The Unsung Hardmen: Herman Van Springel

The Unsung Hardmen: Herman Van Springel

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Making a name for yourself in the pro ranks during the heyday of Merckx, De Vlaeminck, and Maertens would have been tougher than making a name for yourself in the pro ranks during the heyday of Merckx, De Vlaeminck, and Maertens.  Especially, I would think, if you also happened to be Belgian. But with somewhere around 145 victories in a career which spanned from 1965 to 1981, Herman Van Springel did just that.  Well, as much as anybody was able to racing against the Hardmen of the day.

Van Springel’s palmares includes podium finishes in all three Grand Tours.  He lost the ’68 edition of the Tour by 38 seconds in the final stage, an individual time trial, to Jan Janssen.  Sound familiar?  (Faux sneeze into arm, Fignon).  He also won the Tour’s green jersey in 1973.  He did so without winning a single stage.  Also sound familiar? (Faux sneeze into arm again, Hushovd).  Sprinkle in some podium finishes at Paris-Roubaix and the World Championship Road Race and you’ve got the makings of the top of the also-ran list.

Where Van Springel really shined was in the 560km, derny-paced, Bourdeaux-Paris.  With seven wins in the former classic, he could have been aptly named “Mr. Bourdeaux-Paris”.  No other rider comes close to his record at this race.

The proudest moment of Van Springel’s career probably came in the 1968 edition of the Giro di Lombardia.  Coming into the day, Van Springel held the lead in that year’s Super Prestige for best ‘all-rounder’ with 194 points.   Everybody who was anybody back then lined up at the start.  Imagine looking around the peloton and seeing the likes of Merckx, Gimondi, Godefroot, Van Looy, Poulidor, and Janssen.   By race’s end, Van Springel soloed to victory, exacted revenge on Janssen for that year’s Tour and collected the 60 points to secure the Super Prestige Pernod Trophy.

While no doubt celebrated in his day, Herman Van Springel seems to lack frequent mention in the cycling annals of today.  So we at Velominati thought we’d give the old chap a bump and a chapeau.  For winning the best ‘all-rounder’ in a time when the all-rounders out-classed, out-ranked, and out-numbered the ‘specialists’ of the time deserves praise.

// Folklore // Nostalgia // The Hardmen // Tradition

  1. Great history post! I like to fancy myself a bit of a cycling history guy but you guys here on the “V” site put me to shame. Thanks for the well written post and for sharing your knowledge!

  2. Good stuff, Marko!

  3. Diggin the derny action!

    They’re all the rage in town lately with the overweight dirtbag hipster crowd… I’m thinking about buying one, grabbing a Vintage Velo jersey in XXXL and paying some layabout to wear it and pace me on the Saturday club ride.

    Good article, btw

  4. Herman’s name wasn’t one that would van Springel to my mind… cheers Marko for bringing this tough nut to my attention.

    Is that Cancellara on the front? Something’s not right with that bike…

    @sgt

    I reckon you’re onto something there mate.

  5. Brett:
    Herman’s name wasn’t one that would van Springel to my mind…

    Haha!

  6. For the Bordeaux-Paris I bet the name of the game was to get behind the fattest Derny rider. Every extra inch of headwind protection counts!

  7. I’d like to see race like the Bordeaux-Paris, today.

  8. @sgt

    Notice the dude on the lead Derny, he’s wearing Adidas Sambas. A Hipster waayyyyy ahead of his time. Whoever that dude is, he must have been the Derny pacer extraordinaire as he’s in so many pics from the day.

    @Dave Harding
    In most pics I can think of the Derny-men were pretty hefty for sure. I wonder if they’re former cyclists who let themselves go, got injured and gained weight, or just realized they were and always would be too fat to climb so they took up Derny pacing. We may never know as I fear they’ve become extinct along with Bourdeaux-Paris.

    @Pedale.Forchetta
    It would be sort of interesting wouldn’t it? I imagine boring as well to watch which is maybe why it went away. Who the hell wants to watch, sponsor, or broadcast a 560k bike race that ends up more or less an ITT behind a Vespa? Not sure it would sell these days but sure would be interesting.

