Cyclocrossers have a particular connection with Paris Roubaix. Although the distances are completely different, the conditions and surfaces are similar, and the mud-covered faces we’ve all seen from countless editions can’t help but remind us of our favorite sport.
But there’s more of a connection between the two than just muddy faces and the occasional ‘cross bike in the race. There was a day when the best bike racers tackled both cyclocross and the road circuit (sorry, Lance at Cross Vegas does not count), and it was those who raced ‘cross that would shine at Paris Roubaix. The best of them all? Roger De Vlaeminck.
De Vlaeminck won every major one day race except the world championships, including Milan San Remo (3x), Liege Bastogne Liege, the Belgian National Championship (2x) and Ronde van Vlaanderen. But he was nicknamed “Mr. Paris Roubaix” as the cobbled race was his specialty, winning it a record four times. His wife Katty told Cyclocross Magazine that her husband had a special talent and “he could fly over the stones” and”was always motivated for that race.”
His secret? Cyclocross! Katty said “He did indeed always [race] cyclocross after the road races…he participated in 10 or 15 cyclocross races every winter.” And it wasn’t just for training. De Valeminck won a staggering 110 ‘cross races, including the world amateur title in 1968 and the professional title in 1975.
Will we see another cyclocrosser stand atop the podium in Roubaix any time soon? We can hope. We’ve seen Sven Nys race Paris Roubaix, and Lars Boom has it in his radar for next year. And if Rock Racing gets an invite in the future, maybe Driscoll could do it? We’ll see.
In the meantime, enjoy De Vlaeminck’s recent cyclocross escapade: