Defecting to the Enemy
    After 6 seasons racing for Post, Eric decided to leave the team by the end of 1989, shortly after his win in Ireland. However, his new team was no like any other teams. It was the Buckler team of Post’s fiercest enemy: Jan Raas. The rivalry between the two then DS divided the Netherlands and many Post fans might have felt it was an act of high treason.

    Vanderaerden argued after his win in Ireland that the relationship between him and Post had deteriorated in the past two years, despite the pay rise at the start of the season. He argued that Post had lost trust in him and that he probably stayed two years too long with him. “Everything was said behind my back”, he said. What Post thought about him, he only discovered in the newspapers, while before, he would always say tell things straight to his face.

    At the start of the 1990 season he stood by what he had said. He had stayed too long with Post. Post even argued that he no longer had his place in the pro peloton.

    Jan Raas already contacted him for the 1988 season but he was still in contract for Panasonic. He tried again for the 1989 one but he couldn’t offer all the guarantees that he’d expected. Eric had signed for Buckler just after the 1989 Tour of France. He was impressed by Raas’ efficiency, the way he led his teammate, his organization. “Raas says in two words what Post explained in two hours.”

    1990: Eric and the Eastern Riders in De Panne

    1990 was a pivotal year in many ways in cycling. First the UCI who had already created the World Cup, cut the distance of the non-World Cup events. Probably EPO was the reason for many unbelievable performances but also Eastern riders turned pro “en masse” after the Fall of the Berlin Wall and became new opponants to Western Europeans.

    Some already did but they rather were isolated cases. In the Tour de Trump, Vanderaerden defeated Ekimov in an ITT but Ekimov was still an amateur rider, racing an “open” race.

    For the ITT of the 1990 Three Days of De Panne – 17km in Herzele –, Le Soir headlined their article Vanderaerden Sweeps Away the Eastern Wind. Two of his main opponents came from Poland: Zenon Jaskula and the late Joachim Halupczok. The latter was 10th, 35” behind Eric but had lost some 20”due to a route mistake. The former was 2nd, 9” behind Eric. The other riders were Eastern Euros and regular opponents to Eric in this type of races. No surprise:

    1.   Eric Vanderaerden
    2.   Zenon Jaskula +9”
    3.   Thierry Marie s.t.
    4.   Frans Maassen +13”
    5.   Erwin Nijboer s.t.
    6.   Jelle Nijdam +19”
    7.   Laurent Fignon +21”
    8.   Johan Museeuw +27”
    9.   Nico Verhoeven s.t.
    10.   Joachim Halupczok +35”
    11.   Gerrit Solleveld +??
    12.   Allan Peiper +??
    13.   Steve Bauer +47”

    Kelly, Fondriest and Piasecki were among the disappointing riders of the day.

    During that ITT Eric made another striking performance when catching Greg LeMond who started TWO MINUTES before him. “I had absolutely not planned to catch LeMond but when I saw him in front of me on a little climb, I put the hammer down. This route in Herzele is taylor-made for me: turning just as it should be, hilly but not too hard to handle, it’s an ideal terrain for me.”
    The GC win escaped him, the next day during the “berg” stage (including the Taaienberg, the Ten HauteBerg and the Kruisberg), in a pretty tragic-comic way. With 40km to go, he took a “health break” on the countryside near Koksijde. That way, he missed the right 15-man breakaway, initiated by Peter Huyghe, which included the Van der Poel brothers, Anderson, Solleveld and Museeuw (who won the stage). Nijboer was the best ranked and won so the 3-Days of De Panne. Eric finished 9th.

    1991: A Reassuring Defeat

    Bruno Deblander of Le Soir claimed that a top form Vanderaerden could be seen in the head of the peloton on the Turchino and on the Capo Berta before winning the peloton sprint for 3rd place in the 1991 Milan-Sanremo. In another article, Mr Deblander rather said that the Belgians were shining by their absence on the Turchino. What should we believe?

    In any case, 23 years after the facts, it’s now admitted that the performances by Chiappucci (winner) and Sörensen (runner-up) are doubtful. The two riders attacked on the Turchino descent and remain in the lead for 180km or so, even in the ascent of the Turchino, the Carrera of Chiappucci already set up an insane tempo. Fignon said “usually such breakaways are eventually caught.” Chiappucci is from the same generation as Vanderaerden is, born the same year. Where was Chiappucci when Vanderaerden won the Paris-Nice prologue at age 21??

    Vanderaerden was satisfied about his form. He had a very good Tirreno before and at that point Raas still trusted him. He only lost to an (artificially?) stronger rider, unlike the loss to Maechler which was harder to accept.

    “Milan-Sanremo Has Never Ended in a Mass Sprint So Far” Says Vanderaerden

    It’s interesting to note that Vanderaerden outsprinted a “peloton” twice in Sanremo but never for the win. That year 1991, the bunch consisted of 51 riders. In 1985 he already sprinted for 4th behind Kuiper, Van Vliet and Silvano Riccò.

    In 2006 Vanderaerden surprised with the comment on Sport.bethat Milan-Sanremo was yet to end in a bunch sprint (the translation slightly modifies the meaning. In Dutch, Vanderaerden says “massasprint”, an English litteral translation “mass sprint” perhaps translates his point better), while apparently Petacchi won in a bunch sprint the year before those comments.

    He argued that from the 200 starters, only a maximum of 70 of them remain. So that is no longer a bunch, in his opinion. It’s just a “group.” Actually the record was 90 riders but a long way back in 1959, then without even the Poggio. In recent years, 2004 had a record 62 riders in the peloton. 44 riders in 2002. The rest ranges from 19 to 40 riders.

    These comments by an experienced former great champion show how underrated this classic is. Who should be trusted: Eric Vanderaerden or a casual cycling fan from the 21st century? 300km in long straight lines, with the side wind from the Med and several climbs is certainly not anyone’s take. Milan-Sanremo is definitely a major classic.  Eric just said why.

    1993: The 5th De Panne Victory, 4 Years After the 4th One

    At age 31 Eric Vanderaerden got a 5th victory in the Three-Days of De Panne, 4 years after his 4th one. The route changed a little bit. This time the time-trial of the first day was a 27km team one and the decider since Eric’s WordPerfect got the win (with Van Hooydonck, Maassen, Moncassin, etc.), Fondriest’s Lampre was 14” behind and Histor (Post’s new team with Sergeant among others) was 3rd, 31” behind.

    In the morning stage between Harelbeke and Herzele (140km) with several mounts, including the Tenbosse, a group of ~20 riders escaped around Ninove, including Van Hooydonck, Kelly, Vanderaerden, van der Poel and Verhoeven but one Norwegian surprised the sprinters by a late attack under the red kite and got the stage win: Dag-Otto Lauritzen. Vanderaerden was 3rd, 2” behind.

    In the second stage, Eric got in a breakaway after an attack by Ballerini on the Kemmelberg, and 20 riders escaped but were caught, despite a gap that went up to 1’.

    The final ITT in De Panne looks like the modern one – 14km. Eric started right at the moment the rain started pouring. Despite that disadvantage, Eric still finished 5th  in the stage, while the first 4: teammate Nijdam, Eddy Seigneur, Ekimov and Olaf Ludwig were not dangerous for the win. The danger for Eric came from others of his teammates: Frans Maassen and Edwig Van Hooydonck who were classified in the same time and 1” behind respectively. Greg LeMond came 8th. Jacky Durand 9th and Gianvito Martinelli was 10th.

    The story of the latter Italian rider was a little sad. He had set the best time and was impatiently waiting to go to the podium when finally the speaker announced – in a language that he could not understand – that he was no longer the winner. According to Le Soir, he followed the motorbike too closely. 

    In the overall standing, Vanderaerden still led Maassen by 8” and Van Hooydonck by 11” (he was granted a few bonuses “en route”, should be said though).

    1993: Fired by Raas

    It happened in August 1993 in the evening of the first stage of the Tour of the Limousin. Eric and two teammates – Martin Kokkelkoren and Wilco Zuyderwijck – were having a party in the hotel, too much rumpus. The three riders were sacked in an instant by Jan Raas and Eric was jobless for the rest of the season. He became a merchant in leather clothes and still raced kermesses but in the meantime he was negotiating a contract with an Italian team. That would be Brescialat, a small team with Flavio Giupponi and Gabriele Missaglia among others.

    Raas still considered Eric as a good rider and who was useful for the team but his reputation as an excentric scares more than one DS, at least in Belgium, says Émmanuel Robert from Le Soir.

    The transfer to an Italian team immediately reminds us of Edwig Van Hooydonck’s much later comments that “all the Belgian riders who wanted to perform moved to Italy or Spain” (comments to Het Nieuwsblad and the Belgian broadcaster BRTN, in 2007 shortly after the admition to doping by former Telekom riders)[See our Edwig Van Hooydonck Bio]. Naturally, we should specify that Van Hooydonck never actually accused Vanderaerden. First the wave of Belgian riders moving to Italy to be supplied with EPO had started long before the 1994 season and second Eric moved away because he was jobless after Raas sacked him and needed to find a new employer, one way or another. It isn’t so that everybody who moved to Italy were dopers and probably some Italian riders of the time didn’t either (but we can say whom). Eric spent four seasons in the Buckler/WordPerfect teams of Jan Raas who according to Van Hooydonck, strictly observed a zero-tolerance towards doping. After all those years of probable ‘clean’ riding, would he switch to EPO? Perhaps because it was no longer possible to follow as many have?

    The 1994 season for Eric was the worse of his whole career. That was a year when performances especially on the classics became really crazy. All this obviously pleads in his favour. In 1995 he did his best performance in Paris-Roubaix in years but that was about the only great performance he did that year and we shall see how it unfolded.
    Anyway, there’s no real evidence that Vanderaerden discovered EPO when racing for Brescialat. The team itself showed no evidence of organized doping either (to our knowledge). He never tested positive, never was confounded in any way. His past on the contrary rather tend to suggest he’s rather been cheated.

    1995: The Last Hurrah

    In 1995 Eric Vanderaerden had made his first and last top10 in Paris-Roubaix since his victory in 1987. That all started with an early break with 80km to go. He was accompanied by Bert Dietz, Ekimov and Andrea Tafi – who was soon to refuse the turns, his Mapei leaders being behind. In Orchies, after 7km of breakaway, their lead went up to 1’35” ahead of the peloton with the top favourites.

    The counter-attack comes from Johan Capiot, with roughly 32km to go, on the asphalt just before Pont-Thibault (then section 7). He took Bortolami (Mapei) with him and then Ballerini (also Mapei) chased alone, taking a probably calculated risk but they pretty much did what they want in those years. On Pont-Thibault the two Mapei dropped Capiot and cut the gap with the lead to 20”. On the asphalt after Pont-Thibault, Tafi who never took a turn, attacked just at the moment his two teammates were on the verge to get back but was caught very quickly by the rest of the breakaway. The two Mapei got back at that moment, just before the next section of Templeuve (which no longer exists but been replaced by the newly excavated Moulin de Vertain section).

    On entering that section, the 6-man breakaway had a 25” lead ahead of a chase group, with Museeuw playing watchdog for the two Mapei but also with Steve Bauer, Sean Yates, Jelle Nijdam and Edwig Van Hooydonck, among others. After the section, their lead moved up to 48”, largely due to the blocking tactics of Museeuw, says Liggett.

    Ballerini attacked on the asphalt after, hugely capitalizing on the “abnormal” strength of his team. On the section of Cysoing, Ballerini’s lead went up to an incredible 51” gap but the chase group with Eric had not yet been caught by the Museeuw group at that moment. On entering the section of Bourghelles, with less than 25km to go, the Vanderaerden group still were leading the Museeuw group by 45”, though 1’ behind Ballerini.

    On the next section – the famous Camphin-en-Pévèle – Tafi made a move from the Vanderaerden group, while he and Bortolami of course never took a turn, in order to cover the Ballerini breakaway. This is of course the “tactic” that Lefevere is going to use in many subsequent Paris-Roubaix. 

    Eric was slightly in trouble at that point. The main chaser behind Tafi was Ekimov but he … of course had Bortolami on his wheel. The moment Eric was caught by the Museeuw group, along with Dietz was not seen by the coverage but we might suggest it happened either on Camphin or on the Carrefour de l’Arbre.

    Just before the cakewalk section of Hem, the group caught the trio with Ekimov and the two Mapei. At that point, Eric is still in contention for 2nd place. Only in the streets of Roubaix – on the stretch where to the ‘Espace Crupelandt’ is set –, Museeuw, Bortolami, Ekimov and Tchmil escaped for top5 places. Bortolami eventually dropped but Eric was outsprinted by Capiot in what remained of the group, just a few seconds behind the trio. That is how he ended 6th. Yates is 11th, Van Hooydonck 13th, Bauer 17th.

    Vanderaerden anticipated the attacks by the top favourite. It’s usually a good tactic in Paris-Roubaix. You are always favoured when in a small group rather than in a big peloton. That way he found himself in a group with some of the best in the finale. In the mid-nineties, in the heat of the EPO era!

    Post Cycling Career

    Vanderaerden’s last season was very hectic. He started out with the San Marco group which took over from Brescialat. On May 14 the team dissolved for financial trouble, after a financial investigation by the President of the Italian Federation: Raffaele Carlesso. The riders had remained unpaid since February. This state of fact is of course not uncommon in cycling history.

    Vanderaerden remained jobless for only one week as he signed for Palmans on May 22, under De Vlaemick’s & Walter Planckaert’s orders and in order to back his brother Gert, 11 years his junior who won that year his first pro win in the Tour of Austria. He first race for Palmans was the Tour of Cologne on May 26 and on May 29 he was still 3rd at the Schelde Prijs. This was his last notable result.

    During the Tour of the Netherlands (which has been renamed Eneco Tour – Tour of the Low Countries since), Eric Vanderaerden announced his retirement. Paris-Brussels was his last race (Sept. 15). He was granted a tribute on the Town Hall Square in Soissons. Nothing in Anderlecht (finish of the classic), since he didn’t finish. Eric thought the last great Belgian race was the best time to say farewell, says Jean-François Lauwens of Le Soir.

    By 1998/1999 Vanderaerden was the team director of the U23 team Eycken. He resigned in December 1999 as Farm Frite became new co-sponsor (which had taken over from TVM in the elite ranks). Eric had no problem with the new sponsor. “I’ve built up that team in two years into what it is today. The least I could ask is that I may be free in designing the sport line of it.”

    Actually they didn’t really appreciate the fact that he let promising rider Kevin Hulsmans move to Mapei instead of Farm Frites.  Hulsmans is a Limburger like him. In 1999 for Eycken he won the U23 Tour of Flanders ahead of Devolder, the U23 Circuit Het Volk (now Het Nieuwsblad), a stage at the Tryptique ardennais and was 3rd at the Flèche ardennaise. He was rewarded with the “Crystal Bike” as the year’s best young rider. As a pro, he never matched the expectations but had a long decent career as a domestique mainly for Boonen. He’s still riding for Vastgoed Service when these lines are written. 

    In 2001 & 2002 Vanderaerden worked as a team director for Mapei-Quickstep (then no longer with Lefevere as the latter created the Domo-Farm Frites team). With such a team, Eric was involved in a doping affair but which he seemed innocent of. That was in 2002 at the ‘revived’ Tour of Belgium.

    The Italian rider Eddy Ratti got to his hotel in Ostend. In his rugback he discovered a small plastic bag containing an ampula and powder. It was Genotonorm, a growth hormone. He calls on the team doctor Theo Lebon, who in panic threw the bag in the toilet and warned in turn, Eric. Eric phoned Italy and the manager Alvaro Crespi who advised him to call the police. The police of Ostend came and then the OPP of Bruges but they found nothing. Eric and the Mapei staff were heard by the police the next day. Shortly before, Garzelli tested positive during the Tour of Italy. It seems that the event in Ostend cast doubt on the validity of Garzelli’s test. That was what Eric and the Mapei staff thought. Nevertheless the doping affair seemed to decide Squinzi – Mapei’s boss – to leave cycling. One comment by Vanderaerden seemed controversial as he considered Squinzi as one of the fiercest opponents to doping (given the Mapei past).

    Everybody can be judge but one article from Dailypeloton seemed to second that claim.

    By 2003, Eric was still connected to cycling and wrote columns for the Gazet van Antwerpen. During his “beloved” Three-Days of De Panne, he did not appreciate the attitude of the Rabobank riders and considered them “small-minded.” That triggered the attention of Mart Smeets who wrote himself a column on with the title “Kleinzielig” (“Small-minded”), arguing in a nutshell that Vanderaerden was a hypocrite because he had raced himself both for Post and for Raas and that he should now better than anyone how riders have to follow orders. He went on to list all the dirty tricks that Post and Raas did to each other but he also admitted that he … hadn’t seen the race. For information, Bortolami and Voskamp escaped during the final part of the first stage and behind Cofidis and Lotto were chasing but Quick-Step and Rabobank, not really, which exasperated Van Petegem. The group never caught the duet back.

    In 2005 the GP Eric Vanderaerden was created. It’s a cyclocross in Neerpelt, in the Limburg province. The race was won by Bart Wellens and held every year since. It’s usually the first televised cyclocross of the season in Belgium. The 2014 edition has been held 2 weeks before this text is published and was won by Sven Nys.

    By 2010 a cyclotourist tour was named after him around Hasselt, Limburg.

    By 2006 Vanderaerden was team director again, at first for Yawadoo – Colba with riders such as Steven Cozza and Tony Bracke but also his brother Gert and his son Michael by August he resigned and became DS for DFL – Cyclingnews with Russell Downing and Bernard Sulzberger while Daniel Willems was another DS. In 2007 he brought Gert and Michael to it while Jens Mouris and Matti Helminen also came. In 2008 the team was in its final year with Daniel Lloyd and Steffen Wesemann joining in while Gert retired.

     In 2010 Vanderaerden served for the Qin Cycling team with Jonathan Dufrasne, Stijn Steels and Jonathan Breyne, plus of course his son Michael. In 2011 the team was known as Donckers Koffie – Jelly Belly with some better known riders such as: Kevin Hulsmans (back to Eric’s order), Huub D
     1. (source: “100 jaar…”; op. cit.)
     2. [First paragraph is a copy/paste from our Edwig Van Hooydonck Biography]
     3.  (source: “Paris-Roubaix, une journée en enfer”, L’Équipe 2006)
     4. (above mentioned)
     5. (in Manu Adriaens “Zot van de koers”, Lannoo 2011)
     6. (in Dutch, linked already posted above)
     7. (above mentioned)
     8.  (also for NRC Handelsblad)
     9. (says the article on
     10. (see next chapter)
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  • « Last Edit: September 21, 2015, 15:09 by Echoes »


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    Huub Duyn, Kurt Hovelynck or Ricardo Van der Velde. Michael was still there, of course. It would apparently be his last season.

    Michael Vanderaerden was just like his father a very solid rider in the youth categories, with notably a 3rd place in the Tour of Abitibi 2004 and a stage win in the Niedersachsen Rundfahrt in 2004 and in 2005, all with the juniors. According to Eric in the book “De Flandriens” (above mentioned) he raced in 2005 the amateur Paris-Roubaix with Eric’s old tubes that he still kept in his cellar from the days he was himself a rider. However Michael was a junior that year, so he probably raced the junior version (needs verification). 

    Eric’s other son Massimo Vanderaerden is also a cyclist. When these lines are written, he’s still barely 19 (born in 1995). Like his father he’s been good at both road and cyclocross until the junior category. He won one road race with the junior in Drieslinter on June 30 2013 and in cyclocross, was 4th in his own Lummen (race won by Quinten Hermans, promising rider) and 3rd in Zonhoven, both in 2012 (when a junior).

     Kenneth Vanbilsen is Eric’s nephew. In 2014 Vanbilsen is riding for Topsport Vlaanderen and his own the Marseillaise GP. He won the U23 Tour of Flanders in 2012

    A far away cousin of Massimo’s and Michael’s, Timothy Vanderaerden is also a cycling rider. He’s also from 1995. He actually won that cyclocross in Zonhoven in 2012. 