  9. @Marko
    Ahah! You are right, but even stages of the Giro or Tour can be deadly boring,
    the first time I saw an entire stage of the Tour I was almost falling asleep.

  10. @Oli Brooke-White

    @Brett

    Nice to see you two have your priorities right – spending time on the site as opposed to helping your mates sandbag or move to higher ground. Yikes, I hope those blokes are going to be alright down there. Just the thought of all those snakes and crocs swimming through town wigs me out.

  11. So do all of us have possible future careers as Fat Derny-men? Then we could be two years, not two months, from peaking!

    Awesome write-up, Marko! As a historian I have been given my first lesson of the day. Never heard of Herman. Thanks for filling me in.

    And yeah, I did spot the adidas sneakers on Derny-man Extraordinare.

  12. Ron:
    So do all of us have possible future careers as Fat Derny-men? Then we could be two years, not two months, from peaking!

    If bibs keep feeling as if they are serving double-duty as a male girdle when I wear them, I know I do!

  13. Btw Oli, nice gravatar.

  14. @Marko
    You may be a little confused. No snakes or crocs where Oli and Brett live.

  15. It’s all sun and sand here in NEW ZEALAND, Marko. Terrible about all the flooding in AUSTRALIA though.

  16. mcsqueak – ugh, I fucking hate the man-girdle feeling. After a few weeks of holiday eating and not enough riding, my bibs definitely feel like a man-girdle. The shitty thing is that the only way to get the weight off is to pull on the man-girdle and put in some saddle time. But it sucks feeling like a fat p.o.s. the whole time. I vow not to become tubby this winter and avoid putting on winter pounds.

  17. @Ron

    No doubt, I feel like I’m in the same boat. Between work and family stuff, there has been an extreme lack of cycling. My scale says I haven’t gained more than a lb or two, but I certainly feel like I’m becoming too fat to climb.

    On the other hand, it’s only about 10 weeks until spring!

  18. @mcsqueak
    Congrats on your Gray Order status; must have happened while I was away. Nice work.

  19. I’m fully aware of Oli and Brett’s locale. Just knowing that Brett hales from the land of AUS and both being in the general vicinity, I figured they’d have some blokes over there that needed help. It’d be like me going to help Steampunk or NVvelominati out of a natural disaster jam.

  20. @mcsqueak

    @Ron

    @Dave Harding
    Be afraid gentlemen, be very afraid. Push through the man-girdle feeling, step away from the dessert tray, and go out for a 60k ride minimum ASAP.

  21. @frank

    Thanks! Though I would argue that the real “nice work” is all the effort you and the other folks put into the site and publishing new content nearly every day – I just leave silly comments.

    @Marko

    I don’t know, that guy certainly looks like he is having more fun than the dude behind him. Also, what do they keep in the little metal tin canister on the front? A mid-ride snack of KFC double-downs, perhaps?

  22. @mcsqueak
    That’s the petrol tank!

  23. Marko:
    I’m fully aware of Oli and Brett’s locale. Just knowing that Brett hales from the land of AUS and both being in the general vicinity, I figured they’d have some blokes over there that needed help. It’d be like me going to help Steampunk or NVvelominati out of a natural disaster jam.

    Yes, I’m going to fly to Australia to lend my awesome expertise in flood disaster relief. Hell, I can’t believe I didn’t go to Chile when they had their earthquake – I’m in the same hemisphere, after all!

    And Brett HAILs from Australia. ;-)

  24. This is my first time commenting on here, so I hope respect your net’iquette!
    This is another great picture from the archives, and yes, Van Springel isn’t so well known these days, yet he was considered a major contender in his day. For example, when he rode for Molteni in ’71, which was Merckx’s ‘year out’ he was the de facto team leader, even above other contenders in the team like Bruyere and De Schoenmacher, both capable of winning classics.
    The Flandria bike in the picture is a bit tasty, and as it’s ‘tout Campa’ it dates the picture to ’75, when he beat Regis Delepinne (Peugeot). The following year, when he was beaten by Walter Godefroot, Flandria’s had Chrome forks. It’s also sporting what look like one of the first pairs of the legendary Mavic SSC Blue rims, and Cinelli 65 bars, which were always de Vlaeminck’s preferred option. A great rider though, I think he finished his career riding alongside Patrick Sercu at Marc/Zeepcentraale/Superia.

