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  Joop Zoetemelk    

Picture courtesy of www.corvos.nl
Born on December 3, 1946, Holland’s Joop Zoetemelk was a rider with ability who won Grand Tours, one-day classics and the World Championship Road Race.

Zoetemelk’s claim to fame was that he placed second in the Tour de France a record six times.

He did however, win the race in 1980 in front of Hennie Kuiper of Holland and Raymond Martin of France when Bernard Hinault was forced to abandon because of knee problems.

Zoetemelk was unfortunate in that he had to compete against two most dominant riders the sport has produced: Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault.

Zoetemelk was a rider who preferred to ride in the slip stream of these champions.

He was second to Merckx in the Tour de France in 1970 and 1971.

Zoetemelk was also second to Lucien Van Impe in the 1976 Tour de France.

In addition, Zoetemelk was second to Bernard Hinault in 1978, 1979, and 1982.

Despite competing against the likes of Merckx and Hinault, Zoetemelk did score victories in the most prestigious races in cycling.

In addition to his record in the Tour de France, Zoetemelk won the Vuelta a Espana in 1979 in front of Francisco Galdos of Spain and Michel Pollentier of Belgium. Zoetemelk also won the Mountains jersey in the 1971 Vuelta a Espana.

One of Zoetemelk’s gifts was his longevity. He won the World Championship Road Race in 1985 at the age of 38 in front Greg Lemond of the USA and Moreno Argentin of Italy.

A rider with Zoetemelk’s achievements did possess grit and determination as the following story illustrates.

Zoetemelk suffered a fractured skull and went into coma, the result of a horrible head-on collision with a car while training in 1974.

Nevertheless, he won the next stage race he entered, the Paris-Nice in March 1975, beating no less than Eddy Merckx in the process.

He ended his career after 195 professional victories.

Picture courtesy of www.linternaute.com

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