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Joop Zoetemelk
Joop Zoetemelk in 2008
Joop Zoetemelk in 2008
Personal information
Full name Hendrik Gerardus Jozef Zoetemelk
Nickname Joop
Date of birth 3 December 1946 (1946-12-03) (age 63)
Country The Netherlands
Team information
Current team Retired
Discipline Road
Role Rider
Rider type All-round
Professional team(s)1
Major wins
Tour de France 1980: overall winner Jersey yellow.svg

Vuelta a España Jersey gold.svg (1979)
Arc en ciel.svg World Road Cycling Championship (1985)
Netherlands road race championships (1971, 1973)
Amstel Gold Race (1987)
Paris-Tours (1977, 1979)

Infobox last updated on:
16 April 2008

1 Team names given are those prevailing
at time of rider beginning association with that team.

Joop Zoetemelk in the early 1970s

Hendrik Gerardus Jozef "Joop" Zoetemelk (born 3 December 1946, Rijpwetering[1][2], near The Hague, Holland[3]) is a retired professional racing cyclist from The Netherlands. He started the Tour de France 16 times and finished every time, a record. He won the race in 1980 and also came eighth, fifth, fourth (three times) and second (six times)[4]. He won the world professional road championship in 1985 at 38. He retired from the sport to run a hotel at Meaux, near Paris, France. [5]


Early career

Joop Zoetemelk was the son of a farmer and started work as a carpenter. He became a speed-skater[2] and a regional champion before turning to cycling in 1964[2]. He joined the Swift club in Leiden and made a fast impression, winning youth races in his first season. He rode particularly well as a senior in multi-day races. He won the Tour of Yugoslavia, the Circuit des Mines, three stages and the mountains prize in the Tour of Austria, and the 1969 Tour de l'Avenir.[6] He also won a gold medal at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City in the 100 km team time-trial with Fedor den Hertog, Jan Krekels and René Pijnen.

Professional career

Zoetemelk turned professional for Briek Schotte's Mars-Flandria team in Belgium in 1970[7][6]. He came second to Eddy Merckx in that year's Tour de France.

Zoetemelk won Paris-Nice, the Semana Catalana and the Tour de Romandie in 1974 and then crashed heavily into a British car left unattended at the finish of the Midi-Libre in Valras-Plage, France. He cracked his skull and came close to dying[8]. He returned next season to win Paris-Nice again and then caught meningitis. He never fully recovered and the head injury reduced his sense of taste. He nevertheless won 20 races that season, including Paris-Nice, the Tour of Holland and the Dwars door Lausanne and a stage of the Tour de France. He also came fourth in the Tour de France.

Of one-day races, in 1976 he won the Flèche Wallonne, in 1977 and 1979 the Grand Prix d'Automne, and came fourth in the world championships of 1976 and 1982 before winning in 1985, the oldest man to win the professional title[2].

Peter Post, manager of the Raleigh team in the Netherlands, approached Zoetemelk through his wife, Françoise, after the world championship in 1979.[9] Zoetemelk had long lived in France and ridden for French teams. His sponsor, the bicycle company Mercier, ended its sponsorship and Zoetemelk was looking for a new team. The following year Zoetemelk won his - and Raleigh's - only Tour de France. The victory was tainted by being achieved after the retirement with a knee injury of the race favourite, Bernard Hinault. Zoetemelk objected to claims that he had won only because Hinault had dropped out, saying: "Surely winning the Tour de France is a question of health and robustness. If Hinault doesn't have that health and robustness and I have, that makes me a valid winner."

Gerald O'Donovan, the Raleigh director behind sponsorship of the team, said:

"We needed a winner and for 1980 signed Joop Zoetemelk, who had an outstanding record of places but had probably enjoyed less support than we could give him. We cleaned up the Tours of Belgium, Holland and Dauphiné Libéré in preparation and waited for the big day. The big plan to control Bernard Hinault, who had won for the previous two years, came to fruition. The team attacked his every move; this was Panzer Group Post[10] at its most formidable. About halfway through the race he abandoned the lead to Zoetemelk and pulled out of the race.. We arrived in Paris with the overall lead, 12 stage wins and the team prize, to say nothing of a whole bundle of francs. We had pounded away winning the battles for the previous four years; at last we had won the war."[11]

In 18 years as a professional (1969-87), Zoetemelk won the Tour de France in 1980, and the Vuelta a España in 1979. He came second in the Tour de France six times.


Zoetemelk was caught in drugs tests during the Tour de France in 1977 and 1979. He also tested positive in 1983.[12][13][14] .


Zoetemelk, by totalling his finishing positions, is the most successful Tour rider of all time. He finished second a record six times and won once. His career coincided with the rise and dominance of Eddy Merckx and Zoetemelk was often criticised for following rather than attacking the Belgian. Zoetemelk had naturally fair skin and a popular joke said that he never acquired a tan during the Tour because he was always in Merckx's shadow. A fellow Tour rider, Rini Wagtmans, said: "Joop Zoetemelk is the best rider that the Netherlands has ever known. There has never been a better one. But he could not give instructions. He was treated and helped with respect. But when Zoetemelk won the Tour, the instructions had to come from Gerrie Knetemann and Jan Raas."[15]

Peter Post said: "Joop would fit in any team. I've known only a few riders who were so easy. He followed the rules, he got on with people. That's the way he is. He never asked for domestiques. Joop never demanded anything."[16] A Raleigh rider, Henk Lubberding, was unimpressed when Zoetemelk joined the team. "He just couldn't stay with the best riders [in the Dauphiné Libéré and the Tour of Switzerland]," he said. "Frankly, nobody had confidence in him, even Post. We tried to encourage him to his face but behind his back we took a different tone."[16]

Personal life and retirement

After retiring, Zoetemelk became a directeur sportif with Superconfex, which became Rabobank in 1996. Zoetemelk stayed with Rabobank for 10 years, retiring as a directeur sportif and from the sport after the 2006 Vuelta a Espana.

Zoetemelk married Françoise Duchaussoy, daughter of the Tour de France executive, Jacques Duchaussoy. They owned and ran the Richemont hotel in in Meaux, near Paris. Their son, Karl[17], was a French mountain bike rider and champion.


Joop Zoetemelk was the second Dutch winner of the Tour de France after Jan Janssen. The Dutch cycling federation, the KNWU, named Zoetemelk the best Dutch rider of all time at a gala to mark its 75th anniversary. A statue of him at Rijpwetering, where he was born and grew up, was unveiled on 31 May 2005. He was named sportsman of the year in the Netherlands in 1980 and 1985. Between 1972 and 1985, he won the Gerrit Schulte Trophy nine times as best rider of the year, more than anybody else in Dutch professional racing.[18] The Joop Zoetemelk Classic, a cyclo-sportive over 45, 75 or 150 km, is held every March, organised by the Swift club of which Zoetemelk is a member. The course passes his statue.

Major results

Olympic games: gold medal team time trial
Tour de l'Avenir
Tour de France:
2nd place overall
Tour de France:
2nd place overall
1 day in yellow jersey
Vuelta a España: King of the Mountains
Netherlands National Road Race Championship
Tour de France:
5th place overall
Tour de France:
4th place overall
Winner prologue and stage 4
1 day in yellow jersey
Netherlands National Road Race Championship
Tour de Romandie
Tour de France:
4th place overall
Winner stage 11
Ronde van Nederland
Tour de France:
2nd place overall
Winner stages 9, 10 and 20
La Flèche Wallonne
Tour de France:
8th place overall
Tour de France:
2nd place overall
Winner stage 14
4 days in yellow jersey
Tour de France:
2nd place overall
Winner stage 18
6 days in yellow jersey
Vuelta a España:
Jersey gold.svgWinner overall classification
Critérium International
Tour de France:
Jersey yellow.svgWinner overall classification
Winner stages 11 and 20
10 days in yellow jersey
Tour de France:
4th place overall
Tour de France:
2nd place overall
GP Eddy Merckx
Arc en ciel.svgWorld road champion
Amstel Gold Race

Grand Tour results timeline

1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986
Tour 2 2 5 4 DNE 4 2 8 2 2 1 4 2 23 30 12 24
Stages won 0 0 0 1 1 3 1 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0
Mountains classification NR 2 5 6 3 3 5 3 4 5 NR NR NR NR NR NR
Points classification NR 5 3 2 9 8 NR 9 3 10 NR NR NR NR NR NR
Stages won
Mountains classification
Points classification
Stages won 1 2
Mountains classification 1 3
Points classification NR 3
1 Winner
2–3 Top three-finish
4–10 Top ten-finish
11– Other finish
DNE Did Not Enter
DNF-x Did Not Finish (retired on stage x)
DSQ Disqualified
N/A Race/classification not held
NR Not Ranked in this classification


  1. ^ Joop Zoetemelk Classic 2009 (1)
  2. ^ a b c d '1980: Joop Zoetemelk' - [Alle Tourwinnaars]
  3. ^ Palmarès de Joop Zoetemelk (Hol)
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Siebelink, Jan (2006) 'Pijn is genot, Thomas Rap (Netherlands), ISBN 90-6005-632-9, p93
  6. ^ a b [2]
  7. ^ [3]
  8. ^ [4]
  9. ^ Opgescheept met een veteraan, Trouw, Netherlands, 28 June 2005
  10. ^ A reference to the strict management and team discipline imposed on the team by its manager, Peter Post.
  11. ^ O'Donovan, Gerald (1996), unpublished memoirs, GB
  12. ^ anabo
  13. ^ - Le dopage dans le tour de France
  14. ^ Magazine Sport & Vie : Sport & vie n° 79 - Tombés au champs d’honneur
  15. ^ Cycling, UK, interview with Rini Wagtmans, undated cutting
  16. ^ a b Opgescheept met een veteraan, Trouw (Netherlands), 28 June 2005
  17. ^ Joop Zoetemelk
  18. ^ Velo-Club du Net: Coureurs Hollandais, Joop Zoetemelk

External links

See also

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Peter Kisner
Dutch National Road Race Champion
Succeeded by
Tino Tabak
Preceded by
Tino Tabak
Dutch National Road Race Champion
Succeeded by
Cees Priem
Preceded by
Jan Raas
Dutch Sportsman of the Year
Succeeded by
Hennie Stamsnijder
Preceded by
Stephan van den Berg
Dutch Sportsman of the Year
Succeeded by
Hein Vergeer


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