    But like their father, Michael and Massimo are Limburgers, just like Timothy Vanderaerden and Kenneth Vanbilsen. And as Van Looy said …

    “[…] it is indeed a problem that Vanderaerden is a Limburger. There have always been good youngsters there but the transition to the pro ranks was often a failure. Limburg is the area of concrete flat roads, in a nutshell of easy races. […] This contrasts with East- and West Flanders – for instance -, where you had to cope with hills, violent winds and horrible roads. No coincidence that riders from the Flanders [by which Rik meant the two provinces of East & West Flanders] dominated cycling for so long. Behold, I don’t ignore the Limburgers because I remember their good riders: Delerm, Grondelaers, the Schoubben brothers, Hendrickx, Gielen, Luyten, Molenaers, Vannitsen [to whom we may now add Eric Vanderaerden and why not Vansummeren]. The transition to the absolute top was still not there.” Etc, etc, etc…


    1)   Footage from the 1984 Tour of Lombardy by the NOS. The first 10 minutes of it is actually a review of the whole season highlighting the rivalry between the new Kwantum team (with Raas as leader) and Post’s Panasonic team, to which Vanderaerden belonged back then. It’s in Dutch but speakers of English might want to listen to Phil Anderson’s opinion at 2.46 to 3.43. He speaks in his language English, with Dutch subtitles. Vanderaerden’s comments come next (with footage from Ghent-Wevelgem) and then the comments by Post on Vanderaerden, in Dutch (4.12)

    2)   The 1985 Tour of Flanders under heavy rain

    3)   The finale of the 1985 Ghent-Wevelgem in which Vanderaerden tried to let teammate Anderson win but eventually won himself despite all his effort not to.

    4)   Finale of the 1985 Paris-Roubaix (CBS documentary) with Vanderaerden’s attack and long breakaway before he was hit by “the man with the hammer”

    5)   6 minutes of the 1985 Paris-Roubaix (NOS live coverage). Vanderaerden alone in the lead at that moment (roughly 32km to go)

    6)   Highlights from the 1987 Milan-Sanremo, with Vanderaerden finishing 2nd to Erich Maechler

    7)   Footage from the NOS live coverage of the 1987 Tour of Flanders, with the ascent of the Koppenberg, the mishap happening to Skibby, plus Vanderaerden, Kelly and Bauer standing out as the strongest riders on the climb.

    Edit: Clip with the NOS coverage is out but there is the BRTN coverage with commentaries by Mark Vanlombeek and Marc Stassijns on YT (in loving memory of Claude Criquielion - 1957-2015)[1]

    8)   Footage from the NOS live coverage of the 1987 Tour of Flanders: the finale, with Criquielion’s attack and the Kelly/Vanderaerden rivalry.

    9)   CBS Documentary on the 1987 Paris-Roubaix (finale), won by Vanderaerden

    10)   to  13) Four clips of the NBC documentary on the 1989 “Tour de Trump” with several of Vanderaerden’s sprint stage wins, the prologue under the rain and the dramatic ITT in the streets of Atlantic City. The 4th link of the series shows Thomas Craven winning the prologue (in dry conditions) and the results of the prologue. We have Phinney ranked 22nd and Ekimov ranked 18th, who did one second better than Phinney. Since in the first clip, the commentator said Vanderaerden did 4” better than Phinney, we may assume that he bested Ekimov’s time by 3” and was a little better than 18th in the ranking, which is fined since he raced under the rain.

    14)  Vanderaerden outsprinted by Jelle Nijdam at the 1989 Paris-Tours

    15)  Vanderaerden during the Six-Days of Antwerp in 1990, partnering Etienne De Wilde

    16) The 1995 Paris-Roubaix with Vanderaerden long in the lead along with Dietz, Ekimov and Tafi. He eventually finished 6th.

    17) Vanderaerden winning a senior race in 2010 in Leuven, outsprinting Etienne De Wilde and Johan Museeuw

     1. consulted on Sep. 7 2015
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  • « Last Edit: October 09, 2015, 12:16 by Echoes »


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