by Mat Shimoko
It’s no secret that we love the bling of today’s modern bikes. But sometimes, it’s nice to take a look back and see what bikes were winning World Championships before Niels Albert was even born. The one we’re looking at is still a Colnago, much like Albert’s 2012 World Championship winning rig and Sven Nys’s 2013 winning ride, but with a few less technological marvels. And so, from the home of 2014 Worlds, the Netherlands, Stephan Wijland has sent us a few pictures of the great Roger De Vlaeminck’s steel Colnago cyclocross bike that he once owned.
De Vlaeminck, also known as Mr. Paris-Roubaix, was born in 1947 in the Belgian town of Eeklo. His nickname came from the fact that he won Paris-Roubaix four times in 1972, 1974, 1975, and 1977. Four second place finishes can also be added to those results. While never a Grand Tour contender, he was a master of one-day races, having won the Monuments, which are the five most prestigious of the one-day classics. These consist of: Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Giro di Lombardio. This feat has only been accomplished three times in history, with Eddy Merckx being one of the two others.
But perhaps most importantly, he was a cyclocross world champion in 1975.
Recently, after Tom Boonen matched his four Paris-Roubaix wins in the 2012 edition, De Vlaeminck commented that Boonen faced third-rate rivals, implying that he only won due to Fabian Cancellara’s abscence.
When we saw the pictures, the details were a bit scarce, so we fantasized that this bike was his 1975 Cyclocross World Championship-winning bike. Sadly, it most likely is not. A bit of back story and some internet sleuthing lead us to believe that this bike was a custom-build made specifically for De Vlaeminck after 1975. Colnago did not have any cyclocross frames for sale to the public, but in 1980, he raced for Belgian road team Boule D’Or and the paint scheme of this frame is nearly identical to the Colnago Super that he raced with them.
The Campagnolo Nuovo components have quite a bit of personalization. The alloy brake levers hold his initials, and the 3TTT stem features his first name in. Those familiar with the integrated stem revealed last season by Speedvagen and Enve will find it interesting that De Vlaeminck’s 3TTT stem was custom drilled for the very same application over 30 years ago!
Frank Berto, Engineering Editor of Bicycling Magazine from 1986-1990 and author of The Dancing Chain once said that Nuovo ‘shifted poorly, but was so well constructed that it would continue shifting poorly—forever’.
There’s also a custom chainring bashguard. It originated as an actual chainring that had its teeth machined off, then bolted back on. The toe clip pedals also captured our attention. While it’s debatable, maybe in certain conditions, toe clips could worked better than our modern clipless pedals. Ice or mud buildup would not prevent shoes from fitting back in.
This bike provides a small glimpse into the history of our sport, and it enables us to imagine what types of tools racers had during that time frame. Those of us in the younger generation who grew up with STI shifters might shake our heads in disbelief at the thought of using bar-end shifters during a muddy race.
The creators of Mafac brakes were definitely on to something, as modern day cantilevers like TRP’s EuroX look nearly identical. The preference for increased pad and mud clearance hasn’t changed much, but wide profile of the original Mafac has become somewhat obsolete with the introduction of narrower profiles.
According to Mr. Wijland, all the components were original except for the tires. The bike was photographed with a pair of Challenge Grifo XS tubulars, but most likely would have had tires made by Wolber or Clement originally.
Despite all the new technology, its interesting that modern racers and mechanics still deal with the same problems that occurred 30 years ago. Many designs appear to be nearly identical aside from the introduction of new materials like carbon fiber. The difference is that many of homemade designs are now available to anyone at their local bike shops.
Specs for Roger De Vlaeminck’s Bike:
- Frame: Custom Steel Colnago
- Fork: Custom Steel Colnago
- Headset:Hatta Swan 1 inch
- Handlebars: Colnago
- Stem: 3TTT
- Brakes: Mafac
- Wheelset: Mavic Monthlery
- Tires: Challenge Grifo XS
- Shifters: Campagnolo Nuovo Record Bar End Shifters
- Rear Derailleur: Campagnolo Nuovo Record
- Front Derailleur: n/a
- Crankset: Colnago Ernesto/Campagnolo Nuovo Record
- Pedals: (Alfredo Binda straps)
- Seatpost: Colnago
- Saddle: Selle Royale