When we in Belgium as young children been asked ..What sort of “koereur” would you like to become when you grow up ? The answer of many kids my age at the time would have said ..Rik Van Looy, no one did as he is one of a kind and couldn’t be copied.. A real Flandrien and gentleman. Adored by all, even the hard line fans from Eddy Merckx has earned their respect. Never met Rik but met his closest friend Suske Verhaegen ( Kempens Wieler Museum & Ex pro) a few years ago who told me some stories about the ” Keiser” or emperor of Herentals. Suske has a section dedicated to Rik in his museum in Grobbendonk (Antwerp), the town where he was born in 1933, and close to Herentals where Rik still lives. Rik is now 85 years old and still much alive (a fake report was on social media a few years ago about his death, some idiot had start spreading such sick message and it became global, but after checking with Suske been told it was fake news..always wonder what you can gain with such stupid shenanigans) Why the nickname “The Emperor”. There were several reasons for this. First, the dominant, imperious manner with which he crushed his adversaries. Second, for his style and class; he famously carried a perfumed handkerchief in the pocket of his cycling jersey. The principal reason, however, was his role as the ruler of the famous “Red Guard”. Van Looy realised that he needed a team of utterly devoted domestiques who would sacrifice themselves completely in order to increase his own chances of victory. The Emperor would decide race tactics, gear choices and even what time his riders would go to bed. He also specified how much money each rider would receive for his services. Such was Van Looy’s stature, Englishman Tom Simpson once remarked that if you weren’t a friend of Rik you wouldn’t make any money in Belgium. Twice world champion on the road ( 1960 and 1961 ). He is the only cyclist who has won the six classics outside category (Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, Paris-Tours, Tour of Lombardy and Tour of Flanders). He won in the three big rounds, Giro, Tour and Vuelta, points or mountain classification. He excelled especially as a sprinter. His 379 victories on the road are only surpassed by Eddy Merckx with 445. Van Looy never achieved the final victory in round-roaming competition. In 1958 he had to give up as leader in the standings, with five stage victories in his pocket, in the Tour of Spain . In 1959 he finished third in the Tour of Spain and fourth in the Tour of Italy . In both rounds he booked four stage wins. In 1962 he started for the first time in the Tour de France . In the eleventh stage he was hit by a motorcycle and transported to the hospital in Pau . Van Looy saw his preparation for a third world championship in a row go wrong. Van Looy also rode on the track. He won twelve six-day races, ten of which together with Peter Post . In the early days of his career he had to deal with Rik Van Steenbergen , in the latter days he had to compete with an Eddy Merckx , who rode in the cycling team Solo-Superia of Van Looy until 1966 .
Van Looy received the prize of Sport Personality of the Year of the Province of Antwerp on 10 January 2005, a prize awarded by Panathlon Antwerp. Van Looy received this prize for his dedication and inspiration in the Flemish Cycling School. All photos & statistics in this report courtesy of Wikipedia archives which we are grateful for.