Remco Evenepoel turned 24 on Jan. 25, 2024, and we compared the palmares - up to the 24th birthday - of great riders from different eras and countries. Today we come to the number fifteen in our ranking Roger de Vlaeminck.

First name: Roger
Last name: De Vlaeminck
Nationality: Belgium
Age: 76 years old
Date of birth: 24-08-1947
Place of birth: Eeklo (East Flanders), Belgium
Nicknames: The Gypsy – Le Gitan, Monsieur Paris-Roubaix, The Prince of Hell

Roger de Vlaeminck a name that rings like a bell…, a monument of a rider! Roger’s entire record on the road is one of the greatest in the history of cycling. Add to that his victories in the field and on the track and we are talking about perhaps the most versatile rider ever. The fact that he is only fifteenth on our list has only one reason, viz: Eddy Merckx! When Roger came over to the pros as a young guest, the Cannibal’s strongest years were just beginning. Eddy did not want to leave a crumb to the competition and Roger, despite all his talent, needed a few seasons to really put the fire to Eddy.

Today, anyone who says Roger De Vlaeminck actually says “controversy”. Everywhere Roger speaks, cyclists, training methods, toughness and race schedules of generations after his are questioned. Straightforward without detours, as fast as possible to the goal and without any mincing of words, that’s how Roger talks. His statements, thoughts and brain twists are off the mark to many and considered to be spoken by someone who does not evolve with the times.

However, a look at Roger’s record of achievements at a time when equipment, clothing, nutrition, training and other modern science were still in their infancy suggests that this man must know something about cycling. Experience often says more than instructed science. It is certainly true that everything has evolved enormously, but the basis laid by the 1960, 1970 and 1980 generations cannot be underestimated. Back then, there wasn’t much of a comfort zone. They lived and trained outside the comfort zone day after day, and perhaps that is precisely the difference Roger so often refers to. New, hard and even harder stimuli make the body stronger and stronger and that is what Roger misses in the approach of most top cyclists from other generations.

The fact is that Roger’s record speaks volumes. And that he achieved this in a period where he had to/should ride partly against Eddy Merckx and later against Bernard Hinault makes him rightly extremely proud. De Vlaeminck was one of the best riders in the classics in the 1970s, but also achieved successes in the smaller round work. He achieved a total of 259 victories on the road – 161 of which were UCI victories and he also won 70 times in the field.

"For us, Roger is the most versatile rider ever!"

Monsieur Paris-Roubaix

One of his nicknames was Monsieur Paris-Roubaix. He rode Paris-Roubaix 14 times and only had to give up in 1980. His results in the hell classic are improbable. Not only was he a four-time winner, but he also finished second four times, third once, fifth once, sixth once and seventh twice. Those four wins is a record, shared with Tom Boonen since 2012.


De Vlaeminck was a true classics rider. Only Eddy Merckx won more monuments than him: Merckx won nineteen, De Vlaeminck eleven – three times Milan-San Remo, once Tour of Flanders, four times Paris-Roubaix, once Liège-Bastogne-Liège, twice Tour of Lombardy. We also find the Omloop Het Volk twice, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne twice, E3 Prijs Vlaanderen, Scheldeprijs, the Flèche Wallonne, the Zurich Championship, Paris-Brussels and several Italian semi-classics on his palmares.

The lap work

Roger was also an ace in the smaller stage races. For example, he won the Tirreno-Adriatico six times in a row, between 1972 and 1977. However, his greatest victory in a stage race came in 1975. That year he won the Tour of Switzerland, 55 seconds ahead of Eddy Merckx. De Vlaeminck considers this final victory to be the finest victory of his career. He wore the leader’s jersey from the first to the last day, and on that last day he beat Merckx no less than twice: first in a short morning stage, then in a 20-kilometer time trial.

Roger also showed his class several times in the Giro d ‘Italia, winning 22 stages and winning the points classification three times. His best final result was fourth place in the 1975 Tour of Italy. He won seven stages and the points classification in this round. But in the Tour and the Vuelta he did significantly less. In the Tour de France and the Tour of Spain, he won only one stage each time. He started three times in the Tour de France, but gave up each time. In the Tour of Spain, he started only once, but here, too, there was a abandonment.

Never world road champion

A big gap in De Vlaeminck’s record is the World Championship on the road, which he never managed to win. In 1975, he finished second behind Dutchman Hennie Kuiper. The fact that he did not become world champion that day was due to one of his blunt statements. Before the World Championship, he had said in his own way that Lucien Van Impe only counted for half a rider. So when Kuiper escaped, Van Impe didn’t want to pull the wool over de Vlaeminck’s eyes…and gone was the title. That Roger did become world champion in the field earlier that year will be a small healing reward, but no more than that.

In addition to being the most versatile rider ever, Roger may certainly receive for us the award of the most elegant rider ever. Never did we see a rider sit on his bike as cast as he did. At a time when there were no wind tunnels, even then Roger was a true example of aerodynamics for all the riders who came after him. Maybe still listen carefully to what he has to say from time to time?

Text: Patrick Van Gansen
Photos: Teus Korporaal Collection

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