  25. @fermapiedi
    Welcome, that’s quite an entrance, and quite a load of information! I now absolutely must have a set of those blue rims. My VMH will thank you later.

  26. @fermapiedi
    Nice contribution. I love when articles here pull posts and knowledge like yours out of the woodwork and impel folks like you to take things a step further. Nice. I agree on the Cinelli 65’s. It looks like they’ve got the sloping tops whereas the 64’s and 66’s have more of a level top.

  27. @Marko
    Thanks for the welcome chaps! 3 of my bikes have got Cinelli 65-42’s, it’s shame no-one makes anything similar now. Their only drawback was they weren’t so good for riding on the tops on the flat – not that any of you serious, Rule #5 riders out there would ever be seen doing such a thing ;-)

  28. @fermapiedi
    I’ve got 66’s on one of my bikes. I immediately found them to be more comfy than the K-wings I had on another bike so I summarily switched those out for 3T rotundos. I’m finding the trad drop bars much more to my liking. I’ve only got two gripes really with the Campione del Mundos. The first is the clamp diameter only allows for use with cinelli stems, which isn’t a bad thing but it’d be great to use them with a newer stem. The second is that the small diameter tops are a bit too narrow for my hamfists but that just calls for a dose of the V.
    You’ll have to post some pics of those bikes of yours over on the bikes page.

  29. @Marko
    66’s are a bit deep for me, as I’m just under 5ft 7, but the 64’s do quite nicely, in fact I’ve just put a pair on my 1982 Cinelli SuperCorsa that I’ve had rechromed and painted by Argos Cycles here in England, and though it’s got Record 9 speed, I’ve gone for a blue suede Rolls saddle and Cinelli bars, so it’s got a nice retro/modern thing going. Here’s the bit that will interest you though, the Japanese Pearl stems that keirin riders use on their home turf are a perfect fit for Cinelli bars and look very much like the original Cinelli stem, AND have the beautiful milky anodised finish that early Campag brakes had. I’ll post a picture or two once I can work out how from a Mac!
    Hope this is useful and that I haven’t worn out my welcome!

  30. fermapiedi:
    @Marko
    I’ll post a picture or two once I can work out how from a Mac!
    Hope this is useful and that I haven’t worn out my welcome!

    I do remember reading about the Japanese Pearl stems but was able to find a NOS 101 to mate with the 66’s. Now you’ve got our interested totally piqued about your bikes. Get on the MAC issue stat!!
    No, of course your welcome is not worn out. Way to make an entrance as frank said.

    And when kiwicyclist cyclist resurfaces he’d be way into this conversation. You hear that G’Phant?

  31. @fermapiedi

    I’ll post a picture or two once I can work out how from a Mac!

    Same way as from all other computers; register for an account, and then you’ll see an upload button (so long as you have flash installed).

    Judging by what I’ve learned about most of our community, it appears to be (nearly) idiot proof. Woops, did I say that out loud?

  32. Hey, I resemble that remark!

  33. Where Van Springel really shined was in the 560km, derny-paced, Bourdeaux-Paris

    Fuck me, motorpacing for 560km at warp speed!? Holy Hardman Batman. These guys would chew up the Schleck brothers and never look back, Fabooo maybe could be a domestique for these men. I just don’t think cycling will ever produce such tough riders again.

    Very well done Marko. We need daily reminding of real Rule V riders like Herman.

  34. They only motor-paced for about half the distance. (He says that as if it would be easy wtf…)

  35. @Marko
    Thanks buddy. Can you shut the rain off? It feels like a natural disaster. I did a 5 hr mountain bike ride in the snow and sun the other day though!
    I read once that the derny drivers actually played into tactics. The driver by angling his body would dump wind into a passing rider. At least this happened on the velodrome. Sounded more interactive than hauling a cyclist behind.

  36. I know I’m late to this party but I just wanted to thank Marko for this story. Nicely put.

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